Programming Habits in Python

Jochen Küpper jochen at
Thu Dec 7 11:02:45 CET 2000

>>>>> A.M. Kuchling wrote on 7 Dec 2000 02:42:19 GMT:

AMK> On Wed, 29 Nov 2000 08:37:08 GMT, Greg Jorgensen <gregj at> wrote:
>> I'm not contending that all junior programmers are dummies, or even that
>> everyone should read Knuth, though it's hard for me to imagine how anyone
>> claiming to be a programmer can sleep without Fundamental Algorithms under
>> their pillow ;-). 

AMK> I sleep quite well, thank you. :) I've started reading Knuth's TAoCP
AMK> several times but never gotten very far, mostly because vol. 1 quickly
AMK> embroils you in MIX,

Me too...

AMK> making it very hard to distill anything of practical value from
AMK> the book.

... but I go back once in a while when I need some basic
understanding. Pick the right section and go through -- then you'll
understand where the other books come from:)

AMK> I liken TAoCP to Newton's _Principia_: monumental, quite
AMK> important, but not too useful except for specialists.  If a
AMK> bright but unstudied person asked me how to learn physics, 

Not to destroy the metaphor, but you cannot learn modern physics from
Principia! Classical Mechanics at most. But you can learn the
physicists way of thought... [1]

AMK> I'd certainly point them at a text such as Halliday & Resnick,
AMK> not the _Principia_!

Feynman's lectures do a pretty good job here, actually.

And this points at a big difference between Principia and TAOCP:
Physics has gone a really long way since Newton. On the other hand
Knuth, to my understanding, is still giving a elaborate description of
*todays* algorithms.

There are more physics classics then Principia, and comparing it to
TAOCP 'cause both are the first in their topic isn't the right
thing. I won't say you have to compare TAOCP to Feynman-lectures, at
least they are from the same time, though...

AMK> The algorithm textbook parallel to Halliday/Resnick, for me at
AMK> least, would be the Cormen/Leiserson/Rivest book; clearly
AMK> written, covers lots of topics, fairly rigorous, but not so
AMK> detailed as to be impossible to read.

The last sentence actually is a tradeoff everybody has to decide on by
himself; probably one has to decide on with every new problem:) I have
Sedgewick, great for a very quick peek on this stuff, Knuth for the
basics, but actually most of the time I look into Golub, van Loan:-))


[1] quantum physics is celebrating it's hundredth anniversary this
month, relativity is getting close, and Heisenberg's/Schrödinger's
quantum theories are at ~75:-)) ...
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