The Big Lie About the Life of the Mind

Earlier this year Thomas Benton wrote an essay The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind, skewering academic humanities in the United States. His thesis is that there is effectively a conspiracy to produce many more PhDs than there are faculty slots, and to keep the carrot of the tenure-track faculty position just out …

Why Take an Embedded Systems Course?

Embedded systems are special-purpose computers that users don’t think of as computers. Examples include cell phones, traffic light controllers, and programmable thermostats. In earlier posts I argued why any computer scientist should take a compilers course and an operating systems course. These were easy arguments to make since these areas are core CS: all graduates …

Why Take a Compiler Course?

[Also see why take an OS course and why take an embedded systems course.] All good computer science departments offer a compilers course, but relatively few make it a required part of the undergraduate curriculum. This post answers the question: Why should you take this course, even if you never plan on writing a compiler? …

Why Take an Operating Systems Course?

[Also see why take a compilers course and why take an embedded systems course.] The other day, while having coffee with a colleague, I mentioned that I’ll be teaching OS in the fall. His area is far from computer systems and he asked me what’s the point of this class? What are the students supposed …

Book Review: Street-Fighting Mathematics

The Trinity test occurred on a calm morning.  Enrico Fermi, one of the observers, began dropping bits of paper about 40 seconds after the explosion; pieces in the air when the blast wave arrived were deflected by about 2.5 meters.  From this crude measurement, Fermi estimated the bomb’s yield to be ten kilotons; he was …

Book Review: Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to go to Grad School

Good jobs have barriers to entry.  Sometimes these barriers are natural (not everyone is capable of writing a novel or being a leader) and sometimes they are artificial (not everyone is born in the right place or to the right parents).  Many well-paid jobs requiring very specialized skills are protected by — among other mechanisms …