Monday, April 17, 2006

The new generation of audio ransom note

Wired's music guy, E. Van Buskirk, interviewed S. K├Ânig about his software project cum musical mash-up collage tool cum political statement on intellectual property, sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ!. It's not only an interesting idea, but there are also numerous computational challenges to making it work, and work so well. I want to know how he does all that! I suppose I'll find out when it gets sourceforged.

Freed from economic and social constraints, I would volunteer to work on this without a second thought.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Limited options precipitate creativity

All mathematicians (and many others) immediately recognize the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 as the first few Fibonacci numbers. In this article, G. K. Pincus proposes a new poetic form, the fib, whose line lengths (measured in syllables) are given by these numbers.

At first, I suspected that most such verses would simply be twenty syllables of English prose broken up to fit the "design parameters". After all, history is full of awkward attempts to use mathematical toys such as the Fibonacci senquence as a basis for art. However, after reading some contributions from the comments to the original post, as well as those featured in a follow-up article, I've found that this form has a real character to it. The first four lines are short and punchy, almost primal; the last two lines seem locquacious by comparison, allowing an outpour of articulate expression. It seems that Pincus struck that delicate balance of constraint; both sufficient to focus creative drive while relaxed enough to prevent the output from being artificial and bland.

Great? Poor?
I'm no judge
Of this kind of thing,
But I know I like what I see.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pants are one thing, but this is ridiculous

Pants to the power of two? And how did they get a a tree, anyway? Perhaps they were assisted by monkeys?

Squarepants in a Tree: Sum of Subtree Clustering and Hyperbolic Pants Decomposition
David Eppstein

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pachterian geometry

The hardest midterm I ever took was a Numerical Analysis take-home exam. One problem asked for a definition of "the circle that best approximates four co-planar points" and apply our definition to given data. This problem has clear applications to transceiver placement optimization; e.g., where to put a cell phone tower. The model discussed in this preprint describes not only multiple transciever locations, but also the cost to power a signal within a given radius from each tower. It's rare and wonderful to see a real world problem that translates so naturally to a mathematical model.

The professor for the above mentioned Numerical Analysis course, L. Pachter, has some geometric concerns of his own. In this case, the translation from real world problem to mathematical model is considerably harder to understand, mostly because the geometry does not take place in a plane or 3-space. The fundamental object is still a convex body, but it now lives in a larger number of dimensions. Don't let this scare you off; such models are extremely effective for countless applications.

Friday, April 07, 2006

But what about $K_5$ and $K_3,3$?

As a dear friend once told me, everyone should take time to play games. Here's one that I think my reader(s) will enjoy. In fact, I think (t)he(y) may have already. I'd really love to see it played on a 2-torus.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Human Experience Engineering

Last December C. Wetherell, a Google software engineer, told me that his next twenty-percent project would be an algorithm for love. It seems to have entered beta.

Complimentarily, Red Robot of Diesel Sweeties has been honing an algorithm for hate. While I would not take on such a research program myself, I commend him for this endeavor, as it progresses our overall understanding of emotional algorithms. Perhaps Google should recruit Red Robot to be their new Director of Human Experience Engineering.

Perhaps a more practical approach would be for Google to acquire an anti-social networking site, such as Snubster, or perhaps adapt Orkut to this end.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The high TeX arXiv

Numerous posts of mine point to the arXiv, the famous "e-print" server managed by Cornell University. Those at the helm of this marvelous resource have always ridden the leading edge of internet usage. For instance, consider this decade-old page, in which they point out that "... large databases such as this one (which has millions of distinct URL's that lead to gigabytes of data) are likely to grow ever more commonly exported via www." At the time, such archives were commonly hosted on an ftp server. How many of today's internet users even know what ftp stands for?

Fortunately, Cornell's e-librarians are eager to support new internet technologies, such as rss and trackback, at least on an experimental basis. For some reason, this is not widely publicized; perhaps they don't want too many users to become dependent on such features, ensuring that they can be removed without warning while causing minimal disruption. If you are a Physicist, Mathematician, Non-linear Dynamacist, Computer Scientist, or Quantitative Biologist, take advantage of these informational tools; they're there for the using.