Wolfram on Golomb

August 7, 2017

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

I was checking out Stephen Wolfram’s blog and found this excellent obituary of Solomon Golomb, the mathematician who invented the maximum-length linear-feedback shift register sequence, characterized by Wolfram as “probably the single most-used mathematical algorithm idea in history.” But Golomb is probably more famous for inventing polyominoes.

The whole thing’s a good read, and it even includes this cool nonperiodic tiling from Wolfram’s 2002 book:

There’s also some interesting stuff on cellular automata, itself a fascinating topic. Wolfram should hire someone to prove some theorems about it!

P.S. Wolfram’s blog has lots of good stuff. In fact, I just added it to the blogroll! For example, here’s a long post from a few months ago on cellular automata and physics. It’s a funny thing, though: Wolfram seems to have an extreme aversion to talking about his collaborators. With Wolfram, it’s all through the day, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine. Don’t get me wrong, I like to talk about myself too. But science as I experience it is soooo collaborative, it’s hard for me to imagine being in Wolfram’s situation: he has all the resources in the world but he works all on his own. So lonely. On one hand, he has these interesting ideas that he wants to share with the world, with complete strangers on his blog. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to be able to collaborate with people directly. In literature, this would not be surprising—we don’t demand or even expect that Matthew Klam, Francis Spufford, Alison Bechdel, etc., find collaborators—but in science it seems like a mistake to work alone. Then again, what do I know. Andrew Wiles didn’t seem to require a research team or even a research partner.

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