Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[glclwnby] Mass extinction tour of the universe

Paleontologists hypothesize many mechanisms by which mass extinctions on Earth could have occurred, not all of which can be true.  However, it is fun to speculate other planets in which a given theory has occurred.  Create a hard science fiction show based on the premise of witnessing these interesting events, rare coincidences of various biological, geological, and physical forces.  Even though the exact conditions of a hypothesis may not have occurred on Earth, it is plausible that they have occurred somewhere in the universe. (Your standard disaster / end-of-the-world flick, except grounded in science.)

Inspired by a scenario of catastrophic degassing of carbon dioxide from the deep global ocean described below.

Tracking the Course of Evolution


by Richard Cowen


However, after about 255 Ma the radiolarians become rarer toward the P-Tr boundary, and across the boundary there are none at all, suggesting that Panthalassa became anoxic right to the surface. Long after the extinction, around 245 Ma, the surface waters again became oxygenated enough to support radiolarians, but the deep waters were anoxic until about 240 Ma.

If Panthalassa became anoxic right to the surface, this in itself would cause a catastrophic extinction of marine organisms.


Andrew Knoll and his colleagues have suggested that the extinction was caused by a catastrophic overturn of an ocean supersaturated in carbon dioxide. This would result in tremendous, close to instantaneous, degassing that would roll a cloud of (dense) carbon dioxide over the ocean surface and low-lying coastal areas. An analog might be the recent catastrophic degassing of Lake Nyos, in the Cameroon, where hundreds of people were killed as carbon dioxide degassed from a volcanic lake and cascaded down valleys nearby. The difference is that the proposed P-Tr disaster was global.

In this scenario, the carbon dioxide build-up results from the global geography that included the gigantic ocean Panthalassa. Knoll and colleagues speculated that the abnormal ocean circulation in Panthalassa did not include enough downward transport of oxygenated surface water to keep the deep water oxygenated.

[eaxdonkw] Unexpected acts of kindness

Under what conditions is an act of kindness met with gratitude?  Under what conditions is it not?  We assume that the act was beneficial to the receiver.

Hypothesize social class differences, but many other things are likely going on.

Does acting kind only to maximize gratitude received result in a socially optimal allocation of kindness?  Probably not.

Monday, September 29, 2014

[tseqomnf] Financial aid and date rape

We assume that there has been an increase in the prevalence of rape, especially date rape, on college campuses.  Hypothesize that the cause of the increase is a unintended consequence of increased access to college for all social classes as a result of government financial aid.

We hypothesize that the mechanism is that people are less likely to consent to sex with people of the "wrong" social class, for whatever definition their social class defines as "wrong".  (Also, we hypothesize more likely to falsely accuse rape.)  Outside of college, social and physical barriers would have prevented them from ever meeting in a situation in which sex, or rape, would have been possible.

This hypothesis can be tested by comparing accusations of rape with amount of financial aid received by the accused and accused, using amount of financial aid as a proxy for social class.

[ifgvupdi] Homosexuality and power

Assume power will always and unavoidably be abused to acquire sex.

One way to avoid the abuse is to have power structures populated entirely by the same sex.  But homosexuality throws a wrench into this plan.

Is this the root of the resentment against gay people, a very rational fear of the abuse of power?  Making them second-class citizens would prevent them from acquiring power.

Another solution is to somehow decrease the stigma and harm of homosexual and heterosexual rape, very broadly defining rape as the abuse of power to acquire sex.

[zxrhouna] Borat Anthem

Put the words to the fake Kazakh national anthem sung by Borat (32 minutes into the movie) over the tune of the Soviet national anthem.

[nztapjia] Alkaline phone charger

The total energy a traditional alkaline battery can supply is inversely proportional to the power draw.

This suggests an alkaline battery mobile phone charger that charges a phone extremely slowly to maximize usefulness of the alkaline.  However, such slow charging is very inconvenient, so better is a large bank of batteries (in parallel) that together can charge a phone at reasonable speed, but each individual battery is drained very slowly.

Inspired by the iGo charger, which drains 2 AA batteries very quickly, within hours, so probably not an efficient transfer of the energy contained in them.  Although a bank of many batteries as described above would be heavy, it would be no worse than the current situation with the iGo in which I end up needing to carry a large collection of fresh batteries anyway because how quickly they get consumed.

Perhaps a dial to trade off charging time versus efficiency.

[lkvimpnn] Borg matrix

The Borg invade the alpha quadrant and the result is actually a curb-stomp victory for them.  Their defeat depicted in Best Of Both Worlds part 2 and every episode afterwards is actually just a dream, Picard's dream, a simulated reality projected into the minds of assimilated drones to keep them mentally healthy, exactly in the style of The Matrix.

Inspired by Species 8472.  The Borg are powerful enough to be attempting to conquer other universes; a mere quadrant of a galaxy isn't going to stop them.  While not canonical, more realistic is the Borg have already conquered most of this universe, not just the Delta quadrant.

Unless the distance between galaxies is so great that it is easier to get to other universes than other galaxies.

[risjawik] Catenary length and angle

Consider a catenary hung between two points of equal height.  What is the relationship between arc length and angle of the chain at the endpoints?

Form a right angle between consecutive buntings.

[kwabfooq] Star Trek nonlinear time

Q and the wormhole aliens have a nice conversation about nonlinear time where neither side finds the concept unusual.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

[ecdmvdmy] Self-repairing starship

Realistically the best way for a starship to survive extended voyages in outer space is for it to aggressively be able to repair itself.  This is the same strategy employed by life.

I've only seen it in villains' ships, e.g., the Borg.  Perhaps audiences are creeped out by mechanical things acting intelligently as if alive.

Previously about surviving space battles.

Inspired by designing a robot to avoid damage in collisions. Humans' collision avoidance also includes the ability to heal.

[valgoyln] Transparency of sluggishness

A sluggish UI is bad, but worse is a sluggish UI that the user can't know or understand why it is suddenly slow.

"top" is one of the most important programs to deploy on a device.  This philosophy contrasts with a current mentality of trying to conceal what a computer (or especially a smartphone) is doing behind the scenes.

[acuupnqy] Very small perpetuities

Is the world made better by making it easy for regular people to set up perpetuities to pay other people?  The difference between a bank account paying interest is the receiver does not have access to the principal.

[motkskfw] Acoustic optimization

Someone sounds are pleasant, some unpleasant.

Hypothesize that acoustic instruments have become optimized over hundreds of years to produce the most pleasant sounds possible in a locally maximized way.  That is, an electronic synthesizer which can produce slight variations of a sound of an acoustic instrument can do no better.

Alternatively, hypothesize that the sound of acoustic instruments were constrained heavily by physical limitations, so a huge universe of more pleasant sounds awaits to be electronically generated.

Electronic can almost certainly produce sounds more unpleasant than acoustic. Arrange Holst's "Mars" to better depict the horrors of modern warfare.

[stqwswra] More Star Trek

To create more fiction in the style of Gene Roddenberry in which members of society get along with each other, enumerate the reasons and situations in which currently we do not get along.

There are many issues regarding sex.

Inspired by commentary that Roddenberry disapproved of the plot of Star Trek 6 because we were supposed to have eliminated racism by then.

[psxjgyfu] Monospace for editing text

Text that is to be edited should be in monospace font if arrow keys are not provided, for example on smartphone touchscreen keyboards.  It is very difficult to precisely position a cursor among narrow characters in proportional font using mouse or touchscreen.

The same could be said about text that is to be selected, i.e., for copy and paste.  However, those two encompass all uses of text.  Perhaps the key is for the user to be able to change the font of any displayed text to suit the need at hand.

[eoeizfxw] Formula One computer chess

Chess matches or tournaments between computers have a bit of a problem that the computers can be made to play better using special or expensive hardware not generally available (e.g., clusters or supercomputers), and supported by humans porting, carefully tuning the software and hardware, and developing custom opening books.  Such resources are not generally available to all chess programs.

Create a special form of tournament open only to richly funded chess programs and their human teams.  The ultimate goal is to produce the highest quality chess games ever played.  (But will this produce higher quality games than computer-assisted correspondence chess?)

Before the tournament, there is a qualifying phase where they must demonstrate to play better than all other off-the-shelf programs running on top-end commodity hardware (vaguely analogous to stock cars versus F1).  It is possible that if the best off-the-shelf program is very good, no one will get past qualifying.

After qualifying, the computer monsters and their teams square off.

Time control is Game in 10 hours, quite a bit longer than human games, but computers don't get tired.  The computer should be able to run unattended except to start the game.  Games finish in 20 hours at most, allowing 4 hours for hardware maintenance between games if necessary.  One game a day lines up with human schedules for any daily maintenance or additional tuning per game, for example, improving the opening book.

Such a long time control probably makes infeasible playing out alternate moves. Perhaps that is something best left for "stock car" competitions.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

[mvegdhpt] Concealing that an app accesses the network

In browsing apps on the Google Play Store, it is now much more difficult to notice whether an app has, for example, access only to your location, or access to your location and full internet access.  These are hugely different with regards to privacy.  This seems to go blatantly against "Don't be evil", and I wonder how such a change made it through Google's supposedly rigorous mechanisms to prevent corporate evil.

We want more than ever to be able to revoke app permissions.

Simplified permissions on Google Play


Note: These days, apps typically access the Internet, so network communication permissions including the “full Internet access” permission have been moved out of the primary permissions screen. 

[lqdnlcoh] Snub polyhedra

Explode radially outward the faces of a polyhedron, then rotate each face by the same angle.  Form the convex hull, adding edges (somehow) to avoid curved surfaces like the hyperbolic paraboloid.

Vaguely similarly previously: Octahedral gears

Inspired by, it is easy to visualize rotating a shape on a single axis, even having it deform due to the twisting, but twisting on multiple axes simultaneously is hard to imagine.

Monday, September 22, 2014

[elcjxzyc] Chess on arbitrary graphs

Simplest: pieces can move one step along any edge connected to their current node.  Analogous to a chess king.

Add colors to edges.  Some pieces can only move along certain colored edges.  Analogous to diagonal versus orthogonal movement.  Some pieces make one step along one color edge, then another step on another color edge: analogous to a knight.

Create a relationship among edges adjacent to a node.  Pieces entering through one edge can "connect to" another edge, exiting out that way.  This permits ranged pieces like queen, rook, and bishop.  It also permits limiting the second "diagonal" step of the knight.

We can then go beyond orthodox chess by adding adding directed edges and weights to edges: pieces can only move where the sum of the edges traversed is less than their budget for that move.

Simpler and more general is for each piece type, a graph of node connectivity.  There remains the tricky problem of pieces blocking the progress of ranged pieces.  Most generally, each directed edge gets annotated with a predicate which must be satisfied to reach the destination node.

Motivation is to create massive and complex games for general game playing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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