Are humans descended from monkeys?

Are humans descended from monkeys? It's an interesting question. Too many well-meaning scientifically-minded individuals are quick to reply with a defensive "No! We just have a common ancestor!" But that's not a very good answer. It ignores the fact that the question is ambiguous, and that the definition of "monkey" is ambiguous. Sometimes the answer … Continue reading Are humans descended from monkeys?

Computerized chessboard displays should be better

You can't tell everything just by looking at a game position on a traditional physical chessboard. If you see: You can't necessarily tell: the board orientationwhose turn it is to movewhat castling rights existwhich pawn, if any, can be captured en passant There are also lots of other things you can't tell, such as whether … Continue reading Computerized chessboard displays should be better

Black holes

Black holes are well understood by physicists, but I've read too many oversimplified, confusing, and seemingly-contradictory descriptions of them. Over time, I've settled on my preferred mental model of a black hole, one that usually helps me to work out the right answers to questions that non-physicists have about black holes. (An example of such … Continue reading Black holes

Detecting MacBinary format

Classic Mac OS (the main Macintosh operating system from 1984-2001) had an interesting way of storing files. Each file potentially consists of two separate byte streams, known as the data fork and resource fork. Additionally, some important information was stored in the file's directory entry, using features of the Mac's native MFS and HFS filesystems. … Continue reading Detecting MacBinary format