The Curious Case of Quines 🤔

In 1994, Szymon Rusinkiewicz submitted his entry to the International Obfuscated C Code Contest (IOCCC). In the documentation for his code, he wrote –

The world's smallest self-replicating program. Guaranteed. Produces a listing of itself on stdout.

What made Szymon’s claim interesting?

The C file submitted by him was blank. Szymon’s hack was based on a quirk of a specific C compiler that compiled an empty file into a program that does nothing. So an empty C program when compiled and run gave an empty output, i.e. its own source code which is blank.

He was right in his claim. A self-replicating program, it was.

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Inventing on Principle by Bret Victor

Bret Victor is an interface designer and computer scientist. In January 2012 he delivered a speech titled Inventing on Principle at CUSEC (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference) in January of 2012.

If you’ve done any kind of programming (even at a basic level), you’d be blown away by the demos Bret shows in his talk.

It’s perhaps one of the greatest talks on design, creativity, and how one should decide the work which is worth doing. Bret spends an hour advocating for a career built not on a craft or a process, but guided by a principle. In the process, he explains his own guiding principle, looks at examples from history, and lays out the case for discovering one’s own guiding principle.

Every minute of this video was worth the time.

Click here if you can’t see the video below.


The following transcript is sourced from Github.

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What’s Your Bicycle for the Mind?

When it came to painting a picture with words, Steve Jobs was a genius. In this video, he describes computers as bicycle for the mind. Here’s what he says —

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

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The Non-Obvious Parts of Training

Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as the greatest Formula One driver of all time. He holds following records —

  • Most World Championship titles — seven times
  • Most Grand Prix wins — 91 times
  • Most number of fastest laps — 77 times, and
  • Most races won in a single season — 13 times

You could call him the Sachin Tendulkar of racing. Which brings me to the fact that Tendulkar himself has been a long time fan of Michael Schumacher. In 2002, Sachin met with Schumi. Both being sportsmen, they must have exchanged a few notes about keeping fit.

Sachin came back astounded with the amount of time that Schumi devoted to just one part of his body: the neck. “He exercises it for one-and-half hours. Can you believe it?” he marvelled.

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Tweetifying 20 Big Ideas, In 10 Words or Less

What makes Twitter the world’s most effective communication medium? It’s the constraint of squeezing your thoughts into very few words.

In his book Things a Little Bird Told Me, Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) writes —

It was the constraint of the two-week hackathon that led to the creation of Twitter. One of the first decisions we made about Twitter, something that never changed, was that each message would be limited to 140 characters or fewer.

Although Twitter has now relaxed that limit to 280 characters, the idea remains the same – imposing an artificial constraint.

Stone explains —

Constraint inspires creativity. Blank spaces are difficult to fill, but the smallest prompt can send us in fantastic new directions. In business, constraints emerge from the time you have to finish a project, the money you have to invest in it, the people you have to build it, or the space to you have complete it. These limitations, counterintuitively, can actually enhance productivity and creativity.

Many professional soccer players practice with a ball in a small bathroom sized room. The self-imposed constraint of a small space helps them refine their skills. World class poets and writers shrink their field by using restrictive measures to force themselves into a small creative form – such as micro-writing exercise.

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