Greatest hits

I’ve been “publishing” various things on the Internet for 20 years (!!!) now. Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Ball lightning: the coolest thing you’ve never heard of: Ball lightning – glowing balls of light often associated with regular ol’ lightning – is super cool, real, and no one knows how it works yet! I read an entire textbook on the phenomenon of ball lightning while I was on vacation, and wrote this summary of it.

The ultimate physical limits of computation: Dr. Seth Lloyd, a physicist, estimated when Moore’s Law will end according to our current knowledge of physics (presumably incomplete). He also calculated the maximum possible bit operations per second, IO bandwidth, and other interesting properties of one kilo of matter in one liter of space (the “ultimate laptop”). I thought this was super amazing and interesting, so I wrote a summary of his paper aimed at your average computer programmer.

Suicide and society: Where does responsibility for preventing suicide lie?: When a famous person commits suicide, a lot of people who haven’t experienced major depression give bad advice on how to prevent suicide that ends up harming suicidal people more. I wrote this blog post to explain why it was harmful and what to do instead.

DEFCON: Why conference harassment matters: I saw Twitter recruiting at DEFCON, the world’s largest computer security conference, after I’d stopped attending because of the extensive sexual harassment and assault that goes on at that conference. I also first got interested in computer programming when I attended the third DEFCON conference as a teenager. I wrote this article to explain why harassment at conferences severely harms women.

The “rainbow chart” of cryptographic hash function lifetimes: Back around 2004, a cool trend in computer software was writing software that depended on cryptographic hash functions never being broken (specifically, SHA-1). In particular, an easy way to get a PhD was to take some existing piece of software and replace the addressing technique with an address generated by taking a cryptographic hash of the data being addressed. To demonstrate that cryptographic hash functions are human-made creations which will inevitably be broken with enough effort, I created a chart showing the lifetimes of cryptographic hash functions. Today with SHA-1-signed SSL certificates being actively deprecated, this seems obvious, but the chart is a fun snapshot of a particular time in computer science.