Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seeing and drawing

This comic strip is a beautiful meta-illustration of how to communicate visually:

Seeing the Future! A Guide to Visual Communication

The 17th panel illustrates the primary visualization styles in video games.

How does one draw unseen things, like extinct animals based on inference? This NY Times article has some tips:

Artists Mine Scientific Clues to Paint Intricate Portraits of the Past

It links to this collection of Conrad Gessner's Animals from the mid 1500's, including a unicorn and monkfish, drawn from sketchy verbal information.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Collaborative tic-tac-toe

Problem Solved, LOL: A Complex Tic-Tac-Toe Puzzle Falls Thanks to Blog CommentsCommunity-based online efforts point to a new, faster approach in mathematics

...In some cases, citizen-scientists such as bird-watchers or amateur astronomers collectively can make significant contributions. “What about the solving of a problem that does not naturally split up into a vast number of subtasks?” he asked. Could such a problem be solved by the readers of his blog—simply by posting comments?

For a first experiment, Gowers chose the so-called density Hales-Jewett theorem. This problem, Gowers says, is akin to “playing a sort of solitaire tic-tac-toe and trying to lose.” The theorem states that if your tic-tac-toe board is multidimensional and has sufficiently many dimensions, after a short while it is impossible to avoid arranging X’s into a line—you cannot avoid winning no matter how hard you try. Mathematicians have known since 1991 that the theorem was true, but the existing proof used sophisticated tools from other branches of math. Gowers challenged his blog’s readers to help him find a more elementary proof, a problem generally considered quite hard.

Efficient space navigation

Erika DeBenedictis took the top prize (and $100K) in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Her project appears to be primarily based on a computational problem -- efficient navigation through the solar system using gravitational interactions:
Working at home and building on existing research, Erika developed an original optimizing search algorithm that discovers energy minimizing routes in specified regions of space and would allow a spacecraft to adjust its flight path en route. She believes her novel single-step method of repeated orbit refinement could work with essentially autonomous spacecraft, and may be a practical step forward in space exploration.
Many of the other finalists and top prizes also went to computational projects, including Yale Fan
...demonstrated the power of quantum computing in solving challenging "NP-complete" (NPC) problems. His work may offer scientists another tool for exploring theoretical physics.
Thomas Friedman's take on attending the awards dinner was that legal immigration should be encouraged:
America's Real Dream Team

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ada Lovelace history on BrainPOP

A scripted animated story gives a simplified history of Ada Lovelace's part in programming Babbage's analytical engine:
Ada Lovelace on BrainPOP
BrainPOP creates animated, curriculum-based content that engages students, supports educators, and bolsters achievement. Our award-winning online educational resources include BrainPOP Jr. (K-3), BrainPOP, BrainPOP EspaƱol, and the newly launched BrainPOP ESL. All are supported by BrainPOP Educators, which features free lesson plans, video tutorials, professional development tools, graphic organizers, and best practices for our teacher community.
Here's BrainPOP's explanation of how they make digital animations using Adobe's Flash suite.

The style reminds me of Noah and Jacobs Scratch projects:
Scratch Project

Scratch Project

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cloe Fan's Arduino Mario

Chloe Fan programmed an Arduino board to control an 8x8 display that plays a simplified Mario scrolling game, with a second Arduino board to play suitable music, transcribed from sheet music. The video below is Cloe's concise demo, and PC Mag wrote up a good general description: Mario Goes Open-Source with Arduino.

Super Mario Bros on an 8x8 LED matrix from Chloe Fan on Vimeo.

Tic Tac Toe mod

A modification of trivia's tic tac toe Scratch program that can't be beat:

Scratch Project

Programmers anonymous blogs

A couple blogs from people in our programming group:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trivia's Scratch program with scrolling

trivia's incomplete Scratch program, experimenting with scrolling. Use arrow keys to navigate and jump:
Scratch Project

My modification that reorganizes the scrolling sprites, and adds a background sprite:
Scratch Project