Stories tagged computers

Sep
04
2008

Once more into the breach: We few, we happy few, we band of kitties; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my puss-puss.
Once more into the breach: We few, we happy few, we band of kitties; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my puss-puss.Courtesy o205billege

The general holds the binoculars up to his eyes and surveys the battlefield. This will be the first test of the new Coordinated Autonomic Tactical force—C.A.T. for short—an army of robot warriors with electronic brains as complex and powerful as a small mammal’s.

The exercise begins, and all goes exactly to plan. The mechanized warriors sweep across the terrain in formation. Faced with unexpected obstacles, they improvise their own solutions. Soon, they are overwhelming the enemy positions.

Suddenly, a squirrel darts across the field. The entire right flank breaks rank to pursue. Corporal Whiskers beings licking himself. Sergeant Buttercup and Lieutenant Muffy begin hissing at each other. Private Snookums climbs a tree and can’t get down.

The general lowers his binoculars. Staring off into the middle distance, he says to his second-in-command, “We may not have thought this through thoroughly.”

A few months back, we reported on a machine that can read the images in your brain. Now comes exciting news of a machine that can read the words you are thinking. Because I know I have just way too much privacy as it is.

Various web and computer applications which some guy in Australia things will be really big. (My partner is heavy into Chumby; I think I have too much web access as it is.)

Apr
02
2008

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all      Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.: Or, as the poets say, "hubba-hubba."
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.: Or, as the poets say, "hubba-hubba."Courtesy beardenb

An Israeli student has written a computer program to recognize beauty. Human volunteers were asked to rate the attractiveness of several dozen photo portraits. The photos, along with their scores, were fed into the computer. The computer measured the faces and looked for commonalities between the ones rated most attractive.

The human subjects then rated another set of photos. The computer reviewed these, and compared them to what it had learned with the first set. It then rated the new photos. The computer’s ratings were very close to those provided by the humans.

The most impressive thing about this experiment is that the computer learned by itself. The programmers did not give the computer a definition of beauty. Rather, they let the machine figure it out for itself. This is considered a major step forward for artificial intelligence.

And if you’re wondering, average faces with no distinguishing characteristics are considered the most beautiful, both by humans and computers.

A computer program called CyberLover mimics the conversation of an on-line dating service chat room. The program fools users into divulging personal information, which can lead to identity theft -- and heartbreak.

The first transistor was unveiled 60 years ago, in December 1947. The computer you are using to read this has hundreds of millions of them. And the blogger The Speculists considers how that has changed the world.

Nov
08
2007

Al & the Earth: I wonder if Al Gore runs a distributed computing program on his Mac when he gives his global warming talks.  Probably not.  Image courtesy alexdecarvalho via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Al & the Earth: I wonder if Al Gore runs a distributed computing program on his Mac when he gives his global warming talks. Probably not. Image courtesy alexdecarvalho via Creative Commons/Flickr.
If you like science and you listen to podcasts I recommend Scientific American’s 60 Second Science. I don’t listen to them every day, but I store them up then listen to a bunch in a row while I am doing something menial. Today I listened to a bunch walking from my cube to the loading dock. It is a looooog walk.

Besides mentioning the giant Mars hoax emails, which I guess are circulating again with new dates, there were two stories caught my interest.

The first was about distributed computing. While I am an advocate for turning off computers at night to save energy, if you’re going to leave them on, you should put them to good use. They can either run scans on themselves, or, through distributed computing, they can use their processing power to solve large problems. One new distributed computing application that they mentioned that I found interesting is [email protected]. [email protected] uses your computer’s spare processing power to “search for the model that best describes our Universe and to find the range of models that agree with the available astronomical and particle physics data” (from their website). Since I can barely wrap my mind around the implications of that question I am glad that my computer can help find some answers.

Another interesting podcast was about global warming. Researchers from the University of Washington have been working on equations that will help get the most out of climate models. The result of their work is that while the Earth is going to get warmer, how much warmer is not known. Scientists have theorized that if the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2)in the atmosphere doubles the temperature would rise by about 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit. But, that rise in temperature does not account for the sort of “compound interest” that would take place – if the Earth warmed up because of more CO2, would the warmer atmosphere hold more water vapor? Would that increased amount of water vapor, serving as a “greenhouse gas” create even warmer temperatures? And what effect would these even warmer temperatures have on the climate models? This new equation helps scientists see the most probable scenarios more quickly than before, but also shows possible warmer results than previous models. The problem is that all this “compounding interest” makes it impossible to determine with any accuracy the high end possibilities. More on this can be found here, here and here.

Oct
22
2007

Some harmless geeks: At play in their natural habitat. They only become aggressive to "norms" when online.  (photo courtesy of Benimoto on flickr.com)
Some harmless geeks: At play in their natural habitat. They only become aggressive to "norms" when online. (photo courtesy of Benimoto on flickr.com)
AbsolutePoker.com, a Costa Rica-based company owned by members of the Canadian Kahnawake Mohawk tribe, found itself in some hot water recently, when its supposedly secure system was hacked, allowing a particular player to see his or her opponents’ cards in high-stakes, no-limit Texas holdem tournaments.

Or AbsolutePoker.com would have been in hot water, if the perpetrator had been an actual criminal, instead of a “geek.”

Yes, in a recent statement to the press, an AbsolutePoker spokesman reassured players that the criminal party was “literally” just “a geek.”

This must have come as quite a relief to the holdem tournament’s other players. Even though the geek’s winnings are estimated between $400,000 and $700,000, it was no doubt reassuring to find out that they are cooler than he is, and could probably beat him up, if given the opportunity.

In their initial statement regarding the situation, AbsolutePoker denied the possibility of cheating, and chalked everything up to luck, claiming that there was “no evidence that [their] redundant and varying levels of game client security were compromised,” and, furthermore, that “it is impossible for any player or employee to see whole cards as was alleged.” This response was clearly made before they considered the possibility that the user in question may not have been a normal person, but could have been, in fact, a geek, and well versed in all sorts of nerdy stuff.

Much to the chagrin of Dungeons & Dragons merchandisers across the country, AbsolutePoker claims that none of the ill-gotten money was withdrawn from the cheating user’s accounts