Friday, February 11, 2011

When is Lambda not a Lambda, Part 1: Conversational Mocks

One of the apprentices at the office asks
What is this thing called Lambda, and why is it called Lambda?
I'm trying to formulate a concise answer, when one of the more brilliant young developers in the office blurts out
Lambda is just a way to make an anonymous function.
My explanation thus cut short, sticks in my throat. His quip is pleasantly succinct and sufficient to move a pre-teen on to more productive work. I'm sure I came off as ignorant and overly complicated by comparison.

Except that his explanation, succinct though it was, is entirely and utterly

W R O N G

not to mention misleading. Now, the kids didn't really need an explanation, and they got the sort of glossed-over, abstract re-labelling that passes for an explanation without actually being one. Like saying that what makes something a circle is that it is round. It was a mock and a stub, a convenient pretense of understanding that allowed them to conversationally move on without getting bogged down by reality.

Not that he isn't capable of insightful explanations.  We're working in Ruby here.  He knows better. 
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