Sunday, October 22, 2017

[rfcvmehz] I lived in Somerville before it burned down

Under what conditions can there be significant urban fires, a whole neighborhood or more burning to the ground?  (Inspired by the Santa Rosa fire.)  Hypothesize that all that is required is high density of wood-frame buildings (frequently residential), some vegetation, and severe drought.

Climate change can bring about severe drought in areas which may have never previously experienced it.

[riefkroc] Rational terrible behavior

There seems to be growing evidence that people behave rationally more often than commonly believed, or more often than we commonly want to believe.

People also behave terribly, for various subjective measures of terrible.

Put the two together and conclude that terrible behavior is often rational, a depressing conclusion.  Efforts to directly decrease the behavior through morality ("that's bad; don't do it") are doomed to fail, because, in rationality, it's worse not to do it.

Efforts to further understand how the terrible behavior is rational are more likely to be fruitful.  Change the incentives.

[oruxepci] Simulating parliament

A president could simulate one aspect of a parliamentary system of government by appointing Cabinet members from the legislature.  While previously serving on legislative committees, they have presumably acquired expertise in an area suitable for a cabinet post.  Appointment only from the legislature has the feature (maybe benefit) that the legislators have all undergone election, so have been vetted by the public.

In a true parliamentary system, the ministers also remain members of parliament.  What happens if they face a conflict of interest between their duty as a minister of their the country versus their duty to represent their district in parliament?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

[tiuahohk] Self-measuring self-qi

Huge amounts of courtship and employment screening are probably to measure someone's average self-qi.  Employment screening includes the education system and promotion decisions.

Consequently we expect, by game theory, much effort devoted to concealing and being deceptive about low self-qi.

However, one situation where deception shouldn't occur is if you want to measure your own self-qi, perhaps to avoid situations in which low self-qi will have bad consequences for you.  How can you measure your own self-qi or stress level?

A few starting points: are you tired?  Are you hangry?  Are you sick?

[rajxyghb] Asymmetric society producing capable women

Consider the stereotypical historical society which assigned asymmetric roles to men and women: women remained at home, men went out and won bread.  Exactly what was expected of women and how did society produce women who did those tasks well?  (For the men, the labor market and wages induced incentives to work well.)

The obvious first possibility is that society expected child-rearing of women.  However, we discount that possibility in two ways in preparation for a radical second possibility below: child-rearing in historical societies was not just done by the mother but also by the extended family.  Because many people were involved, no one needed to be particularly good at it, yet things would still turn out all right.  The other is that children seem to be evolutionarily designed to grow up and to be able to turn out all right despite pretty bad parenting, so long as their basic needs are met.

The provocative second possibility is that the main thing such asymmetric societies expected of women was to provide emotional and psychological support for their husbands, ultimately to improve the work productivity of their husbands.  (Inspired by the complaint that society still expects this of women, who are now also working jobs and still being the primary in child-rearing, nowadays without the help of extended family.)  If true, this second possibility raises several questions: exactly what kind of emotional and psychological support did women provide to their husbands?  How, psychologically, did that support work to improve productivity of their husbands?  How did they train girls to provide such support?  What mechanisms rewarded learning how to do it well?

One cannot provide emotional support to someone else if one is oneself emotionally overwhelmed or drained, a common complaint of the stresses of modern society.  In order for a society of asymmetric gender roles to work according to the second possibility, there would have needed to have been some mechanism to shield women from outside stresses.  What was that shielding mechanism?

One cannot do a good job at anything is one is unhappy about doing it, especially for tasks so personal and intimate as providing psychological and emotional support: body language will betray one's unhappiness.  Therefore, in order for a society of asymmetric gender roles to actual work, there needed to have been some mechanism for women to be content in their roles, not resentful about the opportunities they were denied solely because of their gender.  What was that mechanism?

Understanding the mechanism of contentment versus resentment is also useful for politics: those who wish to maintain power in status quo seek to induce contentment in the populace; those who wish to gain power by changing the status quo seek to induce resentment in the populace, most famously through victim identity.

[iiomamzg] Evolving artificial intelligence

Create a simulation with artificial creatures evolving in a virtual environment that rewards evolving more and higher intelligence (though need to define "intelligence" which may be tricky).  Can we create a general AI by simply running that evolution simulation at high speed?

What is the difference between non-intelligently adapting to an environment and intelligently understanding an environment and acting according to understanding?  Both succeed in exploiting the environment to maximize benefit.  Intelligence probably adapts quicker to change, not taking generations to discover the best adaptation.

Exactly how should the simulation work?  How can it reward intelligence?

[odwfsmzu] Murder upward only

In a highly stratified society, hypothesize that all crimes are committed upward in social class: the lower committing crimes against someone above them.  This is because when the upper class wants something from a lower class, whether property, mating prospects, or the death of someone in the lower class, they will just do it or take it legally: it will not be considered a crime (legally).  (It perhaps remains morally a crime.)

Inspired by, if someone wants to commit mass murder, they could unleash powerful weapons on a crowd, or they could legally work in the cigarette industry.  Or, they could work to restrict access to health care.  Who chooses to do what?

How true is this model?  Obviously there are also many crimes committed within each class as members struggle for promotion and demotion, so the model is not complete.  If one class is just slightly higher than another class, we don't see the upper one completely brutalizing the lower one as the model seems to predict.

Assuming true this model of crime, the institutions of crime prevention and criminal justice become quite sinister: maintain the status quo of the class hierarchy.

[dughfscx] Rational logarithms

Consider log(a)/log(b), the logarithm base b of a.  Is the answer rational?

Compute g=gcd(a,b).  If g=1 then the answer is irrational.

Compute x=log(a)/log(g).  If x is not an integer then irrational.  Because we only care if it is an integer, x can be found by binary search, looking at powers of g.

Similarly y=log(b)/log(g).

If x and y are both integers, then the answer is x/y.

Next, consider log(a1/a2)/log(b1/b2).  Assume the fractions have both been reduced and a2 > 1 and b2 > 1.

Run the procedure above with (a1, b1), then (a2, b2).  If the answers are both rational and equal to each other, then that is the final rational result.  Otherwise, irrational.

These methods have the nice feature that we never have to factor any integer.

Not sure if they are correct, or whether there are more efficient ways.

[yqkubvtj] Steroids in some sports

Why are steroids prohibited in some sports but permitted in others (e.g., bodybuilding, pro wrestling, strongman)?  What is it about how society perceives those sports that has caused different amounts of public outcry about steroids than in other sports?  Or, what determined the order in which sports banned steroids?

I would not be surprised to find steroid use in other professions that involve a lot of physicality: e.g., dance, circus.  Inspired by, the heaviest users of steroids in baseball seem (surprisingly) to be the catchers (crouching and standing a zillion times per game) and pitchers.

Best guess: the people who pursue careers in steroid-banned sports, football, basketball, baseball, bicycling, swimming, etc., are often One Of Us, whereas the people who pursue careers in bodybuilding, pro wrestling, strongman, circus, and men who pursue dance as a career are Not One Of Us.  (There are a great many women who are One Of Us who pursue careers in dance, but the body shape changes induced by steroids preclude women from using them.)  The argument of "good role model" carries the day.

One Of Us here is a shorthand for a group that has enough political power to enact steroid bans in sports they care about, probably white middle-class and above.

[jfimxvqx] Various astronomical planes

Create a sculpture which is just a plane that is parallel to the plane of the equator.  This should be easy.  Add a stick that points out orthogonally toward the north or south celestial pole.

Create similar sculptures that illustrate the plane of the orbit of the moon, plane of the ecliptic, plane of our solar system's orbit through the Milky Way galaxy, plane of the disc of the galaxy.  The planes can have markers pointing to a relevant object: the moon or the center of the orbit.  These need to be kinetic sculptures, because the planes need to continually reorient because of the earth's motion.  The plane of the equator also slowly moves.

[rgwocfen] Where is the equator?

The north and south poles very slowly drift.  There are ceremonies at South Pole "Station" (therefore not actually stationary with respect to the pole) to mark the new location of the pole each year.  Consequently, we expect the equator to move over time also, but there aren't ceremonies that I've heard of.

The equator probably remains fixed according to some coordinate system for geolocation and navigation, so is not actually exactly halfway between the poles.

[tynurhyy] Two maps at the same scale

Instead of (or in addition to) a scale on a map to signify zoom level, provide an additional map to the side, a map of an area you are already familiar with distances, perhaps the area around your home.  Then, it is easy to visually gauge the distance between two points on the main map as similar to a distance you already know on your home map.

[hludclpz] Voluntary Stepford

The horror of the Stepford Wives could be increased by changing it so that the wives are aware of the what the process entails yet are voluntarily submitting to it, perhaps even competing for the "privilege" of being Stepforded.  (Change the process so that it is brain reprogramming and not murder and replacement by a robot.)

Obvious metaphor for real life in which people try to adapt to their partner.

[rulrzurd] Health levels in a game

Create a game in which the character has 2 health meters: physical health and self-qi.  Various ways the two meters and the main environment of the game interact:

Low self-qi makes succeeding at some tasks in the game more difficult, possibly then making it difficult to improve or maintain physical health.  Low physical health may directly lower self-qi.  This is the disastrous negative feedback loop.

Analogously, the positive feedback loop is also possible.

In real life, you don't have reliable access to your own health meters.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

[pcdcujqh] Rat Park and all entertainment

Hypothesize that Rat Park is true for humans, and further radically hypothesize that it applies not just to drugs but broadly all entertainment: things that stimulate the same part of the brain that heroin does.

Look at how much entertainment a person consumes to be able to accurately guess the state of the social structures around a person.  Look at how much entertainment a society consumes and get a measurement of how the society is structured.

Copyright probably affects production of entertainment.

[scnfyfkb] A nice range of reals

1/e to e, or numbers whose natural logarithm ranges between -1 and 1.

Similarly 0.5 to 2.

These seem numbers on a human-comprehensible scale.

[vqbjrmbd] GCD diagram

In the style of the Sierpinski gasket (or Pascal's triangle), depict the greatest common divisor of two integers.  Easiest is black if relatively prime, white otherwise.  More complicated is some way of depicting what the GCD is if it is not 1, maybe color or 3D.

Shape as an equilateral triangle, not isosceles right.

[ytjxyyzh] Most interesting defense

A computer can easily win a won chess position, or find the most stubborn defense of a lost position.  However, finding the most interesting defense of a lost position requires human aesthetics.

[pxlrjngg] Mitigating the risks of offshore assets

Moving your financial assets to another country with more favorable tax policies requires trusting that the other country will remain stable and won't arbitrarily seize your assets.  How are those other countries kept stable?  How are their governments being controlled by the foreign account holders so that the government doesn't, say, start taxing savings? It is probably through corruption.

Inspired by the Panama Papers.

[vttngych] Sampling fractions uniformly

Uniformly sample among reduced fractions between 0 and 1 whose denominator is less than N.  For example, for N=5, we want to uniformly sample among 5 items 1/2, 1/3, 2/3, 1/4, 3/4 (excluding 2/4).  At first I thought this might be difficult to do for large N, but upon further consideration, it looks easy: choose a numerator and denominator, then reject and try again if GCD not equal to 1.  What is the expected number of repetitions?  This is a well studied problem in number theory whose answer is related to zeta(2)=6/pi^2.  To first order, failures are dominated by choosing 2 even numbers.  Rarely does one need to try more than a few times.

[zzfydkni] Normally distributed integers

Consider a random walk among the integers, starting at 0.  Transition in the direction +1, +0, -1 each with probability 1/3.  After a large number of steps, the endpoint is normally distributed around 0.

If you would like 95.45% (2 standard deviations) of the endpoints to be between -x and x, then take 3x^2/8 steps.  (The variance of the original distribution is 2/3, from whence the factor of 3.)

150 steps yields normally distributed numbers usually between -20 and 20.  15000 yields -200 to 200.  (We artificially induce Benford's Law: an initial digit of 1 seems more natural.)

[gacogjwe] Catering to Chinese consumers

Our big-budget movies are determined by what is acceptable in China, hence superhero action movies.

Our smartphones are determined by what will sell well in China, hence phones with huge screens (a status symbol in China) that don't fit in small pockets.

When did the American market become an afterthought, even for American producers?

[xcsyydtv] Force battles

Alternate Star Wars:

Anakin and Obi-wan fight, and their collateral damage turns a nice world into a volcanic wasteland.

The Emperor and Yoda meet, perhaps very briefly spar but both realize that their collateral damage would literally destroy the galaxy.  Not sure who would win, but surely everyone else would lose.  They instead trade words.

Illustrates how the power of the Death Star really is insignificant compared to the Force, but not everyone knows this.

Primary weapon in fights between masters is not the lightsaber but telekinesis scaled up (or down) to manipulation of the fundamental fabric of space.  (Yoda does not use a lightsaber!)  Parried attacks generate vast amounts of heat, causing collateral damage.

Monday, October 16, 2017

[duimuqdd] Compressing prime numbers

Given a large prime number p not of any special form, can one data-compress it to specify it in less than log_2(p) bits?

Straightforward is to say it is the m-th prime.  Expressing m will take about log_2(p/log(p)) bits by the prime number theorem.  This is the theoretical optimum by some measure, because the m's map 1-to-1 with the primes.  The number of bits saved is log_2(p)- log_2(p/log(p)) = log_2(p) - [log_2(p) - log_2(log(p))] = log_2(log(p)) which, because of the twice-iterated logarithm, is a very small savings.  For 370-bit primes around exp(256), the savings is 8 bits, or a reduction of 1 part in 46.  For larger primes, the relative savings is even less.  Around exp(2^16), the reduction is 1 part in 5909.

Despite the mostly uselessness of this endeavor, we charge forward.

Computing m is not practical for large primes.  For a practical method, we form a new number x = 2^k * floor(p / 2^k), equivalent to setting k lower bits of p to zero.  Then we can encode p as the n-th prime larger than x.  For small k, n is easy to compute, and it is easy to recover p from n and x (e.g., with a prime sieve starting from x).  Storing n instead of the lower bits of p results in some data savings because primes are less dense.  Curiously, the number of bits saved on average is log_2(log(p)), which is the theoretical maximum, and not dependent on k.  However, we also need to store k, which eats up some of those savings.  Because the number of bits saved is constant, this method paradoxically works less and less well for larger k.  However, with small k, n might vary significantly from the average, which could be good or bad.  Here is some Haskell code to compute n.  Here is some example output on the prime 3^233 + 176, which is around exp(2^8).  We can see there is generally around 8 bits of savings, except for 2^21 where we got lucky.

input 1476564251485392778927857721313837180933869708288569663932077079002031653266328641356763872492873429131586567699
prime # 1 after 2^ 9 * 2883914553682407771343472111941088244011464274001112624867338044925843072785798127649929438462643416272630015
prime # 3 after 2^ 10 * 1441957276841203885671736055970544122005732137000556312433669022462921536392899063824964719231321708136315007
prime # 8 after 2^ 11 * 720978638420601942835868027985272061002866068500278156216834511231460768196449531912482359615660854068157503
prime # 12 after 2^ 12 * 360489319210300971417934013992636030501433034250139078108417255615730384098224765956241179807830427034078751
prime # 24 after 2^ 13 * 180244659605150485708967006996318015250716517125069539054208627807865192049112382978120589903915213517039375
prime # 59 after 2^ 14 * 90122329802575242854483503498159007625358258562534769527104313903932596024556191489060294951957606758519687
prime # 129 after 2^ 15 * 45061164901287621427241751749079503812679129281267384763552156951966298012278095744530147475978803379259843
prime # 252 after 2^ 16 * 22530582450643810713620875874539751906339564640633692381776078475983149006139047872265073737989401689629921
prime # 526 after 2^ 21 * 704080701582619084800652371079367247073111395019802886930502452374473406441845246008283554312168802800935
prime # 8789 after 2^ 22 * 352040350791309542400326185539683623536555697509901443465251226187236703220922623004141777156084401400467

Future exploration:  "Luck" above is easily explained by long internal strings of zeroes in the binary representation of p: the least significant 21 bits of p are 000011111111000010011.  We could also try to take advantage of long internal strings of ones.  More generally, sieving for primes works well for regions defined by arithmetic progressions.  We might search generally for representations of p as the "a-th prime number of the form b*x + c larger/smaller than d*e^k".  Above we explored b=1, c=0, "larger", e=2, d unrestricted.  We could also explore anchor expressions more complicated than d*e^k.

Previously a completely different way to encode large prime numbers in a small amount of space.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

[oicxhazu] Sherlock Taken

Get Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock), or an impressionist, to read Liam Neeson's famous speech from Taken: "I have a very particular set of skills... I will find you..."

[gqksmejv] Smoothly transforming polyhedra

What pairs of nice polyhedra can be smoothly morphed to each other avoiding ugly shapes in between?  Ugly is of course subjective.  They form a graph.

[rkzmrdnt] Central Limit Theorem and Hypersphere picking

One can pick a point on the surface of a unit hypersphere of any dimension by first picking a point in that dimension whose coordinates are all sampled from the normal distribution, then scaling by the distance to the origin, i.e., projecting to the (hyper-)sphere.

One can approximately sample from a normal distribution by sampling a bunch of times from any distribution satisfying the central limit theorem, then computing the mean (or just sum) of the samples.

Together, these seem potentially useful, though not sure what.

Project the endpoint of a random walk to unit distance.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

[wbmowbjw] Print your own log tables

Ceate a device to print out log tables, inspired by Babbage's Difference Engine.  Obviously, a modern computer and printer.  There exist many fine details.

How much precision in input?  Printed tables of logarithms are already unwieldy (compared to calculators and computers) so go for the max and make it many volumes, maybe 90.  This will be very expensive.  How much precision in output?  The logarithm function changes rapidly near 1.0 but slowly near 9.9 so perhaps more gradations in input around 1.0 and more precision in output around 9.9.  We need that precision to invert (exponentiate).  Sampling along arc length seems like the right thing to do, but not so convenient for actual use of the table, typically doing interpolation.  Around 9.9 perhaps express output as 1-output.

All this assumes base 10.  Maybe binary, octal, or hexadecimal is better.  Perhaps invent new robust compact notation for those bases.   Previously, base 100.

Many many fine printing and bookmaking details of exactly how to format the tables to make it quick to find a desired entry.  A fancy dictionary has a thumb index.

What functions other than log?  Sine and cosine seem appropriate as the continuation of exponentiation into the complex plane.  Tangent and arc tangent?

[bhfrgtxp] Screaming crossword

Create a joke crossword puzzles whose clues indicate every answer is a scream: "Aaaaaa..."  Every box is A.  Maybe also battery sizes and minor league baseball.

[zvetsujf] Contra dance panopticon

The contra dance style which has inactives standing along the sides and actives dancing between them resembles the panopticon prison.  Do they serve similar purposes, preventing bad behavior by making people feel watched?  What were the social circumstances surrounding the creation and popularity of that style?  What are the circumstances surrounding its decline?  Will it come back?

[kxdvmnew] Language for climate change

Climate change will induce changes in language.  What new words, terms, or constructs will get invented?  Perhaps invent them now, as art, or to get ahead of the curve.

[zruxmgev] User-guided optimization and parallelization

Provide tools to improve the user experience of profile-guided optimization.  Perhaps something like, within a running program, trigger starting gathering profiling data, trigger recompilation with the gathered profiling data.  The user knows, "This is the use case of the program I want to optimize for."

Profiling could also guide automated parallelization.

[bvbbxjiv] insert-date

Some Emacs Lisp to insert the current date into the buffer:

(defun insert-date ()
  (call-process "date" nil t nil)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

[bcqozgyq] Addressing the Apollonian gasket

The circles in the Apollonian gasket fractal form a hierarchy with every circle having 3 parents.  Devise an addressing system which gives directions to a given circle, directions on how to construct it.  Do it efficiently: avoid constructing or consuming namespace on circles which are irrelevant to the given circle.

[jzwsfuye] Random binomial generator

Generate random or pseudorandom events from two possibilities at given probabilities.  This is easy.  Allow correlation with the immediate previous event.  This is also pretty easy given the Markov transition probabilities.  We could also have probabilities given as constraints, for example, one event occurs 3 times more frequently than some other event..  This requires linear algebra to solve for the transition probabilities.  Easily expand to more than 2 outcomes.

[mxlmdzml] Comfortable work chairs

The two types of chairs people often sit for many hours in are recliners and car seats.  Why aren't office chairs shaped like them?

[vswediqc] Rationally not learning

Mastering a skill requires both instruction then opportunities to practice what you learned.  Hypothesize that people rationally choose not to attend instruction because they correctly estimate that they will not have adequate opportunities to practice afterward.

Of course, this is broadly applicable to dropping out of school, or choosing not to continue education.

Inspiration was partner dancing lessons.  The opportunity to practice, social dancing outside of lessons, may be quietly sinister: effective practice involves making mistakes, so you can only learn in practice if you dance with someone whom you are comfortable making mistakes with, someone who is comfortable with you making mistakes.  That feeling of comfort, the decisions and behavior that make people comfortable or not, are very personal, and so we hypothesize harshly reflect social boundaries such as class or race, and ultimately induces the class and racial makeup of a dance scene.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

[snmhvicc] Donating to government hurricane relief

In searching for a good charity to donate to, consider donating to the U.S. government:

"No," you say: "I want to donate it to a specific effort or incident, for example hurricane relief.  It's my money and I want to control where it goes.  I don't want the government deciding where my money goes; they'll do it wrong."

"No," you say: "Private entities are more efficient and effective at distributing relief."

"No," you say: "I can't put my finger on exactly why, but the idea is inherently distasteful."

Of course, these arguments exactly mirror arguments that small-government conservatives make against welfare programs of the government in general.  When are such arguments valid?  When not?  Is it simply mundanely political: "I support big government when government supports me and Us, small government when the government supports Not One Of Us"?

Inspired by people looking for charities to support hurricane relief that are not the American Red Cross, because that charity is reportedly inefficient.

[dlfeonqj] Generic permutation puzzles

A Rubik's cube can obviously be generalized to an ordered set and a set of permutation operations on that ordered set.  The goal is to restore a permuted ordered set to its original order.

(This does not cover puzzles in which certain moves become not possible in certain states, e.g., bandaging.)

How difficult is solving these problems in general?  I would not be surprised if it is something like PSPACE-hard.  There are several questions: Is a given puzzle configuration solvable?  What is a solution?  That is, give an algorithm which will find a solution from any initial scramble.  What is the shortest solution, or some relatively short solution?  Analyzing the Rubik's Cube with group theory offers heuristics leading to short solutions (Kociemba): how does one do this for general permutation puzzles?

[ekqeulsi] Self-qi must be wrong

Meta criticism: The theory (not yet fully described) is simple, perhaps too simple.  Being so simple, someone else must have thought of it already, and therefore it must have already been subjected to tests of correctness.  If it has survived those tests, then we would expect the theory to already be widely known.

Yet, I am currently not noticing major problems with it.  There's a giant hole regarding what causes stress level to go up or down, but this is not yet a flaw.

[wwqjgwga] Highlighted pieces and squares

From a given chess position, consider the best line (principal variation) or the best few lines if there are multiple that are equally good.  For every square that is a destination of a piece in the lines, shade that square a certain color.  Squares that get involved only deeper in the line get less shading.  Square that get hit multiple times get darker shading.  We could also allow sophistication in which the shading color differs depending of the color of the piece or pieces that land on it.

Similarly, in the board diagram of the current position, highlight pieces that will move, perhaps darker if they move sooner or a lot, perhaps a different shade if they will be captured.

In general, these highlights annotate the "hot" squares and pieces in the line about to happen (assuming best play) from the current position.  This may be useful for spectating chess.  Previously.

[mapuxbob] Ultimate deep cut

Consider a twisty puzzle that has the motions of all the order-2 deep-cut puzzles on a cube: the 2x2 Rubik's cube, the Skewb, and the 24-cube.  The cuts on each face are an orthogonal cross and each quarter square is divided into 4 diagonally, so 16 isosceles right triangles per face.  Additionally there are cuts along the edges.

Also add all the additional turns that are possible using these cuts which preserve the shape of the cube after the turn.  I think these are: Dino cube vertex turn, very small vertex turn in the style of Pyraminx, Helicopter cube edge turn.

This seems very difficult to build mechanically so is best done virtually.

Inspired by an xscreensaver hack demonstrating various twisty puzzles.

[nyzwinpq] Very slow Death Star

The aliens arrive and unleash their planet-busting weapon on the protagonists' populated home planet.  However, the weapon works very slowly, taking millions of years to completely disassemble the planet and take it rock by rock into space.  This kind of time scale is normal for anyone engaged in interstellar space travel.

The inhabitants are not too concerned.

Inspired by futurists' plans or predictions to slowly disassemble planets to create many, many space stations providing more habitable area.

[kgharqcv] N queens of 2 colors

Place N white queens and N black queens on a chess board so that no queens of opposite colors attack each other.  Queens of the same color may attack each other.

The standard N queens problem is N queens of N different colors.

More sophistication possible with rooks and bishops.

[akmdjseh] What if no SUV?

CAFE and the Gas Guzzler Tax are (probably) examples of regulation gone terribly wrong: attempting to increase fuel economy instead brought about popularity of the SUV, not classified as a passenger car, and fuel economy did not increase.  The market did what the market does.

What would the streets of America be like today if those laws had not been passed?  We would probably have gas guzzling cars instead of gas guzzling SUVs, which seems better in several respects.  A gas guzzling car tends to be smaller and lighter than a gas guzzling SUV, increasing average safety: there is less total kinetic energy on the streets.  The large SUVs on the streets induced a zero-sum game where everyone else felt they needed a large SUV to feel safe.  A gas guzzling car, being smaller, likely has better fuel economy than a gas guzzling SUV.

The correct way to increase fuel economy would have been a gasoline tax, inducing market mechanisms toward better fuel economy (or possibly black markets or other ways to avoid the tax).  Even more problematically, even after the SUV made it clear the regulations weren't working, there were no attempts to repeal them or improve them.

[sjtyqosh] Free and not free speech

Post on Facebook, "Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences," and see who likes it.  This will give you a convenient list of people whom you need to self-censor your speech around.  Even if someone else posts it, the mutual friends who like provides a partial list.

One problem with this approach is a person's tolerance or intolerance of offensive speech changes day to day, likely due to stress levels.

[xesqugtd] Flying in a suit of armor

Consider air travel wearing a medieval suit of metal armor, to protect against the increased radiation levels at the altitude planes fly.  How much does the armor help?  It might be worth it for people who fly a lot.  Can you get armor through TSA security (it will of course block body scanning X-ray machines)?  Are some parts of the body more important to protect against radiation than other parts?  Make less unwieldy garments concentrating on those areas.  Soft lead is probably better than steel when protecting against radiation and not swords.

What are the main sources of the harmful radiation that make it into the passenger compartment of an airplane?  I suspect it is cosmic rays and cosmic ray decay products.

It's kind of interesting that more research into astronomy, to understand cosmic rays, and high energy particle physics, to understand their decays may be directly applicable to health.  Radiation penetrating into the spacecraft will also be very relevant to astronauts on long missions beyond the Van Allen belts.

[bqetbyhd] Fine-tuned advertising

Suppose you wish to create an advertisement targeted to one specific person, perhaps because technology has made such targeted advertising on a mass scale possible, or perhaps because the specific person is a high value target worth spending very large amounts of effort to try to influence.  How should the advertisement be?

Motivating example was fashion models: in the not-too-distant future, an advertiser will be able to virtually make a model look any way they want, e.g., size, shape, race.  What settings should be chosen to maximize the effectiveness of a fashion advertisement tailored (pun intended) to a given person, assuming the advertiser knows everything (thanks Google) about the targeted person?  I don't think the answer is to make the model look exactly like the target.  It might be to make the model look like who the target aspires to be or look like.  Who does the target aspire to be or look like?  Why?  The answers to these questions may reveal a totem pole of society.

[kdjykabg] Go on a sphere

Playing go 囲碁 on the surface of a cube is the easiest way to transport the game to a topologically spherical manifold while preserving the square-lattice feel of the original game.  Other ways are possible: subdivide the rhombic faces of a rhombic dodecahedron, or similarly any polyhedron whose faces are all quadrilaterals (preferably parallelograms).

Inspired by HEALpix, which subdivides a sphere into 12 squarish regions, then subdivides those "squares".

Given a polyhedron with all triangular faces, join pairs of adjacent faces forming non-planar quadrilaterals, which can then be subdivided into topological square lattices.  Slightly tricky in preferring pairs forming convex quadrilaterals, though nonconvex can be subdivided with curved lines.  There might be a few triangles left over representing topological defects where the game might be more interesting (similar to fights for a corner or edge in the original game).  Of course, if a face has more than three sides, it can be triangulated.

[ahhgjncw] Sphere eversion sculpture series

Create a sequence of sculptures, probably 3D printed, that illustrate sphere eversion.  Maybe convince yourself that there are no pinch points.

[zdsztbdt] Splicing dramatic pauses

Take 2 (or more) songs which hit a dramatic pause of silence and splice them at that point.  Also possible is starting a new song at the pause.  This should be easy.

[ridqqyie] Sniper crater

A sniper looks through the scope, puts the target's head in the crosshairs, then pulls the trigger.  The entire city block is destroyed, leaving a crater centered on the (former) target.  There's no kill like overkill.

Previously, a surprisingly less powerful weapon, and weapon power selectable by zoom level.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

[uhifqhlj] Hazing decreasing sexual assault

Hypothesize that members of organizations which haze, sterotypically college fraternities, commit less sexual assault than similar organizations which do not haze.  More specifically, all other things being equal (which is difficult assumption to control for), we hypothesize that hazing decreases membership of people who are more likely to commit sexual assault.  The hypothesized mechanism is that hazing often consists of humiliation, and sexual assault is often retaliation for humiliation.  Hazing often includes sexual humiliation.  Those who survive hazing have proven they can handle humiliation well enough to satisfy the organization, so are therefore less likely to react badly to humiliation in a sexual encounter.

More fundamentally, we hypothesize that hazing selects people with high self-qi, and sexual assault, reacting badly to humiliation, is committed by people with low self-qi.

Several problems with this hypothesis:

Self-qi (stress level) changes rapidly, day by day.  A high self-qi level during the hazing initiation ritual (allowing surviving the hazing) might have very little correlation with levels later.

Hazing requires the members to haze the initiates.  Such behavior requires members to override their instincts for compassion and instincts against cruelty.  People who can easily override those instincts, perhaps because of having had many occasions to do so, seem more likely to commit sexual assault.

[zwlevyom] VR desktop environment

Can virtual reality replace the monitor as a computer desktop environment for work, for example an IDE for computer programming?  Expand VR beyond entertainment and play.

Pros: potentially large display area.  Depth can be used to organize things.

Difficulties: heavy headset worn for many hours.  Typing blind (perhaps need a completely new kind of keyboard, maybe also add speech recognition).  Monitors offer higher pixel density.

[uytyhhho] Random color

Sample uniformly in Cielab color space and reject if it not in the RGB/sRGB gamut.  This (probably) decreases samples in the near-white and near-black regions.  Using a quasi random sequence would avoid colors close to each other.

Random colors of a given lightness also easy.  Previously, random saturated color, avoiding grays.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

[xxzqtrku] Vertical life-sized chess

Demonstrate a chess game on a board with people depicting pieces, but orient the board vertically.  Perhaps the performers use some circus-like athleticism as the pieces they represent move around this vertical board.

[tmsokqhu] Random polyhedron

Start with a "nice" 4D polytope, perhaps regular or convex uniform.  Take random a 3D slice through the center and depict the resulting 3D polyhedron.  It'll probably be oddly shaped but hints at underlying symmetry.  Perhaps the slicing hyperplane rotates and the shape changes.

Same thing could be done with 2D slices through the center of nice 3D polyhedra.

[hyygzocu] Keeping language the same

The invention of the printing press has caused some aspects of language, e.g., orthography, to change much more slowly than before.  Can (or will) further technology further slow language evolution?

Language kept constant over time allows knowledge to reliably be transmitted through time.  But could this also be bad for society?

Language is always embedded within a culture.  Constant language means constant culture, so this might be impossible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

[alfojqcb] Password entropy

If a password consists of all characters of the same class except possibly for the first or last characters, then: if they are all digits, then log(10) bits of entropy per character.  If they are all uppercase or all lowercase, then log(26).

If there is a capital letter in a place other than at the beginning, or a number or punctuation other than at the end, then log(95) per character.

Some corner cases remain to be specified.

Then, simply require a certain amount of entropy (thus defined) in users' passwords.  Users can choose whether to use a long password with little entropy per character or a short one with lots of entropy per character.

Perhaps forbid characters which cause the underlying data storage or UI to become confused (e.g., space).

Consecutive repeated characters count as 1+log of the repeat count.

[kxewbfgr] YB punctuation

The B and Y keys are far from the home position of fingers on a typical qwerty keyboard.  Put punctuation there, and move B and Y somewhere more convenient, probably where semicolon and slash are.

[llcqoetm] Torrenting web server

It seems conceptually simple for web server software (e.g., Apache) to provide a feature or plugin such that every static file also is made available as a torrent, perhaps trackerless, or a tracker also plugged into the server.

Friday, September 08, 2017

[ornqoevi] Genetically rebellious teenagers

Parents and greater society indoctrinate their kids, but during the rebellious teenager phase, they reject much of that indoctrination.  Hypothesize that that phase exists because of evolution: the indoctrination, despite well meaning, is actually so often harmful to the species that evolution preferred those who had strong genetic predisposition to cast it off when entering adulthood.

What terrible things were parents attempting to indoctrinate their children over the course of human evolution that induced such a strong natural selection for rebellious teenagers?  Is it still happening now?

The most obvious thing you are taught to do as a child, but should not do as an adult, is blindly and mindlessly obey.

[nflofxpg] Liquid NaK

Was the liquidness of sodium-potassium alloy discovered or predicted first?  Either way it must have been quite surprising and perhaps mysterious to combine two solids to make a liquid.

[tczxzgeg] 4-chord piano pedagogy

Create piano pedagogy based around the I-V-vi-IV chord progression.  Learn it in many keys and arpeggiations.  Lots of sophistication and variations eventually possible.  Guitar also possible.

[tgrwodlv] T/V from God

When you speak to God, perhaps in prayer or curse, you use tu and not Usted (in Spanish, similarly in other languages which distinguish between informal and formal you) because your relationship with God is supposed to be intimate, like close family.

Which form should be used when God speaks to you, for example in fiction?

[dwxxqhdw] Logan Shane

If the movie Logan had ended like Shane, as a good western should, with a mortally wounded Logan riding off into the sunset to an unknown fate, then subsequent movies could elegantly confirm his death by showing an adamantium skeleton by the roadside.  Or, if profit desires a subsequent movie, he simply rides back: nope I didn't die.

(X-Men Origins Wolverine apparently already did a reference to Shane.)

Instead, with him getting buried in the movie, it sets up a super corny return when profit desires it: zombie Logan claws out of the ground.

[chahihkh] On earth orbit

Construct an evacuated tube over a great circle around the Earth.  Have a vehicle traveling so fast within it that it experiences zero gravity: it is orbiting the earth at the surface.

This represents an engineering challenge so massive it will probably never be built.  Probably a political challenge too as the tube goes through many countries.  Motivation was to provide an easy way to provide long experiences of zero g for amusement (or perhaps science).

Does it have to be at the equator?  How strong are Coriolis forces if not at the equator?  If not at the equator, what about the oblateness of the earth?

Doing it around smaller astronomical bodies might be more feasible, though we have to get to them first, in which case, why not just experience zero g in space getting to them?

Previously, black holes in low orbit.

[vrgvwska] Usefulness of unattractiveness

If you are unattractive and someone behaves positively toward you, then you know they are in a good mental state (have high levels of self-qi).

If you are attractive, you gain no such useful information about the other person by their positive behavior toward you.  (You might gain information in negative behavior.)

Accurately gauging (even defining) what is genuine "positive behavior" is challenging.  Attractiveness is also in the eye of the beholder.

[kxybxqub] Macbeth on steroids

Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire feels like a greatly expanded and updated version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.  Perhaps not too surprising since both authors used the history of Scotland as source material.

It is an interesting way to create a derivative work.  Does it inspire others?

If copyright lasted as long as Disney wants it to -- forever -- and as wide as as wide as the Marvin Gaye estate wants it to, Game of Thrones would have never been made because the threat of copyright infringement lawsuits.

[dmwmdsgh] 4D Klein bottle

In four dimensions a Klein bottle can exist without the ugly puncture that is required in 3D.  Describe (give a explicit mathematical description) of an elegant, probably symmetric, embedding of a Klein bottle in 4D.

Does this help understand 4D better?

[bexormhc] Rocks fall from the sky

The adventuring party is aware of the prophecy that at the end, rocks will fall and everyone will die.  Accordingly, they take care to avoid cave-ins while exploring underground and rock slides while near mountains.

Little did they know the prophesied rocks would fall directly from the sky: asteroid impact.

[dkrhtugg] Punishment and trauma recovery

A victim suffers trauma as a result of criminal wrongdoing by a perpetrator, who is apprehended and punished.  Does the severity of the punishment that the justice system metes to the perpetrator affect the victim's long-term recovery rate from the trauma?

Of course, severe punishment induces the temporary elation of Schadenfreude.

Friday, September 01, 2017

[aivneynr] Turning to the Dark Side in a week

Palpatine: We're going to turn Anakin Skywalker evil.  It'll take a decade and machinations spanning an entire galaxy.

Philip Zimbardo: I can do it in a week.

Write new prequels of Anakin's fall grounded in real psychology.

[qhlkaarn] High density around transit stations

In some small neighborhoods around transit hubs, consider modifying zoning to permit extremely high density, inspired by Kowloon Walled City.

This maximizes the usage of transit.  Surely this has been tried, though not to KWC levels of density.

Politically, NIMBY of course.

[mhkqqzwt] Upside-down pyramid numbers

A very fast growing integer sequence: 10, 10^100, 10^100^1000, 10^100^1000^10000,...

It is faster growing, and fatter at the top, than a plain tower 10^10^10^...

NB: exponentiation is evaluated right to left.

[itduickj] Fairy chess problem contest

Is orthodox chess the chess variant which permits the widest range of interesting chess problems?  (Subjective are "range" and "interesting".)  Run some contests in fairy chess to find out.


[fzayrazu] Self play contest

Compose a beautiful chess game from a given starting position.


[ajcstplo] Chess problem exhibit

Create a museum exhibit of chess problems.  This should be fairly easy as there already exist many collections of beautiful chess problems.  Some curation challenges still exist of choosing which ones, and organizing them into a physical space: perhaps by theme, perhaps in order of difficulty?

Large board diagrams so the problems can be seen from anywhere in the room, many physical boards available so people can try solving them, FEN available encoded as a QR code so people can examine them on their mobile devices.

More ambitiously, art can accompany a board diagram which illustrates the theme of a problem.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

[pxbmjtaa] Stress or self-qi

We will consider, over many posts, a model with only a single variable which we hypothesize can explain a great deal of human behavior.

We currently lack a good name for the variable, so we borrow terms from several from other fields, knowing that it does not quite match each term's definition in other fields (so sadly likely inducing confusion at some point).

One term is stress or stress level, borrowing the idea of psychological stress.

Another term, with the scale oriented in the opposite direction, is self-qi, borrowing the term qi from Eastern medicine.  More stress is equivalent to less self-qi.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

[kumjhbfa] Large type keyboard

Draw letters on keyboard keys as large as possible.  Is there any good reason not to do so?  Maybe to save paint.

Obviously, large type is useful for people with poor vision, or in poor lighting conditions.  It is also more robust to paint becoming scratched off and letters becoming difficult to read.

Unrelatedly, possibly useful for learners of a language is to have both the upper and lower case versions of a letter on the keycap (and also alternate letterforms e.g., two- and one-storey a and ɑ).

[cauwyegu] Who vets third-party Javascript?

A website relies on Javascript provided by a third party.  Who evaluates that code to check that it is secure and functions properly?

Ideally the website operator does, but they actually cannot see what code the third party provides to the user's browser at the moment the client visits the site.

In principle, the user can and should examine the code before running it, though this seems difficult and annoying.

The website could refer to the third-party code not by URL but by content hash, thereby suggesting to the user that they have examined at least that version of the third-party code.  This encourages the development of robust content distribution networks based on content hash.

Considerably more sophisticatedly, the website could refer to the third-party code by a formal specification of what the third-party code is supposed to do.  The third party provides some code and the user's computer automatically verifies that the code obeys the specification.

[wppxzqmr] Musical key dice

Create a d12 die marked with the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.  The application is to randomly pick what key to play in.  For major keys, F-sharp and G-flat are both common names for the uncommon key.

This could easily also be done with a standard d12 die: just count up the scale the given number of half steps from some standardized start note, probably C.

[ucdemxih] Solving then solving elegantly

Create a puzzle which first invites the player to solve it, then invites the player to tweak their solution to make it more pretty or elegant.

Helpful is a way of recording and replaying a solution.

[frtsjule] Long lived patches

Create a source-based software distribution ecosystem in which optional patches are also distributed like the software.  Patches have maintainers like the software, and versions and dependencies.

Conflicting patches present a challenge.

[rfncsbuj] Astronomy and Mathematics in the wizarding war

It would have been interesting if the Astronomy and Arithmancy professors at Hogwarts remained neutral during the wizarding war.  The powers and forces of the heavens, and those of the abstract realm in which mathematics operates care not about the trivial concerns of humans.

Monday, August 28, 2017

[lsvbcsga] Portrait movie

With so many people viewing entertainment on phones and tablets, directors may soon starting filming movies and shows in portrait format.  (Many mobile games are already in portrait.)  Filming in portrait will require new thinking in cinematography.

[qllbwysh] Truncating or extending to a sphere

Given a regular polyhedron and inscribed sphere (insphere), truncate its vertices creating new faces that are tangent to the original inscribed sphere.  This process can be done on any polyhedron, and the successively truncated polyhedron approaches a sphere.  The new faces do not need to be constructed where old vertices were: the grinding stone could be applied anywhere, grinding to tangency to the insphere.

Dually, consider a starting polyhedron and sphere it is inscribed within (exsphere).  Above a face construct a vertex on the exphere then add edges joining the new vertex to the vertices of the face it is above.  These new faces will typically be triangular.  The successively truncated polyhedron also again approaches the sphere.  There is freedom of where above each face to construct the new vertices (perhaps one of the many triangle centers).  Sometimes edges of the starting polyhedron disappear as adjacent faces are coincident.  I suspect this happens when a cube is grown into a rhombic dodecahedron.

[xoylkfsz] All of society as a crowded theater

A person speaks inflammatory speech.  How society responds -- perhaps incited to commit acts of violence -- depends on the state of society.  Define a model which can predict, based on measurements of a society, how society will respond to inflammatory speech.

It is illegal to falsely shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater because a nervous audience might stampede for the doors, causing death and dismemberment.  If society is sufficiently on edge like that, we could consider it similar to a crowded theater and restrictions on the freedom of speech could be justified consistently.

However, if society is really on edge like that to be justified in punishing speech so aggressively, then society has significantly bigger problems than just the speaker.  The speaker, and the subsequent actions incited, reveal something terribly wrong with society: perhaps systematic oppression.

[nwkomoys] Fighting the enemy with apathy

Hate directed at the enemy -- acts of aggression or defiance -- strengthens them by inducing and reinforcing their identities of victimhood.  Conversely, love would weaken them.  However, if you are not capable of loving the enemy, perhaps because your hate toward them is too entrenched in your psyche, then consider instead aiming for apathy toward them as the next best weapon to weaken, or at least not strengthen, them.

[iwntlvjv] War of attrition

The stakes getting larger is a common trope to increase dramatic tension.  Tell a story of the stakes becoming smaller, while still keeping the audience interested.  This might be difficult.

Previously, Game of Thrones as a parable of climate change.  Perhaps the characters fight over less and less habitable land.

[dzoyuqpm] Dumb phone with tethering

A device which does not exist, but perhaps should: a basic phone, capable of phone calls and texts, also with the capability of tethering -- providing internet capability to another (more powerful) device.  The phone can become a wi-fi hotspot, or provide Bluetooth or USB tethering to a computer or tablet.  Thus, you use only the phone when you only need basic communication services, and augment it when you need something more sophisticated an powerful.

We are currently somewhat stymied by the many text-based communication protocols that users might want a basic phone to support; unfortunately, supporting all of them, including those which don't exist yet, seems to require the capabilities of a general-purpose computer.

[xlaxvsrh] Very cold planets

In the far future universe, the ambient temperature of the universe (cosmic background radiation) will have dropped enough that any normal matter left, e.g., planets, may exhibit weird quantum properties: perhaps planets with oceans of superfluid helium.

[snvpjcpd] Defeated civil war leaders

Many nations around the world fight civil wars.  Enumerate monuments honoring the losing side, perhaps leaders of the losing side.  These might be rare; the winning side likely wishes to eliminate positive sentiment toward the enemy.  Are there statues of Chiang Kai-shek in mainland China, statues of Tsars in Russia, statues of Kings or Emperors in France?

Inspired by statues of Confederate leaders coming down.  How unusual was it for the statues to have stood for so long?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

[gzagyvxt] Pinhole and inverse pinhole

Common is projecting the partial phases of solar eclipse through a pinhole camera.  In the moments before and after totality, shadows cast by objects in the tiny sliver of the sun are extremely sharp.  These are two manifestations of the same phenomenon, curiously both occurring during an eclipse, though the pinhole works all the time.

Friday, August 25, 2017

[gkymwnwl] Goblet of Fire mashup

Barty Crouch, Jr. does too good a job mimicking Mad-Eye Moody, too good a job at being a good Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.

This can easily be explained in real life by hypothesizing that in an early draft, it was the real Mad-Eye Moody the whole time, then in later drafts the plot required someone to have infiltrated Hogwarts, so the Polyjuice mimicry was added much later, but the original character was not modified much (because it was so good), even though it should have been: the plot would have been much stronger if there were more persistent and consistent hints that Moody was not who he said he was, and he was not fully committed to teaching students Defence Against Dark Arts.

Tell a better story of the DADA instructor being a double agent.

[svnuzzrd] Standard dice quiz

Given an isometric view of 3 faces of a cubical die, determine if the view could be the view of a standard die.

Toggle whether the orientation of the markings of asymmetric numbers (2,3,6) matter.  Is there a standard orientation?

Motivation is to recognize cheating dice.

Monday, August 21, 2017

[liczukhs] L1 sun shield

It is very convenient that the L1 Lagrange point exists between the sun and earth.  Put a bunch of stuff there to partially shield the earth from sunlight, decreasing the earth's temperature, either to combat short-term global warming or long-term increasing power of the sun.

L1 is not stable, so stuff there will require station keeping: maybe lasers.

[tjlnlazp] Tori eating tori

When you eat a donut or bagel, you are sending a torus through torus (alimentary canal).

[ckcwathr] Out-biking a sprinter

How difficult is it to bike faster than a world-class sprinter, i.e., 400 meters in less than 45 seconds?  Probably not so easy for regular people.

[mkxmvdmc] Square pieces with large bounding box

Cut a square into 4 rectangles by 2 orthogonal cuts.  Rearrange the rectangles into a new shape with all 4 meeting at a vertex.  Consider the bounding box around the new shape.  Over all cuts and rearrangements, which has the largest bounding box?

Repeat with a cube.  Repeat with only the subset of arrangements possible for a 2x2 mirror cube.

[suzmcjzw] Storing data in library borrowing

Records about library book borrowing (and video rentals) seem to be enjoy an extra level of legal privacy protections.  Use this to encode and store private information.

[bbgqvfum] Sum of the reciprocals of the midpoints of twin primes

The even numbers between 2 odd twin primes are often rather smooth.  This suggests computing exact partial sums of their reciprocals because the denominators may have many factors in common.

The infinite sum is (almost certainly) a finite, probably irrational, number, similar to Brun's constant.

[flulmebe] Retirement to Chess960

There seem to be very few chess players declaring they are done with orthodox chess and retiring to only play Chess960 because they are tired of memorizing openings or losing straight out of the opening.  This seems contrary to what Fischer (implicitly) predicted, motivating him to invent FRC.

Perhaps among all the efforts needed to get or stay strong at chess (at any level), opening preparation remains a relatively minor proportion of the work.

[ndpdarla] Leech lattice

Generate the 196560 24-dimensional points in in the Leech lattice closest to the origin.

What are the dimensions of a rectangular parallelopiped Leech lattice unit cell which can be tiled to generate the whole lattice?

These should be easy.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

[rcmtzzqf] Yoda is your father

Luke: No, that's not true, that's impossible!

(Allusion to racism.)

[icqzdzoh] Science during the Big Rip

Assume the Big Rip scenario will occur as the ultimate fate of the universe.  Although the universe currently conceals its workings at its tiniest subatomic levels (what are quarks made of? Electrons?), all will be revealed (perhaps strings, but what are strings made of?) in the final moments of the Big Rip as expanding space itself functions like the ultimate atom smasher, tearing even the sturdiest of particles apart.

Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine life surviving until that point, and even if it does, after learning the secrets of the universe, they won't get to enjoy that knowledge for long.

[eayfbxar] Eclipse monument

Because total solar eclipse times and dates, paths, and location of the sun in the sky can be calculated with high precision many years in advance (but unfortunately not the weather), it suggests creating art specifically designed to do something interesting in a predicted eclipse.

Maybe some sort of sundial.

What spots will experience two total solar eclipses in a short (or not-so-short) time period, so that the art can function twice?  (Though the position of the sun in the sky will differ.)  Near the Missouri panhandle gets two in 7 years (2017 and 2024), but it's probably too late to construct something interesting for the 2017 eclipse.

[cdygnbjp] Higher velocity vehicles

For each class of vehicle (e.g., car, train, plane, boat, submarine, rocket ship in space), enumerate thresholds of speed at which engineering becomes suddenly more difficult.

For vehicles traveling through air, atmospheric heating becomes significant at high velocities.

[tlompybm] Humans thinking like cats and dogs

Dog, thinking about their human owners: They feed me, care for me, provide me shelter.  They must be gods!

Cat: They feed me, care for me, provide me shelter.  I must be a god!

Both logics can be applied to relationships between humans.  What causes which people to think which way?  Both ways can be harmful.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

[nmxxmitr] Easy high speed rail

If we instituted a carbon tax, would high-speed rail simply appear, displacing the airline industry, as it becomes financially desirable to solve rail's political problems?  The underlying assumption is that high-speed trains are considerably more fuel efficient than airplanes.  High-speed trains also can use electricity from non-carbon sources.

The assumption that high speed trains are more fuel efficient might be false due to air resistance: air is denser near the surface of the earth.  Trains could be made to run in evacuated tubes.

[fzfogruv] Tag team chess

Multiple players on a team but only one at time at the board making moves; others sequestered.  Specialists possible for different phases of the game.  Long games possible, since exhaustion less of an issue.

Details remain of sequestering and how to induce a player change.

What other sports would tag-team be interesting?

[vllukivz] Arbitrary slope word search

Create a word search puzzle in which words can be at any rational slope, not just ({-1,0,+1}, {-1,0,+1}) as typically done.  Words may also wrap around.

Two possibilities: slopes like (2,0), i.e., skipping every other letter on a horizontal line, are not permitted.  This makes it like drawing lines through lattice points.

Or, such slopes are permitted: if the total number of letters in the grid is a smooth number, then the puzzle may be reformatted to many different shapes, and a word solution in one shape remains a word solution in another.  One can even format into higher dimensional grids.  This could help make the puzzle easier.

Pack a large number of words into a grid given these relaxed rules.

[rfudakrd] Symmetric dice faces

Mark a d6 die with the following number of pips on faces: 0 1 4 5 8 9.  These are the numbers of pips which can be elegantly drawn with 4-fold symmetry on a square face.

Consider a convention in which 2 can be signified as a central 1 dot circled.  Then, on equilateral triangular faces, any natural number can be drawn symmetrically on the face.  For example, 5 is 3 dots on the corners and a central dot circled.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

[wpxdhrin] Circle constant in binary

In binary, the controversy about which of pi, 2*pi, or pi/2 should be the circle constant is simply where to put the decimal point.

Pi/4 is a nice constant between 0 and 1: . 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1

[iprpjqdt] Perspective checkerboard

An infinite checkerboard drawn with one- or two-point perspective can display an infinite number of squares, assuming possible drawing infinitely fine detail, which can be done on a computer by providing zoom.

Somewhat resembles models of hyperbolic space, e.g., Poincare half-plane model.  Infinity is on the horizon.

Play games on an infinite checkerboard, maybe Conway's Game of Life.

[ehgrxcmb] Why can we dance?

Both dancing and playing musical instruments involve sequences of physical movements done with extremely high precision in time: rhythm.  Why, evolutionarily, are humans able to do this?

Three taps could convey a lot of information, the middle tap precisely timed between the others.

[ioxojklm] Not packing spheres

Mathematicians study circle packing and sphere packing.  However, beautiful patterns can also be made if the circles or spheres intersect one another.

[ptipicgi] Polyhypercubes

A sudoku grid can elegantly display a 4D object consisting of hypercubes glued together.  This can be the basis for 4D games.

Rotate one 4D object to match a given orientation.

4D Soma cube.

Generalize many other 2D games based on a square grid or square lattice to 4D.

Monday, August 07, 2017

[kbhpcikp] Better shufflable cards

A deck of cards is an elegant entropy generation (and storage) device.  Can it be improved so that it is easier and more effectively shuffled?  Maybe the edges of the cards taper in thickness.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

[wvrvhuym] Packing shiftable rectangles

Consider an orthography in which a letter may be shifted up or down so long as it intersects the baseline.  For example, the lowercase letter g may be shifted up so that its tail sits on the baseline, or shifted down so the top of the letter is tangent to the baseline.  This is different from traditional English orthography.

Given this flexibility for each letter, pack words in a paragraph in as little vertical space as possible, avoiding overlapping letters.  If spacing between words, i.e., horizontal justification, is solved first (by normal methods), then the vertical position of letters could be (somewhat) easily solved with a system of springs.  Each letter prefers to be centered on each line's baseline, and the top line and bottom line prefer to be as close as possible.  Minimize the total potential energy.

More complicated is if horizontal spacing is adjusted simultaneously with vertical positions of each letter.  Shift a word left or right to fit in the nooks and crannies of the word below it.

This may be difficult to read it the baseline is not marked.  Maybe alternating lines are in different colors.

For a more sophisticated model, the range a letter may be shifted may be different from its total vertical height.

Inspired by this bunch of text with letters of many different sizes.  There, a single tall letter determined the height of the line.

[pmzaxaxr] Sidereal solar delta

Distant aliens with telescopes observing the Earth see your face once every sidereal rotation period.  You see the sun once every solar day.  These day counts slowly become out of sync.  The number of days difference is equal to your age in years.

[abqvqmpq] Avoiding one bad move

Each chess player is aided by a computer program of their choosing which eliminates exactly one bad move choice from the move possibilities each turn.  Best is probably that the forbidden move is taken back if the player makes it so that the move is not used as to steganographically encode more information, like a computer-calculated best move.

How should the one bad move be chosen by the computer?  Something that would seem plausible to the human but is actually bad.  How much can the human improve by this assistance?

The one bad move could also be chosen by other humans on a team.

Previously, one bit per game.

[maoqpjfl] Outsmarted by hunter-killer robots

Describe a vaguely realistic scenario in which robots defeat humans not through greater brute strength or numbers or persistence but through greater intelligence.  Difficulties:

Somehow those other advantages robots have must be made not to work.

A task requiring intelligence versus, say, arithmetic ability, though the difference gets murky.

It's hard to imagine a robot doing significantly better than a human, or perhaps even doing significantly better than random, for realistic tasks or contests which are games of hugely incomplete and imperfect information.  We could set up scenarios which aren't, maybe a chess game for the fate of each race, but they aren't realistic.

Maybe both sides are given identical resources and tasked to create a better product, maybe weapons to use against each other, though weapons for use against humans are very different from weapons against robots.

[vhuyobrd] Rhapsody of violence

A mashup video theme which is probably fairly easy to make: a collection of scenes of violence from TVs and movies, ironically musically accompanied by the pretty "second movement" of Rhapsody in Blue, associated with United Airlines.

Slight difficulty is that the second movement does not end cleanly.

[rwrvzkyq] Space race items

Put a satellite in orbit, then arrest its orbital velocity with rockets, not atmospheric braking, then bring it back down to earth with retrorockets.  This will require a lot of fuel.

Put a satellite in a retrograde equatorial orbit.

Hover a rocket for a long time.

Manned capsule of these things.

(Some have probably already been done.)

Why do these things?  "Not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

[ibdhfbku] Dehumidifier efficiency

What is the theoretical maximum efficiency of a dehumidifier?  There's probably some way of relating it to the maximum possible efficiency of a refrigerator.

[hgxycxjg] Some of my worst enemies are white

The sterotypical racist claims, "Some of my best friends are black" to confuse the issue.  This can be made more effective -- more confusing -- by also adding, "Some of my worst enemies are white."  Even more intensely: "Some of the people who I would join in the celebration of their lynching, who I would feel the greatest pleasure in the world in their destruction, are white."

The likely truth is, things really are quite confusing, and labeling things as black and white, or black versus white, is good for politics (for both sides), but not good for understanding.

[uqnjpknp] Second-world country

A heterogeneous country, a diverse collection of different cultures, multicultural, enjoys agility and faster recovery in the face of changing conditions, but also suffers internal conflict between those cultures.

Meanwhile, a homogenous country, monocultural, can suffer society-wise devastation if conditions change to become unfavorable to the monoculture, but enjoys the high productivity of less internal conflict when conditions are favorable.

Therefore, if living in a multicultural country, consider the mindset of resigning yourself to not getting along, not being as productive as monocultural countries (until a shock occurs).

There's a perverse incentive to cause the shock.

However, perhaps every country is actually multicultural, having a stratified society to allocate labor.

[curathss] How to do it better

Design a system so that anyone who has learned the basics can do anything possible, albeit awkwardly or inefficiently.  (The basic subset is complete, in the style of Turing-completeness.)  Then, provide educational tools that offer ways to improve a given imperfect method.

Command line, or textual programming, is good for this because it can capture starting point for improvement -- text of the starting method -- which can be pointed at and altered.  A sequence of mouse clicks is not so good.

All this corresponds to a radical difference from asking the Microsoft paperclip or Google or Amazon AI voice assistant how to directly do something.

[iqjmofby] 5-on-0 3-point shootout

A team of basketball players, with 1 ball and no opposition, work together to make many 3-point baskets.  Probably a mix of rebounders and shooters.

Most straightforward is how many can be made within a short time period.  More dramatic is a "shot clock" which resets when a basket is made: how many can be made before enough consecutive misses cause the shot clock to run out?

Perhaps after each made shot, they need to move the ball to the other end of the court.

[uptoibuv] Collaborative filtering with anonymity

Collaborative filtering for applications like filtering out junk and malice seems difficult when the good agents also want to retain anonymity.  Your pattern of actions separating good from bad yield a pattern which can be used to identify you.

A free speech platform can provide anonymity but gets attacked by spam and malicious junk.  Collaborative filtering would be nice.

[orcxgxnt] Future and past

Scientists, especially astronomers, in the far future will see a very different universe than we do now and will ponder as huge unknowns things that are observationally obvious to us now.  This assumes information about now is not reliably stored into the far future.

Nothing beyond the Local Group of galaxies will be visible.  The Cosmological Microwave Background will have become redshifted to invisibility.  They will wonder where did they come from?  What exists beyond the edge of their (very small) Observable Universe?

Perhaps they are scientists living in the universe's late stage Black Hole Era, living near a black hole, their civilization feeding off its emitted Hawking radiation.  They might wonder what flat spacetime is like.  It might be practically impossible to leave the vicinity of their black hole using only collected Hawking energy, so they might have a very finite view of their universe.

Next, how are the questions of future scientists similar to questions we have now?  We of course wonder about the past conditions of the universe, which would have been observationally obvious to hypothetical life existing then.  Did they record any answers for us?

[gunvqdfn] Life in previous epochs of the universe

The early universe underwent several significant phase changes.  Hypothesize intelligent life existed in those hot early phases (because life... finds a way).  Scientists in those early phases observed their changing universe, saw that a phase change was coming, and realized that life as they knew it could not survive the phase change.  What did they then do to try to survive?  Do we see their handiwork?  Are we their handiwork?  Did they try to record any information to communicate to beings (us) after the phase change?

Previously, on life existing in very short time scales.

We see several phase changes coming in our universe, the end of the Stelliferous Era, after which point, life will need to survive around stellar remnants or (later) by feeding off Hawking radiation emitted by black holes.  We cannot survive as we currently are under those conditions, but futurists are imagining how we might try.

Could life spontaneously arise and naturally evolve to survive conditions in the future universe?  Maybe yes, because those future eras will last an extremely long time.

[tcawirzd] Icons considered harmful

UI designers seem to like using icons on buttons (etc.) instead of text labels for ease of internationalization (because seemingly no need to translate a picture).  However, a text label is much easier to search for help for (e.g. look for help with a web search engine) than an image, even for users unfamiliar with the language.  It might be tricky for users unfamiliar with the orthography, but I suspect a huge proportion of the world can handle Latin orthography.

Buttons can be colored coded for ease of identification.

Often buttons with icons these days get pop-up text labels.  We could interestingly reverse: pop up large high-resolution images to accompany text-labeled buttons.

[ieiadgqy] Mechanical arcade

Despite (or perhaps because of) sophistication in computer graphics delivering realistic or detailed virtual gameplay, the most popular games at the arcade (one arcade, a small sample size) seem to be physical games: crane with claw, skeeball, air hockey.

This suggests designing and providing more physical games, especially interesting ones: give the mechanical engineers some work.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

[ugkqelcj] covfefe

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