joy of code 2014, imitation game with Turing, more diverse zeitgeist

imitation_gamehi all. seems like only a blink since the 2013 compilation. its been a very eventful/ buzzing year in coder/ CS world. these links are an attempt to capture some of the zeitgeist.

its definitely never a dull moment in the IT/CS field and these links attest to that.

the hollywood angle continues with the release of the major motion picture Imitation Game about Turing in WWII, a big deal which this post is timed with. releases in a week. have long thought this would make a brilliant movie and amazed it took hollywood so long to seize on it. certainly understandably, movies with mathematicians in the lead roles are rather rare, but WWII movies are a dime a dozen… starring Benedict Cummerbatch and Keira Knightly, both stars possibly at the very top of their careers. [a]

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star-studded, cash-overflowing 2015 breakthru prizes

1110_zuck_breakthrough_inline_630x420 :star: :star: :star: hi all. the glitzy star-studded 2015 breakthrough prize ceremony ran Nov 10th. incl two notable stars Cameron Diaz and Benedict Cumberbatch. coincidentally Cumberbatch stars as lead role in a new movie about Turing called “Imitation Game” costarring Keira Knightly and opening in major theaters at end of November. cant wait to see that movie! have a huge pile of links on that too & am gonna bang those out and share those in a bit. (wonder if Keira might have some thing for science given her other major recent movie Dangerous Method about birth of psychology with Freud/ Jung). Diaz was just in two major hilarious comedies that have absolutely nothing to do with computer science eg “The other woman” about marital infidelity and costarring Kate Upton. oh wait, maybe the other one actually does! “Sex tape” has lots of geek jokes about inadvertently uploading a personal video to the internet cloud via ipads and the hijinx that ensue. saw it (after waiting patiently and with anticipation for months to get it on itunes store), laughed a lot, thought it was decently written & acted.

as written in my last blog on the subj, there is a lot of mixed feeling in scientific communities about these awards and imho justifiably so. by some measures its been over a century since there was a major “celebrity scientist” eg Einstein. my feeling is, lets accept these awards with some good humor and not overthink it & not take it all too seriously. science has many challenges in the 21st century and one of the main ones is obtaining steady government commitment and funding in the face of budget stresses and squeezes (and sometimes crises). but that is a much bigger problem than a bunch of tech billionaires can solve. (and thank god a few manage to get through the capitalist darwinian winner-take-all rat race with a bit of philanthropic conscience intact.) they are well-meaning and have high profiles and can indeed increase the visibility and cachet of science through these awards. there might be some “unintended side effects” but life goes on eh?

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collatz reverse tree traversal/ visualization revisited

happy 2nd anniversary to this blog! :star: :!: :cool: :D returning to a theme of collatz reverse tree visualization. a bunch of riffs and some other misc ideas tried out recently. nothing spectacular (in bland contrast to the last flashy-but-semimanic episode) but just posting these partly for archival/ log purposes. (brief related news, got some positive feedback on the subj on mathoverflow.)

these algorithms use more complex comparison metrics, a few quadratic complexity instead of linear complexity, to decide which points to advance next. they exhibit transition-point and tipping-point like behaviors where eg there are two different regimes, one where points are scattered between horizontally increasing lines and one where they line up in “fenceposts” (vertical). (they also fix a defect noted in that earlier code where some additional spurious points (not strictly in the collatz problem) were included.)

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gaming update: Deepmind/Google, Minecraft/Microsoft, Oculus Rift

ff_oculusrift6_fhi all. some big news in the gaming front. as mentioned in last post MS bought Minecraft for ~$2½B. amazing![b]

other big news. DeepMind learns to play video games with a supervised neural network, which basically just uses reinforcement learning on the game points apparently. a tiny company already acquired by google. stunning! google must have been very impressed and it is not very easy to impress google. what is not being reported much is that the AI must presumably/ basically “experiment” with all kinds of random actions before discovering any that lead to points. now that seems like evidence of highly intelligent behavior.[d][d2] at this point have another huge collection of AI links and wasnt sure how to classify these but a gaming-topic post 1st seems aligned with the current zeitgeist.

oculus rift 3d glasses tech is very big in the news. revolutions like this dont come along very often over the years, but this does sound like a “gamechanger” product to me. esp because it has such huge implications outside of gaming for eg remote conferencing, remote learning, etc (enormous markets).[c] (recently/ elsewhere/ in contrast apple announced Apple Pay but just cant really see how it could turn out into a hit at this point. does anyone see a killer app of this tech right now? internet commerce via phones? dunno!)

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microsoft silicon valley TCS research lab shuts down— easy come, easy go

siliconvalleyhi all. filed under “the joy and pain (& yin & yang) of research”. :( :) microsoft unceremoniously announced the abrupt/ brusque closure of the silicon valley CS research laboratory which ran for about ~1½ decade. actually there does not seem to be any official announcement anywhere. one cannot even find a list of the researchers and their papers any more, apparently the web page previously documented it was vaporized also. “the memory hole”! a bit orwellian even! easy come, easy go! (and this is also quite a jarring contrast/ juxtaposition wrt just last blogging about Google buying up an entire QM computing lab!) updated: MS page back up [a14]

this is a harsh moment but certainly not an unprecedented one. commercial/ industrial research labs have tended to become very rare in the last few decades, an endangered species. this closure triggered sizeable ripples, commentary, and reflections in the (T)CS blogosphere including by many insiders, past visitors, and admirers posting comments, tributes, & memories.[a] among them [a1] is esp notable/ standout as Omer Reingold announces the closure in a very classy way with lots of responses & reminiscing, thoughtful, even touching comments. a sort of mini blog eulogy. a test of that old aphorism-verging-on-canard which might feel like little solace to the victims: “when one door closes, another opens” also heard in some recent pop music (ah, that new near-saccharine-upbeat Katy Perry song that mixes more metaphors than even me?).

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. —Marilyn Monroe

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