Sunday, August 31, 2014

[huwgulwf] Pencil longevity

Pencils have considerable advantage in longevity over pens, which suffer from ink drying and moving parts (roller ball).  But not erasers.

Possibly useful in case of apocalypse.


[bmwmqxvg] Power density in other stars

The power density per unit volume of the core of the sun is surprisingly small, much less than the human body.  This is because proton-proton fusion is very difficult; protons rarely flip to become neutrons.

In comparison, what is the power density in stars whose fusion is dominated by the CNO cycle?

[jxvqtful] Computation packages

Enumerate the packages in, say, Debian, which compute something mathematically or algorithmically interesting.  (Subjective)  I suspect the list is quite small. Of particular interest is AI.

Is everything else fluff?

[dnivfrwp] Fisheye tour

Video record a tour of a space with a fisheye lens.  Will it be too disorienting to watch on a flat screen?  Or will the viewer learn to do the mental flat-to-spherical transformation?

Two other difficulties are different parts of each frame wanting different focal lengths and different exposure settings (dynamic range).

[gltejggm] Compensating open WiFi

Compensate those who provide open WiFi because it causes a positive externality.  Open access points can easily be identified by the same technique as wardriving.  Discovering the owner of an access point, i.e., who to compensate, is trickier.  Should the internet be reengineered?  Or perhaps those who wish to be compensated can make themselves easy to identify.

Consider someone taking someone else's WiFi signal and rebroadcasting it so the range gets increased, i.e., providing a wireless repeater.  Who should be compensated, in what proportion?

[acptnrgm] Memories through metamorphosis

Does a caterpillar retain any memories through metamorphosis?

[rsmbmytb] Unlikeable protesters

I hypothesize activists often acquire unflattering characteristics of personality: self-centered, manipulative, disrespectful, unfriendly.

Such characteristics can be used to discredit an activist and deprive him or her of supporters.

Examine the issue from the perspective as one of the very powerful subliminal forces that help maintain the status quo.

[zizelslw] Limited capture distance

Fairy chess pieces with unlimited range of movement (like a rook) but only a limited range of capture (like a wazir) are elegantly interesting.  First move in close, then on the next move, kill.  On the other side, you only need to consider being captured by nearby pieces.

Motivation was for large boards, where it seems strange that a very distant piece can matter in a position.  It breaks the human-familiar idea of locality.

[bvldwmhm] Society accepting bipolar

Instead of trying to treat bipolar people to act "normal", consider reengineering all of society so that such people can function within it without medication.  The rationale is that human civilization needs -- and historically has needed -- the special creative abilities only achievable by the bipolar during their manic phase.

A problem, perhaps the problem, perhaps the only problem of society: the manic will transgress the boundaries society defines regarding sexual behavior, e.g., commit rape.  It will be a hard sell to reengineer society to the point that people find this is acceptable.

Another potential problem: bipolar often co-occurs with many other mental disorders.

Inspired by Robin Williams.

[ncnlwqjw] Optimized chess variation

Selecting among the great many chess variations which one is objectively the best would be a crowning achievement.  Currently, we have no way even to objectively compare two Chess960 initial positions.

Perhaps games with wide variation in skill, but objectively understanding the reasons for wide variation will require deep understanding of human cognition.

Friday, August 29, 2014

[yezgjban] Two-horned Bill Gates

Assuming true the theory that malaria is the main reason we haven't cut down all the rainforests yet, and if the Gates Foundation succeeds in eradicating malaria and thus causing the apocalyptic unintended consequence of climate change, Bill Gates will have tremendously harmed human civilization twice in a single lifetime.  Usually human society is robust enough that a single person cannot do tremendous lasting harm.  To do it twice in completely separate fields is perhaps unique.

The other Bill Gates destructive legacy is popularizing and establishing as the norm the practice of unmodifiable software, causing the now widely accepted mindset that users should feel helpless when their computer does not function the way they want.  It may be hundreds or thousands of years until that legacy is reversed: I don't see it occurring any time soon.

Fascinating is that both of these harms were done with completely good intentions, someone very far from a classical description of evil.

[efhblwhe] Touchscreen direction mode

On a touchscreen keyboard, one central button activates the cursor keys, which appear around the central button.  This seems elegant.  Perhaps the central button exits cursor mode also.

[xsbdqgnr] Color separation

Two swatches of color are shown and the test subject is asked whether the colors are the same or different.  I suspect the accuracy depends on what is in between the swatches.

Solid color barrier?  Some gradient? Noise?

[ldusidcm] Phi colors

Parametrize the colors of the rainbow from 0 to 1, then select a sequence of colors n*phi mod 1, where phi is the golden ratio.  Each new color is far from those already chosen.

The rainbow needs to be scaled so that color distance is constant.

[ywbaohyh] No moon flag

Consider an alternate reality in which Apollo 11 (and subsequent) deliberately did not plant American flags on the moon in the spirit of international brotherhood: "Mankind."

What would have it taken to convince those in power not to do so? Perhaps to avoid nationalism.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

[twyuxofk] Face logging

Log into your phone or computer or account with a password and the camera taking a picture of your face.  However, the face picture is not used for face recognition -- that is hard and error prone -- but merely a log of who used the computer.  There remains at least evidence of unauthorized users who have obtained the password (unless they delete the log).

The face recognition software merely needs to recognize that the camera is looking at some face, not necessarily your face.  It could also require the user to yawn then grin to thwart an attacker substituting a static picture.

Monday, August 25, 2014

[bnpvefai] Transsexualism and gender roles

Loosely connected to the question of whether public funding should be available to those who seek sex change is the idea that gender presentation is important, something I am unwilling to accept axiomatically, given gender presentation is related to gender roles.

On one hand, making gender reassignment more easily accessible helps perpetuate and reinforce the importance of socially constructed gender roles, roles which I believe are harmful.

On the other hand, at least some aspects of gender role and presentation regarding choosing mates are likely biologically hardcoded and not socially constructed.

[amqvexxv] Be a good girl

Two of the most popular songs of 2013, Robin Thicke, et al.'s "Blurred Lines" and "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen, share a common theme:

I know you want it / But you're a good girl

Be the good girl you always have to be / ... / Let it go, let it go / That perfect girl is gone!

What does it say about society when songs decrying the social obligation to be a "good girl" keep becoming popular?  Exactly what are those onerous social obligations?

[zvlujdhy] Wall of sound

3D musical representation: the axes of time and frequency horizontally across the floor, and loudness vertically.

More ambitious is to have the sculpture move along the time axis, passing a plane as the music plays.  Inspired by videos of Synthesia, which omit the amplitude dimension.

[ivkxfuvt] Choose wisely

Be careful about with whom you biologically fall in love, because it may affect your happiness and social standing not only for the rest of your life, but also the happiness and social standing of your descendants for many generations to come.

In what cultures is this statement more true than others?

How can we change it? What forces resist the change?