OOOOOO          oh dear. i can't resist the temptation to jump
O O  O          into the fray. please feel free to ignore me.
OOOOOO          Joel wrote:
OOOOO    O         > Ahhh... but does that little program ever
 O OO              > return a value?  Does it ever finish?
OOO  OOOO       
OOO O O         it doesn't need to finish, if you're clever.
OO  O           suppose you want to perform a calculation.
OOOOOOOO        suppose you want to know "2pi". although the
 OO             pi-program will never complete, you can use it
OOOOOO  O       to create a 2pi-program (which spits out
O  OOOOO        2pi a digit at a time.)  neither of these
OOO     O       programs terminate - but over time the
O  O  OO        produce better and better approximations.
OOOO O          
OO OOOO         in any (computable) calculation, you'll always
OOO   OO        be able to defer the problem of completion until
OOOO     O      the "end".
OOOO  O         
OOOO            and you've already conceded that the universe
OO  OO          is allowed to run forever. in this respect, the
OOOO            universe is the "end".
OOOO  OO        
OOOOOOO         damn. sorry. that wasn't terribly clear.
O      O        
OOOOO           -k

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