Piet: Turing-complete abstract art

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Piet was named for Piet Mondrian, and its programs look like Mondrian paintings -- which makes Mondrian Turing-complete. (Shown above: a Piet "Hello World" program.) Read the rest

500 computer-generated novels: the Nanogenmo 2015 entrants

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To enter Nanogenmo, you have to write a program that generates a novel, then post it, along with the novel and the training data used to produce it. 500 teams' entries have been posted to Github. Read the rest

Wishful thinking versus terrorism: why crypto backdoors are a dumb idea

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"We know of no case where such an addition of exceptional access capabilities has not resulted in weakened security." Read the rest

Ada Lovelace: what would go into an Internet of Women's Things?

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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is no longer who she once was, 200 years ago. Time changes all famous people, especially cult personalities. Ada has become a modern icon for the digitizing world of science and literature.

UK spy agency posts data-mining software to Github

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Gaffer is a graph database "optimised for retrieving data on nodes of interest" developed by the notorious UK spy agency GCHQ, and now you can download, run and improve it because they've posted it to Github under the permissive, free/open Apache license. Read the rest

Computationally derived Sisyphus Lego automata has to push his ball forever and ever

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JK Brickworks's Sisyphus automata was inspired by Disney Research's work on the "Computational Design of Mechanical Characters". Read the rest

Free usability help for privacy toolmakers

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Simply Secure, a nonprofit I volunteer for, is launching a new series of usability programs for organizations, companies and individuals who are making cryptographic/privacy/security tools. Read the rest

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: why computer scientists should care about DRM

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I have an editorial in the current issue of Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery, a scholarly journal for computer scientists, in which I describe the way that laws that protect digital locks (like America's DMCA) compromise the fundamentals of computer security. Read the rest

Ar ar humor: Generating jokes algorithmically with Wolfram Mathematica

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Kathryn Cramer writes, "Jesse Friedman, age 14, has developed some code for getting Wolfram Language to tell a few jokes. Although most of WL's jokes are not funny, the generative language tools are an interesting toy." Read the rest

Google releases critical AI program under a free/open license

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Tensorflow, a sophisticated machine learning program that underpins Google Translate, speech recognition, image recognition and many other critical Google services, is now available under an Apache license, one of the least restrictive free/open licenses. Read the rest

New Zealand's lost colossus: all-mechanical racetrack oddsmaking computer

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In 1913, George Julius installed a building-sized, all mechanical odds-calculating computer at Auckland, NZ's Ellerslie racetrack, powered by huge iron weights that slowly pulled down bike chains over sprockets, driving the clockwork device as it "totalised" all the bets laid on horses at the track, keeping the odds in constant balance so that all the bettors were effectively betting against one another, in a system called "pari-mutuel" betting. Read the rest

The word "software" sounded ridiculous when it was coined in '53

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Computing pioneer Paul Niquette's memoir begins with the tale of how he came to coin the term "software" in 1953, to the ridicule of his colleague, and how the idea of a computer whose code was separate from its machinery took hold and changed the way we think about computation forever. Read the rest

How to teach gerrymandering and its many subtle, hard problems

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Ben Kraft teaches a unit on gerrymandering -- rigging electoral districts to ensure that one party always wins -- to high school kids in his open MIT Educational Studies Program course. As he describes the problem and his teaching methodology, I learned that district-boundaries have a lot more subtlety and complexity than I'd imagined at first, and that there are some really chewy math and computer science problems lurking in there. Read the rest

Secret Coders: kids' comic awesomely teaches the fundamentals of computer science

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Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes's Secret Coders is volume one in a new series of ingenious graphic novels for young kids that teach the fundamentals of computer science.

WATCH: goopy simulated meltful armadillos

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A. Peer, M. Ihmsen, J. Cornelis and M. Teschner's SIGGRAPH paper "An Implicit Viscosity Formulation for SPH Fluids," explored techniques for simulating the physics of smoothed-particle hydrodynamics -- solids that melt and squoosh into liquids and slimes. As interesting as the paper is, the video is a showstopper -- never have simulated anthropomorphic armadillo action-figures been so meltfully delightful! Read the rest

Artificial Intelligence, considered: Talking with John Markoff about Machines of Loving Grace

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Literary podcaster Rick Kleffer writes, "I must admit that it was too much fun to sit down with John Markoff and talk (MP3) about his book Machines of Loving Grace. Long ago, I booted up a creaking, mothballed version of one of the first Xerox minicomputers equipped with a mouse to extract legacy software for E-mu. Fifteen years later I was at the first Singularity Summit; the book was a trip down many revisions of memory road."

John Markoff’s ‘Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robot’ is a fascinating, character-driven vision of how the recent past created the present and is shaping the near future. The strong and easily understood conflict at the heart of this work gives readers an easy means of grasping the increasingly complicated reality around us. If we do not understand this history, the chances are that we will not have the opportunity to be doomed to repeat it.

Our technological ecology began in two computer labs in Stanford in the early sixties. In one lab, John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial intelligence” with the intention of creating a robot that could think like, move like and replace a human in ten years. On the opposite side of the campus, Douglas Englebart wanted to make it easier for scholars to collaborate using an increasingly vast amount of information. He called it IA, Intelligence Augmentation as a direct response to AI. Thus were born two very different design philosophies that still drive the shape of our technology today – and will continue to do so in the future.

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Missing from the computer science curriculum

"Unlearning Object-Oriented Programming," "Classical Software Studies," "Writing Fast Code in Slow Languages," "User Experience of Command Line Tools," and "Obsessions of the Programmer Mind." Read the rest

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