Stupidly Fast

I’ve been sitting in the junk room staring at the screen for the last ten minutes, wondering what to write. I’m in the slightly curious situation of trying to switch off after a busy day, but not being able to share any of it, because it’s all work stuff.

What have I been doing other than work and chores ?

Maybe today would be a good time to admit that I found myself watching videos on YouTube about the Riemann Hypothesis, and Ptolemy’s Theorem. I’ve always liked mathematics – I’m not sure why. I’m not particularly good at math, but I love watching skilled teachers break down problems.

I suppose there are some parallels there – I work as a software developer, which is really all about problem solving. Sure, it’s also about understanding the nature of the machine, or the operating system, or whatever application you’re talking to – but beyond that it’s about problem solving – lateral thinking – logic.

Computers are stupid, but they are incredibly fast. A really fast idiot will beat a really slow genius every time – by brute force. A couple of weeks ago, inspired by a video I saw online, I wrote a small program to solve Sudoku puzzles. It takes about a tenth of a second to solve them – and appears magical until you realise it tried about fifty thousand different numbers in the empty squares of the puzzle in that tenth of a second.

As much as we might complain about our computers chugging from time to time – taking time to open an application, or to do whatever else – it’s easy to forget just how damn fast they are. The latest consumer graphics chips process somewhere in the region of 500 billion operations per second. That’s how fast they are.

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