Saturday, August 29, 2015

[hgqlbhua] Win some, lose some

The saying, "you win some, you lose some" is typically spoken with an air of resignation, asking to be at peace with the split outcome.

However, such an outcome ought to beg a question: what was the difference between the wins and losses?  Inspired by machine learning, we seek a classifier.

[dxrrrsha] Circles through a point

Define 128 points on a plane, and 1 more special point, called X.  Select a subset of the 128 points, representing the set bits of a 128-bit key.  For each selected point P, draw a circle centered at P that passes through X.

A zoom up of the region surrounding X looks like a messy collection of arcs, but it artistically encodes all the information about the original key.

16 by 16 array of 256 points on the half integer lattice, and X at the origin.


[louwtopx] Children buying condoms

Create a reality show sketch of children of various ages buying condoms, filming the reactions of the checkout clerks.

Particularly interesting might be to vary the gender, race, and other markers of socioeconomic status of the children to see how a clerk's reaction varies, with the hypothesis that they will care a lot more when a child perceived to be of a more "important" class is buying condoms.

[cgsrsbeu] Pawn promotion in bughouse

A few distinct ideas of modifying pawn promotion in bughouse or crazyhouse chess.  The motivation is, because pawns can easily be captured then dropped on the 7th rank, there end up being too many queens, or the threat thereof, ruining the subtlety of the game.

A pawn can promote only to a Man, i.e., a fairy chess piece that moves like a nonroyal king.  Inspired by shogi, which also does drops, but pawns can promote only to Gold Generals which are far less powerful than chess queens.

A pawn that started on the second or third rank (either from the initial position or the being dropped there) may promote to any piece, but pawns dropped further up can only promote to rook, bishop, or knight (or Man).  This makes the promotion decision nontrivial depending on exactly what kind of piece movement you need at the moment.  We need to distinguish by some marking some pawns queenable versus not.

[ytnoplmw] Mercator with caps

The center section of the page is a Mercator projection, of course omitting the polar regions.  Above and below the center section are circular caps in some azimuthal projection of the polar regions.  Perhaps they overlap.

If they don't overlap, they could be scaled as a cut-apart cylinder.

Previously similar.

[zctkiahd] Market failures of competition

Economic competition induces cutting corners to decrease costs and increase profits.  This results in an abundance of shoddy products and services.

Is the market still acting efficiently in this case?  If not, exactly where are the market failures?

Perhaps imperfect information: the producer knows better than the consumer where the corners were cut.  But the market will naturally evolve signalling mechanisms. For example, this could be mitigated by transparency, especially among producers seeking to differentiate their product as one with high quality, one that does not cut corners.  But transparency does not seem to be happening.

Market failures of monopolies and oligopolies might dominate, making it hard to isolate effects not caused by them.

[zldhbsvq] Challenges of transmitting power

Assume that the future of power generation will be large amounts of power generated at remote locations.  Nuclear power plants far from populations, solar plants in the desert, wind turbines in flat areas, hydroelectric power from large dams.

Then, the key corresponding technology we need to develop is efficiently transporting the energy over long distances.  Superconducting cables?  Electrolysis then hydrogen through pipelines or tankers?

[fcqxnetg] Origami boat

Fold an origami boat while on a small boat, e.g., a canoe.  Your canoe is now a ship.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

[wbopzimj] Ramped hallway

Design a building with multiple floors in which the central hallway is sloped, probably as a spiral, so one can ascend to the upper floors without needing to climb stairs.  (Both stairs and elevators may also be provided as shortcuts.)

How large does the building have to be so that the slope is gradual enough?

How does one prevent the accidentally released baby carriage from rolling away at high speed?  Perhaps a circular ramp.

What should be done with doors off the hallway?  The horizontal bottom of the door will not line up with the slope of the ramp.  Perhaps the ramp goes horizontal at doors.

A "unit" off the hallway wanting two doors to the hallway will have to have stairs or a ramp within the unit.  Or the building has internal and external spiral ramps.  But an external ramp will obstruct windows and patios.  Another idea: there could be multiple internal ramps (multiple helices) and a flat unit could intersect multiple ramps.

Inspired by motorcycles being used to ascend the Tower of David abandoned skyscraper in Caracas Venezuela.  Previously on tall ramps.

[viuczpov] Trash can freezer

A kitchen trash can that is also a freezer, keeping the trash cold to prevent it from smelling.

[bgmxyetr] Bus with next bus display

Put on the outside curb side of the bus a live-updating display of times of the next buses arriving at the stop.  This is probably only useful for bus stops that have multiple bus routes that stop at it.

Ideally, such a display would instead be built into the bus stop itself (seen in San Francisco), but this has challenges of power, vandalism, and theft.  Initial deployment and subsequent maintenance requires an engineer to travel out to the field, instead of doing all work at the bus barn.  There are also probably more stops than buses.

On the other side of the bus, a similar display but giving the next buses for the stop across the street.  A passenger waiting at a stop across the street sees a bus stop there and can read when a bus is coming to his or her stop.

A similar display on the back of the bus for when the next bus of the same route is expected to arrive at the station just passed; for those situations of just missing a bus, seeing its back as it drives away.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

[ojmuwfqn] Alphabet subset

Given a list of words and a limit N, select N letters out of the alphabet which maximizes (or minimizes) the number of words on the list which can be spelled using only those letters.

Brute force: (word list size)*binomial(alphabet size, N) is probably not too bad for English.

Inspired by spelling words using hexadecimal letters only: CafeBabeFeedFaceDeadBeef.

[qlendfbp] Interesting helpmates

From a given chess position, perhaps the initial position, tree search (e.g., perft) can find all the checkmate positions within some number of plies.  These positions are helpmates, because it is simply exhaustive tree search and not minimax.  Which of these helpmate sequences are aesthetically interesting?

Minimality: None of the moves by either side can be omitted (replaced with a passing move).  Also avoid subsequences of useless moves, e.g., shuffling a rook.

[iaouizeu] Scoville homeopathy

Express spiciness using the homeopathic X (or C) potency scales, denoting the heat equivalent of a dilution of pure capsaicin.

What other substances do people consume that are useful at extremely low concentrations?  Maybe LSD.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

[zcdpxksx] Speed of weaponizing nuclear science

This seems a very short interval of time (34 years) between the discovery of basic science to its practical use drastically changing the world:
1911 Rutherford discovers the atom has a nucleus
1919 Rutherford discovers the proton
1932 Chadwick discovers the neutron
1938 Hahn discovers nuclear fission
1942 Chicago Pile-1 nuclear reactor
1945 Trinity nuclear test

Compare it with another seemingly short interval in technology (63 years):
1903 Wright brothers' first powered flight
1969 Apollo 11 man on the moon
though these achievements were preceded by ancient Chinese rockets and the "discovery" of bird and insect flight before recorded history.

1833 Faraday discovers semiconductivity in silver sulfide
1940 Ohl discovers p-n junction in silicon
1960 Fairchild Semiconductor mass produces integrated circuits
1971 Intel 4004 microprocessor

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

[jkjsenzc] Tipping

The debate surrounding tipping exemplifies the duality of "entitlement" versus "respect" in a political war of words.

One side bitterly complains about wait staff who act and speak as if they are "entitled" to tips, even though tipping is optional on the part of the customer.

The other side bitterly complains that not tipping, or not tipping enough, constitutes disrespect, and retaliation against poor tippers is therefore justified.

[nuiyagci] Dried beans shibboleth

Which grocery stores stock dried beans?  Could be a strong marker of the kinds of customers a store caters to.

[mzwvmtyr] Multiple charging ports

Create a smart phone with multiple micro USB ports.  This avoids the phone becoming unusable when its only port becomes damaged.  It also allows charging the phone via one port while using a power-hungry USB OTG device on another.

[adnihgcg] Tamil Nadu

It is curious that two candidates for the smartest human who has ever lived, Viswanathan Anand and Srinivasa Ramanujan, are both from the same state in India, Tamil Nadu. explores further (citing Patrick French), noting 3 out of 4 Indian Nobel prizes.

[kwuogjas] URL characters

URLs can use 66 unreserved characters, or 84 total including the "reserved" characters, hoping nothing weird happens with characters like # and / on the client side.

Unofficial limits on the length of a URL range from 2000 to 65000 characters.

One could encode quite a lot of information in 65K characters of base 84.

Motivating idea was a server which could run demoscene-style small programs generating an image or movie or game encoded in a HTTP GET request.  Probably redundant with the data URI scheme.

[vvrmyetr] Random sentence generator for passphrase initialisms

Consider a password scheme of using the initial letters of each word in a memorable sentence.  Create a random sentence generator to generate such memorable sentences, whose initial letters have a good distribution over all strings of a given length.

A better, or more fun, way to do it might be to start with a uniformly random (say) 8 character string, and have the user create a sentence with those initials.  Furthermore, the user is permitted to add additional words (likely articles, prepositions, and other "form" words) to help construct a memorable sentence.  This lengthens the initialism passphrase and is no longer uniform over the longer word length, but still has the 8 random characters worth of entropy that it started with.

Start with "vvrmyetr". Voracious Velociraptors Require More Yams to Eat Than Red meat.  End with "vvrmytetrm".

Perhaps avoid letters that are unusual initials, e.g., x.  Would using the second letters be easier? Or, add Th Wh Sh Ch. (The above example no longer works because Than is TH; we instead need a T word that is not Th.)

Perhaps a game about who can create memorable sentences, and development and dissemination of wisdom on how.

[zxjheixk] Road watersheds

Three major interstates feed into the San Francisco Bay Area: I-5 South, I-5 North, and I-80.  Partition the rest of the country by which route is the fastest.

Inspired by a dream: how do you get to San Francisco from Tulsa?

[dntjmmrh] Tallest ramp

What is the tallest man-made structure you can drive a car to the top of?

(Original thought was, that you can lead an animal to the top of?)

[orimabbr] Symbols of oppression

Which flag is the greater symbol of oppressiveness, the American flag or the Confederate flag?

[minlknzn] Please deploy me to Iraq

Anecdote from a military base in Augusta, GA: the soldiers squabbled amongst themselves to try to get deployed to Iraq (not: squabbling amongst themselves to avoid being deployed to Iraq), because Augusta was so boring.

A striking example of the human instinct to strive.

[akscykat] Being mugged or raped

Suppose hypothetically, you were to be mugged, or raped.  Would you be (1) traumatized, or (2) merely unhappy/angry?

Suppose you assess yourself to belong to category 1, even though the event has not happened yet.  Can you change yourself to category 2?  Would you like to change?  Can you even want to change?

Hypothesize that the tendency to traumatization is tied to underlying values that a person doesn't want to give up because the values define their identity.

Being a person for whom rape is less of a big deal is akin to being a slut.

[lnpvtzqv] Power strip without switch

Create a simple power strip without any switch, so it cannot be accidentally turned off.  Avoid a "hump" on one end which interferes with plugging in power adapters.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

[clomduww] Foldable with metadata

The Foldable instances of Array and Map in Haskell do not provide access to the index or key respectively. It is possible to provide such access, but doing so requires defining Foldable differently, making it a multiparameter type class and explicitly specifying an intermediate type that packages up the element and metadata, e.g., index or key.

GHC 7.10.1, array-, base-, containers-

{-# LANGUAGE MultiParamTypeClasses, FlexibleInstances, ScopedTypeVariables #-}
module FoldableWithKey where {
import Data.Array.IArray;
import qualified Data.Map as Map;

-- similar to Foldable, except the intermediate type can be different from the element type.
class FoldableWithKey collection intermediate where {
foldWithKey :: (intermediate -> b -> b) -> b -> collection -> b;

-- unclear why OVERLAPPABLE is needed here, as Map is clearly not an IArray
instance {-# OVERLAPPABLE #-} (IArray a e, Ix i) => FoldableWithKey (a i e) (i,e) where {
foldWithKey f z = foldr f z . assocs ;

instance FoldableWithKey (Map.Map k a) (k,a) where {
foldWithKey f = Map.foldWithKey $ \xk xa xb -> f (xk,xa) xb;

-- Overlapping Instance
-- Allows foldWithKey to be a drop-in replacement for foldr.
instance {-# OVERLAPPABLE #-} (Foldable t) => FoldableWithKey (t a) a where {
foldWithKey = foldr;

test1 :: [Int] -> Int;
test1 = foldWithKey (+) 0;

test2 :: Map.Map String Int -> Int;
test2 = foldWithKey (+) 0;

test3 :: Map.Map String Int -> (String,Int);
test3 = foldWithKey (\(s,i) (sold,iold) -> (s ++ sold, i + iold)) ("",0);

test4 :: Map.Map String Int -> Int;
-- explicit type signature weirdly needed on s
test4 = foldWithKey (\(s :: String, i) iold -> length s + i + iold) 0;

test5 :: Array Int Double -> Double;
-- explicit type signature weirdly needed on i
test5 = foldWithKey (\(i :: Int , d) dold -> d + dold + fromIntegral i) 0;

Friday, August 14, 2015

[ddgjoapq] Zapp Brannigan takes the commander test

Tell a story about how Lieutenant Commander Zapp Brannigan was originally not the callous monster who could flippantly and without any remorse order wave after wave of his own men to their certain death.  It was only when he took examination to advance to the rank of Commander, as depicted with Troi in "Thine Own Self", that made him the man he became.

Alternatively, depict Troi years later having developed into a Brannigan-type monster.

[opeuqkvw] Computer programming is hard

Hypothesize that, despite all the programming tools we've developed and will develop, humans will always find computer programming difficult, because thinking absolutely logically is something humans cannot naturally do.

(Alternatively, we do do it naturally.)

[jomnjkkk] Full point underpromotion

Construct a chess position in which underpromotion of a pawn is the only way to win; furthermore, not doing the winning underpromotion results in a loss (not just a draw by stalemate, which is the typical reason for underpromotion).

Underpromote to rook or bishop.

[sxjkdspc] Stacked chess abilities

Consider a chess variant which permits more than one piece to occupy a single square, but all pieces on a given square must belong to the same side.

When there is multiple occupancy, a composite piece gets formed that has the sum of the movement abilities of the component pieces, and they can all move at once according to the summed ability.  They don't have to all move at once: the pieces can separate and move according the subset of movement of the separated piece.

This suggests starting on a large board with many weak pieces.  In the opening phase, players may maneuver collections of weak pieces on top of each other to form stronger pieces before engaging the enemy.

Instead of an infinite range piece like a bishop, we could have N ferzes stacked on top of each other yielding a bishop with limited range of N steps diagonally (or N^2 or 2^N).

[kgysvxyv] The universe is alive but needs tools

Assume intelligent life exists at a very large scale of the universe: superclusters of galaxies interact in ways complex enough to form the subunits of life, analogous to how electron interactions form the subunits of life on earth. (Previous similar idea.)

These intelligent lifeforms ponder their own existence, seeking to discover what they themselves are made out of and the nature of their world, analogous to human scientific pursuits.  They are so large and slow moving that they cannot directly manipulate matter the way we can with our hands, so they realize they need to construct tools, scientific instruments.

Humanity is the tool they have built.

[pgvcchew] Statue of 4 lies

The most famous piece for pipe organ, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Might not have been written for pipe organ,
Might not have named Toccata and Fugue,
Might not have been written in D minor,
And might not have been written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

On one hand, it is very striking that it is the #1 most famous piece (and not anything #2-#9, whatever those may be) that has these questions about authorship.  We might imagine, fancifully, that the reason is because this piece was not the work of man.

On the other hand, perhaps the reason the piece is so good is because it had been tinkered with by many different composers, arrangers, and performers, and it is this anonymous tinkering that allowed it to grow to its magnificent current form, even exceeding whatever original effort, if any, may have been put in by Bach.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

[xmdphusz] Exposing or exploiting bias in the justice system

Suppose a person, a lawyer, becomes aware of a certain bias in the justice system.  They can choose to publicly disclose it, which could benefit society by inducing efforts to correct the bias, or they could keep it private, letting the bias continue, seeking to personally profit from the knowledge, using it to further help clients.

How can we induce the first choice?

Vaguely similar to 0days in computer security.

Monday, August 10, 2015

[jajlvtub] More random syllables

Another iteration of the random syllable generator, seeking similarity to English words.  (Previous iteration.)  This time: words sound distinct; long "e" (at the end of a word).  The long "i" problem is not really solved (choosing "ie").  The L-vowel-L words are bit awkward to pronounce.

Word list.  22448 words.

Alternate location

[tsjobwwa] Continuing intelligent life

What kind of evolutionary pressure is there on humans to continue to be intelligent?

Inspiration was speculating on the Great Filter: perhaps species (including us) achieve intelligence but lose it before they have a chance to make an obvious mark on the universe.

[kegdjgea] Frozen Inferno

Mashup Disney's "Frozen" with the frozen lake in 9th (deepest) circle of Hell in Dante's "Inferno", home of 3-headed Satan trapped in the ice at the waist.

[neifixqh] Loners

On the assumption that humans are naturally social animals, if someone is described as a "loner", then something very interesting, very profound, perhaps very wrong, has happened.  Meta: we no longer recognize this as unusual.

Or it could be that the person is social but with a different social group, not you.

[kkizopww] Long i

The long "i" sound ("eye") is awkward to spell in English when a lengthening final "e" is not possible.  How would one spell the following hypothetical words?

The sound of the syllable formed from the first three letters of "tiger".
A word the rhymes with "pint" but starts with "m".

tighg tiyg tijg tihg tieg teig teyg ti'g tigue tighe tuyg taig tayg tige

Real example: the awkwardness of spelling the 1-syllable abbreviation of microphone.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

[jztgfqne] Pawn which can move backwards

Add to a chess pawn's movement the ability to move backward: one step backward into an empty square or a diagonally backwards capture.  Somewhat similar to the wazir-ferz hybrid, except it can't move sideways.

A possible interesting restriction: Consider the triangle formed by pawn and the two diagonals southwest and southeast emanating from a white pawn.  A pawn may only move backwards if there is an enemy piece somewhere in that triangular area, the pawn's cone of backward vision.  A pawn can "advance" toward the enemy.  A far advanced pawn has a larger backwards cone, so is more powerful because it can move backwards more frequently.

[bpfikxhg] Menstrual moon

Is it just a cosmic coincidence that the human female menstrual cycle is approximately the same length as the orbital period of the moon?

If not, it is yet another instance of the freak circumstance that formed the moon billions of years ago directly affecting the existence of humanity.  We imagine that if the moon formed slightly further away, say, with a 40 day period, humanity would not have been so successful in evolution.

[ozzfjlzv] Synchronized music players

Create a system which two or more people can play and hear the same song, or playlist, simultaneously on separate portable music players (e.g., smartphones).  The intended application is silent rave or silent dance party, especially for partner dancing where both dancers should be hearing the music synchronized within a quarter of a beat (sixteenth note), approximately 100 milliseconds.  (However, a greater challenge would be accurately synchronized to much higher precision.)

Challenges: NTP over wireless latencies.  Alternatively, perhaps a local way of synchronizing, e.g., tapping the phones together or NFC.  The songs have to play on both players at exactly the same speed, i.e., within 100 milliseconds throughout the whole song.  Normally, a single music playing device can ignore the latency between when the song data file is read from media and when the sound waves get produced by the speaker cone.  However, to produce synchronized sound, this latency matters, and managing it might be tricky if two devices have different latencies.  What if one person listens using a Bluetooth headphone while the other person uses wired headphone?  I suspect the Bluetooth stack induces greater latency.

[feuxlrvm] Half page Eink load

Read the top half of the page, then start reading the bottom half, but push the button to load and render the top half of the next page.  Once you finish reading the bottom half and start reading the top half again, push the button to load the next bottom half.

The half pages can render quite slowly as Eink does, but you never have to wait.

Similar idea for terminals.

Friday, August 07, 2015

[djbmufqy] Gmail loses cut copy paste for Droid 4

A recent update to the Gmail app has unfortunately removed the key combinations of cut / copy / paste from the Motorola Droid 4, using the slide-out physical keyboard.  It used to be that Menu + X / C / V would do these actions, where Menu is the capacitive menu button located next to the screen.  (The menu would awkwardly pop up, but could be dismissed with another press of the Menu button.) (Incidentally, this key combination is was part of the Droid OG, which had a physical menu button on the slide out keyboard.)

The key combination still works on apps that are not Gmail.

[bfxwmorg] Ringtone theme and variations

Choose a "theme" ringtone for your phone.  For every caller, the phone synthesizes a unique variation on the theme using the caller's identity (caller ID, or directory entry) as the seed for a random number generator, similar enough to the theme to recognize it as your phone, but different enough that you can learn to discern caller identities by sound without having to look at the display.

[xbeappju] Common stones types

Granite (igneous, intrusive)
Marble (metamorphic, from limestone or dolostone)
Slate (metamorphic, from shale)

E.g., for countertops.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

[auemejjt] Combinational turn-based Bughouse

Continuing on previous musings of turning Bughouse chess into an untimed 2-player turn-based game:

If you are to move on both boards, you cannot pass.  For long stretches of the game, therefore, the same player will have the privilege to pass; the other player has the privilege of deciding which board progresses.  The situation flips when that one player passes.

To prevent infinite stalling, easiest would be to forbid 2 consecutive passes; however, I feel this alters the strategic feel of the game too much.  If one player's optimal "move" at a certain point in the game is to pass, then the other player's optimal move is to force them to move, by the nature of it being a zero-sum game.  I think forcing the passing player to move can usually be too easily accomplished with a throwaway move on the other board, followed by a pass.  For example: Player X faces immediate mate (mate in 1.5) on the board 1 to move, and needs to capture a certain piece on board 2 (that has player Y to move) to avert it.  Player X passes, forcing player Y to play (because consecutive passes are forbidden) on board 2.  Player Y plays one move (of likely several) that avoids giving up that certain piece.  Player X then responds on board 2.  Player Y passes, forcing player X to play on board 1, yielding a winning mate in 1 for Player Y.

However, we can elaborate on this: after one player passes, the other player may not pass for the (say) next 4 moves.  In other words, if one board stalls for waiting for some capture to occur on the other board, then, on this other board, the player must execute a 4-move (actually 4.5 move) tactical combination to accomplish this task.  4-move chess problems can stump strongest human chess players (problem solvers), so this yields a rich game.  We want a device to count down the "power play" on the unfrozen board.

Things might get tricky in a Bughouse "endgame", defined loosely as when both players are facing immediate mate on separate boards.  Judiciously pull the "pass" lever at the right moment to force zugzwang on your opponent.

Compose bughouse chess problems assuming these rules.

Things might be interesting with more than two boards.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

[ezrlnjyp] Cancer long game

The right thing to support if you want to cure cancer depends critically on how difficult it is to cure cancer (something we do not know), how many generations of research it will end up taking:

Support research efforts toward curing the specific form of cancer you care about (perhaps which you or someone you care about has a genetic predisposition).

Support generic research efforts toward understanding and curing all cancri.

Support generic efforts toward training and educating the next generation of scientists.

Support generic efforts toward encouraging critical and analytical thinking in the population.  It might be the best investment toward curing cancer might be toward political and social causes like atheism and combatting pseudoscience, an investment which will only pay off many generations down the line.

[qlcvjgeb] Handwriting tips

When writing something down in a situation that it is critical that someone else be able to read every character perfectly:

1. Use only capital letters.
2. Never cursive.
3. Write large.
4. Make sure there is space between letters.

Inspired by: please write your email address on this paper form.

[pqaxqjjs] Entangled humans

Under optimal conditions, I heard elsewhere, the eye can detect and register a single photon.  This suggests a quantum setup involving a single-photon emitter, a half-silvered mirror and two people in separate rooms as photon detectors.  Probably only art, not physically possible to isolate the people from affecting the world when they see or not see the photon.

Vaguely inspired by Schroedinger's cat, though no poison.

[jtujdxad] Yas

An AAVE dialect pronounces "yes" with the middle vowel sounding like "a", potentially confusing in a noisy environment because the vowel sounds like "nah".