Hypercubed Blog

Incoherent chatter on issues related to science, computing, and philosophy.
Random chains of thought from a scattered mind.

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Visual Studio cannot debug [MapPoint] Add-In if .NET 2.0 runtime installed
Posted Saturday, April 30, 2005 4/30/2005 12:16:00 AM

I've done a lot of programming in MS Visual Basic using version 6.0 but recently I have been switching over to VB.NET 2003. One application (Coordinate Exchange) that I wrote in 6.0 was an plug-in for MapPoint. This application has been been fairly popular among MapPoint users and for a while now I've wanted to convert it to a more stable VB.net version. I knew converting wouldn't be easy but I couldn't even get past the first gate. For nearly a year now I had been trying to create an add-in for MapPoint using VB.NET and constantly running into a brick wall. I could setup the application just fine (see instructions here) but for some reason I could never get the runtime debugging to work. The application would run fine if installed but always crashed silently when entering debug mode. I had literally been trying to figure this out for the past year (from as early as May 10, 2004)... I searched the web, posted multiple requests for help to forums and news groups, and even sent an e-mail to a MapPoint developer (Chandu Thota) and never got any response. I was really shocked that nobody appeared to be having the same problem. Was it just me? I tried on several of my machines and each had the same problem. I was stuck.

I'm glad to say that I've finally solved it. Or actually somebody else solved it for a similar situation and I finally came across the answer. See the problem was not me or my application but the fact that every machine I owned had Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0 installed. When MapPoint would open the addin it would load the version 2.0 by default. Visual Basic.NET 2003 would be attempting to debug assuming version 1.1. The application would then crash without any error message.

The solution is actually very simple. You have to instruct MapPoint to use the NET Framework 1.1. To do this create a file in the MapPoint directory (the one containing MapPoint.exe) named MapPoint.exe.config. The file should contain the following text:

<supportedRuntime version="v1.1.4322"/>

After that all MP plug-ins run using 1.1 runtime and there are no more crashes in debug mode. Now all I have to do is spend the next year or so and convert all my 6.0 code to .NET. Wish me luck.

Evolution vs. intelligent design
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005 4/29/2005 12:35:00 AM

There has been a lot of evolution vs. intelligent design (ID) discussion on several blogs recently (here and here) so I thought I'd add my 2¢. I Believe everyone has a right to believe as they wish. If someone wants to believe that evolution is guided by a God (or gods) and that the earth was created 40,000 or 6,000 years ago so be it. More power to you. Matter of fact, in a way, I envy your ability to believe whole heartedly in something that's unprovable. But whatever your beliefs ID is not science and should not be taught in science classes but rather in theology classes. And I believe that theology classes have their place. I think there are inherent problems with theology in grammar school (biased teachers and such) but at the college level I feel if is very beneficial. Even as a non-believer and a skeptic I felt my history of religion class at collage was nearly as valuable as were my biology and anthropology classes.

Also, it is apparent that many IDers have very little knowledge of evolutionary science as it exists today. Pharyngula points out that Geoff Brumfiel in his article refer to evolutionary biologists as Darwinists. Pharyngula equates this to calling physicist Newtonists. As a physicist I would hate to be called a Newtonists. Science is not stagnant. Evolutionary Biology has improved a lot from the Darwin's natural selection. Modern evolutionary theory includes the concepts of punctuated equilibria and evolutionary synthesis which add to the evolutionary driving force. They also don't recognize that evolution is not a forward only process. There is not necessarily a magical driving force leading to the creation human beings in particular. If there was evidence that evolution was driving for the creation of a particular species I too would believe in ID. Rather humans are the result of many billions of failed biological experiments. We evolved the way we did not because of a designer but because we did (This relates to the weak anthropic principle). Evolution is as much working to create new forms of bacteria as it is to create a human. The number of bacterial species is immense and grows everyday. To quote from Stephen Jay Gould's Planet of the Bacteria:

On any possible, reasonable or fair criterion, bacteria are — and always have been —the dominant forms of life on Earth

With all this talk of skeptics and skepticism feel I should explain myself. Yes, I am a skeptic... I don't believe in ghosts, witches, or alien abductions. And no, I don't believe in God. However, I'm not going to criticize anyone for believing in God. You can believe in what you like. If you try to prove to me the existence of God through pseudoscience or logical fallacy I'll argue against you (if I can) but I feel everyone has to right to believe in anything they want. I believe that life exists on other planets without proof. My world view can accept the existence of extraterrestrial species. If your world view can include the existence of God they I'm happy for you. I ask simply that you be consistence with the facts. There is evidence that the world is over 40,000 years old and if you have an explanation for that (i.e. God made it look that way) then I'm satisfied and you will hear no arguments from me.

Skeptics’ Circle #7
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2005 4/28/2005 08:25:00 PM

So I'm very new to blogging... both writing a blog and reading them. Most of the blogs I've seen don't have anything of interest to me. However, lately I've enjoyed reading several blogs run by various skeptics around the world. If you want a launching pad to these skeptical posts you're in luck. Saint Nate has organized the The Skeptics' Circle a biweekly round-robin post that summarizes various posts from around the skeptical blogger community.

Skeptics' Circle #7 is hosted by Josh at Thoughts from Kansas. Enjoy!


Posted Saturday, April 23, 2005 4/23/2005 11:20:00 AM

When writing my last post on the ionic air purifiers I came across a great blog at skeptico.blogs.com. Honestly, I have very little time to blog myself, much less reading other blogs, but Richard Rockley’s blog is great. To quote from his site:

It sometimes seems like the whole world has gone mad. Everyone I meet seems to believe in some irrational nonsense, no one can ever back up their beliefs with evidence, and yet they view me as the one with the problem. Psychics, psychokinesis, auras, alternative medicine, indigo children, global consciousness, astrology, reincarnation… the list is endless. And just when I think I’ve heard everything, along comes a new piece of drivel I have to listen to. Does anyone ever check anything before repeating it? Doesn’t seem like it.
And if I ask for evidence to back up what is claimed, all I get is, “you don’t understand”, or “what do you mean, ‘test’ it?”, or “I just know it works” or “that sounds closed-minded”, or “science doesn’t know everything”.

It’s all over the news too. Sports people think that God stops whatever he’s doing to help their team (it’s always their team) win a game. Creationist groups want to teach “intelligent design” as though it is science. Does anyone in the media know the difference between science and pseudoscience? Not that you can tell.

This site takes a critical look at many issues, he does his research, and proves his point. Simply a great blog and intelligent blogger. I only hope that someday I can blog as well as he does. Yes, I have a case of blog envy.

Here are some of my favorite posts so far:


Ionic Air Purifiers
Posted Friday, April 22, 2005 4/22/2005 04:44:00 PM

The first time I saw a commercial regarding those ion or ozone air purifiers I knew it was a scam. My theory was that a high efficiency filter doesn't mean anything if the air flow is low. The ORECK XL for example may remove 95% of all particles but if the air exchange rate per hour is very low then most of the air in a room is untouched. Well it turns out that it is even worse then I thought. When the manufactures claim their air purifiers clean 95% of airborne contaminants they provide no particle size range. As a matter of fact these purifiers remove mostly large particles while standard HEPA filters meet a minimum efficiency of 99.97% at 0.3 microns. Turns out the majority of harmful particles are 3 microns or less in size as small particles travel deeper into the lungs, causing more damage while larger particles get trapped in your nose a throat. In addition these ion purifiers can release harmful ozone into your home. Consumer Reports criticizes ionic air purifier. I guess the moral is that scientific claims can be used to mislead... do your research.


Debugging Langton's Ant (way too long)
Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2005 4/12/2005 09:10:00 PM

So yesterday I mentioned that A. K. Dewdney was a contributing author of many Computer Recreations articles appearing in Scientific American magazine. While in collage I used to rife through back issues of Scientific American magazines to read every Computer Recreations and Mathematical Recreations I could find. One of the most memorable articles was The Ultimate in Anty-Particles by Ian Stewart appearing in the July 1994 issue. In this article Stewart describes a simple cellular automaton invented in the 1980s called Langton's Ant. Langton's Ant is a fascinatingly simple example of cellular automata similar to Conway's Game of Life . With a very simple rule set the ant will create very complex patterns that appear random. However eventually the ant will enter a repeating pattern and you realize that it is not random at all.

A Langton's Ant code was one of the first pieces of software I ever wrote. At the time I owned a cheap Tandy computer that couldn't even run a ASM compiler much less a higher level programming language like C or PASCAL (or at least one I could afford). So what did I write it in? Well believe it or not I wrote my application in MS-DOS debug. That's right in debug. If you know anything about debug you know that that is a real feat. Let me try to explain. Well, the lowest level on computer programming is writing in machine language. That is actually writing in the 1 and 0 that computers understand. Well, I don't believe there is anyone in this world that can program directly in machine code. The next level up is assembly language. At this level you are writing in a type of shorthand code that represents the machine commands that will be sent to the CPU. The language commands consist of moving numbers in and out of memory and hardware (i.e. the screen) locations. As you write your code you need to jump around in memory quite a bit. The good thing about using an assembly language compiler is that you can assign names to various memory locations so that you don't need to know the exact memory address. In addition as you modify the code the memory addresses change.

But I didn't have a assembly language compiler.. instead I had debug. Debug is a MS-DOS tool that was intended to view and modify data in memory. So using debug you can actually view pieces of memory and print out the assembly language commands. So what I actually had to do was write out the entire code on paper before hand, type the code directly into memory using dummy values for the memory locations then go back and change all the memory locations to the actual locations. Run, debug, repeat. It was not easy. Luckily Langton's ant was easy to write. I have never again written anything in assembly language but writing that piece of code taught me a lot about computers that I never would have gotten using Visual Basic or C++. I have long ago lost the code and the executable but several years ago I wrote a version in Visual Basic that I turned into a screen saver. More fancy but defiantly, but not as interesting.

It is also interesting to note that Ian Stewart (the author of the Scientific American article that started in all for me) has also written a couple of books regarding FlatLand by by Edwin A. Abbott one of the inspirations for A. K. Dewdney's The Planiverse .

A. K. Dewdney
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 4/11/2005 09:53:00 PM

Continuing my theme of slightly interrelated random stuff or as ninad commented "completely interesting but completely pointless stuff" I'd like to talk more about A. K. Dewdney. I mentioned A. K. Dewdney Earlier as the author of The Planiverse . In addition to The Planiverse Dewdney has written another of my favorite books The New Turing Omnibus. The Turing Omnibus is a great computer science book for beginners. It covers, in detail, essential topics in computer science including: finite automata, turning machines, NP-completeness. Each topic is well covered yet it is readable and comprehensible even for the non computer science student. I wouldn't recommend this book for your grandmother (unless she is into that stuff) but if you have an interest in computer science but are not trained in the field this is the book to get.

In addition to these great books (and others he has written) Dewdney was the author of many Computer Recreations articles (later mathematical recreations) in Scientific American from 1984 - 1991 in one article of which he invented Core Wars. Dewdney is currently a Professor Emeritus of the University of Western Ontario.

Boing Boing: Nasa's robotic head plumbs the nadir of the uncanny valley
Posted Saturday, April 09, 2005 4/09/2005 11:51:00 PM

This is so creepy I thought it must be a prank but the file is hosted on a NASA/JPL server so it must be real... right?


morons.org - Man Arrested for Using $2 Bills at Best Buy
Posted Friday, April 08, 2005 4/08/2005 09:27:00 PM

We have all had our bad experiences with Best Buy but this poor guy was arrested for using $114 in $2 bills. OK, so he was probably being an ass because the Best Buy employee "misstated" that installation was free but he didn't deserve to be arrested. Next time he should remember Bets Buys policy on customers questions:

When asked a question by a customer to which you don't know the answer simply make up whatever answer you need to close the sale. You can always deny it later.
- Best Buy Employees Manual §254.75

I believe the same policy is in effect at Fry's electronics.


Kitten Cannon - Presented by Flash Player
Posted Wednesday, April 06, 2005 4/06/2005 10:12:00 PM

Every first year physics student knows that the maximum range of a projectile is achieved at 45 degrees. That is unless your shooting a kitten into a field filled with bombs, trampolines, and Venus fly-traps.

My top score: 1516


The American Physical Society presents "A Century of Physics"
Posted 4/06/2005 07:41:00 PM

Interactive history of Physics.


Vending machine dispenses free drinks during disasters
Posted Monday, April 04, 2005 4/04/2005 09:52:00 PM

This would never happen in the US. As a matter of fact I bet if the cola companies and the vendor operators could get away with it the price would increase after a disaster.

Another reason it would never work here (maybe not in Japan either) is that I'm sure the first person to reach the machine would take them all and start reselling at inflated prices.


San Andreas Radio
Posted 4/04/2005 09:23:00 PM

With Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rockstar games has again created an great game. But in addition to being a great game it also has a great in-game soundtrack. If you enjoy the in-game music and want to listen in your real car you can buy the 8 disc official soundtrack. Or if you already own the game you can head over to Eddie Edwards' website and download San Andreas Radio and rip the music right from the game disk. I don't know if this is entirely legal but it sure is grand... thanks Eddie.


Programming Junky
Posted 4/04/2005 01:35:00 PM

Set Me.RatherBe = enumActions.Programming

Maybe Black holes do not exist
Posted 4/04/2005 12:38:00 AM

"It's a near certainty that black holes don't exist. "
-George Chapline Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

According to this article appearing at nature.com at least one physicist at LLNL believes that what appear to be black holes are in fact dark-energy stars. Dark-energy, as you may know, is the theoretical substance used to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe (although it appears that some Italian and U.S. cosmologists don't believe dark-energy is needed). On the outside dark-energy stars would act exactly the way you would theorize a black hole would act but the inside will be quite different. According to the article, instead of being crushed at the singularity things bounce around inside.

This gets me thinking. How can we ever test what is beyond the event horizon of a black hole/dark-energy star. Once we send a probe in can we ever retrieve the data. If we were to send an observer beyond an event horizon will we never know his observations. According to some physicists (and now Stephen Hawking) information might be retrievable. That brings up my philosophical question of the day "If a scientist made a discovery beyond an event horizon and there was nobody there to review it, did it shift a paradigm?"


The results of my research...
Posted Sunday, April 03, 2005 4/03/2005 11:54:00 AM

After decades of research and many late nights solving some of the worlds most difficult partial differential equations using some of the most advanced Hilbert Space Methods known to man I have finally solved one of the most fundamental enigmas facing intellectual men of the world today.

I have discovered that when a woman says "I like nerdy guys" they mean:

This Guy

Not This Guy

Hypercubed, But why?
Posted Saturday, April 02, 2005 4/02/2005 03:14:00 PM

Ok, so yesterday I answered the question of what it is to be Hypercubed now. I will answer the question of "why". I guess the answer is that I've been fascinated with the concept of 4-dimensional space for a long time. My fascination began when I read The Planiverse by A. K. Dewdney. This book is a fictional account of contact with a creature living in a 2D world. By understanding the relation between 2D and 3D space we can begin to understand four dimensional space. That is to say the idea of space containing four physical dimensions measured in length. This should not to be confused with the twilight zone type parallel universes (creatures from the 13th dimension, etc) or 4 dimensional space-time. But rather the idea that there could be space that is composed of 4 dimensions of extent. Right now we have up/down, left/right, forward/back... three dimensions each measured using a ruler (not a clock). What if there was a fourth direction that can be measured by length... ana/kata. What would geometric figures with 4 dimensions look like? Because it is impossible for us to imagine 4 dimensional objects (at least I have never met anyone that claims they can) we have to draw on analogies. The only way to begin to understand 4d space is to examine the relationship between 2D and 3D and extend these relationship to 4D. That is why a hypercube is so interesting. We can take two objects we are very familiar with, the square and the cube, and extend it to 4+ dimensions. If you are interested in this type of subject I suggest you read The Planiverse ... it is just plane fascinating (ok that was a bad pun).

Related Lnks:

Posted Friday, April 01, 2005 4/01/2005 07:20:00 PM

Some of you (is anyone actually there?) may be wondering what it is to be Hypercubed. Well Hypercubed is the inflected verb meaning to form into a Hypercube. According to Merriam-Webster a Hypercube is "a geometric figure... in Euclidean space of n dimensions that is analogous to a cube in three dimensions" (see reference). Notice it is a geometric figure in space of n dimensions. Therefore Hypercubed means to be formed into a n-dimensional equivalent of a cube. However, when people mention a hypercube they most commonly are referring to the tesseract, the four-dimensional version of a cube. Doesn't Hypercubed sounds better then tesseracted?

What is a hypercube (tesseract) look like? A line is a one (1) dimensional object. Now imagine if you were to make a duplicate of this line and then connect these two lines by more lines of the same length. This would be a two (2) dimensional square. Now take this square and connect it to a duplicate square using more duplicate squares. You now have two squares connected by four squares, six faces in all. This is a three (3) dimensional cube (look here). Now the hard part; imagine two cubes where each face of the first cube is connected to one face of the other cube by a duplicate cube. This is difficult to imagine because we live and think in three dimensions. But mathematically there is no difference between space with three dimensions and space with four dimensions. Well obviously, due to limitations of 3-d space, we cannot see a four dimensional object. However, using the same techniques that one uses when drawing a 3 dimensional cube on a two dimensional piece of paper we can project an image of a four dimensional hypercube (or the wire frame of one) into three dimensions. In 2000 I posted an article on my website explaining how to use POV-RAY to display four dimensional objects here. The image below is a projection of a hypercube made with POV-RAY.

There are other ways to view a hypercube. We all know how to unfold a 3D cube; it is also possible to unfold a hypercube. Check out Salvador Dali's painting "Crucifixion" (aka "Corpus Hypercubus").

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