computer science

SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

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Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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It’s a little reading robot for the whole wide internet.

5 November 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist looks at the AI that’s been assigned the unenviable task of reading every scientific paper online and finding the important ones: Semantic Scholar, which launches today from the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), can automatically read, digest and categorise findings from the estimated 2 million scientific papers published each year. Up to half of these papers are never read by more than three people. The system aims to identify previously overlooked connections and information. “Our vision is of a scientist’s apprentice, giving researchers a very powerful way to analyse what’s going on in their field,” says Oren Etzioni, director of AI2. “If you’re a medical researcher, you could ask ‘what’s the latest on these drug interactions?’ Or even a query in natural language like, ‘what are papers saying about middle-aged women with diabetes and this particular drug?’” The system works by crawling the web for publicly available scientific papers, then scanning […]

DIY Internet: How Orca Island, WA, became their own provider.

4 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Ars Technica has an inspirational story of some folks who decided they could do a better job than their “professional” ISP: Around that time, CenturyLink service went out for 10 days, a problem caused by a severed underwater fiber cable. Outages lasting a day or two were also common, [Chris] Sutton said. Faced with a local ISP that couldn’t provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by Sutton, Brems, and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It’s a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington. “I think people were leery whether we could […]

Science Art: Scheutz mechanical calculator (Zeichnung der Difference Engine No.1 aus dem Jahr 1853), 1867.

6 July 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen Now, after that brief, regrettable interruption in service, a tribute to the computer. This illustration is from The Elements of Natural Philosophy; Or, An Introduction to the Study of the Physical Sciences, a book Charles Brooke wrote, expanding upon the work of Golding Bird. If Brooke did the illustrations or if someone else did, I’m not sure. This is a machine used to make mathematics; it’s an ancestor of the computer, and a kind of difference engine. The machine was the size of a piano and created logarithmic tables. It was a big hit at the 1855 World’s Fair. They got smaller and fancier after a while.

Forget your passwords; use your brainwaves.

8 June 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily takes security to a whole other level with a new system that relies on your brain’s responses to words as security instead of memorized passwords: In “Brainprint,” a newly published study in academic journal Neurocomputing, researchers from Binghamton University observed the brain signals of 45 volunteers as they read a list of 75 acronyms, such as FBI and DVD. They recorded the brain’s reaction to each group of letters, focusing on the part of the brain associated with reading and recognizing words, and found that participants’ brains reacted differently to each acronym, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer with 94 percent accuracy. The results suggest that brainwaves could be used by security systems to verify a person’s identity. According to Sarah Laszlo, assistant professor of psychology and linguistics at Binghamton University and co-author of “Brainprint,” brain biometrics are appealing because they are cancelable and cannot be stolen by […]

The DNA hard drive.

17 February 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist marvels at the ability of DNA to store information, with a realization that glassed-in genes could safely store information for millennia: Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes – enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare. It’s also incredibly durable: DNA has been extracted and sequenced from 700,000-year-old horse bones. But conditions have to be right for it to last. “We know that if you just store it lying around, you lose information,” says Robert Grass of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. So he and colleagues are working on ways to increase DNA’s longevity, with the aim of storing data for thousands or millions of years. They began by looking at the way information is encoded on a DNA strand. The simplest method treats the DNA bases A and C as a “0” […]

A social network for sharing your DNA. Online, I mean.

11 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Fusion has the details on the growing community of DNA uploaders: Members of openSNP upload their genes along with things like their sex, age, eye color, location, Fitbit data and medical history — for anyone to see and analyze. The record lives on forever, in an open-source database, so the detailed warning on its sign-up page should be read very closely. But for [University of Toronto bioinformatics student Samantha] Clark, the possibilities outweigh the risks: She wants scientists to have access to genetic information of every human being in the world. “The more people, the easier it will be for citizen scientists to work with the data and make new discoveries. If I want other people to do this and help science, I should set the tone,” said Clark, 25. “The benefit will be infinite as it picks up pace.” Clark had gotten her DNA analyzed by personal genomics company 23andMe. While a user can […]

Self-programming computers (little fake brains) fuel new start-up.

29 October 2014 // 0 Comments

You know it’s real when there’s money involved. Well, real-ish. New Scientist has more on the Google acquisition of DeepMind Technologies and their Neural Turing Machine: DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial-intelligence firm acquired by Google this year, has revealed that it is designing computers that combine the way ordinary computers work with the way the human brain works. They call this hybrid device a Neural Turing Machine. The hope is it won’t need programmers, and will instead program itself. … “These neural networks that are so good at recognising patterns – a traditional domain for humans – are not so good at doing the stuff your calculator has done for a long time,” says Jürgen Schmidhuber of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research in Manno, Switzerland. Bridging that gap could give you a computer that does both, and can therefore invent programs for situations it has not seen before. The ultimate goal is […]

Schizophrenia: many diseases in one

16 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Daily Beast looks over Washington University research that’s found that the singular diagnosis of schizophrenia is actually a compound disease, caused by eight different genetic disorders that “cluster” into different combinations: As senior investigator Dr. C. Robert Cloninger notes, “[genes] don’t work by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.” Rather than focusing on the individual genes that have been associated with schizophrenia, this team looked instead at the interactions between genes in order to isolate the causes of the illness. … “There isn’t just this one kind of schizophrenia but actually several different syndromes where some people have positive symptoms like hallucinations and delusions [and] others have negative symptoms where they’re not able to think logically and these different syndromes are associated with different groups of genes.” Instead of […]

Triathlete uses internet to defeat her rare genetic disease

21 August 2014 // 0 Comments

The Atlantic gives hope to the new generation of WebMD obsessives with a fascinating tale of an athlete who used the internet to figure out what was *really* going on in her malfunctioning body: She cycled, ran, climbed and skied through the Rockies for hours every day, and was a veteran of Ironman triathlons. She’d always been the strong one in her family. When she was four, she would let her teenage uncles stand on her stomach as a party trick. In high school, she was an accomplished gymnast and an ardent cyclist. By college, she was running the equivalent of a half marathon on most days. It wasn’t that she was much of a competitor, exactly—passing someone in a race felt more deflating than energizing. Mostly Kim just wanted to be moving. So when her limbs started glitching, she did what high-level athletes do, what she had always done: She pushed through. But in […]

Gödel music composition to debut at Gödel Prize celebration.

8 July 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature has more on the suitably self-recursive premiere of a uniquely mathematical piece of music: The piece, “The Hilbert Heartbreak Hotel” by Danish composer Niels Marthinsen, was the brainchild of computer scientist Thore Husfeldt of Lund University in Sweden and IT University of Copenhagen. “I probably have some latent frustration about the increasing fragmentation of the arts and sciences,” Husfeldt says, “so maybe it’s an attempt to bring together some strands of culture that I happen to enjoy very much.” … Marthinsen was a student of the Danish composer Per Nørgård, who in the 1960s explored the use of mathematics in composition with, for example, series of notes with the fractal-like property of self-similarity. So Marthinsen was a natural choice for commissioning the piece. “He said: ‘This is completely insane and I don’t have time at all, but of course we have to do it.’” Husfeldt recalls. “From there, the puzzle was to actually make […]

Old phones are listening.

7 July 2014 // 0 Comments

Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on how old smart phones are being used to listen for disrupted sleep patterns, illegal loggers, gunshots, breeding cicadas and a host of other sounds: App makers have long focused on detecting speech and music, but some upstarts are turning to a wider variety of sound-detection tasks. They are taking advantage of more sophisticated mobile hardware and software to recognize distinct audio patterns. In one of the quirkier ideas around sound detection, a company called Rainforest Connection wants to mount smartphones in trees to detect chainsaw noise and quickly notify local authorities about illegal logging. The company, founded last year, has launched a $100,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and partnered with the Zoological Society of London to kick off the project in Cameroon. … “It will be a trend in the near future,” said Tauhidur Rahman, co-creator of BodyBeat, a wearable smartphone project developed at Cornell University. A crude […]

Slime logic. Who needs silicon chips?

28 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has a lively take on computing, with new circuits made of living slime molds: Andrew Adamatzky (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK) and Theresa Schubert (Bauhaus-University Weimar, Germany) have constructed logical circuits that exploit networks of interconnected slime mold tubes to process information. One is more likely to find the slime mold Physarum polycephalum living somewhere dark and damp rather than in a computer science lab. In its “plasmodium” or vegetative state, the organism spans its environment with a network of tubes that absorb nutrients. The tubes also allow the organism to respond to light and changing environmental conditions that trigger the release of reproductive spores. In earlier work, the team demonstrated that such a tube network could absorb and transport different colored dyes. They then fed it edible nutrients — oat flakes — to attract tube growth and common salt to repel them, so that they could grow a network […]

Faster computers will find aliens.

26 March 2014 // 0 Comments

If you never thought cosmic loneliness was a computing problem, think again. In Popular Mechanics, SETI leader Seth Shostak says Moore’s Law means we’ll find aliens in the next 20 years: If you’re trying to determine when we’re going to succeed with SETI, that really depends on only two questions. First, how many societies are out there broadcasting signals strong enough for you to find? And second, how quickly are you examining these star systems to find them? My guess that we’ll succeed in the next two decades is based on the fact that with improvements in digital electronics and computers—which are getting better and cheaper, following Moore’s law—we will be continually sifting through the sky faster. And you can extrapolate how fast we’ll be able to search, assuming we have the money, in the next decade or two. As for the number of civilizations out there—how many needles are we looking for in this […]

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