Friday, October 31, 2014

[ftsprcam] Compressing floating point images

Round the exponent up to the nearest multiple of 8 and shift the mantissa to the left with zeros to keep the value identical (making it up to 8 bits wider).  Compress the sign bit, exponent, and mantissa separately using standard lossless integer-sampled image compression, e.g., JPEG 2000 Lossless.  The mantissa probably needs to get sliced bitwise into several 8-bit planes.

Motivation was to compress intermediate computations of the Mandelbrot set with real (continuous) escape times.

[qqokyeyk] Separate but equal

One curious precursor to Brown vs Board was that even though Plessy vs Ferguson mandated "separate but equal", de facto conditions were very clearly not equal.  Why was this legally tolerated?  If an activist judge wanted to make a point, whether at the Supreme Court or any lower level, it seems it should have been easy to strike down whatever contorted legal definition of "equal" permitted such obvious inequality.

Is there a fundamental flaw in the layers of the court system that such a ruling could not occur?  Perhaps something like appellate courts cannot question trial court findings of fact about equality?  Was the only way the Supreme Court could rule for more equality to overturn Plessy?  Could they instead have ruled that Plessy remain law, but has been incorrectly applied in this case, that the conditions were clearly not "equal"?

[bxgjcjky] Is it an interleaving?

Given a string, determine if it is an interleaving of two other given strings.  How difficult is this problem?  I suspect it is one that can be quickly solved via dynamic programming.  There's something magical about being able to do quick tests on seemingly jumbled data.

What if there are N strings interleaved?  Could be exponential in N.

[dryfttsm] Best recent blues fusion songs

There does not seem to be a Grammy category for the music that the contemporary swing / blues / fusion communities dance to.  Of particular interest is music for fusion for which there is tremendous innovation going on as well as a dance attitude to embrace innovation.

[tfbhwatz] Transparent web service

How transparently can a web service be run?  AGPL is a start.  Publish almost all server configuration, logs, administrator actions.  Perhaps logs which divulge personal information are published encrypted readable by two keys, the system administrator and the affected user. Allow users to query server configuration and status.

We don't want users or other outsiders to be able to affect each other with the information acquired through transparency.

Create tools making it easier to publish as much as possible about a running web service, but withholding exactly the information that could be used to hurt other users.  Perhaps formal tools to help decide whether a complicated action should or should not be permitted.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

[hwlxhokf] Grammy awards

Some thoughts on possibly modifying the criteria for the Grammy awards.

"Best record" should reward production value, making the song sound good where it otherwise could have sounded bad.  Not all artists have access to good production.  Could the song have sounded better if more money were available?  However, at the very top, this may be a difficult category to judge, because production becomes pretty much perfect.  There remains the tricky problem of how to judge crappy songs with good production.

"Best song" is a prediction of future derived works, in a loose sense, how influential a song will be in inspiring future artists to incorporate the good ideas of this song into their songs.  Obviously lyrics or melody in covers, but also more subtle things like musical style.  It could even award production techniques.  Perhaps "best song" should be rewarded after significant delay, like the Nobel prize, when "influence" can be better measured.  There remains a tricky problem of separating who first introduced something versus who developed it into something many others recognized as a good idea, the latter having the problem of bias due to the artist's popularity.

[xntuomwv] Chupacabras opera

Create an opera based on the chupacabras.  It starts out like Bat Boy The Musical (mysteriously attacked livestock), then becomes like Don Quixote (a hero on a possibly impossible quest to slay a mythical monster), then, like the Cthulhu Mythos, El Chupacabras is revealed to be more horrible than could ever be originally imagined, and finally revealed to be only the tip of the iceberg of a vast conflict between the mortal and immortal mythical realms, like Wagner's Ring.

Of course, if we are comparing it to Wagner's Ring but more epic, then it can't just be an opera: it needs to be a 12 opera cycle.

Inspired by a juxtaposition in an off-hand comment.

We use "chupacabras" as a singular noun, as was the original Spanish where it translates to "sucker of goats (plural)", to heighten the monstrosity in how a single creature sucked many goats dry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

[uclniwtd] Pelican brief

Grisham's "The Pelican Brief" involves a plot to assassinate Supreme Court justices.  Why hasn't this been done, or notably tried?  It seems like an effective way to significantly affect American policy, much more than, say, assassinating a president, who will simply be replaced by the vice-president who likely shares the same policy views.

In the universe of The Pelican Brief, the antagonist could have done a much better job throwing investigators off the trail by assassinating two justices of the same political ideology, perhaps the ideology opposite to that of the president, making them seem obviously like political assassinations to shift the bench in the president's favor.

In the real world, perhaps "activist" justices "legislating from the bench" are a relatively new phenomenon (Brown vs Board of Education), and the number of assassinations since then is not statistically different from the number of presidential assassinations.

Optimistically under the theory of federalism, matters decided by the national government should rarely affect people personally enough to inspire an assassination: there are other government officials whose actions more personally affect one's life, e.g., state and local government.  But for those, one can also just move to a different locality.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

[hltqikyv] Handheld computer

I suspect that there is a niche but viable market for good handheld computers costing as much as $2000-3000.  Unlike current smartphones, they must be useful for creating content, not just consuming it. For example, writing code.

This almost certainly means a well constructed physical keyboard and precise pointing device, possibly requiring a significant initial investment of time to learn to use well.

[ronpwufo] Monetized data storage and retrieval

Find me a document for which this predicate is true (...).

More practically, find me a document signed by this public key (...), and whose content begins with this prefix (...).  This makes it possible to retrieve key-values.

Added new twist: here is a promise of a prize to whomever first provides the document.  Inspired by how Bitcoin transactions are secured by two halves of a puzzle.

These are generic mechanisms for a truly distributed data storage ecosystem.  Data gets inserted into the cloud, and storers get paid for correctly responding to queries.

Deliberately left unstated is how insertion happens, how storers choose what to store, how the query happens, etc.  Market mechanisms will figure this out.

For the use case of private, encrypted data inserted into the public cloud, there does occurs the interesting economic monopsony problem that there will only be one consumer for a given piece of data, the holder of the decryption key.

[mvvaimxj] Training complications

Identify chess games played where one player was in a must-win situation but the other player sought only a draw.  Train a computer to emulate the desperate player who seeks complications to avoid a draw, to create an exciting computer opponent.

Friday, October 24, 2014

[pzsxndsl] Minichess app

Minichess and variations seem like a good game for the small screens of smartphones.

[uajvqrbp] Chess derby

A ring of boards set up as if for a simultaneous exhibition, but there are only two players, playing each other simultaneously on the multiple boards.  Perhaps Chess960 to prevent all the games from being identical.  The players start on opposite sides of the ring (so the ring is divided with white on the outer edge of one half and on the inner edge of the other half).

Something interesting happens if one of the players makes up the half lap initial gap, but not sure what that should be.  Most radically, pass the opponent and get to make two moves in a row.  Or a timer runs while stalled which figures into the final result.

Excitement of passing inspired by Roller derby.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

[etotasem] Content hash to key-value

Given a database by which content can be retrieved only by the hash of the content, is it possible to build on top of it a key-value map with user-choosable keys?  If not, what more could be added to make it possible?

Want a distributed hash table.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[inkhrprb] Defining the start of the endgame

Let Queen count as 2 points and rook as 1.  The chess endgame has begun when both players have 2 or fewer points.

This does mean that a queen trade in the opening has gone directly to the endgame, for example the "Berlin endgame" of Ruy Lopez.  Castling and king safety is less of a priority; the king has become an attacking piece. This also means KQR versus anything is not yet an endgame, which probably goes against conventional notions.

Inspiration was an idea: adjournment becomes available when the endgame begins, and players can carefully study the position, improving the quality of endgame play.  Less radically, a new time control at the start of endgame.

Maybe both bishops together count as 1 point.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

[awpnmpol] Salsa20 dance

The Salsa20 round function would be fairly easy to vaguely depict by a troupe using interpretive dance, not too surprising given its name.  Use some theatre special effect to accomplish a cyclic shift, most simply two dancers in identical costumes, one exiting one side when the other enters from the other side.  More elaborately, fly them up and over to the other side.

[qnckwtyz] Terrorism and free speech

Hypothesize that most terrorism is a symptom of a failure of political discourse: the terrorist feels mechanisms by which the best idea would win have become subverted.

This is more optimistic than the traditional military view which assumes no positive sum solutions exist.

Inspired by the school shooting threat of GamerGate.  There obviously exist many failures of discourse with both sides not even wanting to understand each other, and a positive sum solution fairly obviously exists: let market forces decide what games get produced, i.e., buy what you want to play.

[riirjmxe] How could so many smart people be so wrong?

Look for social forces which incentivize one answer over another.

Cargo cult science.

Enumerate those forces.  Seek to eliminate, or counterbalance, them.

[bzgrgdph] Cubes kissing spheres

How many identical cubes can be packed around a sphere of a given size, with each cube tangent to the sphere at the center of its face?

Inspired by setting Minecraft on a large spherical world.  There will probably be a few special regions in the world where cubes will be very distorted.  Depict "cubes" as Voronoi cells around their center point.


[vvgaczoc] 5GB Scrypt

Scrypt at suggested parameters "for a sensitive file" (N, r, p) = (2^20, 8, 1) consumes 1 GiB of memory, and memory use can be increased linearly by increasing N or r.

Does anything abruptly interesting happen when the memory requirement exceeds 4 GiB, the maximum for 32-bit addressing?  The first thought is this: For normal users on general purpose computers, all 64-bit machines, they won't notice any abrupt change.  However, for ASIC and other specialized crackers, a fully 32-bit infrastructure will no longer be sufficient: they will have to move to 64-bit memory addressing, doubling the cost of at least one (possibly small) part of their hardware.

On the other hand, so long as one is designing ASIC, using 33-bit addressing might not be that hard (not cost especially much more area than 32-bit), and in fact, 33 bits gives more advantage to ASIC over CPUs who are forced to process 33-bit numbers as 64 bits.

But perhaps better is automatically scaled difficulty as in Vertcoin.