Nerd Corner #85

Computational Reducibility, Books, Fat...

Hi Friends,

I hope you're enjoying the weekend!

It's been a busy week for me, lots of great stuff happening at work and at Tiny Rockets that have kept me busy and will keep me on a tight schedule for the foreseeable future, so you might get Nerd Corners more sporadically, but I'm hoping never to go more than a week without one. I'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, let's dive into this week's nerd topics!

Computational Irreducibility 🤯

After listening to Brendan Eich on the Lex Fridman podcast, I took a deep dive and spent the past week listening to other interviews. The highlight was this episode with Stephen Wolfram.

The conversation is worth listening to in its entirety if you want to grasp how a great mind like Wolfram can convey complex ideas in a simple way and connect the dots between many different theories throughout the history of Physics.

But what I enjoyed the most was Wolfram's explanation of the idea of computational irreducibility and what it means for the Universe (and our quest to find the rules that govern it). Without getting too technical, the fact that (according to Wolfram's experiments) there doesn't exist a computational system that's smarter than the rest, we have no way to out-run or find shortcuts to certain computations. So if we assume that the Universe is computational and everything that happens can be thought of as a program running its course, then even if we find the rules that govern this program, we won't be able to predict or take a short-cut to knowing answers that lie in the future, we must let the program run to find things out.

To me, this is super interesting as it opens up interesting questions about the concept of free will that can keep a conversation going for hours!

Books 📚

It's been a while since we last reviewed books because I took some time off new books and decided to go over some of my favorite books once again:

  • Skin In The Game by Nassim Taleb. While I think Nassim's best writing is to be found in Antifragile, this book feels more practical. It condenses some of the ideas of robustness and anti-fragility (something is antifragile if it becomes better as things around it get more chaotic). If you don't want to read the whole thing, this article by Nassim himself gives a good overview of the ideas he shares in the book.

[Skin in the game] is a risk management tool by society, ingrained in the ecology of risk sharing in both human and biological systems.

  • How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren. This is a must-read if you want to improve how you approach reading books, news articles, scientific papers, etc. I first read it about 6 years ago. I learned how to survey scientific papers better and dissect those I was interested in but then completely forgot about it until my friend John Lanza mentioned it a few days ago and made me jump on it again!

The one new book I'm reading is "The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom," an excellent biography of Paul Dirac that attempts to reveal his mysterious character as well as explain work on Quantum Mechanics.

Twitter And Other Links 🔗

  • This Tweet by James Clear is a great reminder that life is a constant evolution process and that it's not difficult to steer yourself in new directions. For example, in my daily review practice, I always highlight things that happened during the day that I'd like more and things I'd like to stop doing. This allows me to understand myself better and say yes/no to things accordingly.

  • I really enjoyed this thread on "Why we are fat and why diets are a waste of time." In summary: highly processed foods. This may not be news to you, but I found it interesting that while we've been getting just slightly more calories from grains, meat, alcohol, and sugar than in the 1960s, we're getting more and more calories from vegetable oils.

  • In case you're curious about how many satellites are circling the Earth right now, click here to see a visualization of low-orbit satellites moving above us.

Before you go 😎

What’s the most interesting article you read last week? Anything is fair game. Just hit reply!

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Until next week!

Alberto