Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nine Billion Names

Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday. Of course 2001 dominates peoples memory of Clarke, but it was one of his short stories, The Nine Billion Names of God, that gave me the willies as a kid. It's about a group of monks that hire a computer company to print out all the possible names of God. Read it here before reading the rest of the post.

The story is quite dated as one could now bring a laptop and a couple of batteries to Tibet to complete the task. Nine billion is hardly a large number any more; one could enumerate those names in a few seconds these days. I'm teaching intro programming next quarter. Maybe I'll make it into an class assignment. If the world were to mysteriously end when the students finish the project, at least no one will be around to blame me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Lance, the writing in the short story was captivating. It also brought back memories of reading The Lost Horizon, and the story in your thesis about the verifier Victor going to see the wise prover Pulu in the Himalayas.

    On a completely unrelated note, let me add that Noga Alon has been awarded a 2008 Israel Prize. Hearty congrats to Noga!

    aravind srinivasan