"bio" entries

Four short links: 15 April 2016

Four short links: 15 April 2016

Building Economic Models, Living in a Computer Simulation, Distributed Ledgers, and 3D-Imaged DNA

  1. How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time (PDF) — Hal Varian’s article is to economics research what The Manual by the KLF is to pop music.
  2. Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? (Scientific American) — an overview of the kind of scientific argument one normally has in the pub rather than Scientific American.
  3. Intel Ledger — open source experimental distributed ledger from Intel, described here.
  4. Berkeley Lab captures first high-res 3D images of DNA segments (Kurzweil) — “This is the first time for directly visualizing an individual double-strand DNA segment in 3D.”
Four short links: 5 April 2016

Four short links: 5 April 2016

Programming Living Cells, Internet of Bricked Discontinued Things, Bitcoin User ID, and Paper-a-Day Roundup

  1. cello — home page for the Verilogish programming language to design computational circuits in living cells.
  2. Internet of Bricked Discontinued Things (BusinessInsider) — Shutting down Revolv does not mean that Nest is ceasing to support its products, leaving them vulnerable to bugs and other unpatched issues. It means that the $300 devices and accompanying apps will stop working completely.
  3. Bitcoin Users Reveal More Than They Thinknew technologies trace BTC transactions, attempting to identify bitcoin users. A number of startups have raised money to explore these new possibilities
  4. Last Three Months of Paper-a-Day (Adrian Colyer) — a pointer to the highlights from the 68 papers he covered in the first three months of the year.
Four short links: 21 March 2016

Four short links: 21 March 2016

Legacy Tech, Gender Prediction, Text Generation, and Human Performance

  1. Ten More Years!my brand spanking new chip card from a UK issuer not only arrived with a 2000s app of a 1990s implementation of a 1980s product (debit) on 1970s chip, it also came with a 1960s magnetic stripe on it and a 1950s PAN with a 1940s signature panel on the back. It’s no wonder it seems a little out of place in the modern world.
  2. Age and Gender Classification Using Convolutional Neural Nets — oh, this will end well.
  3. The Uncanny Valley of Words (Ross Goodwin) — lessons learned from an NYU ITP neural networker making poetry and surprises from text.
  4. The Paradox of Human Performance (YouTube) — Human dexterity and agility vastly exceed that of contemporary robots. Yet, humans have vastly slower “hardware” (e.g. muscles) and “wetware” (e.g. neurons). How can this paradox be resolved? Slow actuators and long communication delays require predictive control based on some form of internal model—but what form? (via Robohub)
Four short links: 10 March 2016

Four short links: 10 March 2016

Cognitivist and Behaviourist AI, Math and Social Computing, A/B Testing Stats, and Rat Cyborgs are Smarter

  1. Crossword-Solving Neural NetworksHill describes recent progress in learning-based AI systems in terms of behaviourism and cognitivism: two movements in psychology that effect how one views learning and education. Behaviourism, as the name implies, looks at behaviour without looking at what the brain and neurons are doing, while cognitivism looks at the mental processes that underlie behaviour. Deep learning systems like the one built by Hill and his colleagues reflect a cognitivist approach, but for a system to have something approaching human intelligence, it would have to have a little of both. “Our system can’t go too far beyond the dictionary data on which it was trained, but the ways in which it can are interesting, and make it a surprisingly robust question and answer system – and quite good at solving crossword puzzles,” said Hill. While it was not built with the purpose of solving crossword puzzles, the researchers found that it actually performed better than commercially-available products that are specifically engineered for the task.
  2. Mathematical Foundations for Social Computing (PDF) — collection of pointers to existing research in social computing and some open challenges for work to be done. Consider situations where a highly structured decision must be made. Some examples are making budgets, assigning water resources, and setting tax rates. […] One promising candidate is “Knapsack Voting.” […] This captures most budgeting processes — the set of chosen budget items must fit under a spending limit, while maximizing societal value. Goel et al. prove that asking users to compare projects in terms of “value for money” or asking them to choose an entire budget results in provably better properties than using the more traditional approaches of approval or rank-choice voting.
  3. Power, Minimal Detectable Effect, and Bucket Size Estimation in A/B Tests (Twitter) — This post describes how Twitter’s A/B testing framework, DDG, addresses one of the most common questions we hear from experimenters, product managers, and engineers: how many users do we need to sample in order to run an informative experiment?
  4. Intelligence-Augmented Rat Cyborgs in Maze Solving (PLoS) — We compare the performance of maze solving by computer, by individual rats, and by computer-aided rats (i.e. rat cyborgs). They were asked to find their way from a constant entrance to a constant exit in 14 diverse mazes. Performance of maze solving was measured by steps, coverage rates, and time spent. The experimental results with six rats and their intelligence-augmented rat cyborgs show that rat cyborgs have the best performance in escaping from mazes. These results provide a proof-of-principle demonstration for cyborg intelligence. In addition, our novel cyborg intelligent system (rat cyborg) has great potential in various applications, such as search and rescue in complex terrains.
Four short links: 2 March 2016

Four short links: 2 March 2016

Sensing Cognitive Load, Boring is Good, Replicating SQLite, and Intro to Autonomous Robots

  1. An Adaptive Learning Interface that Adjusts Task Difficulty based on Brain State (PDF) — using blood flow to measure cognitive load, this tool releases new lessons to you when you’re ready for them. The system measures blood flow using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Increased activation in an area of the brain results in increased levels of oxyhemoglobin. These changes can be measured by emitting frequencies of near-infrared light around 3 cm deep into the brain tissue and measuring the light attenuation caused by levels of oxyhemoglobin. I think we all want a widget on our computer that says “your brain is full, go offline to recover,” if only to validate naptime.
  2. Deploying SoftwareYour deploys should be as boring, straightforward, and stress-free as possible. cf Maciej Ceglowski’s “if you find it interesting, it doesn’t belong in production.”
  3. Replicating SQLite Using Raftrqlite is written in Go and uses Raft to achieve consensus across all the instances of the SQLite databases. rqlite ensures that every change made to the database is made to a quorum of SQLite files, or none at all.
  4. An Introduction to Autonomous RobotsAn open textbook focusing on computational principles of autonomous robots. CC-NC-ND and for sale via Amazon.
Four short links: 29 February 2016

Four short links: 29 February 2016

Robots & Decisions, Brain Modem, Distributed Devops Clue, and Robots in Law

  1. Learning Models for Robot Decision Making (YouTube) — a talk at the CMU Robotics Institute.
  2. Brain Modema tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity. The “stentrode” (stent + electrode) is the size of a paperclip, and Melbourne researchers (funded by DARPA) have made the first successful animal trials.
  3. The Past and Future are Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed (Usenix) — slides, audio and video.
  4. Robots in American LawThis article closely examines a half century of case law involving robots. […] The first set highlights the role of robots as the objects of American law. Among other issues, courts have had to decide whether robots represent something “animate” for purposes of import tariffs, whether robots can “perform” as that term is understood in the context of a state tax on performance halls, and whether a salvage team “possesses” a shipwreck it visits with an unmanned submarine. (via BoingBoing)
Four short links: 16 February 2016

Four short links: 16 February 2016

Full-on Maker, Robot Recap, Decoding Mandarin, and Sequencing Birds

  1. Washers and Screws (YouTube) — this chap is making his own clock from scratch, and here he is making his own washers and screws. Sometimes another person’s obsession can be calming. (via Greg Sadetsky)
  2. ROScon 2015 Recap with Videos (Robohub) — Shuttleworth suggests that robotics developers really need two things at this point: a robust Internet of Things infrastructure, followed by the addition of dynamic mobility that robots represent. However, software is a much more realistic business proposition for a robotics startup, especially if you leverage open source to create a developer community around your product and let others innovate through what you’ve built.
  3. Getting Deep Speech to Work in Mandarin (Baidu SVAIL) — TIL that some of the preprocessing traditionally used in speech-to-text systems throws away pitch information necessary to decode tonal languages like Mandarin. Deep Speech doesn’t use specialized features like MFCCs. We train directly from the spectrogram of the input audio signal. The spectrogram is a fairly general representation of an audio signal. The neural network is able to learn directly which information is relevant from the input, so we didn’t need to change anything about the features to move from English speech recognition to Mandarin speech recognition. Their model works better than humans at decoding short text such as queries.
  4. Sequencing Genomes of All Known Kakapo — TIL there’s a project to sequence genomes of 10,000 bird species and that there’s this crowdfunded science project to sequence the kakapo genome. There are only 125 left, and conservationists expect to use the sequenced genomes to ensure rare genes are preserved. Every genome in this species could be sequenced … I’m boggling. (via Duke)
Four short links: 21 January 2016

Four short links: 21 January 2016

Hidden Networks, Dissolving Sensors, Spies Spy, and Redirected Walking

  1. Big Bang Data: Networks of London (YouTube) — guide to the easy-to-miss networks (fibre, CCTV, etc.) around Somerset House, where an amazing exhibition is about to launch. The network guide is the work of the deeply talented Ingrid Burrington.
  2. Sensors Slip into the Brain and then Dissolve When Done (IEEE Spectrum) — pressure and temperature monitors, intended to be implanted in the brain, that completely dissolve within a few weeks. The news, published as a research letter in the journal Nature, described a demonstration of the devices in rats, using soluble wires to transmit the signals, as well as the demonstration of a wireless version, though the data transmission circuit, at this point, is not completely resorbable. The research was published as a letter to Nature.
  3. GCHQ Proposes Surveillable Voice Call Encryption (The Register) — unsurprising, but should reiterate AGAIN that state security services would like us to live in the panopticon. Therefore, don’t let the buggers anywhere near the reins of our communication systems.
  4. These Tricks Make Virtual Reality Feel RealScientists are exploiting the natural inaccuracies in people’s own proprioception, via a technique called “redirected walking,” to create the perception of space where none exists. With redirected walking, […] users can sense they are exploring the twisting byways of a virtual city when in reality they are simply walking in circles inside a lab. Original Redirect Walking paper.

Four short links: 19 January 2016

Four short links: 19 January 2016

Spermbots, Reputation Risks, Lab Robot, and Stack Expansion

  1. SpermbotsResearchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden in Germany have successfully tested tiny, magnetically-driven power suits for individual sperm that can turn them into steerable cyborg “spermbots” that can be remote controlled all the way to the egg. But can they make an underwire bra that the washing machine doesn’t turn into a medieval torture device?
  2. What’s Eating Silicon ValleyIn 2014, more Harvard Business School Grads went into technology than into banking for the first time since the dot-com era. […] another reason Wall Street had trouble maintaining goodwill was because of some of the attributes above—hard-charging, too much too soon, parallel reality, money flowing everywhere, rich white guys, etc. The Wall St comparison was new to me, but I can see it as a goodwill risk.
  3. OpenTrons — $3,000 open source personal lab robot for science, with downloadable/shareable protocols.
  4. Why Big Companies Keep Failing: The Stack Fallacy — you’re more likely to succeed if you expand down (to supplant your suppliers) than up (to build the products that are built on top of your product) because you’re a customer of your suppliers, so you know what good product-market fit will look like, but you’re just fantasizing that you can supplant your downstream value.
Four short links: 1 January 2016

Four short links: 1 January 2016

Caffeine, Matt Webb, Human Robots, and Bloated Websites

  1. Is Caffeine a Cognitive Enhancer? (PDF) — Two general mechanisms may account for most of the observed effects of caffeine on performance: (1) an indirect, non-specific ‘arousal’ or ‘processing resources’ factor, presumably explaining why the effects of caffeine are generally most pronounced when task performance is sustained or degraded under suboptimal conditions; and (2) a more direct and specific ‘perceptual-motor’ speed or efficiency factor that may explain why, under optimal conditions, some aspects of human performance and information processing, in particular those related to sensation, perception, motor preparation, and execution, are more sensitive to caffeine effects than those related to cognition, memory, and learning. See also Smith 2005‘s caffeine led to a more positive mood and improved performance on a number of tasks. Different effects of caffeine were seen depending on the person’s level of arousal. Linear effects of caffeine dose were also observed. This is evidence against the argument that behavioral changes due to caffeine are merely the reversal of negative effects of a long period of caffeine abstinence. (via cogsci.stackexchange.com)
  2. On Stars and Thinking Things Through (Courtney Johnston) — Matt (to my eyes, anyway) doesn’t have a singular ‘thing’: he has this kind of spangly web of interests and skills that coalesces around a line of enquiry and results in the making or doing of a thing, and these things in turn become part of that web and generate further experiments and thinking. Seconded.
  3. Human-like Robot — and just like a real woman, the first paragraphs about the robot focus on soft skin and flowing brunette hair not how well she does her job. Progress!
  4. Website Obesity (Maciej Ceglowski) — The javascript alone in “Leeds Hospital Bosses Apologise after Curry and Crumble On The Same Plate” is longer than /Remembrance of Things Past/.