Apple’s non-DRM music tested

Yesterday Apple introduced in iTunes music from EMI sampled at a higher rate than the iTunes usual for higher audio quality; this music is also offered without digital-rights management (DRM), which means that a purchaser of it can play it in just about any gadget that can play an MP3. I downloaded the Brahms German Requiem under this deal yesterday, and it was a nice purchase for the price (Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle conducting, Dorothea Roschmann, soprano, and Thomas Quasthoff, bass-baritone). I played it through BOSE earphones and a BOSE docking station, and it sounded very good (talking sound quality here, not musical interpretation, though that is very good too).

I am not sure that I would be able to identify the new-style offerings from the old style ones in a “blind” test (wait, shouldn’t that be a “deaf” test?) but I did find this link on the point, courtesy of slashdot.org. Visit it to see what happened when somebody performed a “blind” test. (Hurray for people over 40 for this; despite our deteriorating ears, we seem to do better in discerning audio quality.)

Update: the site I linked to is now slashdotted… That was quick. I hope it will be back up soon.

Washington, DC, and more books

On a quick trip to Washington, DC, I visited Kramer Books (of course). Apart for some loot for M, I got a delightful book on the history of the square root of -1 by Paul J. Nahin. I simply had to devour the first three chapters as fast as I could and am looking forward to finding the time to swallow the rest of the book real soon. I also have Dr. Euler’s Fabulous Formula by Nahin waiting to be finished; the two go together quite well, although I started with the Euler one, rather anachronistically. Apart from having massive amounts of fun reading this stuff, I am learning a good deal that I ought to already know about complex numbers. Really fabulous stuff.

Reading progress

I did finish Groopman’s wonderful book, and am still recommending it highly.
I am around page 180 of Taleb’s Black Swans, and I will skim the rest. Taleb has some good points, but all are known to the economists he bad-mouths on almost every page. Since I make a point to tell all my graduate students to be careful to question their assumptions and the reach of their models, Taleb’s insistence that economists are blind to this issue has become to grate so much that I cannot devote the book serious attention to the end. I have other, much better things to read.
One of them is the latest acquisition: Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia. This mammoth collection of essays garnered good reviews but no raves. A quick look at the bookstore revealed interesting tidbits on every page, so I got it.
Now, who’s going to invent a way to add about 12 hours to every day so I can do all the reading I want to do this summer?

Almost finished "How Doctors Think"

This wonderful book by Dr. Jerome Groopman catapulted itself to the top of my active reading list the moment it was delivered to our house. I have now read almost all of it, in very short order, and despite having spent some days of intense research work with Rob right after the end of the spring semester. Simply put, once I started the book, I really looked forward to the next page and chapter. I have the concluding chapter left to read, which gives advice on how to prevent your doctor from making the cognitive errors the previous chapters discuss, by asking the right questions.
The topic is the cognitive process that a doctor who is formulating a diagnosis or a course of treatment follows. As it turns out (news to me), doctors are trained in using Bayesian decision theory, where one calculates probabilities and expected values of treatment outcomes. But in cases where there are not enough high-quality data, this method is useless. Groopman discusses what good doctors do in such cases, and how the very best doctors avoid cognitive errors. Actually, the best doctors first of all remember their errors.
All this useful material is delivered in great style. Doctors do live through thrillers with their patients, and there is quite the thrill in reading the case histories that Groopman uses to make his points. I suppose that’s the thrill that hospital TV shows tap into, but for me it’s all the more exciting and informative when it comes from the pen of a thoughtful doctor like Dr. Groopman.
Read this book.