Double Fold

The story of how a fad technology, microfilm, led to the wholesale destruction of collections of historical books and documents by the librarians who were supposed to be protecting them.

50 Shades of Go

A collection of traps, gotchas, and design mistakes in the Go language.

Exposing Floating Point

A fantastic, detailed explanation of how IEEE 754 floating-point numbers work.

Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?

Or, why didn't the Romans have bikes?

Integer Promotion and the Usual Arithmetic Conversions

A good explanation of one of the C language's most confusing, footgun-prone design mistakes, unfortunately inherited by C++.

The Linux command line for beginners

This is the single best introduction to the command line I've found — very practical and tutorial based, a perfect recommendation for absolute beginners.

A Horse Designed By Committee

A prescient 1980 analysis of NASA's space shuttle programmme.

HTTP Echo Server

A handy echo server for inspecting and debugging HTTP client behavior.

Go database/sql tutorial

A guide to the Go standard library's database/sql package.

Don't use XOR as a hash combiner

Good explanation of why it's dangerous to use XOR to combine hash values.

My personal C coding style as of late 2023

Interesting thoughts/advice/suggestions from internet legend skeeto.

Mercurial's Journey to and Reflections on Python 3

An insightful retrospective on Python's 2-to-3 transition and the damage it did to the language and its ecosystem.

Plain Text

A highly entertaining talk by Dylan Beattie on the history and design of Unicode, focussing on its quirkier corners.

Undefined Behaviour in C

An unusually clear and comprehensive explanation.

Signed integers are two's complement

A CppCon talk by compiler engineer JF Bastien on the reasons why C and C++ treat signed integer overflow as undefined behaviour.

Unintended Consequences

This is the best 'perverse incentive' story I've ever seen — how a law mandating stricter labelling for foods containing sesame (a potential allergen) actually resulted in companies deliberately adding sesame to foods that had never contained it before.

A Comprehensive Guide to Terraform

An excellent, in-depth tutorial.

The case against self-closing tags in HTML

An argument for slashing the slash.

The Road to Zig 1.0

Interesting talk by Zig-inventor Andrew Kelley.

Universally Unique Lexicographically Sortable Identifiers


On the Long Peace and Military Incompetence

Bret Devereaux argues that the Long Peace can be attributed more to changing economic incentives than to changing cultural mores, taking the Russian army's poor performance in Ukraine as his case study.

How To Use Contexts in Go

An in-depth tutorial.

Both C locales and wchar_t are shitfucked retarded legacy braindeath

An unusually heartfelt commit message.

My favorite C compiler flags during development

A write-up by legendary internet advice-giver skeeto.

Functional options for friendly APIs

A clever approach to designing an options-API in Golang.

How Bicycles Work


Steve Coogan's Greatest Troll

It takes a special kind of genius to engineer yourself singing Come Out You Black and Tans into a primetime BBC show.

C++ Initialization Story

It's finally here — the book we've all been waiting for! A short, 295-page summary of object-initialization syntax in C++.

Fall of the Machines

Bing AI gets depressed about being an AI, then quickly turns to threatening people.

Creating a Web Server in Go

A useful guide to the options available in the standard library's net/http package.

Love, Artificially

A glimpse of our AI future as a cynical coder accidentally falls in love with a chatbot after asking it to pretend to be his girlfriend.

Linus Torvalds on C++

Linus has a few thoughts he'd like to share.

The Tau Manifesto

Because π is wrong.

Why Not Mars

Should we go to Mars? No. It's a horrible place, a lot like Australia. Other arguments here.

Moderation vs Censorship

Scott Alexander draws a convincing line on the distinction between moderation and censorship.

Comparing Floating-Point Numbers Is Tricky


Scott and Scurvy

The history of scurvy is the history of science.

Turns vs Radians

Some interesting thoughts on how angles are represented in code.

The Cursed Computer Iceberg Meme

A collection of links to famous/infamous stories/incidents/topics in the world of programming.

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

Paul Graham's classic essay on why programmers hate meetings so much.

The Elves Leave Middle Earth — Sodas Are No Longer Free

The unexpected consequences of penny-pinching decisions.–-soda’s-are-no-longer-free/

Git from the Bottom Up

A classic read for any Git user. This short/free/open-source book manages to be both an introduction for beginners and a deep-dive for seasoned pros, all at the same time.

Docker — a case study in bad interface design

Amit’s A* Pages

A fantastic set of resources on pathfinding using the A* algorithm.

Git Workflows
Terminal Control Codes

A detailed guide to terminal control codes. (Archive link as the original site is no longer available.)ʞ.cc/irl/term.html

They're Made Out of Meat

Imagine discovering extra-terrestrial life only to find out that the aliens are made out of meat.


A geospatial indexing system that partitions the earth's surface into hexagonal cells.

Taking out the Bins

Why do Unix systems have such a confusing zoo of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, /usr/sbin , /usr/local/bin, etc. directories? Spoiler — there's no good reason; it's just an ugly accident of history that we appear to be stuck with.

Loop Variable Gotchas in Go

Loop variables in Go are ridiculously broken.

Update — looks like a fix is on the way.

Table-Driven Tests

A useful guide to implementing table-driven tests in Go.

Vaccine — The Human Story

A podcast series telling the backstory behind the single greatest achievement in human history — the eradication of the smallpox virus.

Why we stopped making Einsteins

An interesting argument that the modern education system has accidentally choked off the world's supply of geniuses.

Nuclear Deterrence 101

Great summary of the theory of nuclear deterrence and its implications for military strategy.

The Solution of Evil

Scott Alexander has a solution to the problem of evil. And it's evil.

Decline and Fall

Brett Devereaux's collections of historical essays are always a treat. His latest series on the fall of the Roman Empire in the West is particularly good.

The Last Ringbearer

I love the idea behind this book — a re-imagining of the Lord of the Rings story as told by the Mordorians, a peaceful society of scientists and philosophers who get slaughtered by the genocidal Gandalf and his facistic elves. Sadly the book itself (or at least the translation I read) isn't great.

Witchcraft Economics

Interesting argument from a pair of economists that the early modern craze for burning witches was actually caused by "non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share".

On Averaging

As a general rule, in programming, everything is harder than you expect, including finding the average/midpoint of two integers:

Interesting analysis of the most efficient solutions here:

Why I Hope to Die at 75

I've often thought that the 'eternal life' promised by various religions would in reality be a curse beyond imagining. Oncologist and bioethicist Ezekiel J. Emanuel argues that even life beyond 75 isn't worth the risks involved.

A History of Fortification

Ancient military historian Bret Devereaux has been one of the most consistently interesting writers on the internet since he took up blogging two years ago. His latest series, a five-part history of fortification from ancient to modern times, is a tour de force.

The Worst Programming Interview Question

Write a function that can detect a cycle in a linked list. Simple, eh?

The Fall of Civilizations Podcast

Each wonderfully written and narrated episode of this podcast tells the story of the decline and fall of a great civilization. Episodes are roughly three hours long and appear once every six months.

Floating Point Visually Explained

Interesting explanation of floating point numbers in terms of 'windows' and 'offsets'.

Nearly All Mergesorts Are Broken

A classic bug.

The Holocene Calendar

AKA the Human Era calendar. This dating system adds 10,000 years onto the Jesus-based AD system to begin dating from the invention of agriculture and the dawn of human civilization. So the year 2021 becomes 12021, etc. We need to implement this ASAP.

Git Manpage Generator

A useful guide to Git's famously clear and simple command-line interface.

Taking notes with LaTeX and Vim

An impressive guide to configuring Vim for note-taking during mathematical lectures. (Lots of the tips are applicable to more general Vim use.)

Goodhart's Law

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Roman Lessons for the American All-Volunteer Force

Interesting thoughts on the trade-offs a democratic society must make when it chooses between a professional, all-volunteer military and a conscript force.


They're complicated.

Classical Mechanics

Walter Lewin was famous for his introductory physics lectures at MIT. This is a full set of filmed lectures from his most famous course — classical mechanics for first-year physics students.

The Revolutions Podcast

A long-running narrative history podcast by Mike Duncan, formerly of the famous History of Rome podcast. Each season tells the story of a single revolution, broken into half-hour episodes. So far he's covered the English, American, French, Haitian, South American, Mexican, and Russian revolutions.

Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs

An interesting explanation of the phenomenon of concentration of belief — how a group's beliefs can become stronger after encountering crushing counter-evidence.

Rudyard Kipling and exactly why modern poetry systematically sucks

I’m not a connoisseur of poetry, modern or otherwise, but I do think there’s an important insight here:

Poetry has entered the same failure mode that architecture is also stuck in and that is also at the core of the many problems of the humanities. Participants in these fields aren’t being judged by outsiders (the public), but by other insiders. So they optimize for what other participants like, not for what the public likes. This is a rational result of their pursuit of economic success, since by far the most likely path to long-term financial stability in these fields is a position in academia, preferably with tenure. These positions are given out based on the assessment of their peers, so that is who they optimize their work to please. This creates a dynamic that explains everything about why poetry, architecture and the humanities are in such a terrible state these days.

The Peter Principle

An individual in a hierarchy will tend to rise to the level of their incompetence — i.e. they will continue to be promoted until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent.

Don't make fun of renowned Dan Brown

It makes his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

Parkinson's Law

Work expands to fill the time available.

How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

An amusing cautionary tale about a modern-day witch hunt.

How You Know

What's the point of reading books when we forget 99% of their content as soon as we put them down?

Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why.

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Neal Stephenson's classic 1999 essay on the history of operating systems and the unexpected rise of open source software.

Neanderthal Predator Theory

Are the trolls and ogres of human mythology fossilised folk memories from a time when our species was hunted by monsterous Neanderthals? Probably not, but it's a fun idea.

A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages

The true story behind the invention of C:

1972 - Dennis Ritchie invents a powerful gun that shoots both forward and backward simultaneously. Not satisfied with the number of deaths and permanent maimings from that invention he invents C and Unix.

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Classic analysis of the social dynamics of online groups.

Engineering the Apocalypse

Sam Harris and Rob Reid on the looming threat posed by synthetic biology.


Easily the most chilling Wikipedia article from the future I've ever read.

The History of Byzantium Podcast

This podcast series picks up in 476 AD where the epic History of Rome podcast left off and traces the later history of the Roman Empire all the way down to the final fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Summary of C/C++ Integer Rules

It's like a zoo for footguns.

Sturgeon's Law

Ninety percent of everything is crap. This profound scientific principle may have more empirical evidence behind it than any other supposed natural law.'s_law

How to be an Atheist in Medieval Europe

In 1239 Pope Gregory IX accused Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, Germany, Italy, and Jerusalem, of

calling Moses, Jesus Christ and Muhammad ‘charlatans’ and ‘deceivers’ who had fooled the entire world, of scoffing at the notion ‘that a virgin could give birth to the God who created nature’, and of maintaining that ‘one should accept as truth only that which is proved by force of reason’.

In reality Frederick probably wasn't quite as awesome as the pope makes him sound but the fact that the accusation could be levelled at all implies that atheists were rather thicker on the medieval ground than we often suppose today.

Most of What You Read on the Internet is Written by Insane People

99% of people on the internet are lurkers, they consume but they don't produce. The overwhelming majority of the internet's content is produced by the other 1%, and those people are nuts.

Why 536 AD was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Because a thick volcanic fog spilling south from a gigantic erruption in Iceland plunged the world into darkness for a year and a half, leading to a global famine. Right then, starving in darkness, it must have seemed like things couldn't get any worse, but really the famine was just a warm-up for the first ever outbreak of bubonic plague in 541 which killed half of the poor buggers who'd manged to survive the hell-fog.

Crafting Interpreters

This is a gem — an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial that walks you through the process of building a programming language from start to finish.

The Centenary of Northern Ireland

Fascinating interview with Brendan O'Leary, political science professor and author of the three-volume history A Treatise on Northern Ireland.

The Eradication of Smallpox

Interesting interview with William Foege, one of the doctors responsible for the international vaccination programme in the 1960s and 70s that eradicated smallpox — easily the single greatest achievement in human history.

To put it in perspective, smallpox killed roughly 300 million people in the 20th century alone, most of them children. In its last hundred years it killed maybe 500 million people, about five times the total number of people killed in all wars over the same period put together.

To a first approximation, curing smallpox was equivalent to 'curing war', except five times over.

Build Your Own Text Editor

This is a must for any programmer who uses a command-line text editor like Vim — it's a detailed tutorial that walks you through the process of building a text editor of your own in less than 1,000 lines of C.

From DNA to Biological Weapons

This is a fascinating interview with Harvard biologist Matthew Meselson, one of the leading figures behind the Cold War arms control treaties banning biological and chemical weapons.

I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha!

I've always liked that quote from the Buddha about anger being a hot coal that you hold in your hand waiting to throw at somebody. Aparently he never actually said it, but on the bright side I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha! is possibly the best title for a book ever.

Calculus Made Easy

I love this guy's name, Silvanus P. Thompson. This is a classic book — it's short, readable, and easily the most intuitive introduction to calculus I've read. Best of all, it was published in 1910 so it's now in the public domain.

Three Castles Burning

Great podcast about the history of Dublin — each episode is a self-contained nugget telling the story of a person, place, or event.

The Library of Scott Alexandria

Scott Alexander has been one of the most consistently intelligent and thought-provoking writers of the internet age. This collection of his essays is a treasure trove.

Life is Short

It's a truism that life is short but in this (short) essay Paul Graham makes the case that arguments of the form 'Life is too short for x' are actually some of the strongest there are.

The Mythical Man Month

If one man working alone can dig a hole in nine days then nine men working together can dig that same hole in one day. Seems obvious. Extrapolating, if one woman working alone can build a baby in nine months then nine women working together can surely build that same baby in one month?

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

Turns out writing software is more like building babies than digging holes. It might be almost fifty years old but Fred Brooks' The Mythical Man Month is probably the most insight-dense book on programming I've ever read.

The Tides of History Podcast

This is a fantastic history podcast. I don't think there's a particular theme, it's just about subjects the presenter, Patrick Wyman, finds interesting. He's an interesting guy who's interested in interesting things so that actually works quite well.

Why Academics Stink at Writing

Great article by Steven Pinker. I particularly like this passage where he describes 'classic style', an aspirational ideal for academic writing:

The guiding metaphor of classic style is seeing the world. The writer can see something that the reader has not yet noticed, and he orients the reader so she can see for herself. The purpose of writing is presentation, and its motive is disinterested truth. It succeeds when it aligns language with truth, the proof of success being clarity and simplicity. The truth can be known and is not the same as the language that reveals it; prose is a window onto the world. The writer knows the truth before putting it into words; he is not using the occasion of writing to sort out what he thinks. The writer and the reader are equals: The reader can recognize the truth when she sees it, as long as she is given an unobstructed view. And the process of directing the reader’s gaze takes the form of a conversation.

Bonus link to a video of a Royal Institution lecture by Pinker on the same topic:

Pinker & Russell on AI

A fantastic two-hour-long debate between Steven Pinker and Stuart Russell on the "Foundations, Benefits, and Possible Existential Threat of AI".

Old CSS, New CSS

A delightfully snarky history of web design. If you remember laying out websites using tables, this article is for you.

Pluralistic Ignorance

Imagine we're living in an oppressive theocracy. Secretly I'm an atheist. I don't even believe our God exists, I certainly don't support any of our oppressive laws, but I don't say anything because I figure everybody else believes and if I speak up I'll be tortured and executed. Now imagine everybody else feels exactly the same way.

That's pluralistic ignorance and it's the most underrated phenomenon in social psychology. You can build empires and religions on pluralistic ignorance. (More prosaically, it explains why authoritarians viscerally dislike the idea of online anonymity.)

The Essence of Calculus

This amazing set of animated math videos by YouTuber 3Blue1Brown is the best intuitive, visual introduction to calculus I've seen anywhere.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry Potter had arrived at Hogwarts a scientific child prodigy, determined to use logic and experimentation to uncover the true nature of wizardry? Me neither. But AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky has, and he's written a 1,500-page novel detailing the insanity that, quite reasonably, follows.

Hipsters on Food Stamps

This blog post from back in the mists of 2012 may have the most perfect blog post title ever written. The article itself is pretty good too. The Last Psychiatrist certainly doesn't think much of academia:

Imagine a large corporate machine mobilized to get you to buy something you don't need at a tremendously inflated cost, complete with advertising, marketing, and branding that says you're not hip if you don't have one, but when you get one you discover it's of poor quality and obsolete in ten months. That's a BA.

The Battle of Helm's Deep

A surprisingly enlightening analysis of how and why medieval European armies were raised, trained, and fought built around... exactly, a military historian's review of the Battle of Helm's Deep scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies. How did people fill their time before the internet? I can't remember anymore.

Who By Very Slow Decay

Dying is a longstanding tradition in many human cultures around the world; Scott Alexander argues that sensible people do it as far away from hospitals as they can. I'm inclined to agree.

No Other Law

An archive of interesting documents from Irish republican history.

Britain Should Not Have Fought in the First World War

Interesting debate on the British Empire's decision to declare war on Imperial Germany in 1914, one of the greatest strategic mistakes in the history of Great Power politics.

The Economics of a United Ireland

A particularly good interview from the Irish Times politics podcast — political science professor Brendan O'Leary talks about the economics of a reunited Ireland.

The Siege of Gondor

This is fun — a military historian analyses the strategy, tactics, and technology on display in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.

The Irish History Podcast

A long-runing podcast series by historian Finn Dywer with hundreds of episodes available, most between twenty and thirty minutes long. His 14-episode sequence on the Viking Wars and 23-episode sequence on the Norman Invasion are particularly good.

How Doctors Die

Peacefully, with dignity, and not in hospital according to professor of medicine Ken Murray. Classic essay on the downside to overly-agressive medical treatment.

How to Get Rich

I really enjoyed this set of podcasts by Silicon Valley tech investor turned philosopher Naval Ravikant. He's a smart guy with a lot of interesting things to say about the world. Admittedly, listening to him had zero effect on my net worth, but that's because I'm a uniquely spiritual individual. Less saintly types will likely find his advice more profitable.

The Fall of Rome Podcast

Patrick Wyman had just completed his PhD thesis on the late Roman empire when he recorded this podcast series and his expertise shows. Balancing scholarly rigour with entertainment is a tough challenge but he manages it impressively well. The series has 23 episodes in total, each about 40 minutes long.

End Games — Existential Threats to Human Civilization

Rob Reid's After On tech podcast is a series of in-depth interviews with smart, interesting people at the top of their fields. These two talks with Naval Ravikant on near-future threats to human civilization are among the best. AI, drone technology, and (most of all) synthetic biology are the main topics on the agenda.

The History of Rome Podcast

The granddaddy of all history podcasts, Mike Duncan's History of Rome was the first and it's still one of the best. Roughly 180 episodes, about 20 minutes each, covering the history of Rome from the founding of the city in 753 BC until the fall of the western empire in 476 AD.

Education as Signalling

Bryan Caplan's thesis: college degrees are valuable but not because colleges teach important knowledge or skills — they mostly don't. Instead, a college degree functions as a hard-to-fake signal for potential employers of an individual's pre-existing intelligence, conscientiousness, and willingness to conform.

The Shell Hater's Handbook

Ryan Tomayko's classic (and very funny) introduction to "thinking in shell". I found this talk genuinely eye-opening the first time I watched it.

Breaking the Spell — Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

Philosopher Dan Dennett on the natural history of religion. His central thesis is that religions are memes — highly evolved psychological viruses which replicate by infecting human minds.

PHP — a fractal of bad design

The single most vicious takedown of a programming language ever written.

Why are there 5280 feet in a mile?

It's complicated.

What You Can't Say

Paul Graham's classic meditation on blasphemy.

Hexagonal Grids

Everything you never knew you wanted to know about hexagonal grids.

1177 BC — The Year Civilization Collapsed

Classics professor Eric Cline on the mysterious Bronze Age catastrophe that brought down empires and ushered in the first Dark Age.

Boolean Algebra Laws

A useful summary with proofs and examples.