I really enjoyed reading these items sequentially this week. Our first addiction is often to our model of the world. ‘Being smarter’ can sometimes mean more rapidly processing new information through our existing model, but it can also mean revamping our model.

First from popular philosophy of science, Wittgenstein’s Tacitus: 

“Let us imagine a white surface with irregular black spots on it. We then say that whatever kind of picture these make, Ican always approximate as closely as I wish to the description of it by covering the surface with a sufficiently fine square mesh, and then saying of every square whether it is black or white. In this way I shall have imposed a unified form on the description of the surface. The form is optional, since I could have achieved the same result by using a net with a triangular or hexagonal mesh. Possibly the use of a triangular mesh would have made the description simpler: that is to say, it might be that we could describe the surface more accurately with a coarse triangular mesh than with a fine square mesh (or conversely), and so on. The different nets correspond to different systems for describing the world.”

Then from current engineering, an answer on Quora about models and wing design being broken by the new 787: 

“On the 787, computational tools have been developed which make the wing performat “better than elliptic” efficiency.  This is possible because the theory for elliptic performance has several simplifications which do not match reality.  The elliptic distribution is derived for incompressible, inviscid flow; steady flow, and unswept wings. With the advent of modern computational tools, we are no longer limited by the simplified theory.”

I found it esp charming given that Wittgenstein started his working life as a wing engineer. 

I don’t have any blithe commentary on how I will immediately run off and use this in my day job of building platform services, but Werner Vogels has already done a nice keynote on this topic entitled “The Map is Not the Territory.” 




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