At OSCON with the Mad Scientist of Perl ...In Negative Time

By chromatic
July 23, 2008 | Comments: 10

Damian Conway has a well-deserved reputation as the mad scientist of Perl. He was in full mastery of his powers of madness, science, Perl, programming, and even rhetoric on Tuesday night. As usual, he closed the opening keynotes with a trek through difficult subjects (and a fair amount of Photoshop-enabled manipulation).

As Damian recounted, two of his previous talks drew richly from higher physics. 2000 saw the release of his Quantum::Superpositions module, which simulates quantum computing and the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics to produce superpositions -- a scalar which is simultaneously all logically possible values until observed, at which point it collapses into a single value in constant time. (This is a core feature of Perl 6.)

In 2002, he explored the world of general relativity, demonstrating how to travel backwards in time with Lorentz contractions. Though Aron Wall, son of eternal champion Larry Wall (as Damian explained) questioned the physics, Damian demonstrated how to get correct answers not just in constant time, but in zero time. He called this module Time::Space::Continuum.

Then, for a long time, nothing happened.

Last night, he diverted through the work of nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler to discuss carbon nanotube computing, incidentally porting the technology to Perl 5 in the form of Rod::Logic (not a source filter). Unfortunately, he declared the result a partial failure, as, in his words, "readability [is] suboptimal". According to the ancient Romans, failure is a requirement of progress, so he returned to the world of physics.

Damian chose the work of Dirac who unified Quantum Physics and General Relativity by predicting electron spin states, incidentally predicting the existence of an anti-electron, or positron. It's a short leap through the work of Carl Anderson (who claimed to have photographed positron motion in 1932) to end up at "the world's least hip beatnik", Richard Feynman, whose Feynman diagrams demonstrate the possibility that a positron is merely an electron sent backwards through time.

This is clearly a technology worth porting to Perl 5, and so Damian introduced Positronic::Variables, which allows you to declare a new variable type, the pv, which sends its value back in time from the end of its scope in your program to the point of declaration, giving you the answer to your question before calculating it.

You still have to calculate it, however.

There was only one remaining problem, where your Feynman diagram may not actually coalesce on a single stable state. (Visualization helps.) Then again, all physics builds on previous versions -- and recent developments have shown that the Copenhagen interpretation and the Many Worlds hypothesis are isomorphic, if you look at them from the right angle... so Damian added superpositions to the positronic variables, allowing them either to travel between multiple parallel universes (and back in time) or to superpose.

If you're confused, imagine watching this... and then realizing that the punchline is that this technology also works with the rod logic module Damian wrote earlier, proving that Perl 5 can solve problems at the molecular level with the spooky magic of quantum mechanics in what may be multiple parallel universes even before you start.

Just don't forget to do the calculation, however.


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10 Comments

Cool stuff but the module links aren't quite up to snuff.

That all sounds a bit whacked out;
Has Rupert Murdoch/Fox Nooz acquired the
rights to Perl? Or is it just more speaking in
perltongues about the armageddon on the ARM processor?
OR is_a Perl mullah mulling over the second recurrence
(recudescence) of Perl??????

Yeah, these are modules that are great for confounding, but is there any actual use in these at all ?

Now a module for coding in Klingon, that could be _quite_ useful !

KaPlah !!!

Damian Conway is an absolute super-star. His talks have always amazed and confounded me in equal measures - an amazing orator.

Are any of his talks online ?

I've often had the pleasure of emailing him - as busy as he must be, he does answer reasonable emails, yet another proof of his madness !

Perl without Professor Conway would be much less exciting. Also, who would we get to interpret (exegesisize?) for Larry ?

I'm intrigued. Sure, these are technologies are only at the edge of our understanding, but creating modules that allow one to somewhat simulate their basic principles can enhance understanding and stimulate new ideas.

Many important technologies began as playthings. Glad to see Perl is at the cutting edge.

You can find video from the keynote at http://blip.tv/file/1145545. Great talk!

Damian Conway, Thoughtstream
Temporally Quaquaversal Virtual Nanomachine Programming In Multiple Topologically Connected Quantum-Relativistic Parallel Timespaces...Made Easy!

I tried to post on here, but I have had some problems so I will lay out a idea I had. The next step for this idea could be in the fact that a electron due to infinite possibilities exists in both a positive and negative state at the same time. I have a idea. In the Ruby language 0 equals true and in Perl 0 equals false. These two languages worked into the same program to provide a state of 2 opposing conditions working as 1. Including Ruby has a command that lets you make a impossible (or possible) calculation any value you want. This lets you totaly predict any end result from any computation. Even if it is wrong it will go your way because you compute it as correct. Perl can sift through data like a Apache and can handle realy big variables. Perl and Ruby both have object oriented and functional features. They could easily take Damians project to the next level

Intriguing theories, but do these modules really exist? According to CPAN there's no such modules as Rod:Logic, Positronic:Variables or
Time:Space:Continuum

Is this article just a hoax??

Stevan, I've seen the code for Rod::Logic. That one does exist. Damian hasn't put these up on the CPAN yet. He's been on holiday recently, and probably had paying work take up his time.

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