of Unison

Starlings

Many have experienced first-hand flocking birds moving in a state of utter unity. For those who haven’t, here’s what you missed.

This phenomena became the focus of numerous academic papers theorizing how and why this harmonious collective behavior occurs while other academics attempted to employ this concept in solving computational problems. Many do not attribute this behavior to a particular leader, or birds following a neighbor. Instead it is believed that each bird sees a movement down the line and anticipates what to do next.

I am not an expert on the topic, but I stumbled upon a video of a flock of ducks moving in what seems to be a rural road in an eastern country that sparked the following idea attempting to answer the ‘how’ question.

I believe that this behavior is due to the lack of ego in each active agent of this particular group. Therefore preventing this agent from contesting or going against the direction of its direct neighbor. This ego usually manifesting in human interactions by the need to lead, mostly reflected in teams lacking complementarity of skills, and attitude. Eventually leading to disorganization.

Within a flock, each agent follows, without questioning, as if they possess this ‘implicit’ understanding that the collective good is greater than the ambition of the one. That any misdeed befalling the group is equivalent in magnitude to the misdeed befalling the one.

In other words, I attribute this behavior to the lack or suppression of a conscious ‘need’ to lead.

I might be completely wrong, given that this is a mere assumption based on a very shallow observation. However, I believe there is some form of wisdom to be acquired from these creatures who we, human beings, deem primitive.

Project Glass & Algorithms – Intrusive mixture?

Google Project Glass

 

Introduction

The first round soliciting early adopters (Glass Explorers) for Project Glass has been concluded. Lucky are the engineers/hackers who will first lay their hands on what is undoubtedly the ‘Next Big Thing’ in the augment reality field. I say so because for long we’ve been playing around and exploring augment reality applications, and even though some were very good at showcasing the potential of this field in the near feature and its impact on people’s lives, these apps lacked a primordial component. Glass.

What mobile phones couldn’t offer, Glass can. The ability to apply augmented information on top of real life visual feedback is a crucial element for an immersive augmented reality experience. Google through its videos of Glass has shown the world some basic features tightly related to their products. Now (or very soon) it will be up to the developers to explore the new realm of endless possibilities and applications for this new technology.

My personal interests revolve around meshing AI (Artificial Intelligence) with AR, which inevitably is the next technological leap.  Even though AI is still in a very premature phase, algorithms have reached a very satisfying level in data analysis thus statistical machine learning, predictive abilities, computer vision and image processing as well as speech recognition.

Alright, now what?

Now, Imagine The Following Scenarios

Coincidence or not, the Eulerian Video Magnification Algorithm has been developed and its open source implementation has already already been shared with the online community. To better understand what this computer vision algorithm is, watch the video below:

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The relevant part of the video and the part to be discussed in this post is the capacity to amplify frames from live streams of a camera to see things that are not visible to the naked eye. Merging this new ability with post-rendering analysis and nothing prevents the implementation of a Lie Detection module, currently feasible with a Polygraph or a Body Language interpretation module providing Glass with the capacity to suggest behavioral conduct.

Face.com have developed a platform for efficient and accurate facial recognition, which makes mapping a name to a face a simple matter of querying a large database of tagged faces. No one will be anonymous anymore. If you have a profile image of yourself somewhere on the web, chances are, mapping that face to a name is not a difficult thing to do.

I believe it’s only a matter of half a decade or so before we will be able to implement almost all the features of Sight depicted in the shortfilm below:

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The technology is mature enough to allow the development of an application that is capable of detecting a face among many other objects in a specific scene, map a name to the detected face, aggregate all publicly available information related to the name and finally display the relevant results on the HUD.

And it doesn’t require a multi-million dollar company or a research facility to develop the prototype! Most of the components necessary have already been developed and well documented, even variations of their implementations are available for free online. Heck, if I had Glass in my hands now, that’s the first thing I would be doing!

Privacy no more

Yep, well you guessed it, being anonymous to a group of people will be very hard soon. The only way to be totally anonymous is to be offline, but really, who is? Most people are discussing the matter of privacy on the level of social media sharing of footage and snapshots. That’s really only the first layer of the issue. I can’t predict the impact this will have on the daily human interactions knowing that one’s actions can be analysed in real time by a system, always, watching…

I suppose people will adapt, just like they did to previous life changing technologies. A lot will resist in the beginning but eventually everyone will be forced to be part of the new culture.

It happened before and it will happen again.

 

Different Laws of physics in different regions of the Universe?

Shifts in the fine structure constant alpha
Shifts in the fine structure constant alpha - Author Unknown - Image may be subject to copyright.

A discovery, although not proven yet, has great implications

A discovery published in the Physical Review Letters by J. K. WebbJ. A. KingM. T. MurphyV. V. FlambaumR. F. Carswell, and M. B. Bainbridge from the University of New South Wales discusses observations of variations of the electromagnetic couple constant (alpha) in other parts of the universe. The change of this constant mean a change in the Laws of Physics that govern that part of the Universe.

A very interesting article was written by one of the authors of the paper, you can find the link to it below:

http://theconversation.edu.au/is-life-on-earth-due-to-a-quirk-in-the-laws-of-physics-4153

This paper is highly controversial and skeptics are already working to disprove these observations. But “What if” the above was true? Could it mean we are alone in the Universe?

EteRNA – A game worth your time!

EteRNA-logo
EteRNA logo

EteRNA : The Game to create the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs

Scientists have done it again. In an attempt to have a broader understanding of cellular control, nanomachines and the role of the RNA – in addition to many other topics – scientists from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University have created EteRNA. It’s a community based game where you solve puzzles based on given design restrictions. The designs you create will be added to a large catalogue of designs that in turn will be tested against other existing computer programs. This attempt will “provide a crucial training ground that bridges the gap between the tutorials and the Lab” and since “many existing computer programs take a huge amount of time to solve large RNAs, and you are very likely to find better, faster ways.” (http://eterna.cmu.edu/htmls/abouteterna.html)

 

How to be part of the community?

It’s very simple really, go to http://eterna.cmu.edu/ create an account, go through the basic tutorial that will explain in detail what this is all about, and then you can start making a difference!

The game is very fun to play, very challenging and addictive. (So be warned!) Once you complete a challenge your score will increase and you will rank higher on the score board:

EteRNA Gameplay
EteRNA Gameplay

You have a multitude of puzzleschallenges to select from, and you have ratings for each challenge category. Start with the easier ones and once you get a full grasp of the concept move your way upwards. The interface is simple, it’s a combination of HTML pages but the main game is made using Adobe Flash (iPad, iPhone users, jump to your computer browsers).

EteRNA Puzzles
EteRNA Puzzles

The community is very large, some of the players have moved from previous projects such as FoldIt and have established their presence by creating groups for their members.

Groups-EteRNA
EteRNA - Groups
challenges-complete-EteRNA
Challenges complete - EteRNA

 

Conclusion

Once again computer games have proved to be not only a resource of leisure and fun but an essential tool to help the scientific community progress. The rewardranking approach has also proved its power in user engagement.