The New Frontier

An atom isn’t very dense: there is a probability cloud for the electrons, a very small nucleus, and the rest is empty. If you are in the probability cloud, the chances are high you’re going to be hit. Same goes in the nucleus. Anywhere else and you’re home free. The same is true (I think) as far as knowledge goes: there is a field that non-technical people hang out in, a solid core where computer geeks know what’s what, and the rest is pretty much unexplored. Try to tell a literature major about a book’s style, and they’d kick your but. Try to run a principle component analysis better than a math major and they would take you to task. But look at the space in between and there’s room to move. Linux, because of its flexibility and its depth, is a great way to explore this new frontier of empty space.

The rock band Rush made a great album called Hemispheres where they sang about Apollo and Dionysius. It looked at the split between love and reason, art and logic. It had a big impact on me, and it made me try to be more of a generalist. But I try to keep in mind that doing a little bit of everything means actually doing a little bit of everything, not doing nothing in particular but saying how many things you’ve started (but never finished).

Music is one of those areas where there is room to grow. Take jazz cheat sheets. Most computer geeks don’t know what they are. I’d bet most jazz musicians don’t know that programs like acid and cool edit can find keys. Can you imagine if someone went to that space in between, and gave the jazzman what he wanted: the ability to automatically get close to a real cheat sheet by reading in a wav file and collecting all of the key changes in the song? Then let him edit it to make it perfect. Is it super hard? No. Lot’s of money to be made? Maybe not. But I’d bet there are other places just like that do have money hiding in them.

Stylometry is another neat example of the spaces in between. Authors tend the use the same words in the same frequencies, and this can help to identify them. Literature majors know where to look for good cases that need answers and how to discriminate based on the style and content; math majors know how to discriminate based on the numbers and statistics. If you knew the style of a popular author, could you find more authors that wrote the same way without the need to read through 10,000 manuscripts?

Look around and spend some time in free space. Examine your interests, and try to see if you can bring anything new to the party. Who knows, you might find something new and profitable. I hope you’re New Year is a busy and lucrative one.