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Topic: More of Urner's ET stuff (or maybe it's just French?)
Replies: 1   Last Post: Aug 13, 2006 4:35 PM

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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
More of Urner's ET stuff (or maybe it's just French?)
Posted: Aug 11, 2006 8:54 PM
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OK, so Mark Shuttleworth should get primary credit for coming up with the basic
pipeline: Logo | Smalltalk | Python, where these three are delegates for
particular modes of human-machine engagement.

In Logo mode, we're piloting fish or turtles, developing motor skills in a first
person context, recapitulating early childhood, except now with a 3rd person
keyboardists view (ala LOGO by Seymour Papert and celebrities). Nowadays, it's
MindStorms if you can afford high end toy stores. Looking forward to more
freebie avatars on screen, ala Panda3D, if high end unaffordable (and/or

In Smalltalk mode, we're getting our feet wet in new concepts, relating to the
OO paradigm in particular (Smalltalk was the language that put OO on the map).
The Smalltalk legacy is towards immersive worlds, completely engaging
environments, pre-stocked with many wonders (musical instruments especially).
There's a paradise fantasyland aspect, and that's not unintended. Children
should see their relationship to their tools as one of creator and author. We
develop worlds, as a means to share our joys with others. This is not a bad

Finally, in Python mode, we start to get under the surface to figure out in some
depth how it all works. They take us back stage, into the basement, or wherever
the figurative "programmers" of this stuff hang out. That's a move into
archetypes and metaclasses, and synchronizes with a more adult consciousness, a
coming of age.

As for whether Richard Stallman approves of my absconding with Gnu, I'm not
sure. I'm leaving it as a pun, plus am committed to populating with animals
(consider myself an ally of O'Reilly in this respect). The original New Math
might here be cited (as a source of the pun), and Tom Lehrer's excellent
contribution to American (and world) music on 'That Was the Year that Was'.

However, unlike New Math, gnu math is not focused on sets as the be-all-end-all
data structure. They don't permit duplicates, and that's already reason enough
to have 'multi-sets' -- except I call them lists (lists of lists make arrays
(here feel free to dive in to the whole discussion of dimension and ranking,
studied in J and APL)). Anyway, we have lots of data structures. Dictionaries
are really cool, really necessary. Cardinality before ordinality (pairing before

And how shall we impart "data structures" to these media savvy youngsters? Dot
notation. Think of these as toyz (what I say instead of eToys sometimes). You've
got all these precoded, already-useful objects, gifts from your C-programmer
ancestors, who saw to it that these were as fast and efficient, and reliable, as
they could make them (doesn't mean there aren't bugs). C is very close to the
metal, like assembler. In chemistry, we'll talk more about that metal (the
electronics behind the code).

>From dot notation and data structures, we go to functions (intersection with
standard algebra), and especially to sequences, which we classify as convergent,
divergent, periodic and aperiodic (not rejecting other schemes). Convergence
takes us to Limits, ala L'Hopital. Aperiodic takes us to Chaos, ala Poincaré. So
that's calculus and fractals -- stuff to come back to. But it's the divergent I
want to look at: the figurate and polyhedral number sequences. And in
particular: 1, 12, 42, 92, 162... That's an important computer graphic. More
mathcasts in the works.

And from functions (for sequences especially), we go to classes, class
definitions. Among the first to be defined: Vectors and Polyhedra. Why? Because
with that leap, we'll connect the polyhedra in our sequences, with the polyhedra
of XYZ coordinates. This will provide strong connectivity for further
explorations (e.g. back to fractals, for complex plane coordinates -- not the
same as XYZ).

Obviously I've expanded the Python piece of this triad rather extensively,
hardly mentioning the Logo or Smalltalk phases by comparison. That's because I'm
specialized towards the upper end of the 8-18 age range, and handle that far end
of the pipeline. I'm one of the Python teachers, a snake charmer. Teachers of my
ilk come last, before we turn you over to the upper division people (the
pipeline continues, for most engineering professions anyway).

To recapitulate:

Logo | Smalltalk | Python

Logo: simple coordinates (xy, preview xyz)
Smalltalk: immersive, lots of toys (multimedia)
Python: more starkly lexical, more of the math

Breaking down the Python piece:
dot notation and the OO paradigm (history and design)
types of objects (primitives and other builtins)
coding functions (algorithms for generating sequences)
coding classes (vectors and polyhedra, divergence)

I thank many here unnamed teachers (gnu math and otherwise) for much of the
above. I couldn't have done it without you. Let's keep the ideas flowing, via
the usual circuits.

[apologies from the cross-post from math-teach but I wanted to fix a typo and
thank some more peers, so this'll be the one that I link to -- KU]
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