I have been idle for a little while now, which has to do with a severe loss of my spare time lately and some stuff I have to deal with in the little spare time that I get. But, fortunately, the stressful times will end some day, even though I can’t tell when I will actually be able to return to my usual “academic” topics.
One thing that has happened is that I abandoned my quest for the sorting algorithms in Knuth’s book. At least, for now. I have found that many things aren’t definite in this field – possibly because it’s rather hard stuff and not because no-one would care. But the heuristics behind the standard algorithms such as heapsort are 1) well-known and 2) not as deeply interesting as the thorough analysis. In my delving into Quicksort, for instance, I have learned a lot about the algorithm itself and I have learned the recursion-solving technique that is applied there. Knuth does show some sophisticated mathematics for the other sorting algorithms as well – but he is unable to achieve a definite goal with this. That disappointed me a little. Of course, this is no disgrace to his books, but I have found other topics to focus on in the meantime (and this doesn’t exclude me from returning to the Sort some other time – when I’m more in the mood for “academic finger exercises”). I am still at the elementary stage, but similarly to what I experienced when I returned to Galois theory, I have come to a deeper understanding of the subject. Even though I knew and understood the relevant stuff from start. And for the time after the elementary things, I already found some non-trivial subjects to turn my attention to.
Besides, Confused Matthew has published a video on Interstellar which is certainly worth watching. He does not go into details as not to spoil anyone – so he is rather cheerful in his review. He does not address the ending (which I found rather meh), but briefly says that he liked it – a point where I can’t actually follow. Begging for a longer review will hardly be of use there, sadly. By the way, he also addresses Inception, which he didn’t like after all. Well, to each his opinion.
This leads to a preview of my present historical interest: I have started re-reading Christopher Clark’s book on Prussia, which I have already read several years ago. At first, I wanted this to be a warm-up for the Sleepwalkers by the same author, but I got stuck… and I still am digging through Prussia’s history. My whole text on this will come here in several months, but I really adore Clark’s writing. As a parallel, I am using two other of my books on the subject (or, more precisely, some selected chapters from these books on the corresponding subjects from Clark’s book), about one of which I will definitely have to say more. For now, let it be said that Sebastian Haffner‘s historical essays should become a standard for lessons on German history – not because each and every sentence in there was the pure truth (it isn’t), but because I have never read any text on a historical subject that is as lucid and as clear and as knowledgeable than this. Haffner has found the ideal of “narrating” history (for my lack of a better English word – I am aware of the meta-joke here). More on this some other time.