Math class is tough

9 June, 2010

Scenario 1: amongst the games on the latest AmigaFORMAT coverdisk, there’s a chatterbot called NIALL. You are amused by the generated nonsense. You study the dictionary output and figure out how it works. You implement your own versions.

Scenario 2: you run into this.

NIALL is an amusing* implementation of a Markov chain. It’s a project that I keep coming back to. But I can barely read the mathematical description, even with a concrete example in mind. I have forgotten the conventions, the operator precedences, the definitions (what is Xn+1? what is Pa?).

This bothers me. I’m not scared of maths, but I can’t read it. It’s another language and that’s a learning curve that I need motivation to take on. It’s easier to skim over it and look for the translation into English. But I’m sure there are loads of ideas out there that, when translated from Maths™ into code, would result in interesting projects, and I’m sure that it loses something in the translation.

Aaargh. “Learn to read maths”. Like I needed any more tangents 😀

* Those to whom I have recently subjected my IRC nonsensemonger may substitute an adjective of their choice at this point.


  1. You should ask Santa for a copy of this amazing book.

  2. […] The first one was a straight Markov-chain-based nonsense generator. It recorded the links between words and used them to build new sentences. For example, if you taught it “the cat sat on the mat” and “the dog sat down”, it knew that the word “the” could be followed by “cat”, “mat” and “dog”: Resulting Markov chain One possible output […]

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