Thursday, August 18, 2016

[nuyqalxo] Reflow sheet music

With people reading sheet music on smartphones and tablets these days, the ability to automatically zoom and reflow sheet music would be useful.  Perhaps Lilypond.

More radically, create a way to denote music as pure text (perhaps Unicode) so that text reflow engines can be reused.  This seems difficult as music is so complicated that a two-dimensional layout seems necessary.  I suppose two-dimensional layout engines do also exist, e.g., CSS box model.

[pheibypu] Occasionally transparent Rubik's cube

In a virtual Rubik's cube, one could see all six faces simultaneously if the front face become partially transparent.  Perhaps the front face turns into colored frames while the back face turns into colored centered dots.

[wwcuswwy] De Bruijn chords

Identify a collection of chords and play the de Bruijn sequence of all, say, 3-chord sequences of them, perhaps arpeggiated like Prelude in C.  Perhaps I ii iii IV V vi V7 and inversions.  This should be easy.

De Bruijn sequences are cyclic, so the song can loop forever.


[bdnfblzy] Hexagonal tiling road layout

Consider laying out a city as hexagonal blocks, instead of rectangular as typically done.  Three roads, instead of four, meet at intersections.  There are no straight roads, which might be effective for traffic calming.

[icnmwpjw] Link to personal information

Instead of providing an entity, e.g., a company, with your personal information, provide a URL to a server providing your information.  The data could be hosted on a personal server that you control.  When you wish to remove permission for that company to have and use your personal information, simply remove the information from that URL.  You should provide each different company a different URL for your information, in order to be able to selectively retract permission.

A promise not to download and cache your personal information is done by legal agreements and audits.

If you are lazy or don't care to protect your information, you can provide a data URI containing your information directly.

Probably also negotiate a cryptographic key so that only the designated company can decrypt the information posted at the URL, not anyone eavesdropping in between.  Easiest would be to use a public key of the company, the same one used in the SSL HTTPS certificate to establish the identity of the company.  That is a key the company will credibly protect.

[reoqxvum] Cinderella and the definition of midnight

The fairy godmother's magic will expire at midnight (which incidentally is a terrible deadline for an evening social event), but they discuss the finer details of exactly what is meant by midnight, including the unstable rotation of the earth and general relativistic effects.

[lxcgpaqx] Crazyhouse small endgames

Consider positions in crazyhouse or shogi in which the total number of pieces on the board and in the hands of both players, is very small, similar to chess endgames.  Such positions can never occur in a actual crazyhouse or shogi game because the total number of pieces remains constant from the beginning of the game.

With a small number of pieces, ground truth can be calculated with a tablebase.  Are there any interesting endgames?

This is different from tsume shogi, which assumes all the remaining pieces are in the hand of your opponent.

[oqpcnizl] Jenny

8675309 in binary is 100001000101111111101101, a cute message to steganographically encode as a joke.  Other bases might sometimes be possible, though the occasions seem rarer.

perl -we 'for(2..100){print "$_ ",qx(echo "obase=$_;8675309"|bc)}'

Also consider other binary encodings.

Monday, August 15, 2016

[kctmprub] Selecting function arguments by type

Some programming languages permit a function to refer the arguments passed to it by number instead of by name, for example, Perl's @_ array.

We propose a similar mechanism of referring to function arguments by type.  This can only be done if there is only one argument of the given type in the list of parameters.  We introduce a special keyword, ARGUMENT_OF_TYPE, which when used with a type yields the desired argument.  Below, we use a syntax inspired by Haskell.

replicate_strings :: Int -> String -> String;
replicate_strings UNNAMED UNNAMED = concat $ intersperse " " $ replicate (ARGUMENT_OF_TYPE::Int) (ARGUMENT_OF_TYPE::String);

Somewhat more ambitious, possibly more confusing, would be to have type inference figure out which argument is needed.

replicate_strings :: Int -> String -> String;
replicate_strings UNNAMED UNNAMED = concat $ intersperse " " $ replicate ARGUMENT_OF_TYPE ARGUMENT_OF_TYPE;

The keyword UNNAMED marks the function arguments subject to this kind of inference.  They are awkward, but without them, it may be difficult or awkward for a function to return a function, i.e., it is a higher order function.  Perhaps it has a polymorphic return type which might or might not be function.

More ambitiously, if the arguments are of distinct types, then there could be some mechanism by which the order of the arguments at the call site does not matter.  Previously related ideas, for multiple element tuples and pairs.

Another idea: instead of UNNAMED being a keyword, let the parameters be user-chosen identifiers that do not have to be different for each parameter, but if they have the same name, they must be different types.  Add a (possibly optional) OVERLOADED_PARAMETER annotation to make things less confusing to others reading the code:

replicate_strings2 :: Int -> String -> Int -> String -> (String, String);
replicate_strings2 (OVERLOADED_PARAMETER x) (OVERLOADED_PARAMETER x) (OVERLOADED_PARAMETER y) (OVERLOADED_PARAMETER y) = (concat $ intersperse " " $ replicate (x::Int) (x::String), concat $ intersperse " " $ replicate (y::Int) (y::String))

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

[jumezmtx] Basketball from the sidelines

Consider modifying basketball to permit additional players playing outside the sidelines, but who must stay outside so can take shots only from outside: these end up being very long distance shots.

Devilish details: is the defense permitted to go out of bounds to guard these shooters?  When is a ball truly out of bounds?  Perhaps when the ball touches the ground, so these outside players never dribble but maybe may run with the ball.

Perhaps opens the game to shorter, older, or female shooting specialists.

[kedcrqyq] Batman Fledermaus mashup

Create a mashup of Batman and die Fledermaus operetta, both stories about a man dressed as a bat.

Monday, August 08, 2016

[rjnzvvjo] Password entropy

Instead of complicated rules about how long and what characters a password must contain, simply require it have a certain amount of entropy, as measured by an easily available text compression program.

Google's Brotli might be a good candidate, since it is primed with a sophisticated language model.  Alternatively, specify a prefix string to prime some other text compression algorithm.

All this is probably wanted in Javascript.

Inspired by, I would prefer to type a longer string of lowercase letters than add other kinds of characters.

[dqtsykci] Stepped cone

A circular stepped pyramid can be constructed as a stack of discs of decreasing size, like towers of Hanoi, or as a collection of nested concentric rings or tubes.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

[qkminaot] Terabyte NTFS format over USB 2.0

Formatting a 1 terabyte external hard drive connected over USB 2.0 using mkfs.ntfs (omitting the -Q option), Celeron 900 processor, took 9 hours and 54 minutes.  28 megabytes per second, well in line with reports that USB 2 has a real world maximum of about 30 megabytes per second (out of 60 theoretical).

[fgkqteji] Numerical chess pieces

Yet another language neutral method of denoting chess pieces is by number.  The pieces fairly naturally have a ranking by strength or importance: pawn=1, knight=2, bishop=3, rook=4, queen=5, king=6.  Inspired by, figurines are hard to type and read.

Reminiscent of baseball fielding position numbers and basketball position numbers.

Unfortunately, we cannot convert SAN notation to purely numerical (also substituting the a through h files as 1 through 8) because Raa1 and R1a1 would both translate to 4111.

[maqeoeyu] Publishing and consuming knowledge

What should be the interchange format for knowledge transfer between humans?  Writing?  Speech?  Video?

Writing is easier to do than producing video.  However, often video is easier to consume than reading: it is easier to learn from video.  (However, that might be an illusion.  Because of the high costs and barriers to entry to produce video, videos might be skewed toward people who have the resources to produce high quality content, regardless of medium.)  Inspired in part by, online learning heavily incorporates video these days.

In the future, I suspect we can get the best of both worlds using artificially intelligent computers as intermediaries.  When producing content, i.e., recording knowledge, the human will interact with a computer with some interface that is easy for the human, perhaps writing, perhaps a question and answer session with speech, with the computer asking questions.  The computer translates the interaction into some machine-readable knowledge format and that gets published.  When a human consumes content, i.e., learns knowledge, a computer reads the stored format and re-renders it into a format that is easy for the human to consume.  This output format might be completely different from the input format in which the data was originally recorded.  Perhaps the output is a video lecture with a virtual presenter.  Or another question and answer session, but with the human asking the questions.

Creating such a system is a very ambitious goal.

[fzcsngkw] Plus signs

There is a bug somewhere in the blogging software I use in which plus signs sometimes, but not always, get turned into spaces, as if URL encoding is being incorrectly applied somewhere.  The following is an arithmetic equation: 2 2 = 4.

[txqwdosn] User authenticated system integrity

At the beginning of the boot process, the computer checks for the existence of a file at a hardcoded location.  That file is a program with an authentication tag (MAC).  If the file does not exist, the computer does some error behavior, perhaps proceeding with boot for backward compatibility.  If it does exist, the computer asks the user for the key to verify the authentication tag.  If the key is correct and the MAC verifies, the computer immediately forgets the key and runs the program.  If not, some other error behavior.

The program is a system integrity checker.  Key points: the user has control over both the key and the program, so there are no DRM issues of users being restricted about what they can do with their computer.  Because the key is forgotten before the main operating system boot, malware running within the OS cannot alter the integrity checking program with something else by stealing the key.

Devilish details, most notably: occasionally, perhaps often, the integrity checker will need to be updated so the authentication tag will need to be recomputed.  This requires the key, so provides malware using a keystroke logger or other spoofing an opportunity to steal the key.

[djhnwnvl] From Manning to Brexit

Chelsea Manning releases Cablegate.  Cablegate causes Arab Spring.  Arab Spring causes the Syrian civil war.  The Syrian civil war causes refugee migration into Europe.  Refugees bring xenophobia into the forefront, causing Brexit.  Brexit might cause World War III.

Potential flaws in the reasoning: Arab Spring might have occurred without Cablegate.  The Syrian civil war might have occurred regardless.  Xenophobia as a political issue happens all the time.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

[mlhicfvd] Neutron gun

Creating superheavy elements could be done with a 3 way collision: two lighter elements and third stream of neutrons.  This is probably not done because simultaneous 3 way (and greater multi-way) collisions are rare.

One place where neutron flux is extremely high is inside a detonating nuclear bomb.  Some new elements were discovered in early bomb tests.  Is the ban on bomb testing preventing extending the periodic table?  The tricky part might be confirming the creation of a new element amidst the bomb going off: the new element might persist for a time period far too short to go in, collect samples, and do chemistry.

[phujouwb] Baseball without home runs except in extra innings

As before, we propose eliminating the home run, but just from the first 9 innings of baseball.  Instead of foul as before, it counts as an automatic double (incorrectly often called a ground-rule double) similar to if a ball bounces in play and goes over any fence.

We bring back home runs only for extra innings, and extra innings are played as sudden death for both teams, because we want the game to end as soon as possible.  All home runs become walk-offs, increasing the drama.

[vlfnaakh] Touchscreen trackball

A touchscreen can function like a trackball or trackpad, though no one does this.  First tap with your finger to the gross location, then switch to trackpad mode to finely adjust the location of the cursor.  There can be acceleration depending on finger sliding speed.

[osveremh] References by your school

A university library collects academic papers (and books, etc.) published by faculty and students; this is common.  Go further by also collecting -- keeping a local copy of -- every work cited in their published works.  Librarians can exercise judgment by picking perhaps only the important cited works.  Also, maintain a reverse index for every such item, which locally authored paper cites it.

Similar idea and motivation as previous.

[ctpslunt] N consonants and vowels

Identify a set of N consonants and N vowels such that any two can be combined to make a syllable.  This should be easy.  There is some elegance in the same number of each: usually there are more consonants; however, this is mostly a solution in search of a problem.

The vowels half can be made more numerous by extending it to vowel plus ending consonant.

Avoid pairs of consonants that are difficult to distinguish acoustically, e.g., S and F after a low pass filter.

[smibyfke] Reforesting Easter Island

Consider restoring the forests of Easter Island.  First need to eliminate the rats which killed all the trees.

It's sufficiently desolate that people might leave most of the land alone, other than the tourist attractions.  Or will we insist on agriculture?

[kcopvjsu] Disappearing into the shadows

The character's superpower is the ability to literally disappear into the shadows: easy to depict in comic illustration and animation.

Noir.  Chiaroscuro.

[arrinaku] Gun culture everywhere

Everywhere has social stratification.  Everywhere, the justice system does not care about the lower classes: the lower classes cannot afford lawyers to settle civil disputes between themselves in court.

Lacking lawyers, settling civil disputes, e.g. enforcement of contracts, has to be accomplished somehow, so everywhere we would expect the lower classes to resort to violence.

Guns are the most effective tool for violence, so we would expect to see gun violence everywhere, or if not, a tremendous demand for guns everywhere.  However, among first world countries, gun culture seems unique to the United States.  Why?

Enumerate the possibilities:

Gun control is so extremely effective in other first world countries, shutting down smuggling, black markets, and illegal manufacture despite extremely high demand.

The poor, perhaps aided by socialism, all have access to the justice system for settling disputes.

The poor do not have disputes, perhaps as a consequence of a highly homogenous society.

The poor who would have disputes with each other are kept strictly segregated.

There are other effective mechanisms for dispute resolution among the poor that are more effective than violence, perhaps a social class structure with well enforced mechanisms for punishment by demotion.

[vxphkaco] Flaw or beauty of chess

Chess has a flaw that it is possible to compose beautiful problem or study positions, but such positions almost never occur in a real game.  Consider modifying the game somehow so that such beauty happens more often.

Alternatively, this flaw could be considered a benefit.  Go 囲碁 problems tend to be similar to game positions; it does not have anything special beyond that for those bored of positions that occur in games.

Friday, August 05, 2016

[zfbgjzqo] Very short screen careers

Actresses, for example in Hollywood, typically have very short careers compared to male actors.  Many, perhaps most, actresses become no longer employable when they are no longer young and pretty.

When an actress becomes no longer employable, all the investment in creating the actress, the search effort in discovering her, the acting training and experience, the screenwriting effort in creating characters embodied by that actress, the trust relationships with producers, directors, and other actors, all gets thrown away.

This is all very expensive from the Hollywood's point of view.  Hollywood would prefer to be able to reuse the same actress, or pool of actresses, for many years, so as not to have to invest effort in discovering and training new ones.  Hollywood would very much prefer -- motivated by their financial bottom line -- that society not obsess over the latest pretty young starlet, discarding last week's model like a used Kleenex.

But Hollywood does not get what it wants, try as it may.

The purpose of this essay was to illustrate that media reflects society.  Media does not shape society (even though those calling for censorship insist that it does), because if Hollywood could reshape society so as to be able to reuse actresses for longer, then it certainly would have.

[vsxzknux] Disney theme parks as a Veblen good

I've heard anecdotally that Disney World raised its ticket prices but then attendance counterintuitively increased.

The most likely reason is the economy improved so more people went; the growth effect exceeded the decrease in demand due to price increase.

However, we can speculate that a different mechanism might be going on.  Disney World -- or anywhere -- is populated by two kinds of people: rich people from all over the country and world who can afford the travel and vacation time off from work, and poorer people from the local surrounding area whose travel costs are very low and can make a day trip of it.

Rich people do not like to be around poor people.  This may be especially true in the American South, where poor people include the subculture of rednecks and white trash, and rich people feel especially uncomfortable around places with lots of such people.  Because of the high numbers of people visiting from the local surrounding areas, Disney World does have a bit of a feel of a white trash playground.

Increasing park entry fee prices would most increase the relative cost of the trip for those coming from the local surrounding area, whose travel costs are low: this will cause less poor people to attend.  This would make the park more attractive in the eyes of the rich, causing the counterintuitive increase in demand.

Disney is not a fixed good: one's experience depends on who else attends.

[uqgsjflr] Human computer komi match

A human plays a computer in a go 囲碁 match.  After each game the komi is adjusted depending on the outcome.  The komi should be the greatest handicap at which the human has yet to beat the computer.

Different komi for white and black.

This especially works well if the computer is deterministic (as it should be).  There is no need to play again if the human has already beaten the computer at a given handicap; the human can simply repeat the moves to win again.

[lpsqitml] Emperor as civil engineer

Tell a story, ignoring the Star Wars prequel movies, of the Emperor's rise to power not as a politician but as an engineer.

Inspired by the Emperor visiting the second Death Star to personally oversee its final construction: he does this not to be a micromanaging bureaucrat but because he is the best in the galaxy at construction.

Mechanical engineers build bombs; civil engineers build targets.  Which is the Death Star?

[vbwhhfmm] Cities of the world

Draw a map of the world, omitting country borders but including cities.  Country borders are tricky, often in conflict, but (probably) no one disputes there is a city there.

Perhaps some conflict over city names, though the name reflects the publisher of the map (including obvious things like the language of the publisher, which may be different from the language spoken in the city), or whether a certain city is one city or more than one.

Many other non-disputed map features are also useful: natural physical, roads.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

[hfuwqlxj] Selecting checkerboard squares by grain

Consider the task of selecting a square on a checkerboard, on a touchscreen interface using one's fat fingers.  (E.g., chess UI on a smartphone)  To select a black square, swipe horizontally between the two white squares to the left and right of the black square.  To select a white square, swipe vertically between the two black squares above and below the white square.

The UI can accurately distinguish between a horizontal and vertical swipe, which reduces the uncertainty by one half of which square was attempted to be selected, and a checkerboard pattern keeps the squares corresponding to different swipe directions far apart.

This could be extended to 4 different square types, with 4 different swipe directions and a 4 color "checkerboard" pattern.  Need some design that provides a visual aid about which direction to swipe.

Can it be extended to 8 different swipe directions (diagonals)?  Can it be extended to a hexagonal grid?  I think yes, though the patterns of which square (or hex) is which direction is less elegant.

It cannot be straightforwardly extended to higher dimensions.  In 3 dimensions, there are 6 different orthogonal swipe directions, but natural checkerboard-like unit cell contains 8 cubes.

[haqntroz] Element cards

Create a deck of cards, one for each element.  On the front, nuclear properties, e.g., isotopes and radioactive decay.  On the back, chemical properties, e.g., oxidation states.  Not sure where density should go, a product of both.

Chemistry is the science of the outermost electron shell, while nuclear science is of course about the nucleus.  The filled inner electron shells get no love.

Monday, August 01, 2016

[jzvpuown] Soccer innings

Soccer can easily be made more TV broadcast friendly by having more, and shorter, periods instead of just 2 halves.  Maybe 8 10-minute innings, with commercial breaks in between.

Perhaps players substituted during a period break may reenter.

[wvwahyiy] Sudden death baseball

Consider modifying the rules of baseball extra innings such that, starting at, say, the top of the 19th inning, the first team to score wins.  It becomes possible for the visiting team to score a walk-off run at the top of an inning.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

[tstzdlrm] You caught a Riemann zeta zero!

Create a game in the style of Pokemon Go based on "catching", or encountering, zeroes of the Riemann Zeta function in the critical strip.  Maybe you could become the first to catch a mythical double-zero off the critical line, a monster conjectured not to exist.

Different Dirichlet L-functions (Generalized Riemann Hypothesis), different segments of the critical strip, depending on time, location, user.

Imaginary axis proportional to time, scaled by T log T, probably inverting with the Lambert W function.

Monday, July 25, 2016

[jcdsfmrs] Classical record reviews

Listened to a few LPs.

Pictures at An Exhibition, Mussorgsky-Ravel, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Ernest Ansermet, London Records, 1979.  Very nice sounding "The Great Gate of Kiev".

Pictures at An Exhibition, Mussorgsky-Ravel, Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Angel, 1979.  Not a very inspiring "The Great Gate of Kiev".

Waldteufel Waltzes, Album 2, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Willi Boskovsky, Angel - EMI - Capitol, 1978.  Emile Waldteufel writes nice waltzes similar to Johann Strauss II.

[leijaltq] Typeof as a type

Wherever one can specify a type, let it be possible to use "TYPE_OF(EXPRESSION)" instead.  For example, it can be used in type signatures and declarations of type synonyms.  Here is an example with syntax similar to Haskell:

A library has functions

f1 :: Int -> Foo;
f1 i = ...
f2 :: Foo -> Int;
f2 f = ...

The user's code importing the library might do something like

type MyFoo = TYPE_OF(f1 undefined);
intermediate :: MyFoo;
intermediate = f1 42;

consume_intermediate :: Int;
consume_intermediate = f2 intermediate;

If a new version of the library were to rename Foo into Bar, the user's code would still work unmodified.  (It is irrelevant whether the library exports Foo, later Bar, though not exporting the type would force the user to use TYPE_OF or avoid explicit type signatures, which seems silly.)

This feature could be useful during development if the names of things are not yet decided (bike shedding), but we do know how we want to use them.

The compiler will have to flag errors of circular references of TYPE_OF.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

[aseyesfi] Outflow boundary

A gust front / outflow boundary seen on radar preceding a thunderstorm that produced hail.  The gust front produced a tiny amount of rain when it passed.

Radar image animation of gust front / outflow boundary preceding a thunderstorm

Alternate image location.

Friday, July 22, 2016

[ltxdpvgz] Flurry jets

Consider a point traveling through space emitting jets of particles in (say) 6 directions corresponding to the vertices of a regular octahedron.

The orientation of the point, consequently the direction of the jets, tumbles, and the point itself moves around space.  The jet particles continue moving according to the velocity they had when they were released, so the particle's motion paints a complicated picture of seemingly curving often spiraling jets.

Inspired by the Mac Flurry screensaver, though this is an extremely expensive way to model it, requiring simulating a large number of jet particles.

Add relativistic effects.

[ptwxkfgg] Animations of chemical reactions

Create a very large collection of animations of chemical reactions showing atoms moving between representations of molecules.  Unlimited novelty.

In theory, every reaction can run both directions, a rocker animation.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

[aykigsev] High wattage electric tea kettle

The high prevalence of NEMA 5-20R receptacles (outlets) (with the T shaped hole on one side) makes me wonder why there aren't more consumer appliances with a NEMA 5-20P plug.  The 5-20P plug may draw 20 amps instead of 15 of the common 5-15P plug, or, multiplying by 120 volts, 2400 watts instead of 1800 watts.

More wattage could be especially useful for electric kettles, computer power supplies, hair dryers, space heaters, air conditioners.

Product packaging can prominently label that it has a 5-20P plug so requires a 5-20R outlet.  People who do sketchy things like use a plug adapter to plug a 5-20P plug into a 5-15R outlet will get what they deserve, probably a tripped circuit breaker.

One could draw even more power using a 208V/240V outlet and plug, but that's usually only present in at most one place in the home, for the electric clothes dryer.

[miclqdco] Letters to keep far apart

Take the N most common words and identify words that differ by only one letter.  Enumerate the letter pairs which should be kept far apart on a keyboard layout.

Inspired by problems with (if of) (this thus) (*es *ed) on QWERTY soft keyboards.

Alternatively, given a keyboard layout, score it against the top N most common words.  First, enumerate the adjacent letters in the layout, then count the number of pairs of words that differ by only one adjacent pair, then two adjacent pairs to break ties, etc.

[idtzcdrs] More transparent dating site

A dating site allows people to rank or filter people; this is common if not universal.  Add the additional feature of a person's ranking function or filters being features by which someone else can rank or filter by.  Filter people by their filters.

The canonical example of when this might be desirable is someone looking to date someone who restricts him or herself to a certain religion.

Sometimes, a person's filters are not explicit but are implicit in the choices they make on whom to contact or ignore.  Let such implicit filters also be criteria for others to rank; they may have to be derived through machine learning.  Presenting the learned results will be a UI (UX) challenge.  Essentially, one's entire behavior on the dating site is grounds for being judged.

Of course, this might lead to madness, lots of strategic or deceptive behavior.  Probably need to thwart people creating multiple accounts.

[kwmmtnvn] Delta angular momentum

We imagine a spinning object like the sun.  Each time period, it get hits by a comet coming from a random direction in 3D, imparting a small impulse of angular momentum.  Over time, the sun's axis and rate of rotation changes, a random walk.

This can easily be modeled with vectors.  The sun's angular momentum, or angular velocity, is a vector (encoding axis and rate), and each colliding comet is another vector.  Add the two vectors in the normal way to get the new angular momentum or velocity of the sun.  It seems almost too easy.

This yields an object which rotates whose axis of rotation constantly changes.

To avoid these Dirac delta function impulses, one can integrate bounded height infinitesimal vectors over time, maybe a rectangle or a triangle or a nice spline going up then down.

To avoid the object from spinning too fast, one can add a resistance term to the integration or differential equation.

[kiixetvf] Prerequisites for changing the world

In order to change the world, you need to (well, you should) understand how the world works.  The way the world works is often very ugly.  Are you prepared to understand such ugliness?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

[msnhydsl] Dangerous caustics

Most people can recognize that convex lenses and concave mirrors can concentrate sunlight to dangerous intensities, perhaps igniting fires.  However, are there other less famous shapes which can concentrate almost as well?

Inspired by the caustics of a glass cup.  By adjusting both the inner and outer shapes (while still keeping it a surface of revolution), it seems one could conceal lens-like concentrating power from certain angles.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

[uffggnqt] Sound is cheap

In the past, publishing a sound recording was expensive, consuming a physical medium with very limited space: vinyl record, tape, CD.  Typical limit was about 15 songs on a CD, and then there is the packaging and shipping cost of the medium.

Nowadays, both with much higher density media as well as digital downloads, the cost of publishing sound is much, much lower.

A performer records a song, and then a sound engineer mixes it to make it sound just right.  In the past with limited and expensive media space, it made sense to publish only that final mix.

Nowadays, however, also publishing lots of different versions, or even the unmixed studio recordings (a track for each microphone), costs but a minuscule amount more than publishing just one track.  Of course, this requires a very different artistic philosophy than before, perhaps embracing remix culture, one which not all artists may agree.  However, artists can continue publishing just the one gold master if they wish.

Inspired by, how many songs can be published on a DVD, using modern audio compression?

Friday, July 15, 2016

[ooxwtlbm] Accretion disks in higher dimensions

It is curious that in both 2 and 3 dimensions, matter converging toward a point, e.g., a black hole, forms a 2 dimensional accretion disk.  What happens in higher dimensions?  I speculate that in sufficiently high dimensions it is not a 2D disk; there is enough space for perturbations to cause a disk structure not to be stable.

[hkjjutrv] Riemann zeta convergence

Using tricks, namely analytic continuation, we can get the natural numbers 1 + 2 + 3 + ... to sum to a mindboggling finite value, namely zeta(-1) = -1/12.  However, no tricks can get the reciprocals of the natural numbers, the harmonic series, 1/1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + ... = zeta(1) to converge.  It is truly a pole.  This is surprising because the harmonic series seems less outrageously infinite than the sum of the natural numbers.

What characterizes divergent series which can be summed versus those which cannot?

Update: some tricks can make the harmonic series to sum to gamma, the Euler-Mascheroni constant.

[kvdnjiez] Longevity of magnetization

Magnetostratiography demonstrates that under certain conditions, magnetization can persist for a very long time, millions if not billions of years, much longer than (say) paper or engraving onto stone.  This might be good news for magnetic data storage if the medium is sufficiently sturdy, e.g., metal hard drive platters.

Design magnetic storage with a goal of extreme long term data storage.  The data must not rely critically on firmware or other special data hardcoded into the hard drive circuit board.

[pxdspbkq] Rotating sphere script

An easy way to do something similar to the moving star field alphabet is simply to have a sphere marked with some pattern rotating on one of several axes, perhaps the 20 vertices of a dodecahedron.

[cukfvjlv] Nuclear submarines are fish

Assuming nuclear submarines generate electricity then extract oxygen from seawater by electrolysis, it is quite a milestone human achievement: we have created a way for humans to never have to surface for air, at least until food or nuclear fuel runs out.  In principle, food and nuclear fuel could both be acquired underwater.

We finally became on par with fish.  In contrast, conventionally powered submarines presumably have to surface occasionally, so are like marine mammals.

[vfyiacyf] Generating surplus oxygen

Consider generating electricity using combustion (a common method), of course consuming oxygen in combustion.  Then, use that electricity to perform electrolysis of water, generating oxygen.  Can there be a net positive production of oxygen?  Such technology would be useful on a fossil fuel powered submarine.

Alternatively, instead of electrolysis, use the generated electricity to power some machinery which extracts dissolved oxygen from seawater, like the gills of a fish.  Can this be net positive?

[oyhsjfqv] Surviving magnetic field reversals

The earth's magnetic field protects us from charged particles of the sun's radiation and cosmic rays.  It is mysterious therefore that magnetic field reversals, during which there is evidence that the geomagnetic field significantly decreases in strength, do not correlate with mass extinctions.

Hypothesize that organisms on earth (probably land organisms) have evolved to survive higher radiation during magnetic field reversals.  This is amazing as it is a capability needed extremely rarely.

What are the survival mechanisms?  Of course, DNA repair and apoptosis are two.  Hypothesize that cancer is also counterintuitively a survival mechanism, inspired by "The final checkpoint. Cancer as an adaptive evolutionary mechanism".  During periods of high radiation, cancer kills off some mutated members of the species before they can reproduce.  The mutated ones which do reproduce pass on their mutated genes to the next generation, but we hypothesize that the offspring have higher susceptibility to cancer so they may not live long enough to reproduce.  In this way, the species survives mostly unchanged, avoiding propagating harmful mutations.  Species which have lower susceptibility to cancer, while seemingly advantageous during periods of high radiation, actually end up mutating away from optimality and it will be a much slower path of evolution to recover it, during which time they might get killed off or crowded out by species which survived better.

Human meddling with cancer, trying to survive it in the short term, may have drastic long-term consequences.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

[bmheuosv] Regulating razors and blades

Consider regulation requiring that goods sold with the razors and razorblades pricing model disclose that fact explicitly.

Might be tricky: the first good is sold at a loss, but a loss compared to what?

Perhaps must disclose the intellectual property protections, usually patents, of the second good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

[dltiqcyy] Optimizing counting in hardware

Incrementing a counter in a register either causes large latency (for a ripple carry adder) or large area (for carry lookahead), and possibly consumes the ALU which could be better utilized for more complicated arithmetic.  Can we avoid these by doing things differently?

For small numbers, e.g., counting to 63, unary.  For large numbers, maybe Gray code?  Add support in instruction sets and programming languages.  Need a type which supports incrementing and equality testing but not other arithmetic operations.

Might be a solution in search of a problem.  Is counting (ALU utilization) a significant bottleneck?

[lijlbmvi] Features for a generated language

What features of a computer language make things convenient for tools which generate output in that language?  (As opposed to make things convenient for humans programming in that language.)

Lack of forced indentation.  Identifiers of arbitrary length.  Lines of arbitrary length.  Ability to create fresh namespaces whose names which are guaranteed not to collide other names already in scope.  Function definitions do not need to be topologically sorted, and may be mutually recursive.

Inspired by languages which compile down to C or C++.

Continues a UI idea that UIs should be usable by both humans and machines.

[hzsvabya] Searching and retrieving encrypted data

Consider encrypted data stored on a cloud storage service that charges per amount of data stored and per the amount of data transfered in and out of the cloud.

Naively searching the encrypted data by downloading it to a secure machine where it is decrypted and searched would incur large data transfer costs.  On average, half the data would need to be downloaded.

More clever would also store encrypted indices to aid search, incurring additional storage cost while decreasing data transfer costs.

Optimize the system, the construction of the indices, for given data storage and bandwidth prices.

With indices, even encrypted, access patterns can leak information to an adversary.

[kjfgtkwv] Engineering the solar system

Look for evidence that the arrangement of the planets in our solar system is artificial, highly unlikely to have occurred by chance.  Someone with vast astroengineering abilities put them there during the early formation of the solar system, perhaps part of a long plan to engineer life on earth.

Inspired by evidence that Uranus and Neptune have switched places.

[wvsyuwhe] Large finite remaining sources of energy

How many joules of energy will the sun emit over its remaining main sequence lifetime, if it could be collected with a Dyson sphere?

What is the Earth's remaining total geothermal energy (from radioactive decay)?

What is the rotational energy of the earth?

What is the gravitational potential energy of Jupiter in its orbit around the sun?  That is, how much energy could be extracted from Jupiter via gravitational slingshots, with the end result of crashing Jupiter into the sun?

[webbffll] Who gets off the planet?

At some point, the earth will become uninhabitable, at the very latest, due to white dwarf sun (or black dwarf).  Intelligent life, it it still exists, will need to get off the planet in order to survive.

Will everyone who wants to leave will be able to?  Or will the less fortunate be forcibly left behind to die, reminiscent of the American evacuation of Saigon?

On one hand, transporting even the current population off the planet and out of the solar system will require gargantuan quantities of rocket fuel.  On the other hand, over a time frame of millions of years, with solar powered space elevators and lots of gravitational slingshots around Jupiter, it doesn't seem so bad.

It may be difficult to precisely define whether someone who wants to leave is able to leave in a migration that takes generations, and the human (or whoever inherits the earth) population might dwindle naturally due to harsh conditions.  There will be a last ship: will everyone left behind be people choosing to remain voluntarily?

[pcuviwfu] 1x1 Rubik's cube puzzles

First, we enumerate ways of describing moves of a standard color scheme 1x1x1 Rubik's cube (an object typically presented as a joke).  Rotating any face of the cube of course rotates the entire cube.

Standard move notation: Rotate the {Up, Down, Left, Right, Front, Back} face by a {quarter, half, three-quarter} turn clockwise.

Rotate the {White, Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, Orange} face by a {quarter, half, three-quarter} turn clockwise.

Rotate the cube by a quarter turn so that the {Up, Down, Left, Right, Front, Back, White, Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, Orange} face takes the place of the {Up, Down, Left, Right, Front, Back, White, Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, Orange} face.

Next, a series of puzzle templates of increasing difficulty:

The cube has {U,D,L,R,F,B} face of color {W,Y,B,G,R,O} and {U,D,L,R,F,B} face of color {W,Y,B,G,R,O}.  What is the color of the {U,D,L,R,F,B} face?  Or, where is the {W,Y,B,G,R,O} face?

The cube has {U,D,L,R,F,B} face of color {W,Y,B,G,R,O} and {U,D,L,R,F,B} face of color {W,Y,B,G,R,O}.  We do the following sequence of moves {move possibilities listed above}.  After this sequence, what is the color of the {U,D,L,R,F,B} face?  Or, where is the {W,Y,B,G,R,O} face?

The cube has {U,D,L,R,F,B} face of color {W,Y,B,G,R,O}. We do the following sequence of moves {move possibilities listed above}.  After this sequence, the {U,D,L,R,F,B} face has color {W,Y,B,G,R,O}.  We then do another sequence of moves {move possibilities listed above}.  After this sequence, what is the color of the {U,D,L,R,F,B} face?  Or, where is the {W,Y,B,G,R,O} face?

The constraints could be harder: The {U,D,L,R,F,B} face at time point T1 in this sequence of moves ... has {the same, a different} color as the {U,D,L,R,F,B} face at time point T2.  Or dually, the {W,Y,B,G,R,O} face at time point T1 is in {the same, a different} location as the {W,Y,B,G,R,O} face at time point T2.

All of these are easily solvable by considering all 24 possible orientations of the initial cube.  Doing 3-dimensional rotations in one's head is the challenge.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

[zercxrvz] Mathematics without proof

Consider radically deemphasizing the importance of proofs in mathematics.  If it is true most of the time, it is good enough.  If it is true all the time, then that is just an extra bonus.  Characterizing some of the exceptions of something that is true most of the time is nice.  Characterizing all of the exceptions (if any) is just an extra bonus.

How far could we go with this approach?  To a certain extent, it is already being done, for example, for the great many results that rely on the Riemann Hypothesis being true.

Avoids some of the aesthetic ugliness of proofs, which might impede education.

[jtjwognm] Superhero mind control

At first, it seems the superhero maintains his or her secret identity with a change in costume, a common trope.

Later, it is revealed that the superhero has mind control powers and is disturbingly erasing knowledge of his or her secret identity from those who learn of it.

Even later, the character's status as a hero begins to be doubtful as the character is revealed to be able to exercise vast mind control over the entire population.  The tales of heroic deeds might be being narrated by an unreliable narrator, also subject to the mind control.

[mukpsdue] Augmented reality world grid

Using virtual reality or augmented reality, one can see the grid lines of a geodesic global hash.  No practical purpose so far: it makes the world look like Minecraft.

[qdkhaonz] College as signaling

The story goes, graduating from business school serves as a signaling mechanism in an imperfect information game, signaling something useful for potential employers.  You don't actually learn anything useful in business school; it only the act of getting past its artificial hurdles that matter.  And this observation ironically won a business school dean a Nobel Prize in Economics.

Apply the same reasoning to undergraduate college education, where the arguments that you don't learn anything useful are even stronger.  If true, the vast government expenditure to increase access to college education, e.g., financial aid, predicated on the assumption that college teaches something useful, was for naught.  We do nowadays see evidence that a college education is worth far less than it used to.

We need to know, we should have known, exactly what that "something" is that graduating from business school or college signals.

Hypothesize that it is the financial and social support structure around a person, kind of a continuation of "it takes a village to raise a child".  When an employer hires someone, they are also hiring the entire financial and social support structure around a person.  Getting through college, in the absence of government intervention, required a large support structure, which a later employer can count on, or "exploit", to yield a high productivity employee.

[qevzlbxs] Small electric generator

Create a small electric generator powered by easily available fuel, perhaps butane, gasoline, or candle, which provides enough power to recharge a phone, USB 5 V 1.5 A (or 3 A for 2 simultaneously).

Surprised this doesn't already exist commercially.  Existing portable generators typically produce much more power (and are big, loud, and heavy), while fuel cell versions are highly experimental technologies including failed companies.

Stirling engine.  Should the cool side of a Stirling engine be blown by a fan powered mechanically by the engine, or powered by the electricity generated?

[rllgtwrb] Elegant theorems, messy proofs

A proof often resembles a Rube Goldberg machine of parts -- lemmas -- strung together in whatever way works to accomplish the task, perhaps leaving doubt: does that actually work?

This is the aesthetics of professional mathematics, an aesthetic which might not appeal to some people.

Even the most beautiful proof is messier than the theorem it proves, because it must necessarily state the theorem as part of the proof.

[zmwgsbxu] Not making one's bed

Making your bed after you wake up locks in between the sheets the moisture released by your body overnight, providing a better more humid environment for dust mites to live, ultimately aggravating the dust allergy.  Leaving your bed uncovered allows the moisture to dissipate.

However, making your bed, in many people and cultures, defines a person's value.

[lguyocsu] Faking out a camera

Consider placing a screen depicting a scene in front of a camera, say security camera, so that it records the screen scene instead of the real scene behind the screen.

The problem is, the camera's lens has been set to focus on the real scene further away from the screen, so recording a scene depicted on the screen will be out of focus.

This could be mitigated by placing another lens in between the screen and camera.  Design this lens.  This might be easy.

[kwbsmebr] Signing camera

Create a camera that signs (not encrypts) images and video it records with a cryptographic key baked into the camera.  A picture can therefore be authenticated as taken by the camera, and not edited with Photoshop.

It must not be possible to extract the private key from the camera, or else fake images could also be created and signed with the camera's key.  It must not be possible replace the camera's key with another key.  This might be a good use for DRM, though they could also be accomplished by a physical tamper-evident seal protecting the hardware.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

[rkxzutjd] Burning the world for real

Some people just want to watch the world burn.  If you are such a person, consider as a career in nuclear weapons research and development.

How true is this of those in the highly classified field?

[isroiojg] Seemingly drawable losing positions

Compose a chess position which seems at least drawable to a human on cursory analysis but which is actually losing.  The human should not notice that some line is "uncertain".

This is a rare type of chess problem, but it could be constructed from a similar and common type, the seemingly drawn position which is actually winning.  Take one of those positions and, if possible, go one ply retrograde while not destroying the outcome.

Could be a contest: a human is asked to classify positions as won, lost, or drawn, also permitting expressing degree of certainty (perhaps as odds).

Friday, July 08, 2016

[ebzgthrf] Dihedral angles in real life

If the earth were, say, a regular icosahedron, there would be ridges at edges.  Build such a ridge at human scale.  This should be easy.

Depending on exactly how gravity works, the ridge could be symmetric, approached from both sides at the same slope, or horizontal with a downhill slope on the other side from the point of view of the observer (gravity abruptly changes on the other side, probably for a game).

[bocgioqu] Peace and War

Peace causes social institutions, especially institutions of power, to become calcified.

War disrupts them.  This disruption can occur even if the war does not occur on the soil that the social institutions exist: war causes changes in an economy, then changes in economic supply and demand, especially labor supply and demand, induce changes in society, as seen in the United States during world wars 1 and 2.

Sometimes war occurs as a revolt, civil war, by those feeling deprived of power in calcified social institutions.

Can this cycle, this need for something hugely destructive to disrupt calcified social institutions, be avoided?

[pjofckhw] Borrowed ladder

People have a mental model of social order.  Examine what that mental model is and how and why it forms.  Probably some aspects of social class, some aspects of Us versus Them.

When people perceive that someone is in the wrong place in that social order, and that that wrong place has been achieved by cheating, they react with hate and violence.  Examine what defines cheating, and the psychological mechanism leading to violence.

Post title inspired by Gattaca.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

[rqnvuujp] Pipe bombs

It's kind of surprising pipe bombs work at all, as a bunch of the energy of the explosive is spent turning the pipe into shrapnel.  How does it compare with a cardboard or PVC tube packed with the same amount of explosive surrounded by an outer shell of "pre-minced" shrapnel with equivalent mass as the pipe?  Does the compressive effect of the metal pipe enhance destructiveness or lethality, perhaps through higher shrapnel velocity, despite the energy wasted?

Of course, pipe bombs are more convenient (the pipe provides sturdy packaging) and easier to construct: no need to obtain or create shrapnel.

[exayhpao] Keyboard arrangements

Let "finger" be shorthand for the 4 fingers excluding the thumb.

3 rows of 4 buttons for the 4 fingers = 12.  1 button for thumb = 13.  2 hands = 26 which is the number of letters in the alphabet.  More thumb buttons for space, punctuation, etc.

5 buttons for the thumb.  2 hands = 10 which is the number of digits 0 through 9.  Maybe 6 buttons adding backspace and escape.  Perhaps for smartphone soft keyboard.

2 rows of 4 buttons for 4 fingers = 8.  2 hands = 16 for hexadecimal input.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

[zzjjrpky] LED streetlamps

New LED streetlamps emit a bluer light (consequently whiter) than the yellow low pressure sodium streetlamps that used to dominate.  This might cause sleep disorders.

However, reverting to a yellower light will likely run into resistance, as the whiter light is likely perceived as more classy than the ugly outdated technology of yellow sodium lamps.

Ironically, yellow LEDs existed long before the blue ones which power white LEDs, or mix red and green LEDs.

[hxkdpnkr] Longest thunderstorm

Given time and location data about lightning strikes (easy to do with triangulation), compute the location that experienced the longest thunderstorm, where thunderstorm could be defined something like at least one lighting strike within N miles every M seconds.

[jupydyij] Flipping the color sphere

Consider the surface of an RGB color cube.  Project the surface of the cube onto a sphere.  Do a sphere eversion.

Consider an RGB image.  Somehow -- and this is unsolved -- map the color sphere eversion to colors shifting in the image.  I think one of the results is Red Green Blue switching from going clockwise to counterclockwise around the hue circle.  A rainbow will flip the direction of its colors in a picture.

[osaqzafp] Knight distance diagram

Create a diagram of a chessboard marked with the distance of each square in chess knight moves from the starting square of a knight, or maybe from f3.

This should be easy, though we seek creative presentations.

[nmzhizcn] Slideshow programs on Linux

Cursory research into programs in Linux which (might) show a slideshow of a bunch of images:

eog (especially consider the "Slideshow Shuffle" plugin in eog-plugins) qiv pqiv feh gnome-photos gthumb gwenview mirage phototonic viewnior xscreensaver

Selected pqiv which is small and did what I want.  Fading between images works, though is very CPU intensive and a little bit jerky for a slow 6 second fade.  Ought to use vector instructions, wherever they may be.

[ejovwvyz] Torus coloring

7 colors suffice to color any map on a torus.  This suggests interesting puzzles about whether it can be done with fewer than 7 for a given map.  For a plane, the only interesting number is 3, an NP-complete problem.

Draw a seven color tessellation on a plane and provide a rectangular (or parallelogram-shaped) unit cell which defines a flat torus with opposing edges glued together.

I think hexagons work, as well as diagonal strips truncated to the height.

[agxoruxx] Villarceau circles on a torus

A physical model of a torus with Villarceau circles marked would be nice.  Turn it around in your hands to convince yourself they actually are circles.  Clear model.  Perhaps wireframe constructed solely out of Villarceau circles.

Tori of many different shapes.

[nprbevpw] This car climbed

Bumper sticker.  Many local hills or preposterous mountains to choose from.  Inspired by "This car climbed Mt. Washington".

[btfjayig] Encoding data in poetry

Devise a method to encode arbitrary data, for example, a cryptographic key, in poetry.  Number of syllables in a line, pattern of stress and unstress in a line, vowels or consonants.

Such constraints still provide the author a lot of freedom to compose something memorable.

Prose constrains words which limits the author.

[nbpqtzeu] Two linked tori with no gap

Consider a torus with tube diameter equal to the hole diameter, so outer diameter 3 times the hole diameter.  Can 2 such tori link, rotated 90 degrees from each other, each through the hole of the other?

Or do the surfaces intersect by just a little bit?  If so, what ratio of hole to outer diameter does allow the tori to interlink?  Alternatively, what cross section, not a circle, madr a surface of revolution allows linking with no gap and no overlap?

[hhthezxg] Dress versus costume

When you put on clothes, under what conditions does it feel like you are putting on a costume?

[hhthezxg] Recognizing unsolvable 2x2

Create an algorithm that will recognize whether a given scrambled 2x2 Rubik's cube is solvable or unsolvable because of a corner twist.

[qwrzdobf] Humor

People have different preferences about humor.  In those differences is reflected all of society, especially its boundaries and social conflicts.  People often have strong feelings of love or (especially) hate toward certain kinds of humor, reflecting -- revealing -- social conflicts.

Inspired by controversy over "low", sophomoric, humor, appreciated by lower classes, targeted for censorship by the upper classes.

Previously, on horror.

[ixqtkzio] Muggings versus pickpockets

Both crimes deprive the victims of their wallet.  Is there something interesting going on where one crime is more prevalant than the other?

[egbsuyde] Correcting training examples

Machine learning will identify training examples that may have been misclassified.  Ask the human again on these examples.  If the human insists the examples are not errors, then there is something deeper happening.

Monday, July 04, 2016

[vuqzjhmd] Heptagon

rainbow heptagon

Rainbow-shaded regular heptagon.  The source code below draws it in two different ways. It is unfortunate that the JuicyPixels Codec.Picture generateImage mapPixels encodePng pipeline (implemented in the function heptagonpic) is not lazy.  A 32000 by 32000 image ran out of memory.  The alternative route, outputting a Netpbm PPM (implemented in the function heptagon) then piping standard output to pnmtopng worked just fine.

There is a curious optical illusion of radial spikes, especially in the red and cyan.

Source code in Haskell.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

[mngsrgaq] Challenge-response authentication with Google Glass

The external computer which knows your public key presents a challenge in the form of a generated QR code.  You, wearing Google Glass, scan the challenge.  Your Google Glass, knowing your private key, computes the response, and projects it into your augmented reality as a series of numbers.  You type the visible numbers into the external computer, authenticating yourself.

Of course, this could be done without Google Glass, for example, just with a smartphone with a barcode reader app.  And the response could also be communicated by other methods than typing: speech, or the phone generating a response QR code which the external computer reads with its barcode reader, or one of the many forms of wireless communication.

If typing, then 2048 bit RSA involves typing some 600 digits, probably more with error correcting codes.  Elliptic curve cryptography is a little bit more compact.

We need standardized protocols to define the format of challenges and responses.  They might not all fit in one QR code, so a protocol to animate multiple in succession to transmit multiple chunks of data.  If we permit animation, then QR might be overkill, EAN-13 (aka UPC) requires less sophisticated scanners.

The inspiration was, human-computer authentication would be so much easier if people could quickly do kilobit modular arithmetic and modular exponentiation in their heads.  With augmented reality, they can.

We need a way so that someone cannot use a stolen or confiscated Google Glass or smartphone to authenticate.

[sqdxacek] Lisp with newlines

Consider modifying Lisp to be able to interpret lines as having parentheses around them.  The goal is to decrease the amount of parentheses.  We introduce a very special form "do":

do foo bar

which when occurring on a single line with "do" at the beginning of the line (possibly preceded by whitespace) gets rewritten by a preprocessor as

(foo bar)

Without "do", things remain the same; no parentheses get added.  Some tricky cases:

do (foo bar)
is ((foo bar))

do (foo bar
is ((foo bar)

do (foo bar
is ((foo bar) baz)

do (foo bar
do baz)
is ((foo bar) (baz))

do (foo bar
do )
is ((foo bar) ())

The code gets littered with "do" everywhere, though that's not so different from other languages littered with semicolons or forced newlines everywhere.  The keyword "do" could be replaced with some more unobtrusive symbol, perhaps even a semicolon at the end of the line (analogous to "do" at the end of a line), though I dislike languages with excessive reliance on punctuation.

Exploring semicolons in the middle of lines:

foo bar ;
is (foo bar)

foo bar ; baz quux ;
is (foo bar)(baz quux)

foo bar ; baz quux
is (foo bar) baz quux

foo bar ; (baz quux
is (foo bar)(baz quux

foo bar ; (baz ; quux)
is (foo bar)((baz) quux)

(foo bar ;
is ((foo bar)

(foo bar ; )
is ((foo bar))

(foo bar ; ) ;
is ((foo bar)) ()

Alternatively, the default behavior on lines could always be to surround with parentheses, and there could be a very special form that indicates when not to.  I think this would be more confusing: invisible nothingness means something.

[amrogoed] No smoking

Smoking falls roughly along class lines in the United States.  Mentally rewrite "No Smoking" signs as "Whites Only".  One can see class warfare in action.  The signs and their enforcement are a politically correct way of making certain classes feel uncomfortable and unwelcome from a place.

Of course, one can look at the present and be ashamed at history repeating itself.  Beyond that however, I suspect understanding the present allows us to far better understand the past.

"No Smoking" in the present is not intended to be class warfare; it is ostensibly intended to ally a specific, tangible, real health concern: second-hand smoke.  Similarly, "Whites Only" in the past I suspect was not a manifestation of simple hatred of race but of something far more specific, tangible, and real.  I suspect the conflict was over something deeper, which only happened to correlate well with skin color.  (Perhaps what some nowadays call "safe space".)  Racism isn't racism, and thinking it is is what causes history to repeat itself.

[efnadktz] Political simulations

Soon computers may be able to simulate a mass of humans well enough to do accurate political simulations of specific real-world campaign tactics.

Everyone can see, and simulate for themselves, just how shallow and easily manipulatable people are.  Will this inspire people not to be so shallow?

Friday, July 01, 2016

[khionoak] Armageddon Game, part 2

O'Brien and Bashir (Star Trek: Deep Space 9) recreate the Harvesters biological weapon, with devastating consequences to, say, life in the galaxy -- perhaps Halo's Flood or Stargate's Wraith -- proving the original aliens correct that they should have assassinated everyone with technical knowledge of the weapon.

Perhaps the Federation reached a time of desperate times calling for desperate measures.

Also, the reason the Harvesters resisted so strongly efforts at destruction was because they were intelligent: O'Brien and Bashir committed genocide in the name of peace.

[tmwtbmok] Slideshow of what you own

Take a picture of everything you own, which could be useful for many purposes.  Have a constantly running slideshow in your home so you get reminded of what you own.  Avoid the feeling of "Oh I forgot I owned that" when unpacking things from storage.

Unsolved problem: when discarding an item, take another picture of it, then use automated object recognition to find the original picture of it and remove the original picture from the slideshow.

[soipwdxx] Focus and scale

Recording the focus, i.e., the distance from the lens to the image, especially if the lens distance adjusts perhaps by autofocus, I think helps establish the scale of objects (in focus) in the image.  This is very useful metadata for image understanding.

This is probably already done with EXIF.

[mmzqoeda] Playing catch with yourself

Throw a ball.  Run / jog / walk to where it landed, and throw it again.  Avoids the monotony of just running as exercise, and maybe gets some cross training in there with an upper body workout of throwing.  You are not pointlessly running, you are running to something interesting, namely the ball.

Baseball, with otherwise empty diamond: throw it toward the backstop, then toward the outfield.

Inspired by basketball shooting baskets: one needs to run to go get rebounds.

[nirurjwf] Dots and boxes with passes

Consider modifying the game of dots and boxes to permit passing.  On two consecutive passes, the game is scored in its current state.  Probably need to define who wins ties in order to avoid games ending with a 0-0 tie.

[yzjzdbid] Toddler instinct

Toddlers instinctively go through a phase in which they test limits, perhaps testing the laws of physics or what their body can do or withstand, but more famously, testing social rules much to the annoyance of parents and caregivers.

In most people, this instinct turns off, and the kid, later adult, learns to behave properly.  Examine the mechanism by which this instinct exists, and how it gets turned off.

The advancement of science depends on people testing limits.  But keeping social order depends on people not testing limits.

[wjiscipu] Playing for a safe draw

Given a chess position, find the safest draw if possible, one that offers the opponent the least chances for complications.  Traditional chess engines cannot do this because it requires quantifying safety and complications.  There is demand for this computation, famously for the grandmaster draws amidst rules forbidding draws.

[gliatcmb] Incoming interstellar transmission

To accomplish seemingly realtime communication across vast distances of space, encode yourself as a computer program, then transmit at the speed of light that computer program to the recipient.  It may take years for the program to reach the recipient.  The recipient runs the computer program locally and interacts, in real time, with "you".

[rmknucgo] Dance is addictive

Social dancing is literally addictive (for some people), likely hitting the same pleasure centers in the brain as other addictive drugs, and causing similar withdrawal symptoms on quitting.

Also, we see peddling "First one's free!"

Should it be regulated?

Also similarly, it inspires extremely strong feelings in people, including causing people to attack each other.

[vrbgaeeo] Failure to communicate well

Person A tells not the truth but the words strategically chosen most likely to achieve his or her goals.  Person B, listening, game theoretically assumes everyone communicates this way, so does not trust Person A's words.

No one assumes good faith; entire communication breaks down; communicating truth plainly becomes impossible.  Examine if, when, and where this is occurring.

Game theoretically, we would expect signaling mechanisms for imperfect information.

[joirdkvu] Enumerating strings matching a regular expression

Given a regular expression, list, in order of length, the strings that match it.  This may be an infinite list.  I think this is easy, though possibly tricky if the expression is not anchored.

[jvcgfudl] Fun with retina displays

Create a game taking advantage of the extremely high pixel resolution of some modern displays, perhaps rewarding keen short distance eyesight.

Object approaches from very far away (perspective projection), rewarding identifying it correctly first.

[wflaumdd] Certificates only as bootstrap, then WoT

Certificates are good for bootstrapping, but after that, things should mostly use Web of Trust.  Maybe both, verifying one against the other.

The reason is it is highly likely that powerful entities have compromised root certificate authorities (or can, on a whim), and are simply holding on to the capability for use when needed.  Distributed web of trust seems far more difficult for such an agency to compromise.

[bvnkegdi] Guest login with screen lock password

Log in to a guest account, as seen on Mac OS X and Ubuntu.  Add the feature of a logged in guest being able to set a password for their session.  This password is used by screen lock and unlock, allowing a guest user to lock the screen (even automatically) when away from keyboard.

I frequently use guest even on my own computers to increase privacy.

Upon logging out, the guest account, including its password, is wiped.

Upon finding a guest session with screen locked, can another user also wanting to use guest, force log out and wipe the previous guest?  Probably yes.

[ebdkngyk] Base hundred-thousand

Organizing vocabulary to express large number as powers of 10^3 (short scale), powers of 10^6 (British long scale), powers of 10^4 (Japan), or powers of 10^2 (India) is silly.  The right way to do it is powers of 10^5 or 10^10, because the rest of the number system is based on our number of fingers.

The Indian number system conveniently has a word for 10^5, lakh, from which could derive bilakh 10^10, trilakh 10^15, (a switch from Greek to Latin happens here) quadrilakh 10^20, quintilakh (10^25), sexilakh (10^30), septilakh (10^35), octilakh (10^40).  Or, Hindi prefixes.

Incidentally, novem is the Latin word for cardinal nine; nonus is the Latin word for ordinal ninth.  It is surprising that the words differ so much, compared to eight and ten.

Does any language have a good root word for ten billion (10^10)?

Previously, on expressing large numbers.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

[paouesqw] aeiouwy

Vowels and soft consonants: a e i o u w y

Any arrangement can (sort of) be pronounced, though people may not agree on the pronunciation.

Inspired by the vowel cluster in Faneuil Hall.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

[msmzfnmj] Tricky chess

2 possibilities: the best move is not one of the obvious ones, or seemingly good moves are subtly not.  Both could happen.

Automatically detect these situations, for creating problems, either as a puzzle generator or as a computer opponent tuned to win against humans.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

[wnjsemlg] Bug zapper hopper for chickens (or fish)

The bug zapper kills a lot of bugs at night and scatters the vaporized insect bodies over a large area below the device.  Chickens can come and feed on the bits in the day (as seen in one YouTube video).

Unfortunately, ants, active at night, might get to the bug bits before the chickens wake up (as seen in another YouTube video).

Create some sort of bug bits collection hopper shielded from ants that can hold the chicken feed until morning.  Difficulties: the bugs explode and get propelled at high speed, so the hopper must either be large or enclose; however, we do not want to obstruct the path for bugs to enter, or their view of the light.  Exploded bugs are sticky, so we need a way for the bugs to be scraped off the surface of the hopper.  Maybe the chickens can do it themselves.

An alternate idea (seen elsewhere) is to hang the bug zapper over a pond and let the bug bits feed fish, then harvest the fish.  The bug zapper needs to periodically be cleaned and maintained, so we need some way of accessing it: perhaps some swinging pole or line with pulley, like for laundry.

[cvxgcxbv] Compress then random pad then encrypt

Compression before encryption used to be unambiguously recommended because it conceals structures in the plaintext like letter frequency that could aid cryptanalysis.  However, exploits like CRIME and BREACH cast doubt on whether compression is such a good idea, as information about structure of the plaintext gets visibly leaked as length of the ciphertext.

The acceptability of block ciphers in counter mode suggest that structure of the plaintext does not need to be concealed at all, so long as you aren't doing something silly like ECB mode.  (People used to be wary of counter mode.)

Consider compressing the plaintext, then padding the plaintext with random data to the length of the original plaintext.  There may be clever ways involving the encrypting cipher itself to generate the padding.  The purpose of the compression is not to decrease transmission cost, but to conceal plaintext structure, just in case that is still useful to do.

[bypppggg] England versus Germany, part III

Mr. Einstein called: he would like to know what weapons are going to be used.

Inspired by Brexit.

[bbjtgbib] Clear before console login prompt

The Linux computer boots, displaying boot messages to console, then displaying a console login prompt.  As of Ubuntu 16.04 Server, the screen clears before displaying the console login prompt.

This is a terrible idea: the last few boot messages become unreadable because they flash by and are immediately cleared.

Worse yet, there seems to be a cron job that periodically clears the console.  This obscures previous failed login attempts.

All this is presumably to keep things looking nice, in line with Ubuntu's style of concealing as much potentially useful information as possible from the user, probably a misguided attempt to emulate Apple.

[krauckdc] Snooze

Create a device acts like a short extension cord most of the time, passing through AC power.  However, pressing a button turns off power for a timed interval, and it automatically turns back on after the interval.  (Alternatively, turns on temporarily.)

Wanted for a loud air filter to be run when people are not in the room: people push the button when present.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

[lxgoonnr] Umlaut

Incorrectly for fun: umlaût


Friday, June 24, 2016

[vvflcgjx] RSA by hand

How long would it take for a human to perform 2048 bit RSA by hand using pencil and paper?  Elliptic curve cryptography?  AES and SHA2?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

[etmmywoj] Sex as an icebreaker

Suppose two consenting people wish to engage in having sex as an icebreaker.  What is some advice for success?

It will probably only mutually work, i.e., be an icebreaker successfully, for certain kinds of people.  What kinds of people?  It probably depends heavily on what sex means to each person.

Probably the goal is to have a long conversational cuddling session afterwards.  So don't do it too late in the day when people might fall asleep immediately afterwards.

Biochemically, we are probably wanting certain hormones to become active, perhaps pair bonding.  What causes those hormones to be released?