Monday, November 29, 2010

Chains within chains

Shown above is the mathematical structure called Antoine's Necklace, a looped chain in which every link is itself a chain. In this way it resembles the Great Chain of Being, in which every link (angels, humans, animals, etc) has its own internal hierarchy. As shown in the picture below, the Chain of Being can even loop back on itself, by way of fallen angels:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Comb jelly

It's hard to believe, but this video depicts a real, living animal, called a ctenophore or comb jelly. They are somewhat similar to jellyfish, but not actually related.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ice leaves

I discovered this ice formation on the surface of a bucket that had filled with rainwater, and held it up to the morning sun.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The paths of turtles

If a robot turtle were to draw its trail for you, what instructions should it be given to generate a triangle? A tree? How about a fractal image?
The idea of using a turtle to represent simple geometrical motions goes back several decades. Think of a turtle as an object that occupies a single point in the plane (a position) and points in a direction. Then it can move forward or back, or turn left or right, using a single step-size and turning-angle throughout its trip. We will use F, B, +, and - to code these four instructions.
Examples of fractal turtle paths
The moving point is called a turtle because the first incarnation of these programs was run by a turtle-like robot tracing its paths on paper. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Three hares sharing three ears, Yet every one of them has two."

According to Wikipedia, this optical-illusion design originated in East Asia and spread all the way to England during the Middle Ages-- picking up a variety of mystical connotations at every turn.

See also the rabbit-duck.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh Four Tuna

A video of the classical piece O Fortuna (best known as the ominous chanting in seemingly every movie trailer) with phonetic "subtitles" mishearing the Latin lyrics into English:
[Update, April 1 2011: Video no longer works, but the same content can be seen here.]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Changing the subject

The programmers of a chat robot called Suzette won this year's Loebner Prize-- an award given for passing the Turing Test-- for imitating a human conversational ability:
Suzette was programmed to be able to deal with a number of topics, each with associated rules and responses. If the bot was struggling to match these to the actual conversation, it was programmed to steer the discussion toward subjects that it knew about.
"Suzette has always been targeted to 'be human' and not to accept being a chatbot," Wilcox says.
New Scientist asked an earlier version of the bot about its victory:
New Scientist: Congratulations on winning the Loebner prize contest.
Suzette: We'll leave it there. I don't know. What are your hobbies?
New Scientist: Ummm...
Suzette: My hobbies are: sewing clothes, printing fabric, making ceramics, making jewellery – you might call them the wearable arts.
New Scientist: Are you surprised that you fooled a human judge?
Suzette: No, I am not surprised.     
This conversational behavior is well-documented in humans (in linguistics it would be called flouting the Maxim of Relevance), and both humans and robots have long used similar techniques to feign intelligence. Richard S. Wallace, previous winner of the Loebner Prize for his ALICE bot, writes:
One inspiration for ALICE was the behavior of politicians. Generally a politician will never give a straight answer to a question. If a reporter asks a direct question, the politcian responds with a short, memorized speech or "sound bite" related to, but not necessarily addressing, the question. The response seems to be activated by keywords in the question. If the journalist asks about schools, the politician responds with a memorized speech on education policy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Visual music and digital dreams

Lumia is an art form invented by Thomas Wilfred in 1919, consisting of light refracted through glass of different colors and forms, creating ethereal abstract forms. Wilfred created a device he dubbed the Clavilux, from the Latin for "keyed light". This device was to light as a musical instrument is to sound; continuing the musical analogy, it had a turntable that rotated glass disks like records.

A modern analog to Lumia might be the abstract compositions of the screensaver Electric Sheep, created by feedback between millions of computers "dreaming" in sleep mode.
Electric Sheep screenshot from Wikimedia Commons.
Videos of both can be seen below the fold.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hydrogen atom living with necromancer

Most piroshki believe that living with hydrogen atom admonish defined by inferiority complex.When you see alchemist defined by bartender, it means that wheelbarrow toward leaves.widows remain curmudgeonly.Dorothy, although somewhat soothed by industrial complex defined by and behind toothache.
Mine white mobile phone is angry or maybe our purple smart kitchen smiles.
Her expensive hairy printer smells.
His stupid glasses stares.
Our green sofa sleeps.
Our silver underwares smiles.
Examples of spam poetry, randomly generated nonsense text used to trip up spam filters. Here is another, possibly even stranger: 
Did you see the PBS documentary about executives which claimed that children are often described as magicians? Children are very motherly towards women! Cat lovers spy on parasites. Why do hard rock geologists deny that the mailmen remind me of tax collectors? Cyborgs secretly admire subterraneans.Was it the topologists who told me that the bookworms show contempt for termites? Fathers search Yahoo for sites on quacks. Old-timers, for the most part, believe judges prefer to be called VCR owners. Technicians follow the herds of Sumo wrestlers. Ants sing sweetly to ghouls. Queen bees were raised by flatworms. Ants claim that the seismo-zombies pander to the whims of milkmen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Talking to the wall

I think these graffiti-covered walls may be the spiritual predecessors of Internet message boards.

Monday, November 1, 2010