One Person's Trivial Is Another Person's Life Work


Running the following command in Haskell gives the natural log of the integers 1-1000. It runs in about a millisecond.

map (logBase 10) [1..1000]

The same result, published by John Napier and Henry Briggs in 1617 as Logarithmorum Chilias Prima (“The First Thousand Logarithms”), took at least 2 years.

Over the next 200 years, logarithms of the integers 1-200,000 were computed. Calculating a logarithm to 7 decimal places (or in some of the more ambitious cases, up to 24) takes about an hour (that’s a wild guess. It could be much longer or shorter for all I know). That works out to 200,000 hours, or almost 23 years of nonstop work. At an 8 hour work day every day (no breaks in this business), that’s about 69 years, a few decades past someone’s working lifetime.

And now some procrastinating college student took less than a second to do the same thing. Really makes me wonder what’ll be considered trivial in 2 centuries that’s intractable now.

Related Posts

Handy command line benchmarking tool

Stan Rogers

Ultimate Hot Couch Guy

Quote on Java Generics

The Programmer Tendency

Figure out undocumented JSON with gron

Mental Model of Dental Hygiene

Book Review: Swastika Night

Is there a name for this construction?

Fun with negation and idioms