# Sodoku Prime – dancing the Latin Square

I’ll be the first to admit – I’m slightly obsessed with trying to come up with a solution to factor ridiculously large semiprimes. I’m not really a mathematician, so I have no hope of solving it, but its great for eating up any spare time I have.

Most of the time, I keep quiet about anything I discover on my journey. Getting from p=xy and p=s² + r to p = x² + 2x sqrt((r + (s-x)²/2x)² + 2s(r + (s-x)²/2x) -r)) might be exciting to me, but it’s hardly the stuff that makes for great dinner party conversations. Quite honestly, I’m sure it’s the sort of thing that real mathematicians crank out twice before breakfast.

Occasionally, however, I’ll stumble across something so simple and beautiful – so pure – that I feel compelled to share it with everyone.

Like the discovery that made me change the way that I felt about Prime numbers, forever.

Before, I’d always thought of Prime numbers as lonely and solitary. Numbers that were indivisible. Numbers for which there was no discernible pattern, no reason or rhyme.

As I played around with different bases, however, I noticed something quite beautiful.

To explain, let’s look at a base that everyone is familiar with – base ten.

John Napier was a mathematician, who amongst various other things five centuries or so ago, invented a device called Napier’s bones to be used in multiplication.

You probably recognise that as a version of the ten times table. What’s important, however are all the numbers under the dividing bar – or as you probably call them – the units.

Note that there’s no real pattern to their overall distribution. The number 7, for example, appears only 4 times, whilst 2 appears 12 times.

Now. Take a look at base 7.

The units for base 7 work just like a sudoku puzzle. You’ll find 1 to 6 under the bar in every line exactly once, horizontal or vertical. The mathematical name for that sudoku-like pattern is a Latin Square, and the beautiful thing that I discovered is that every base which is a prime number works exactly like that.

Prime numbers aren’t as mysterious and aloof as I imagined them to be. There is rhyme and reason to them. There is internal structure and harmony at their core.

It’s the non-prime number bases which are actually chaotic.

And that flipped my entire worldview of prime numbers totally upside down.

# Why the PC will die

We are at war.

In the 3rd quarter of 2014, over 46% of computers in Russia were infected with viruses [1]. The country with the lowest infection rate – 10.5% – is Singapore [1].

Infection rate in percentage by country

We protect our own personal computers by using personal anti-virus programs, because we think of them as personal computers.

But as soon as we plug them into a network – the place where they’re most likely to contract a virus – they become just one of many interconnected nodes. A virus on one PC can spread to a virus on another and cascade, throughout the network. The health of one PC can directly affect the health of many.

We have traditionally dealt with this by protecting our own nodes, using anti-virus software written by researchers trying to single-handedly fight back the rising tide.

Eventually, a virus will arise which will use all of the resources of the computers it has infected to attack the computers it has not infected and adapt it’s programming via genetic programming [2] until it finds a way inside. Give it enough processing resources and it will adapt faster than the researchers who try to stop it.

While we rely on individual virus protection, we are doomed. Every node will eventually perish, in a computational mis-match. One by one, they will fall. Unless we react to viruses as an entire ecosystem, pooling our computing resources to take down viral attacks, we will continue to lose the war, one node at a time.

We need to realise that together, we are only as strong as our weakest links – and we need to do it before it’s too late.

We need to fundamentally rethink computing. We need to move away from personal computers and create fully-distributed (and preferably autonomic [3]) computing systems.

The age of the Personal Computer – the PC – is dying.

Long live the CC – the Cloud Computer.

``` References:
1  http://securelist.com/analysis/quarterly-malware-reports/67637/it-threat-evolution-q3-2014/
2  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_programming
3  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomic_computing```

# January

The last quarter of 2014 was busy. Some of the fruits of that hard work won’t come to bear until later in 2015, if at all.

The main news is that I wrote 54,000 or so words in NaNoWriMo of a new book, which has the code name of January. I’m planning to finish the first draft and then switch between both Branch and January for the next few drafts. Hopefully, that will give me enough distance between drafts to allow myself to be as disconnected as I probably need to be whilst editing them.

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year.

# Slow website development is still slow

Confirming that the new website is still taking forever to develop. I estimate that there’s about three day’s worth of work left on it. As usual, my issue is finding the time to do it.

I’ve got all of the 3D stuff more or less working. There’s a second level menu. I’ve fixed (most of) the 3D cross browser bugs.

That said – it’s still very much a work in progress. I’ve been concentrating on the trickier 3d aspects, so I don’t even have the blog post’s coming back, just yet – but if you’d like a sneak preview – you can see the latest development version here.

# Flash fiction — The tyranny of numbers

The salt air stung her nostrils, as she carefully set down her purse and the signed note. A gull looked at her curiously.

Arms wide, Joan dived off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.

She tried to remain calm as the wind accelerated past her like a rising scream. She had been planning this for days, ever since she had found Rosen’s paper about the spiritual awakening of survivors on the internet.

Ninety eight percent of jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge die. The two hundred and forty foot high, four second fall accelerates them to a speed of seventy five miles per hour, before they smash into the Pacific Ocean with the force of a truck hitting a brick wall.

Only ten people had ever survived the fall. David Rosen, a psychiatrist, had interviewed seven of them. Every single one had discovered on their way down that the only problem that they had which was actually unsolvable was their decision to jump off the bridge. Imminent death brought with it a sudden clarity, followed by a desperate desire to live.

For those survivors — that desire to live had stayed with them, long after the fall. It transcended everything they had ever experienced, the sheer joy of still being alive slicing through the darkest of depressions with ease.

It was their spiritual rebirth.

Joan thought it was just talk, to sell books. They all seemed to have one.

As a Maths teacher, she knew how to calculate risks. Ninety eight percent was a much higher rate of success than overdose, hanging or even a direct gunshot could promise her. Hitting the water feet-first was the only way to survive, the femurs acting as a crumple zone to protect the rest of the body.

Which meant that hitting the water head-first would guarantee her desired outcome.

She had only cared about the numbers, about their certainty. It was only now that she realised just how much of a mistake that had been, as she struggled to change direction, mid-fall.

She wanted to live.

God, she wanted…

The Pacific embraced her, like a long-lost child.

# Flash fiction — Weasel

The man who had turned John’s cancer into a death sentence was on television again. Flashbulbs blazed as the Veteran Affairs Secretary strode from his office towards the parking lot, waving away a microphone from the NBC news crew.

“Weasel’s on again,” John called to Ella.

John had made a point of not remembering Weasel’s actual name. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

“Fucker,” Ella said, returning from the kitchen with a Bud Light for John. They had barely spoken since her return from her weekly reading group, that afternoon.

John nodded, and held the beer can against the back of his neck. He had been running unusually hot since last Wednesday, even with the fan on full.

“What’s the latest?” she asked, sitting down on the sofa next to him.

“Another whistle blower. Saint Louis. Same thing.”

John cracked the can open.

“That’s three now?” asked Ella, absently spinning her black star-shaped necklace between right thumb and forefinger. She had taken off her father’s crucifix after John’s diagnosis.

“Yeah,” he said. “Here. Phoenix. Saint Louis.”

Ella nodded. On screen, the NBC anchor woman was talking to a young male reporter standing outside Capitol Hill.

“…Well, we just don’t know how widespread this practice is, and that’s what Congress is trying to find out. They’ve…”

Quietly, Ella started to sing to herself.

“All around the mulberry bush…”

John closed his eyes. His thighs ached. The cancer had already metastasized to the lymph nodes there. Penile cancer had an 85% survival rate, if caught early enough. He had waited two years on an invisible waiting list to see a specialist at San Antonio’s North Central Federal Clinic – a waiting list that only existed in someone’s desk drawer. By the time they had actually called him in, it was far too late. At best, they could only keep him comfortable. Survival was no longer a viable outcome.

“…called for his resignation. The Vice President, however, in a statement earlier today said that he strongly supported…”

“…The monkey chased the weasel…”

They had done this to him so that they could look good on paper. So that faceless administrators could get pats on backs for their terrific performance. They must have known, when the waiting lists were suddenly slashed overnight. The Weasel must have known, but instead of investigating, had just chosen to let John die.

“…The monkey thought it was all in good fun…”

The sudden sound of sirens caused John’s eye’s to blink open. The TV was showing live footage of a parking lot where a black Mercedes was engulfed in wildly dancing flames.

John stared at Ella, eyes wide.

“Pop goes the Weasel.”

# Slow website development is slow.

Back in late January, I decided to ditch my Linux webserver for a Windows one.

As part of that switchover, I thought I’d repoint stevencowles.com to Twitter whilst I quickly created an entirely new website for myself.

The world, however, had other plans – and promptly landed me with an absolute ton of other things I needed to do first. It’s now 5 months later – and so it’s time for plan B.

This is a sneak peek video of what the next generation of this website will eventually look like. The issue, as always, is getting the time to finish it. Based on the last few months, that may take a little while.

So – until it’s finished – this simple Wordpress blog is home, sweet home.

# Branch – Rewrites are coming.

About a month or so ago, I backed a Kickstarter campaign where one of the rewards was to have a query letter critiqued by a literary agent.

I realised while going through that critiquing process that Branch wasn’t currently good enough. As soon as you summarise the whole book into a few paragraphs you quickly discover which elements are strongest. I thought it was a love story – but the actual love story I’ve written is quite weak.

I’ve worked out that I could lose my protagonist and still have a compelling book. The real story and tension is actually between two other characters.

In short, I’ve chosen the wrong protagonist.

Which means, all in all, that I’m going to be rewriting Branch over the coming months. It’s painful, because I was hoping to have it much further down the road to publication this year. On the other hand – this is my first novel. I’m told statistically that first novels rarely get published – and probably with good reason.

I’ve toyed with the idea of just putting it away in a drawer somewhere and starting a new one. The truth is, however, that I need to finish Branch – and finish it well – to prove to myself that I am a writer.

Even if it does never get published.

# Why I don’t enable comments

There are a couple of reasons I don’t enable comments on this website — and it’s not just because only four people have visited it, ever. Sure, two of those may only be search engines but I’m going to count them, anyway.

The main reason is that this website isn’t supposed to be any sort of community. It’s essentially a fatter status update for things that are too long for me to tweet about. It’s a place where I pin things for people to read and for people who know me to look me up from time to time and find out what I’m working on. Most of the time, the target audience for my posts is just me — and I’m totally okay with that.

Secondly – if I enabled comments here, on my own, I’d be knee-deep in trolls and spambots within a week and quite honestly it’s not worth the grief.

The big problem with Social Media as I see it, is that signing up to multiple Social Media sites essentially splinters your online reputation into several different locations.

A while ago, I realised that I spent a lot of my free time just checking those locations. I’d click round them all in a loop, just to see if anyone had said anything I needed to respond to. Which is when I decided that I was just going to pick one place.

And that place is Twitter. Because 140 characters and a paid moderation team. Yay!

If you want to send me some feedback on anything I post here, then feel free to message me via Twitter.

# Flash fiction — Red Encyclopedia

Note: This is an entry for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: “Roll for title!” – http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/01/10/flash-fiction-challenge-roll-for-title/

316 words.

Red Encyclopedia

“@Librarian68 We should definitely meet.”

To Audrey’s surprise, the blood that ran thickly down the hardback’s spine and over her knuckles had gathered in a large pool on the floor.

She gingerly placed the book upon the desk, and hunted around for something, anything, to clean up the blood with. Behind her, the laptop’s light danced over the broken face of the man tied to the chair. The sound of Maria Callas’s “Habanera” looped through its undersized tinny speakers.

Sniffing, Audrey settled on his discarded blue shirt. She scrunched it up into a ball and then used it to clean her hands, left-to-right, digit-by-digit. Finished, she returned to the desk. She scrubbed briskly at the book with the balled shirt, occasionally pausing to scroll down through the man’s still-open Twitter feed.

#NetNeutrality was trending. She paused scrubbing and clicked through.

JayJay841: “They can bite my metal shiny IP packets #NetNeutrality #ScrewYou”

Audrey smiled and stopped to examine her handiwork. Encyclopedia Rex, Volume 19 – Peach through Pumice – was now dry to the touch. She felt a small tremor of panic as she saw the rounded dents in the cover from the nails she had driven through his palms. She opened the book and was relieved to see that the inner pages remained undamaged.

She scrolled through the tag, still smiling.

Debbie4evar: “WTF! Your kidding me! #NetNeutrality”

Audrey doubled over and closed her eyes, breathing hard.

You’re. You’re. You’re. You’re.

You’re. You’re. You’re. You’re.

After everything she had done, everything she had put herself through – the Internet was still wrong. She needed to fix it.

Her and Rex. They’d fix it, together.

“@Librarian68 Your amazing. Tonight, 8pm. Bring Poetry.”

The hardback felt reassuringly solid in her hands: weighty, trustworthy, true.

They’d fix it all.

Audrey opened her eyes and stared at the Twitter avatar of the balding 54-year old man slumped lifeless behind her. She placed the book down on the desk and then pinched her bottom lip. She’d need something hotter than that to grab Debbie’s attention. Much hotter.