mikejuk writes "Conway's game of Life is huge among programmers and mathematicians alike. It has generated a community of "Lifers" dedicated to constructing whole worlds in Life and investigating it as if it was a universe of its own. And yet, in this new video, John Conway, its inventor admits to hating it...
You can see his point.
Conway is a talented mathematician with lots of other, arguably more important, results, inventions and insights and they are all overshadowed by his creation of the cellular automata we call Life.
In a second video he explains how it came to be invented. There are lots of interesting bits of background such as how the glider was almost called the ant but overall it is the impression that like a serious musician who has become famous for a TV jingle Conway wishes it wasn't so."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "The OpenNI website, home to the widely used framework for 3D sensing, will be shutdown in April.
When, in November 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense for $350 million, people speculated how this would affect the Capri mobile technology but no mention was made of what would happen to OpenNI, the open source SDK most often used as an alternative to Microsoft's closed SDK for the Kinect..
After Apple acquired PrimeSense, its website quickly shut, but the Developers link still points to Open NI.
The status of OpenNI is a not-for-profit whose framework allows developers to create middleware and applications for a range of devices, including the Asus Xtion Pro. It claims to be a widely used community with over 100,000 active 3D developers.
Surely that, together with the "open" nature of its software could have guaranteed it a longer future?
It seems not."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "Programmers often think that users are overly sensitive about their data. What could it hurt to allow the collection of location data, for example. Here is a short video from the ACLU that might make you stop and think about persisting any data you capture.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says:
"Since mobile carriers are retaining location data on their customers, government officials can learn a tremendous amount of detailed personal information about you by accessing your location history from your cell phone company, ranging from which friends you're seeing to where you go to the doctor to how often you go to church. The Justice Department and most local police forces can get months' worth of this information, without you ever knowing — and often without a warrant from a judge."
If you don't like the idea of your location data data being under scrutiny, then the ACLU has a page where you can lobby your representatives in favor of the GPS Act, which seeks to control access to location data."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "We have surely got over the shock of computers being involved in mathematical proofs?
It seems not, but in this case the proof occupies a 13GByte file — bigger than the whole of Wikipedia, so perhaps we have crossed a line.
The theorem that has been proved is in connection with a long running conjecture of Paul Erdos in 1930. Discrepancy theory is about how possible it is to distribute something evenly. It occurs in lots of different forms and even has a connection with cryptography. In 1993 it was proved that an infinite series cannot have a discrepancy of 1 or less. This proved the theorem for C=1. The recent progress, which pushes C up to 2 was made possible by a clever idea of using a SAT solver — a program that find values that make an expression true. Things went well up to length 1160, which was proved to have discrepancy 2, but at length 1161 the SAT returned the result that there was no assignment. The negative result generated an unsatisfiability certificate, the proof that a sequence of length 1161 has no subsequence with discrepancy 2, is 13GBytes.
As the authors of the paper (http://arxiv.org/abs/1402.2184) write:
"[it]...is probably one of longest proofs of a non-trivial mathematical result ever produced. Its gigantic size is comparable, for example, with the size of the whole Wikipedia, so one may have doubts about to which degree this can be accepted as a proof of a mathematical statement."
Does this matter?
Probably not — as long as other programs can check the result and the program itself has to be considered part of the proof."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "If you want to find a way of dividing up some indivisible items between entities then here is a way to do it that eliminates envy as the outcome. The suggestion is that this could be a good way to divide up possessions during a divorce — algorithms get into everything. A new paper (http://www.ams.org/notices/201402/rnoti-p130.pdf) by New York University’s Steven Brams, Wilfrid Laurier University’s D. Marc Kilgour, and the University of Graz’s Christian Klamler and published this month in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, outlines how to do it so that both parties are happy in a maximal sort of way — i.e it assigns as many items in the pool of things to be divided and only holds back those that if allocated would cause envy.
As long as the players assign true rankings to the items then the more algorithm will find the maximal envy-free assignment and as the number of items increases, the probability of a complete envy-free assignment approaches one.
The bad news is that you can cheat.
If you lie about your ranking you can end up with an assignment that, when you true ranking is revealed, provokes envy. However, as the authors note the danger is that you won't work things out perfectly, because it depends on the ranking of the other player and you could end up worse off. The best strategy is to play fair and end up with an envy free allocation.
So the next time you file for divorce, remember to hire a programmer as well as a lawyer."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "It looks as if the obligatory xkcd cartoon has it wrong this time
NASA seems to not only like Kerbal Space Program but is developing a downloadable mission pack, that will allow players to put Kerbals on an asteroid. If you don't know Kerbal Space Program it is a physics based simulator that like Minecraft allows you to build things only in this case the "things" are rockets to get the Kerbals into space. In the NASA mod players will first have to launch a spacecraft to fly alongside the asteroid. Then they will have to push the giant rock into a stable orbit around the Kerbal's home planet without creating an extinction-level impact below. Finally, they'll need to safely land on it. It's all a matter of applied physics.
NASA itself hopes to land humans on an asteroid by 2025 and it seems that Kerbals will manage it more than a decade before their real-life counterparts. Unless of course it turns out that an extinction level impact is unavoidable..."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "Google and Opera split from WebKit to create Blink, their own HTML rendering engine, and everyone was worried about the effect on standards. Now we have the first big example of a split in the form of CSS Regions support. Essentially Regions are used to provide the web equivalent of text flow, a concept very familiar to anyone who has used a DTP (DeskTop Publishing) program. The basic idea is that you define containers for a text stream which is then flowed from one container to another to provide a complex multicolumn layout. The W3C standard for Regions has mostly been created by Adobe — long time DTP company. Now the Blink team propose to remove Regions support saving 10,000 lines of code in 350,000 in the name of efficiency.
If Google does remove the Regions code, which looks highly likely, this would leave Safari and IE 10/11 as the only two major browsers to support Regions. Both Apple and Microsoft have an interest in ensuring that their hardware can be used to create high quality magazine style layouts — Google and Opera aren't so concerned. I thought standards were there to implement not argue with."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "A new open source CodePlex project makes it possible to run your own Windows 8 App Store designed to allow you to privately publish enterprise apps.
"BootyBay" is a private "sideloading" Windows Store.
"A proof-of-concept of a Windows Private Store solution for enterprise side-loading app management, including a Windows Store App as the “Private Store”, a Desktop App as the “Store Agent”, an ASP.NET MVC web application as the “Store Server”.
To make use of it you need Windows 8.1 or Windows 2012 R2 for the client and they have to be set up to allow sideloading. For the server you need an ASP.NET 4.5 MVC machine. The store app is currently not polished, but it allows the user to list apps, check details, etc. In the long run this will look like the real store app.
At the moment BootBay doesn't work with Windows RT devices but the team have plans to add ARM and RT support. There is no word of Windows Phone 8 support.
As they plan to appeal to enterprises perhaps the codename "BootyBay", after the port city in Warcraft III, is not a good choice. There is also the interesting question of what Microsoft will make of it. After all Microsoft really would like to keep control of the Windows app market and this certainly blows a fairly large hole in its walled garden."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "Simulated bipedal creatures can learn to walk naturally without any input as to how they should do it. They even learn to adopt different gaits according to the speed they are trying to move at. The technique is simple in theory but the difficulties are in the detail. A new video of a variety of virtual creatures learning is fun to watch as they slowly evolve and fall over.
Take a simulated skeleton and attach a set of biologically inspired simulated muscles — both in full 3D, The muscles even have a neural delay included in all feedback paths. The arrangement of the muscles, the muscle routing, isn't fixed and it and it is part of the optimization along with the muscle control systems. This is a bit like evolving the muscle arrangement that works best with a given skeleton.
To obtain the optimum control and muscle routing, the performance of the creature is measured taking into account speed, pose, and effort. The optimization was performed offline using an evolutionary algorithm.
Yes the virtual creatures really do evolve the best way of walking and fall over a few times in the process."Link to Original Source
symbolset writes "Ball lightning has been reported for hundreds of years, and experimentally produced, but for the first time a natural will 'o wisp has been captured on video and amazingly, spectrograph, accidentally by researchers studying ordinary lightning."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "We tend to think of the most capable robots as being like us — bipedal and with two arms complete with hands. This isn't unreasonable as it is a remarkably effective form factor for a mobile system. Not only this, but as much of the constructed world is optimized for humans, a humanoid robot should be able to cope better with it.
However, the recent DARPA robotics challenge demonstrated how far we are away from an effective bipedal humanoid robot. Even when one of the rescue tasks was completed. the speed and hesitancy of the approach wasn't impressive. To put it bluntly there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The alternative approach is to abandon the humanoid form factor and see what can be achieved using wheeled robots. The Multi-Arm Robot Control Software MARCS that it has developed works with a dual-arm torso manufactured by HDT Robotics mounted on a custom chassis with tank-style treads. A second robot from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics lab joined in with its dual-arm platform to remove debris, stabilize the victim and transport the victim away.
There are a few things that might have occurred to you if you watch the video. The first is that even wheeled robots don't seem to get up the sort of speed that suggests they are dealing with an urgent situation. The performance is good, but it needs to be better. The second is that there is an "uncanny valley" effect relating to the the torso-mounted robot. This may not look very humanoid and there is something creepy about the way that its hands manipulate the dummy victim."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "A recent xkcd cartoon has started some deep academic thinking. When AI expert Peter Novig gets involved you know the algorithms are going to fly. Code Golf is a reasonably well known sport of trying to code an algorithm in the shortest possible code. Regex Golf is similar, but in general the aim is to create a regular expression that accepts the strings in one list and rejects the strings in a second list. The xkcd cartoon in question http://xkcd.com/1313/ revealed that this is but the first step. Programmers like recursion and a regex is a string after all and a regex can process a string so a regex can process a regex and this means you can have meta-regex golf and meta-meta-regex golf.... Yes my friend, it's regexes all the way down!
The hover over text gives a regular expression that matches the last names of the elected US presidents, but not the losers. This started Peter Norvig, the well-known computer scientist, director of research at Google and wearer of brightly colored shirts, thinking about the problem. Is it possible to write a program that would create a regular expression to solve the xkcd problem? The result is an NP hard problem that needs AI like techniques to get an approximate answer.
To find out more read the complete description, including Python code, at Peter Norvig's blog post http://nbviewer.ipython.org/url/norvig.com/ipython/xkcd1313.ipynb which ends with the challenge:
"I hope you found this interesting, and perhaps you can find ways to improve my algorithm, or more interesting lists to apply it to. I found it was fun to play with, and I hope this page gives you an idea of how to address problems like this.""Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "Bill Gates has emerged as the most admired person in the world in a survey conducted by UK opinion pollster YouGov. With a 10.10% share he narrowly beat Barack Obama who came in second overall.
The poll of almost 14,000 people was undertaken for the Times newspaper using a mix of Internet and mobile phone surveys conducted in Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the US, Australia, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, China, Egypt, Nigeria and Brazil.
Participants were asked to name the person they most admired and while many named their mom or dad nominating their head of state was also popular with The Queen topping the UK poll with 18.74% and Vladamir Putin coming top in Russia with 24.62% of his country's nominations. Barack Obama, however, didn't take top slot in the USA; his 10.35% shared was less than half that of Pope Francis at 21.07%.
While it is likely that Gates is the most admired person either on account of being the richest person on the planet or for his philanthropy, the result is still reported as "Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft ..." and it is tempting to wish that he could work some new magic for Microsoft.Taking over at Microsoft could make him even more admired next year."Link to Original Source
mikejuk writes "The Imitation Game, a film based on Andrew Hodges' biography of Alan Turing, with Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the role of Turing, will be released later this year.
The Imitation Game was scripted by Graham Moore is based on Alan Hodges' biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. It isn't the first time that this biography has been dramatized. The play "Breaking the Code" was first staged in 1986 and later televised. It was shown across the world during the Turing Centenary in 2012 and there were several other dramatizations including an opera.
Filming of the biopic, produced by Black Bear Pictures was completed in November and a still from it was posted on Twitter on December 24th to mark the news of Turing's posthumous Royal Pardon expunging his conviction for gross indecency.
The Imitation Game's Twitter page also provides a link to this short video clip in which Cumberbatch reads a letter from Alan Turing to his friend and fellow mathematician Norman Routledge. Turing wrote the letter shortly before his court appearance for gross indecency and although he remarks that he should one day write a short story about the incident, he signed it "yours in distress"."Link to Original Source