If you think you've anonymized a data set, you're probably wrong

Using some clever computing, Atockar took the NYC Taxicab Dataset and not only calculated the annual income of every hack in New York, but also figured out who goes to strip clubs, what celebrities' home addresses were, and how they tipped.

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Sore losers: How casinos went after two guys who found a video poker bug


John Kane, who'd lost a fortune to Video King machines, discovered a subtle bug that let him win big -- so the casinos put him in handcuffs.

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Big Data should not be a faith-based initiative

Cory Doctorow summarizes the problem with the idea that sensitive personal information can be removed responsibly from big data: computer scientists are pretty sure that’s impossible.

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What "open learning" looks like when it's for kids who need it most

It takes more than videos on the Internet to get kids engaged in learning to code, writes Mimi Ito.

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Supercomputing center in a beautiful, deconsecrated church


Allison writes, "The Barcelona Supercomputing Center is not only gorgeous with its soaring ceilings, it also was an instrumental site for developing modern microchip technology."

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Chatbot attains milestone at annual Turing Test competition


Eugene Goostman, a program simulating a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, has attained a 33% success rate at the annual RSA Turing Test competition, meaning that a third of the judges were fooled into thinking that the chatbot was actually a human being. Alan Turing's iconic test was meant to cut through the existentialist crisis in artificial intelligence about what was or wasn't "intelligence" by proposing that if a human being could not distinguish between a person and code in a blind test, the code was intelligent by human standards.

The Goostman bot enjoyed the advantage of simulating someone whose first language wasn't English, and whose apparent young age could explain a lack of nuanced reasoning and basic knowledge, so you could think of this as kind of a cheat, but it's still a very impressive feat.

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First-person shooter engine in 265 lines of Javascript


Hunter Loftis, who created the fractal terrain generation in 130 lines of Javascript engine, has done it again: a a full-blown first-person shooter engine in 265 lines (demo, source). He used a technique called ray casting, and goes into some detail about this choice and where this could go next.

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Kickstarting Kibo: robot-blocks for kids 4-7

Jenise sez, "When I worked for a robotics company, I complained bitterly about the lack of robotic toys for my daughter to my boss, Mitch Rosenberg. Yesterday, he sent me an email with the answer to my problem: KIBO, a robot kit specifically designed for kids age 4-7. Mitch partnered with Marina Umaschi Bers, co-creator of Scratch Jr., to found KinderLab Robotics, Inc., and they're trying to produce the toy I dreamed of for my daughter."

Looks amazing, but it ain't cheap: $219 minimum to get the actual blocks, $349 for the full set.

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Logic gates made from pulleys and weights

Alex Gorischek's Pulley Logic Gates is a brilliant and delightful demonstration of attaining a set of logic gates with pulleys, weights and string, using materials you can buy cheaply so you can try it out yourself. Watch this video: the gates build in complexity and ingenuity as they go along, and by XOR, I was actually cheering (and it gets even better than XOR!). (Via JWZ)

Design as parameterization: brute-forcing the manufacturing/ design problem-space

Here's something exciting: Autodesk's new computer-aided design software lets the designer specify the parameters of a solid (its volume, dimensions, physical strength, even the tools to be used in its manufacture and the amount of waste permissible in the process) and the software iterates through millions of potential designs that fit. The designer's job becomes tweaking the parameters and choosing from among the brute-forced problem-space of her object, rather than designing it from scratch.

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Fractal terrain generation in 130 lines of Javascript


Hunter Loftis's Javascript-based fractal terrain generator produces absolutely gorgeous landscapes (reload for more) in just 130 lines. It's accompanied by a great explanation that reveals the sweet, underlying elegance of the process.

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Kickstarting Openworm: a cellular-level-up simulated worm

Wagner James Au writes, "Openworm, the open source collaborative project to construct an artificial life form from the cellular level, now has a Kickstarter so supporters can back the project and also get a copy of the worm itself, Wormsim, to put on their browser and even tweak the code. Here's some background from the project coordinator, who I also ask if this Kickstarter is, you know, contributing to the ultimate creation of a completely artificial sentient life form that will turn against humankind and enslave our children.

They're mostly raising money for core engineering, with the balance going to administration and educational outreach. The code is all MIT-licensed free/open source software.

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Why I don't believe in robots

My new Guardian column is "Why it is not possible to regulate robots," which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."

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1:1 scale model of Manhattan in Minecraft


Christopher Mitchell, a PhD candidate in NYU's Computer Science program, is building a 1:1 scale model of Manhattan in Minecraft, with faithful, handmade reproductions of each of the island's skyscrapers. He's relying on data from diverse sources, including Google Earth, and the model to date is 277m^2, with 71Bm^3 of volumetric detail, running on a 200 core cluster with 200GB of RAM. It's part of a larger project (!), called Sparseworld, through which Mitchell is combining data from diverse geographical and architectural systems to faithfully model the physical world.

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Data-compression with playing cards


Tim sends us, "A way of encoding binary numbers into playing cards that I thought up. It usually allows many more bits than there are cards. The method can also store binary encoded letters of the English alphabet at less than 2 cards per letter on average, and has a theoretical ability to do less than 1 card per letter."

Tim isn't sure if his method of data-compression is novel or not, and neither am I. If you know of related work, please add it in the comments.

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