The Absurd in Science and Religion

The absurd is something like this: there are spirits who drink cologne. Or, even though I am dead, I will be resurrected at the end of the world. Or, even though the wicked prosper, God is good, knows everything, and can do anything.

It seems clear that absurdity of this sort is an essential […]

Algorithmic Composition, Computational Irreducibility, and Parameter Maps

Algorithmic composition is art of composing music by writing and running algorithms. These algorithms usually are implemented as computer programs, although there are notable examples of algorithmic scores computed entirely by hand, e.g. Leonid Hrabovsky’s Concerto Misterioso (many works of Cage could be considered to fall into this category as well).

An algorithm is […]

Passions, Achievements, and Catharsis

Recently, I have found a new passion in repairing my own house, not as elegant as writing computer software, nor as refined as writing music or producing beautiful photographs, but nonetheless interesting and exciting. You might think it a rather mindless passion, for the likes of the working class or the retirees looking to fill […]

Composing on My Phone; or, Silence Reborn as Silencio

As mentioned in my previous post, I am developing a system for doing algorithmic music composition, also known as score generation or generative music, on Android smartphones (it also runs on ordinary personal computers).

I’ve named the system Silencio, because it is loosely based on concepts from my earlier, Java Silence package (see: Michael […]

Review of “Oryx and Crake” and “Year of the Flood,” by Margaret Atwood

Atwood proves herself a master science fiction writer in these books, the first two of a trilogy (the third has not yet been published). Spoiler alert: this review begins with plot summaries!

Oryx and Crake tells the story, in reverse via flashbacks, of how Crake, a genius with a grudge against the world, designs […]

Goal Refinement Department

I find it essential periodically to re-state my musical goal, so as to clarify just what that goal is and what steps I might follow to attain it.

My goal is to make good music, music that I want to hear and that other people will want to hear. And I want to do […]

How to Program

This advice assumes you already are a programmer – but that you want to be a much better one! It reflects my own personal methods, and may not work for everyone. Still, I hope you find it helpful. I know that I myself am a much better programmer now than I was when I […]

The Black Hole Engine — Take Two

The Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) has now awarded first prize in its annual essay contest to Louis Crane for Stardrives and Spinoza. This is a follow-up to Are Black Hole Starships Possible? by Crane and Shawn Westmoreland, which I have already commented on below.

The theme of this year’s contest is “What is ultimately […]

Consequences of Nuclear Deterrence — Seen at Age 19 and Age 59

When I was 19 I thought and wrote about the future from the standpoint of a would-be “hard” science-fiction writer.

My basic thinking was to explore the long-term consequences of the nuclear balance of terror. I did not believe that the balance was truly stable (events have since proved me correct). I thought there […]

Structured Informel

Kristina and I saw Gerhard Richter’s “Abstract Paintings” at the Marion Goodman Gallery today. The paintings grasped me, and the room tilted this way or that depending on which painting held me in its gaze. Some of them — many of them — are quite colorful and beautiful. On the whole, the room had […]