- Hyperinflation in Diablo 3 — interesting discussion about how video games regulate currency availability, and how Diablo 3 appears to have messed up. several weeks after the game’s debut a source claimed that there were at least 1,000 bots active 24/7 in the Diablo 3 game world, allegedly “harvesting” (producing) 4 million virtual gold per hour. Most of the gold generated by the ruthlessly productive, rapidly adapting bots found its way to third party vendors in a black market which undercut the prices in the sanctioned, in-game auction houses.
- Dell Project Ophelia (PC World) — $100 USB-stick-sized Android computer.
- Call Me Maybe (Kyle Kingsbury) — a series on network partitions. We’re going to learn about distributed consensus, discuss the CAP theorem’s implications, and demonstrate how different databases behave under partition.
- OpenWorm (The Atlantic) — simulating the c. elegans nematode worm in software. OpenWorm isn’t like these other initiatives; it’s a scrappy, open-source project that began with a tweet and that’s coordinated on Google Hangouts by scientists spread from San Diego to Russia. If it succeeds, it will have created a first in executable biology: a simulated animal using the principles of life to exist on a computer.
Videogame Hyperinflation, Thumbdrive Computing, Distributed Consensus, and Organism Simulation
I just invested in BioCurious’ Glowing Plants project on Kickstarter. I don’t watch Kickstarter closely, but this is about as fast as I’ve ever seen a project get funded. It went live on Wednesday; in the afternoon, I was backer #170 (more or less), but could see the number of backers ticking upwards constantly as I watched. It was fully funded for $65,000 Thursday; and now sits at 1340 backers (more by the time you read this), with about $84,000 in funding. And there’s a new “stretch” goal: if they make $400,000, they will work on bigger plants, and attempt to create a glowing rose.
Glowing plants are a curiosity; I don’t take seriously the idea that trees will be an alternative to streetlights any time in the near future. But that’s not the point. What’s exciting is that an important and serious biology project can take place in a biohacking lab, rather than in a university or an industrial facility. It’s exciting that this project could potentially become a business; I’m sure there’s a boutique market for glowing roses and living nightlights, if not for biological street lighting. And it’s exciting that we can make new things out of biological parts.
In a conversation last year, Drew Endy said that he wanted synthetic biology to “stay weird,” and that if in ten years, all we had accomplished was create bacteria that made oil from cellulose, we will have failed. Glowing plants are weird. And beautiful. Take a look at their project, fund it, and be the first on your block to have a self-illuminating garden.
Automating NES Games, Code Review Tool, SaaS KPIs, and No Free Lunch
- A General Technique for Automating NES Games — software that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
- rietveld — open source tool like Mondrian, Google’s code review tool. Developed by Guido van Rossum, who developed Mondrian. Still being actively developed. (via Nelson Minar)
- KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
- Life Without Sleep — interesting critique of Provigil as performance-enhancing drug for information workers. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one’s wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep. […] Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did. (via Dave Pell)
Google's Autonomous Cars, DIY BioPrinter, Forms Validation, and Machine Learning Workflow
- Google’s Driverless Car is Worth Trillions (Forbes) — Much of the reporting about Google’s driverless car has mistakenly focused on its science-fiction feel. […] In fact, the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap. It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.
- DIY BioPrinter (Instructables) — Think of it as 3D printing, but with squishier ingredients! How to piggyback on inkjet printer technology to print with your own biomaterials. It’s an exciting time for biohackery: FOO Ewan Birney is kicking ass and taking names, he was just involved in a project storing and retrieving data from DNA.
- ADAMS — open sourced workflow tool for machine learning, from the excellent people at Waikato who brought you WEKA. ADAMS = Advanced Data mining And Machine learning System.
Human Genome Doxed, Programmed by Movies, CritterDrones, and Responsive Websites
- ENCODE Project — International project (headed by Ewan Birney of BioPerl fame) doxes the human genome, bigtime. See the Nature piece, and Ed Yong’s explanation of the awesome for more. Not only did they release the data, but also the software, including a custom VM.
- 5 Ways You Don’t Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain — this! is! awesome!
- RC Grasshoppers — not a band name, an Israeli research project funded by the US Army, to remotely-control insects in flight. Instead of building a tiny plane whose dimensions would be measured in centimeters, the researchers are taking advantage of 300 million years of evolution.
Economics of Innovation, Bio Imagery, Open Source EEG for Smartphone, and Feynman Bio
- Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy (Amazon) — soon-to-be-released book by Bill Janeway, of Warburg-Pincus (and the O’Reilly board). People raved about his session at scifoo. I’m bummed I missed it, but I’ll console myself with his book.
- Cell Image Library — a freely accessible, easy-to-search, public repository of reviewed and annotated images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms, showcasing cell architecture, intracellular functionalities, and both normal and abnormal processes. The purpose of this database is to advance research, education, and training, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. And an excellent source of desktop images.
- Smartphone EEG Scanner — unusually, there’s no Kickstarter project for an iPhone version. (Designs and software are open source)
- Feynman — excellent graphic novel bio of Feynman, covering the science as well as the personality. Easy to read and very enjoyable.
Reading Minds, Satellites in the Cloud, Units for Risk, and Valuing Autism
- Reconstructing Visual Experiences (PDF) — early visual areas represent the information in movies. To demonstrate the power of our approach, we also constructed a Bayesian decoder by combining estimated encoding models with a sampled natural movie prior. The decoder provides remarkable reconstructions of the viewed movies. These results demonstrate that dynamic brain activity measured under naturalistic conditions can be decoded using current fMRI technology.
- Earth Engine — satellite imagery and API for coding against it, to do things like detecting deforestation, classifying land cover, estimating forest biomass and carbon, and mapping the world’s roadless areas.
- Microlives — 30m of your life expectancy. Here are some things that would, on average, cost a 30-year-old man 1 microlife: Smoking 2 cigarettes; Drinking 7 units of alcohol (eg 2 pints of strong beer); Each day of being 5 Kg overweight. A chest X-ray will set a middle-aged person back around 2 microlives, while a whole body CT-scan would weigh in at around 180 microlives.
- Autistics Need Opportunities More Than Treatment — Laurent gave a powerful talk at Sci Foo: if the autistic brain is better at pattern matching, find jobs where that’s useful. Like, say, science. The autistic woman who was delivering mail became a research assistant in his lab, now has papers galore to her name for original research.
DIY Medical Devices, 3D Exoskeletal Arms, Scientific Data Depository, and Zombees
- Why Toys Make Good Medical Devices (YouTube) — Jose Gomez-Marquez profiled by CNN. His group at MIT is Little Devices.
- 3D Printed Exoskeletal Arms for Little Girl — researchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom device with the tiny, lightweight custom parts she needed. Good for iterations, replacements, and an astonishingly high number of “awww” moments in the video.
- Figshare — allows researchers to publish all of their data in a citable, searchable and sharable manner. All data is persistently stored online under the most liberal Creative Commons licence, waiving copyright where possible. figshare was started by a frustrated Imperial College PhD student as a way to disseminate all research outputs and not just static images through traditional academic publishing. It is now supported by Digital Science, a Macmillan Publishers company.
- Zombees — honey bees that have been parasitized by the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis. Fly-parasitized honey bees become “ZomBees” showing the “zombie-like behavior” of leaving their hives at night on “a flight of the living dead.” See also NPR interview.
Chinese Hackers, Edible Sensors, Quantum Physics
- China Hackers Hit EU Point Man and DC (Bloomberg) — wow. The extent to which EU and US government and business computer systems have been penetrated is astonishing. Stolen information is flowing out of the networks of law firms, investment banks, oil companies, drug makers, and high technology manufacturers in such significant quantities that intelligence officials now say it could cause long-term harm to U.S. and European economies. (via Gady Epstein)
- Digestible Microchips (Nature) — The sand-particle sized sensor consists of a minute silicon chip containing trace amounts of magnesium and copper. When swallowed, it generates a slight voltage in response to digestive juices, which conveys a signal to the surface of a person’s skin where a patch then relays the information to a mobile phone belonging to a healthcare-provider. (via Sara Winge)
- Quantum Mechanics Make Simple(r) — clever way to avoid the brain pain of quantum mechanics and leap straight to the “oh!”. [N]ature is described not by probabilities (which are always nonnegative), but by numbers called amplitudes that can be positive, negative, or even complex. […] In the usual “hierarchy of sciences”—with biology at the top, then chemistry, then physics, then math—quantum mechanics sits at a level between math and physics that I don’t know a good name for. Basically, quantum mechanics is the operating system that other physical theories run on as application software (with the exception of general relativity, which hasn’t yet been successfully ported to this particular OS). (via Hacker News)
- Selectively De-Animating Video — SIGGRAPH talk showing how to keep some things still in a video. Check out the teaser video with samples: ZOMG. I note that Maneesh Agrawala was involved: I’m a fan of his from Line Drive maps and 3D exploded views, but his entire paper list is worth reading. Wow. (via Greg Borenstein)
Drone Overload, Mac MySQL Tool, Better Cancer Diagnosis Through AI, and Inconstant Identifiers
- Drones Over Somalia are Hazard to Air Traffic (Washington Post) — In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refugee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital. (via Jason Leopold)
- Sequel Pro — free and open source Mac app for managing MySQL databases. It’s an update of CocoaMySQL.
- Neural Network Improves Accuracy of Least Invasive Breast Cancer Test — nice use of technology to make lives better, for which the creator won the Google Science Fair. Oh yeah, she’s 17. (via Miss Representation)
- Free Harder to Find on Amazon — so much for ASINs being permanent and unchangeable. Amazon “updated” the ASINs for a bunch of Project Gutenberg books, which means they’ve lost all the reviews, purchase history, incoming links, and other juice that would have put them at the top of searches for those titles. Incompetence, malice, greed, or a purely innocent mistake? (via Glyn Moody)