Tag Archives: book

Does Your Name Sums Up To A Prime Number?

I just finished a wonderful book! The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time is a masterpiece, written by Mark Haddon, a famous English children’s book writer who decided to write this book for adults.

That’s a sequence of curious events in the life of a 15-year-old boy, called Christopher, with Asperger syndrome. It’s narrated by himself in a very unique way, telling his efforts to write a book about a small crime that has happened in his street while intercalating the story with his gifted mathematical and logical insights.

A curious thing is that chapters are numbered after prime numbers, rather than conventional successive numbers. The last chapter is 233, which is the 51° prime number. In the chapter 19, he describes a simple algorithm to figure out prime numbers. In his words:

“… you write down all the positive whole numbers in the world. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 2. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 3. Then you take away all the numbers that are multiples of 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and so on. The numbers that are left are prime numbers”

In one of his insights, he used to get someone’s name, give each letter a value from 1 to 26 and sum the values of each letter of the name to check whether the total is a prime number. So, I thought it would be fun to explore this unique way of seeing things using Clojure. First, we create a map of letters and numbers, where the letters are keys in a map and numbers are their respective values:

(def numbered-alphabet {\a 1  \b 2  \c 3  \d 4  \e 5  \f 6 
                        \g 7  \h 8  \i 9  \j 10 \k 11 \l 12
                        \m 13 \n 14 \o 15 \p 16 \q 17 \r 18
                        \s 19 \t 20 \u 21 \v 22 \w 23 \x 24
                        \y 25 \z 26 \space 0})

The keys are literal characters and the numbers are positive integers. Using the map, we sum the characters of a name:

(defn sum-characters [name]
  ; lower-casing the name to keep the map small
  (let [name (clojure.string/lower-case name)]
    ; given a sequence of characters, reduce it to the sum
    ; of the respective numbers.
    (reduce #(+ (if (char? %1) 
                    (get numbered-alphabet %1) 
                (get numbered-alphabet %2)) 
            (seq name))))

(sum-characters "hildeberto")
>> 98

Is 98 a prime number? No, because it’s even and even numbers have at least 3 divisors: 1, 2 and itself. The algorithm that applies this one and other rules is the following:

(defn is-prime [x]
  (if (or (= x 2) (= x 3))
    ; eliminate even numbers
    (if (even? x)
      ; Number is odd, so it deserves some more attention.
      ; After eliminating even numbers, the maximum divisor
      ; of a number is less than its square root
      (let [max-div (Math/ceil (Math/sqrt x))]
        (loop [i 3]
	  (if (zero? (rem x i))
	      (if (> i max-div)
                  ; it is a prime number
                  (recur (inc i)))))))))

(is-prime (sum-characters "Hildeberto"))
>> false

That’s a pity my own name doesn’t sum up to a prime number, but the book gave some names to test the code:

(is-prime (sum-characters "Jesus Christ"))
>> true
(is-prime (sum-characters "Scooby Doo"))
>> true
(is-prime (sum-characters "Sherlock Holmes"))
>> true
(is-prime (sum-characters "Doctor Watson"))
>> true

Wait a minute… he uses first and last names! So, let me test with mine:

(is-prime (sum-characters "Hildeberto Mendonca"))
>> true

Yeeeeeesssss! I’m prime-numered!!!

Book Review: Programming Collective Intelligence

When the volume of data managed by our application significantly grows, we start thinking about ways of extracting information from the databases. We know that there are a lot of hidden information there, but we don’t know exactly what they are and how to get them. Year after year, people have been working on solutions such as data mining, data-warehouse, business intelligence, and others to figure out those hidden information. At the same time, people also look for ways of using those new information not only for reporting, but also to give constant feedback to the application in order to achieve better results over time. This looks very much to a self-learning mechanism, that we can formally call machine learning.

Nowadays, a new dimension are absolutely relevant when applying machine learning on data analysis: the user’s behaviour and preferences as individuals and as part of the collectivity. This is clearly the influence of social networks on all sort of applications. They are exploring new possibilities of improving the user experience, but how can we be part of that party? Do we need to get a PhD degree to follow the wave? Is it finally possible to make the subject accessible to ordinary programmers? No, we don’t need a PhD degree and yes, it’s finally possible to make our applications smarter. This is what I’ve noticed while reading the book Programming Collective Intelligence, written by Toby Segaran.

At the beginning, I felt uneasy with the chosen programming language – Python – but I was gradually getting used to it because Python is not that hard to understand. In any case, I think this book would reach a larger audience by writing the examples in Java, which is constantly fighting with C for the first position in a well known ranking of popularity. On the other hand, the book targets more websites/portals and we know that Java is not really the first choice when companies decide to develop an application for a larger audience. Independent on the programming language we master, we can always convert what we’ve understood from Python to our favorite language. At the end, the success when implementing those machine learning algorithms come from our ability to solve computational problems, not from our ability of learning new programming languages.

On which concerns the content, the book brings together a large variety of real world problems from websites and services that we frequently use. It concludes reviewing and comparing the described algorithms, helping the reader to easily visualize the applicability of the different methods and to decide which one is the best for the problem we are actually facing.

This book has a new and better approach to present complex subjects such as data mining, machine learning, and statistics. By contextualizing the subject with real scenarios, the author improved the didactic in an unprecedented manner, since this is not the case in academic books. Actually, Programming Collective Intelligence can also be used by undergraduate and graduate students, since there are exercises at the end of each chapter. This is great because sometimes we finish the study of a chapter without realizing what else can be done with those algorithms. This is not common in this kind of book (non-academic) and yet very appreciated.

Finished My First Kindle Book

Recently I finished my first Kindle book. Now, I can tell you that the full experience is very close to reading a real book. Not the same, but better. 🙂 I decided that my first Kindle experience must be a light book, small, easy to read and useful. This way, I would avoid any frustration with Kindle at the beginning.

Fortunately, I found an excellent book, that fitted very well in my criteria and it ended up being more useful than I would possibly expect. Actually, this book changed the way I used to think about work and business. In my opinion, it is supposed to be a milestone in the history of administration, without any exaggeration. The change was not more dramatic because I didn’t implement it yet. My thesis is not allowing me to, but I will as soon as I can.

If you plan to open a new business or simply run an idea smoothly, it is a “must have” book. I highlighted some interesting sentences just to give you an initial idea. The book and its website give you several others.

To keep your momentum and motivation up, get in the habit of accomplishing small victories along the way. Even a tiny improvement can give you a good jolt of momentum.

Competitors can never copy the ‘you’ in your product.

If you build software, every error message is marketing.

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first. That way, you’ll understand the nature of the work.

It’s crazy not to hire the best people just because they live far away. Specially now that there’s so much technology out there making it easier to bring everyone together online.

Write to be read, don’t write just to write.

Amazon has recently announced that “over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.“. I attribute this to the incredible simplicity of buying and getting access to the book in seconds. A closer friend bought the hardcover and he had to wait several days to receive it. I got Rework instantly. That’s the difference.