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Suvinay Subramanian
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Graduate student EECS@MIT
Graduate student EECS@MIT

728 followers
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Introducing the latex-therefore package. For your mathematical writing convenience. No more searching on thesaurus.com and synonym.com! Find the appropriate replacement for all your "therefore"s with this go-to package. Shock and awe your readers with gems such as:
1. Wherefore said he unto them.
2. It pleases the symmetry of the world that.

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(VIDEO) Tesla Motors to build national network of free charging stations.

[Read this and watch. This is literally the most important news story of the year, if not the decade or century.]

Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk said there are three reasons people don't view electric cars as practical. Then he proceeded to solve each one.

1) "The range is too short."  His new super charger will give high-end Teslas a 150 mile trip on a 30 minute charge. "You could drive for three hours, stop at a rest area and recharge for 30 minutes and be ready to go again." There are six stations already deployed in California. "This is not some figment of imagination that may be happening at some point in the future. We built these up in secret and we are unveiling them for the first time tonight...Within two years we will cover almost the entire United States with Super Chargers. You'll be able to travel practically anywhere. Our long-term goal is (within 4-5 years) to cover the entire United States and the lower part of Canada." Europe and eventually the entire world are planned as well.

2) "You are just burning fuel at a power plant instead of the car."  The super chargers will be powered by solar panels from Solar City and "are designed to generate more power than required for the cars so the Super Chargers will actually put more power into the grid than the cars use."

3) "Electric vehicles are trendy but too expensive and not worth it."  The Tesla Model S cars equipped with the Super Charging technology will be able to use the stations at no cost. "You'll be able to travel for free, forever on pure sunlight. It's pretty hard to beat that. Free long distance? You're not going to be able to get that with gasoline."

At the start of his talk, a Tesla was plugged in. At the conclusion of his 10 minute presentation it had gained enough charge to drive 50 miles. From sunlight. For free.

Video Description: Elon Musk introduces the Tesla Supercharger and the first part of a national network which will allow the Model S electric car to travel long distances with ultra fast charging. With the Superchargers' power supplied by solar energy, Tesla continues to move automotive transit towards a much more sustainable future.

+Vic Gundotra 

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Epic hacking story; reveals just how vulnerable our online portfolios are.

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Dizzying but invisible depth

You just went to the Google home page.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit of about how browsers work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play HTTP, HTML, CSS, ECMAscript, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just connected your computer to www.google.com.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how networks work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play DNS, TCP, UDP, IP, Wifi, Ethernet, DOCSIS, OC, SONET, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just typed www.google.com in the location bar of your browser.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how operating systems work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a kernel, a USB host stack, an input dispatcher, an event handler, a font hinter, a sub-pixel rasterizer, a windowing system, a graphics driver, and more, all of those written in high-level languages that get processed by compilers, linkers, optimizers, interpreters, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just pressed a key on your keyboard.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know about bit about how input peripherals work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a power regulator, a debouncer, an input multiplexer, a USB device stack, a USB hub stack, all of that implemented in a single chip. That chip is built around thinly sliced wafers of highly purified single-crystal silicon ingot, doped with minute quantities of other atoms that are blasted into the crystal structure, interconnected with multiple layers of aluminum or copper, that are deposited according to patterns of high-energy ultraviolet light that are focused to a precision of a fraction of a micron, connected to the outside world via thin gold wires, all inside a packaging made of a dimensionally and thermally stable resin. The doping patterns and the interconnects implement transistors, which are grouped together to create logic gates. In some parts of the chip, logic gates are combined to create arithmetic and bitwise functions, which are combined to create an ALU. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bistable loops, which are lined up into rows, which are combined with selectors to create a register bank. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bus controllers and instruction decoders and microcode to create an execution scheduler. In another part of the chip, they're combined into address and data multiplexers and timing circuitry to create a memory controller. There's even more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Can we simplify further?

In fact, very scarily, no, we can't. We can barely comprehend the complexity of a single chip in a computer keyboard, and yet there's no simpler level. The next step takes us to the software that is used to design the chip's logic, and that software itself has a level of complexity that requires to go back to the top of the loop.

Today's computers are so complex that they can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. In turn the computers used for the design and manufacture are so complex that they themselves can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. You'd have to go through many such loops to get back to a level that could possibly be re-built from scratch.

Once you start to understand how our modern devices work and how they're created, it's impossible to not be dizzy about the depth of everything that's involved, and to not be in awe about the fact that they work at all, when Murphy's law says that they simply shouldn't possibly work.

For non-technologists, this is all a black box. That is a great success of technology: all those layers of complexity are entirely hidden and people can use them without even knowing that they exist at all. That is the reason why many people can find computers so frustrating to use: there are so many things that can possibly go wrong that some of them inevitably will, but the complexity goes so deep that it's impossible for most users to be able to do anything about any error.

That is also why it's so hard for technologists and non-technologists to communicate together: technologists know too much about too many layers and non-technologists know too little about too few layers to be able to establish effective direct communication. The gap is so large that it's not even possible any more to have a single person be an intermediate between those two groups, and that's why e.g. we end up with those convoluted technical support call centers and their multiple tiers. Without such deep support structures, you end up with the frustrating situation that we see when end users have access to a bug database that is directly used by engineers: neither the end users nor the engineers get the information that they need to accomplish their goals.

That is why the mainstream press and the general population has talked so much about Steve Jobs' death and comparatively so little about Dennis Ritchie's: Steve's influence was at a layer that most people could see, while Dennis' was much deeper. On the one hand, I can imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Jobs did and the people he inspired: probably a bit less shiny, a bit more beige, a bit more square. Deep inside, though, our devices would still work the same way and do the same things. On the other hand, I literally can't imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Ritchie did and the people he inspired. By the mid 80s, Ritchie's influence had taken over, and even back then very little remained of the pre-Ritchie world.

Finally, last but not least, that is why our patent system is broken: technology has done such an amazing job at hiding its complexity that the people regulating and running the patent system are barely even aware of the complexity of what they're regulating and running. That's the ultimate bikeshedding: just like the proverbial discussions in the town hall about a nuclear power plant end up being about the paint color for the plant's bike shed, the patent discussions about modern computing systems end up being about screen sizes and icon ordering, because in both cases those are the only aspect that the people involved in the discussion are capable of discussing, even though they are irrelevant to the actual function of the overall system being discussed.

CC:BY 3.0

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Introducing the Secure Shell app - a terminal emulator and stand-alone ssh client for Chrome OS, as well as Chrome for Windows, OS X, and Linux. No need for external proxies! Learn more at http://goo.gl/0Kqxt

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Using peer instruction to teach students - Rethinking how college students learn.

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