Mad Research Notes #1: Coffee Dynamics

on under english
3 minute read

We have made a horrifying discovery.

It has been a running joke among programmers that they are people who convert coffee into code. Similar jokes appear at times in other disciplines. Academics for instance, will sometimes claim that they are people who convert coffee into publications. It is of course patently absurd to think that this would be true.

And yet the number of exceptions I know of can be counted on one hand. I am among them. I do not drink coffee, but remain strangely productive, if we were to accept that coffee is a necessary element of producing code or research.

But does those few cases mean that we can dismiss the absurd out of hand? Of course not! This is the department for mad research, after all.

So I and my crack team of mad researchers set to it, and after many hours of poring over existing research, developing strange instruments for calculating and measuring the effects of non-caffeinated work on the newly discovered CAF-space, and setting up experiments on unwitting researchers from rival laboratories, we have come to some conclusions.

The laws of coffee to work item conversion appear related in some ways to the laws of thermodynamics. Just as with energy conversion, it is not a truly reversible process. If we take the specific example of programming, you could perhaps imagine a machine that could be hooked up to a code repository to produce coffee by scrambling code, but it would be so inefficient as to be practically useless. Though I’m sure no one would cry any tears over losing the entire Windows ME source code forever, the few drops of coffee you could squeeze out of it are arguably not worth the effort.

But as we discovered in the specific case of programming, for instance, code to code conversion is both possible and feasible! And I don’t mean in the simple sense of compilation. A well-functioning compiler will merely reproduce the same code in a different language. No, to write entirely new code without drinking coffee, you must forever scramble and destroy existing code somewhere else. The exact process by which this happens is still somewhat mysterious and obscure, even with the discovery of CAF-space. But it seems that I and a few other people hate coffee so much that we learned how to do it intuitively at a young age. It probably involves quantum in some way, but that’s not the point. The point is, whenever I write code, or do research, I achieve this by destroying the equivalent amount of code or research somewhere else, which is then lost forever.

Maybe the single copy of a project you had stored gets scrambled by a harddrive failure. Or maybe an obscure research journal goes defunct, destroying research that would have been the foundation of a whole new area of science in a few years.

The process appears to be somewhat random, but backups, copies and distributed repositories makes it less likely that code will be sacrificed in the conversion. Thus, open source code and popular research goes mostly free. It is still possible however, if I end up writing a particularly brilliant piece of code, that all copies and versions of say, the TeX source code could disappear simultaneously in a seemingly impossibly improbable event.

It is unsettling and horrifying to realise that I am a monster who can only produce things of my own by destroying other people’s work forever. But our work must go on, and I really, really hate coffee too much to change my ways.

But hey, when has our conscience ever stopped us?


coffee, mad