What is computer science?

Despite earning a BSEE from a school that combines EE & CS curricula, I don’t know much about CS. After being invited to join the software team at work I decided I should find out. I haven’t been able to stop reading since…

What is computer science?
From: Wikipedia: Computer science

Computer science or computing science (sometimes abbreviated CS) is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation, and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems. It is frequently described as the systematic study of algorithmic processes that create, describe, and transform information. Computer science has many sub-fields; some, such as computer graphics, emphasize the computation of specific results, while others, such as computational complexity theory, study the properties of computational problems. Still others focus on the challenges in implementing computations. For example, programming language theory studies approaches to describe computations, while computer programming applies specific programming languages to solve specific computational problems, and human-computer interaction focuses on the challenges in making computers and computations useful, usable, and universally accessible to people.

The general public sometimes confuses computer science with careers that deal with computers (such as the noun Information Technology), or think that it relates to their own experience of computers, which typically involves activities such as gaming, web-browsing, and word-processing. However, the focus of computer science is more on understanding the properties of the programs used to implement software such as games and web-browsers, and using that understanding to create new programs or improve existing ones.

The Computer Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB) identifies four areas that it considers crucial to the discipline of computer science: theory of computation, algorithms and data structures, programming methodology and languages, and computer elements and architecture. In addition to these four areas, CSAB also identifies fields such as software engineering, artificial intelligence, computer networking and communication, database systems, parallel computation, distributed computation, computer-human interaction, computer graphics, operating systems, and numerical and symbolic computation as being important areas of computer science.

I made this pdf with Visio to better develop visual-relational understanding of the computer science and related fields: Wikipedia-ComputerScience.pdf

Where can I learn computer science?

If you want to know more about computer science you’re in luck. It’s one of the most internet-accessible subject areas and likely always will be. I’d start at Wikipedia and if you’re still interested head to MIT Open Courseware. Always remember, autdidacticism will take you only as far as you take yourself so keep it fun. Write yourself some software, build a gaming computer for a friend, or write a website from scratch to keep things interesting.

Wikipedia: Computer science

MIT Open Courseware: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

“I have found the MIT Open Courseware to be a great resource for free computer science college courses. Every software engineer should be required to take the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs class. Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon also provide some great online courses.” (Stack Overflow)

Free Science and Video Lectures Online does a great job of grouping classes to allow you to target your interest area: Free Computer Science Video Lecture Courses

And if that isn’t enough to keep you occupied, here’s a list of 45 Free Online Computer Science Courses from ProgrammerFish complete with helpful descriptions of each course.

Other related fields?
From: Wikipedia: Computer science

The broader field of theoretical computer science encompasses both the classical theory of computation and a wide range of other topics that focus on the more abstract, logical, and mathematical aspects of computing.

Integrating Interests

I love to sort and group. I put things in their appropriate box and contents of each box remain separated and organized. This is true both literally and figuratively. But the real fun begins when more than one box gets opened at the same time.

British Petroleum and the Gulf Oil Spill are hot topics in the news media. By purchasing shares in NYSE:BP, I’ve encouraged myself to pay more attention to the news. By opening my financial box, I’ve encouraged the opening of my world-news/contemporary-issues box as well. These boxes are no longer gathering dust.

How do you integrate your different interests or use one to inspire another?

British Petroleum (NYSE:BP) (Part 2)

What happened this morning?

I woke late to find I’d missed a chance to buy NYSE:BP under $30/share. I almost went to work without making a purchase. But anxiety subsided and I bought in at $31.22. This holding is in addition to my investment club strengthening their position this morning at $29.78.

Why did I finally buy?

1. I spend too much of my life learning and planning and not enough doing. I’m more often guilty of over-analyzing than of being hasty. In this case, it was time to get into the game, and I’ll learn my lessons along with the emotional roller-coaster that is sure to follow.
2. I’m not a day trader. Having missed a $1 discount because of a day change should not affect my one-year returns significantly.
3. I’d made up my mind the night before and my morning apprehensions were emotionally fueled.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s possible BP is “playing nice” publicly while selling off and hiding as many assets as possible in expectation of an eventual bankruptcy. In this case, my money will have disappeared entirely. Assuming they don’t go bankrupt, I expect the be in the green and receiving dividends again by 2012.


(MarketWatch)

“BP continues to dominate the sector and the political arena, agreeing to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Shares remain volatile, falling and then rebounding. Steve Gelsi reports.”

British Petroleum (NYSE:BP) (Part 1)

Who is British Petroleum? (Wikipedia)

British Petroleum (BP) is the UK’s largest corporation and is the fourth largest company in the world. It is one of six “supermajors” or vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing company.

What are they doing to The Gulf of Mexico? (Wikipedia)

On 20 April 2010 the Deepwater Horizon exploded and there has since been a widely publicized oil spill disaster involving a leaking deep water oil well. A vast area of the United States marine environment, sealife, and local fishing industry has been devastated.

Give me numbers! (Wikipedia)
– Explosion killed 11.
– BP estimated 1,000 barrels per day.
– Government estimated 5,000 barrels per day.
– Estimates now 56,000 to 84,000 barrels per day.
– This is the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every 3.5 to 2.4 days.
– On April 30, BP stated that it would harness all of its resources to battle the oil spill, spending $7 million a day with its partners to try to contain the disaster.
– BP’s 1st quarter profits for 2010 were roughly $61M daily.

President Barack Obama

Tonight Obama addressed BP’s management of the spill.


Full text of President Barack Obama’s speech

The bright side?

Obama is holding BP accountable for the damage they’ve cause to the environment and the fishing industry.

What’s in it for you?

NYSE:BP has dropped 50% from $60 to $30 per share, and Obama’s bad news for BP didn’t air until after the markets closed today. Tomorrow morning I’m going to let NYSE:BP tank a bit more and then buy a few hundred shares.

S&P: “In our worst case scenario (5% likelihood), we calculate that if BP were to be expelled from the U.S., and having to pay $20 billion in Gulf liabilities, it would be worth GBp400 per share (about $35 per ADS) above recent trading levels.”

Buy and hold.

4 Steps to Get Back to Basics

Eventually, enough is enough. Whether we’re buried in successes or failures, stress and responsibility can crush us into an exhaustion pulp. When caffeine, 4 Hour Energy and NoDoz isn’t getting it done, it’s time for Plan B. Step back, relax, and reevaluate. Not everything you are doing is as important as you think it is. Not everything you are doing is getting you to where you want to be. And if you’re so exhausted that reevaluating is out of the question, this article is especially for you. It’s time to give yourself some credit, give yourself a break, get back to basics and remember how to enjoy what you do. Continue reading 4 Steps to Get Back to Basics

Investing Theory – Market Speculation

Why should market speculation be profitable?

In this article I will explain why market speculation should be profitable.

Disclaimer: I have never owned a stock outside of my retirement accounts and am therefor basing this theory entirely off of intuition and logical analysis. I have never been a day-trader. Furthermore, the following analysis assumes that you make your investment choices based on logic, not emotion.

Caution: Invest at your own risk!

Markets have character.

Identifying market trends based on momentum or cyclical patterns is inevitable for all investors. No one ever bought anything without expectation. Communication of these expectations is what gives a market character. Example: Bob O’Brien points out that “May sell-offs on Wall Street typically turn into big recoveries in the month of June.” Anyone privy to this knowledge is more likely to sell before May, and more likely purchase sometime near the end of May. This selling before May increases the likelihood of the very May sell-off that we expected, and the purchasing near the end of may increases the likelihood of the June recovery.

Education promotes profitability.

The fundamental difference between Buyer A and Buyer B is their expectations which are a direct result of their education. If Buyer A knows nothing of the trend of the market, he is more likely to be surprised by a sell-off. If Buyer B has been educated by Mr Bob O’Brien, he is less likely to be surprised by a May sell-off and is more likely to be prepared to take profitable action.

What should I do?

First, I don’t recommend day-trading for any beginner investors, although I’ll likely try it soon for the experience. However, I am suggesting that there are significant profits to be made in speculation as opposed to simply dollar-cost-averaging dividend stocks, mutual funds or index funds.

Specialization. You don’t need to make money as a baker today and a candlestick maker tomorrow. You need only be good at one thing. Find a niche. While everyone else is distracted BP oil spills and the World Cup, educate yourself in some unrelated niche. It may be less exciting, but you’re more likely to find a winner before the distracted world is privy to your gold mine.

Disagreement and education is welcome – please comment!

Impossible IQ Test

If an apple a day keeps the doctor _____,
what number comes next in the following sequence?
0, 1, __?
A. 0
B. 2
C. 3
D. 10

Bill is Jill’s great aunt twice removed.
Will is the opposite of _____?
A. Will not
B. Won’t
C. Neglect

If some marbles are round and I have a bag of marbles,
how many blue marbles have I lost since kindergarden?
A. red
B. yellow
C. green

I am not Pope John Paul,
but I wouldn’t mind,
maybe for a week. 1+1=__?
A. 0
B. 1
C. 3
D. 11

Like which of these is kind of like the others
but like not really like the others at all?
A. Animal
B. Animal
C. Animal
D. Animal
E. Animal

A train left the station at 5am this morning
travelling at a constant velocity of pi angstroms
per Ancient Chinese fen. This IQ test is _____?
A. Not ridiculous.
B. Effective.
C. Fair.
D. All of the above.

Top 10 Richest People in The World

Rank Name Country NetWorth NetWorth Change Age Bio
1 Carlos Slim Helu Mexico $53.5 bil UP $18.5 bil 70 Assets in Latin America’s biggest mobile phone company.
2 Bill Gates United States $53 bil UP $13 bil 54 Software visionary and world’s biggest philanthropist.
3 Warren Buffett United States $47 bil UP $10 bil 79 Berkshire Hathaway, company added to S&P 500 index in Feb.
4 Mukesh Ambani India $29 bil UP $9.5 bil 52 Reliance Industries on global buying binge.
5 Lakshmi Mittal India $28.7 bil UP $9.4 bil 59 ArcelorMittal (steel) in India.
6 Larry Ellison United States $28 bil UP $5.5 bil 65 Oracle founder, acquired 57 companies in past 5 years.
7 Bernard Arnault France $27.5 bil UP $11 bil 61 LVHM (luxury goods): Louis Vuitton, et al.
8 Eike Batista Brazil $27 bil UP $19.5 bil 53 College dropout vows to become world’s richest man.
9 Amancio Ortega Spain $25 bil UP $6.7 bil 74 Inditex (fashion), 4500 stores in 73 countries
10 Karl Albrecht Germany $23.5 bil UP $2 bil 90 Supermarkets in Germany, Europe, and U.S.

From Forbes: The World’s Billionaires and
The 20 Richest People in the World

Learning a Second Language

I’m occasionally inclined to learn a second language – wouldn’t multilingualism be fun? Sure, but what’s the point? Aren’t I getting too old? And who has the time?

What’s the point?

Continued learning has mental, emotional and social benefits. Learning another language can help keep our brains receptive and agile, be a regular outlet and source of pride, and can enhance our social lives, especially if you live in a culturally diverse environment.

“We have strong evidence today that studying a foreign language has a ripple effect, helping to improve student performance in other subjects.” – Richard Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton

And as long as you aren’t planning to learn Sentinelese, learning a foreign language can greatly enhance your vacation experience.

From Vistawide:
1. To increase global understanding
2. To improve employment potential
3. To increase native language ability
4. To sharpen cognitive and life skills
5. To improve chances of entry into college or graduate school
6. To appreciate international literature, music, and film
7. To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
8. To expand study abroad options
9. To increase understanding of oneself and one’s own culture
10. To make lifelong friends

Aren’t I getting too old?

From Ezine:
“Adults are generally able to concentrate for longer periods of time. They aren’t distracted by friends wanting to play football or thinking about what they want for Christmas next year. Mature learners also have their own learning strategy. They know what works for them and are able to plan their studies accordingly.”

Who has the time?

Let’s start by assuming you don’t spend too much time watching TV, shopping, pampering yourself, or consuming alcohol. There’s still ample opportunity for better time use, time saving, and multi-tasking. I should write a blog entry on this. If all else fails, you could always sleep less.

All kidding aside, learning a language does not take as long as you may think and depends entirely on identifying your goals (as usual) and developing an efficient approach. If your goal is to be able to understand the spoken word, listen to pop-music and watch foreign films with sub-titles. If your goal is to be conversationally fluent, get a pen pal and attempt conversations with foreigners at every opportunity, or ideally, take an extended vacation and immerse yourself in the culture. If your goal is to be able to read or write, you needn’t leave the sanctity of your own home. Just use the endless online resources, read poems and essays and books, and starting writing your own.

And finally, I have a bit of advice regardless of your language goals:
1. Perfect practice makes perfect. Have fun but take your practice time seriously. Focus.
2. Frequency and Repetition: Practice every day, for a short time, don’t burn out.
3. Learn the most used words first!
4. Learn words specific to your interests to keep learning fun and useful.
5. Deconstruct the language and pick a reasonable goal.

Happy learning!