Mandelbrot Set in VB.NET

I finally downloaded the Express edition of Microsoft Visual Basic .NET, and started a long-overdue peek into the much-hyped .NET technology. Up till now, most of my code has been plain C++ with straight Windows API calls. I generally stay away from languages that remove the programmer from the underlying architecture. But I must say that programming .NET has been nothing but a pleasure so far, despite the cons of .NET programming, of which there’s also no shortage.

I was actually pretty surprised that the Express editions of all .NET languages (VB, C++, C#, and J#) are freely downloadable and, for all intents and purposes, fully functional.

My first stab at programming VB.NET is a simple Mandelbrot Set viewer:

Mandelbrot Set

The total time to get this program written was about 25 minutes, which says a lot about the possibilities for tremendous productivity using .NET, although this application hardly scratches the surface of .NET functionality…

The Moon Rulz

It’s pretty hilarious watching the nation’s reaction to the bomb scare in Boston. Supposedly city officials are prepared to charge Turner Broadcasting $500,000 to pay for the police and bomb squad response.

I hope this doesn’t affect the release schedule of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Colon, Movie Film For Theaters. Hopefully, if anything, ticket sales resulting from this ingenious advertising campaign will make up for it!

It looks like, in our “post-9/11 world,” there’s no end to the irrationality and paranoia that people will succumb to, just because they can’t find anyone else to blame.

On the Existence of George Washington

In yet another friendly religious debate, I was given the argument that goes something like, “How do you know that _____ _____ existed?” The blanks can obviously be replaced with any prominent historical figure who is no longer living. On this occasion it was George Washington. This argument is quite weak in itself, since it is not even an argument for or against the existence of God (or Jesus); instead, it argues only that human knowledge is fallible, therefore no fact can be absolutely certain, indirectly leaving a little room for the possibility of a god.

The response to this kind of argument is three-fold. First, we have thousands of instances of indirect evidence that supports the existence of George Washington in the form of biographies, paintings, and letters, as well as documents and letters written by the man himself. It’s highly unlikely and unnecessary for all of these sources to have conspired to invent a non-existent first president of the United States.

The second part of the response is perhaps the most important: George Washington never claimed to be able to break the laws of physics! There are no claims of Washington parting seas, curing the blind, or turning water into wine. If such a claim had been made, we would undoubtedly need some truly convincing evidence, like confirmations of the observed phenomena by the greatest scientists of the time (emphasizing their inability to explain the phenomena), as well as experimental data on repeatability and consistency of Washington’s powers.

The third part of the response is a bit more subtle, but also very important. Believing in the existence of George Washington is not integral to the understanding of reality. History is reevaluated all the time. One day, historians might even discover that Washington was a hoax, and never existed as a real person. However, this kind of finding would have no effect on the foundations of physics, cosmology, or biology. The existence of Jesus, however (especially the god-man Jesus of the Bible) would have profound consequences in many scientific disciplines. The fact that the Bible is the only (second-hand) source that attributes supernatural powers to Jesus makes for particularly weak evidence for his divinity. If there was a single manuscript claiming that George Washington had magical powers, I would undoubtedly want evidence that is as credible as the claim is outlandish. Wouldn’t you?

This is What I Think About!

One of the recent television commercials for the U.S. Navy depicts two police officers in their cruiser, patroling a sketchy urban neighborhood. Suddenly they pick out a boy in a group of friends, and call him over to the vehicle. One of the police officers points to his laptop, annoyed, saying, “It, uhh… it crashed again.” The boy glances at the laptop screen and says proudly, “Reboot with F8 in Safe Mode.

Now, it is true that pressing F8 during the boot sequence will allow you to enter Safe Mode. However, going into Safe Mode is a very temporary measure, and by no means the solution to the underlying problem! Booting into Safe Mode should only be done in the most extreme situations (e.g. a malfunctioning video driver), and should never be used for anything except repairing critical errors in the operating system, and then making sure the computer can boot back into normal mode.

The Navy-bound computer whiz-kid should never have let the officer drive off with the computer still in Safe Mode. If anything, the officer will encounter more problems (or at least annoyances) trying to work in Safe Mode than working normally with an occasional crash. Is this kid really the kind of person we want working as an Airborne Ops Tech?

Bible Code Finder

At long last, I’ve recovered the source code for my Bible Code Finder application. It’s covered in more detail in this article. The program takes a plain text file (preferably a large one), and allows you to scan it for occurrences of words with equidistant letter spacing. Download the program and, if you’d like, the source code repository. To download the full text of the Bible (or a great number of other texts), visit Project Gutenberg.

Example Bible CodeIt works like this: start the program and open the text file that you want to search (the program automatically strips punctuation and whitespace). Then enter up to seven words to look for, and click the Start button! The program will find the first occurrence of all words within a certain range, unless you select “Find All” instead of “Find One.” The result(s) will be shown in the Results tab.

The “Frame Size” parameter is the range (in letters) within which all words must be found. “Min Delta” and “Max Delta” are the minimum and maximum letter spacing of words to search.

Obviously, longer words will take longer to search for. Generally it’s highly improbable to find combinations with words longer than 8 letters. On the other hand, don’t search for words shorter than three letters, since too many results will be found. As a rule, try to enter longer words first, then shorter words. This will result in a quicker search.