John Horton Conway (The Guardian) — These were two separate areas of study that Conway had arrived at by two different paths. So, there’s no reason for them to be linked. But somehow, through the force of his personality, and the intensity of his passion, he bent the mathematical universe to his will. Fascinating profile, taken from a new book.
MIT Self-Assembly Lab — multi-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science, and new capabilities in simulation/optimization software […] made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance, or other property, on demand.
Calaos — a free software project (GPLv3) that lets you control and monitor your home.
Founder Wants to be a Horse Not a Unicorn (Business Insider) — this way of thinking — all or nothing moonshots to maximise shareholder value — has become pervasive dogma in tech. It’s become the only respectable path. Either you’re running a lowly lifestyle business, making ends meet so you can surf all afternoon, or you’re working 17-hour days goring competitors with your $US48MM Series C unicorn horn on your way to billionaire mountain.
Putting the Nuclear Option Front and Centre (Tom Armitage) — offering what feels like the nuclear option front and centre, reminding the user that it isn’t a nuclear option. I love this. “Undo” changes your experience profoundly.
3D-Printing Carbon Fibre (Makezine) — the machine doesn’t produce angular, stealth fighter-esque pieces with the telltale CF pattern seen on racing bikes and souped up Mustangs. Instead, it creates an FDM 3D print out of nylon filament (rather than ABS or PLA), and during the process it layers in a thin strip of carbon fiber, melted into place from carbon fiber fabric using a second extruder head. (It can also add in kevlar or fiberglass.)
Content Moderation (Wired) — “content moderators” are the people paid to weed out beheadings, pornography, etc. from photo and video sites. By at least one estimate, the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.
Engineer Sees Big Possibilities in Micro-robots, Including Programmable Bees (National Geographic) — He and fellow researchers devised novel techniques to fabricate, assemble, and manufacture the miniature machines, each with a housefly-size thorax, three-centimeter (1.2-inch) wingspan, and weight of just 80 milligrams (.0028 ounces). The latest prototype rises on a thread-thin tether, flaps its wings 120 times a second, hovers, and flies along preprogrammed paths. (via BoingBoing)
cuDNN — NVIDIA’s library of primitives for deep neural networks (on GPUS, natch). Not open source (registerware).
Analysing Trends in Silk Road 2.0 — If, indeed every sale can map to a transaction, some vendors are doing huge amounts of business through mail order drugs. While the number is small, if we sum up all the product reviews x product prices, we get a huge number of USD $20,668,330.05. REMEMBER! This is on Silk Road 2.0 with a very small subset of their entire inventory. A peek into a largely invisible economy.
Liquibase — source control for your database. Apache 2.0 licensed.
A Few Useful Things to Know About Machine Learning (PDF) — This article summarizes twelve key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned. These include pitfalls to avoid, important issues to focus on, and answers to common questions. My fave: First-timers are often surprised by how little time in a machine learning project is spent actually doing machine learning. But it makes sense if you consider how time-consuming it is to gather data, integrate it, clean it and pre-process it, and how much trial and error can go into feature design.
Magic Carpet Can Detect and Predict Falls (BBC) — Beneath the carpet is a mesh of optical fibres that detect and plot movement as pressure bends them, changing the light detected at the carpet’s edges. These deflected light patterns help electronics “learn” walking patterns and detect if they are deteriorating, for instance in the elderly. Neat use for fibre optics! (via Sara Winge)
Travelling the Silk Road (PDF) — A measurement analysis of a large anonymous online marketplace […] A relatively small “core” of about 60 sellers has been present throughout our measurement interval, while the majority of sellers leaves (or goes “underground”) within a couple of weeks of their ﬁrst appearance. We evaluate the total revenue made by all sellers to approximately USD 1.9 million per month; this corresponds to about USD 143,000 per month in commissions perceived by the Silk Road operators. (via Robert O’Brien)
The Coffee-Ring Effect (YouTube) — beautiful video of what happens in liquids as they evaporate, explaining why coffee stains are rings, and how to create liquids with even evaporative coating.
The Importance of Quantitative Thinking Medicine (PDF) — scaling laws underly aging, metabolism, drug delivery, BMI, and more. Full of wow moments, like Fractals are a common feature of many complex systems ranging from river networks, earthquakes, and the internet to stock markets and cities. […] Geometrically, the nested levels of continuous branching and crenulations inherent in fractallike structures optimise the transport of information, energy, and resources by maximising the surface areas across which these essential features of life flow within any volume. Because of their fractal nature, these effective surface areas are much larger than their apparent physical size. For example, even though the volume of our lungs is about 5–6 L, the total surface area of all the alveoli is almost the size of a tennis court and the total length of airways is about 2500 km. Even more striking is that if all the arteries, veins, and capillaries of an individual’s circulatory system were laid end to end, its total length would be about 100000 km, or nearly two and a half times around the earth.
Electric Sheep — hypnotic screensaver, where the sleeping computers collaborate on animations. You can vote up or down the animation on your screen, changing the global gene pool. Popular animations survive and propagate.
CMU iPad Course — iTunes U has the video lectures for a CMU intro to iPad programming.
Inspiring Matter — the conference aims to bring together designers, scientists, artists and humanities people working with materials research and innovation to talk about how they work cross- or trans-disciplinarily, the challenges and tools they’ve found for working collaboratively, and the ways they find inspiration in their work with materials. London, April 2-3.
Facebook’s S-1 Filing (SEC) — the Internets are now full of insights into Facebook’s business, for example Lance Wiggs’s observation that Facebook’s daily user growth is slowing. While 6-10% growth per quarter feels like a lot when annualized, it is getting close to being a normal company. Facebook is running out of target market, and especially target market with pockets deep enough to be monetised. But I think that’s the last piece of Facebook IPO analysis that I’ll link to. Tech Giant IPOs are like Royal Weddings: the people act nice but you know it’s a seething roiling pit of hate, greed, money, and desperation that goes on a bit too long so by the end you just want to put an angry chili-covered porcupine in everyone’s anus and set them all on fire. But perhaps I’m jaded.
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.