Archive for March, 2013

That’s Random (part 1)

Posted: March 24, 2013 in Random, The Grid

I’m at a bit of a crossroads with this blog.  On one hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed contributing to something on a somewhat regular basis, and on the other hand, I have found myself lately delaying my contributions (or ignoring them altogether), and when I do feel inspired by something, it is almost certainly not random enough to find its way to the internet.

Maybe this crossroads is an extension of a personal and professional crossroads that I feel is on the horizon, but those feelings are nothing more than that–just a glimmer of a possibility or thought, something in my gut that I know is coming soon.  Lately, I’ve just felt weird…like there’s something really big about to happen, but I don’t know where, when or how.  Maybe it’s a big event professionally (for my coworkers, no, I don’t have any plans to find a new job–don’t get your hopes up), or some new direction I might pursue.  It’s just a weird feeling.

Or maybe it’s nothing at all, which to be honest, is the much more likely event (or non-event, so to speak).  Today my brother Josh blogged about a new feature on his blog site, and in the wake of that, I’d like to live up to at least one promise I made in December and present the first of several entries on the topic of randomness.  (“How fitting, it only took him 5 months…”)

For fear of being called a copycat, I hesitate to call it a feature.  And I most certainly can’t create a separate blog, because if I struggle to stay current on one blog, imagine how much I’d neglect two.  To be honest, the article I started writing about a year ago is just an extension of me, and so it makes the most sense to live and breathe within this blog (and, let’s not forget the name, duh…).

I aim to provide some supplemental comments (sort of like a “director’s commentary,” only with something far less interesting and successful) to fill in the background of the development of the thing.  Even reading it now, there are some footnotes that I feel were left out that speak well to the story, but not so much to the content.  Either way, I hope you enjoy.

That’s Random (part 1):

Have you ever paid attention to how often people exclaim that something is random? One recent morning during my normal commute, I heard three different radio disc jockeys (on three different stations) make the proclamation—all during the course of a 35-minute drive. Perhaps we all have the opportunity to witness plenty of random events throughout our day. But, it is the misconception of the word that piques my interest. Sure, we can say that something is random…but is it? Really? Most events that we attribute to acts of randomness are barely that; instead, these events are parts of complex systems with underlying and repetitious patterns that, over time, can be easily generalized.

Which begs the question, what is random? If the comment that the nice old lady made to you on the bus, or the traffic jam that was miraculously alleviated in spite of there being no accidents in sight were not random events, then what sort of event would qualify for the title? How do we identify it? How do we record it?

I can guarantee that we’re not the first to ask these questions, and I’m confident that not everyone will walk away from this article feeling we’ve answered them adequately. To me, random is this era’s unknown that we someday might have a better understanding of, akin to the idea of the irrationality of numbers; to you, the nature of random may be something different. I do know, though, that with the limited resources available to us through manipulation of the most modern of technologies—microprocessors, hard drives and flash storage, and computer memory—we can only glean so much information in a single sitting, and as a result, we may not yet have the capacity to fully grasp the true concept of randomness.

What we can access are very small, seemingly unrelated subsets of data that might begin to scratch the surface of randomness. My foray into a brief study of randomness started during my next to last semester at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. As a math major, one of the available electives was a course called College Geometry, which was a survey into the historical and theoretical development of Euclidean and non-Euclidean Geometries. A majority of the course focused on the theorems, postulates and axioms that you may remember from 10th grade geometry. And while this course didn’t involve any sort of statistical study, it was a seemingly random event that would eventually lead me down the path of further study of randomness.

Click here for Part 2

As I again go over my work from last year, I find a lot of good “stopping points” that make this digestible enough for short sittings.  Ask anyone who knows me well: I am NOT a fan of reading (with some very, very specific exceptions), and I wouldn’t be interested in reading a long blog entry any more than you.

So, that’s it for now–but more on that next time.  Thanks as always for tuning in; I hope you have a great week.  Be well and stay tuned.

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