Thursday Dec 20, 2007

Cool Solar Atmospheric Effect

Check out this atmospheric phenomenon that appeared around the sun the other day. Do ice crystals in the higher clouds do this?

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Wednesday Nov 28, 2007

ASCII Automata in JavaScript

I stayed up past one AM last night coding this...

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Monday Nov 05, 2007

The Pledgeofallegiance

Every morning in grade school we went through a classroom ritual. Facing the flag, in a monotone chant, we recited a series of disjointed phrases known to our childish minds only as "The Pledgeofallegiance." I can still recite it to this day. It starts out like this: "I Pledgeofallegiance..." What did it mean? It meant there was still a whole day of school to go before we were free. It meant grown-ups still had a bunch of stuff they wanted us to do. I wonder if our nation today would value Liberty more if schools had simply done the Pledgeofallegiance not in the morning, but at the end of the day, when freedom looms large?

Saturday Nov 03, 2007

Why Cats Annoy Dogs

More than anything else, dogs are highly sophisticated security systems. Everything we know about dog psychology--intense loyalty, hair-trigger barking fits, bone-headed singlemindedness--can be explained in terms of this. Neal Stephenson knew this when he wrote Snow Crash; a book where (among other things) dogs are grafted with technology to create the ultimate security system.

Dogs, I'm convinced, feel most comfortable when they're fully aware of their surroundings. At any given time, a dog maintains a coordinate grid of all active entities within its domain. Mom is upstairs at the computer. Dad is in the kitchen. The child is in the living room. Each of these objects are represented (as it were) by a glowing dot on the dog's projected mental landscape.

This is why cats annoy dogs. Everything about the cat is antithetical to the dog's security sensibilities: the stealth-like motion, the lack of scent, the insistence on privacy. The cat is represented in the dog's mind not as a discreet coordinate, but as a probability field. Feline stochastic distributions are deeply unsettling to the canine psyche, and are classified as a threat for no other reason than that they don't honor the dog's right to be in full knowledge of the situation.

It's left as an exercise for the reader to find analogies between this and the current US political climate.

Wednesday Aug 29, 2007

Evolutionary Algorithms and Computer Cables

Tangles of cables are complex problems with potentially large solution spaces, which makes them good candidates for being solved by evolutionary algorithms. What's more, the typical human response to such tangles is an evolutionary algorithm! [Read More]

Wednesday Jan 24, 2007

How the RIAA Could Solve the Piracy Problem

Disclaimer: These views are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Here's my two cents on how record labels could effectively combat piracy. Instead of suing kids and chasing the DRM delusion, they should offer music free for download in unrestricted formats. But...

Here's the twist: Thirty seconds into each recording, an unobtrusive but intelligible voice-over advertisement would say "purchase this song at so-and-so dot com." It would be mixed straight into the recording. Other than this, the song would run unaltered. If a listener wanted a download without an ad, she'd just go to the website and pay for an ad-free version.

How would this help record labels?

Fans are on the fence about piracy, but it proliferates because any ethical qualms fans have are trumped by two factors: 1) Infuriating behavior by the RIAA, and 2) the desire for free music. This strategy addresses these problems. When fence-sitting Joe wants a free song, he's more likely to grab a legal copy off the web from a friendly record label, if such things existed, than enter the dubious world of illegal music downloading. But either way, Joe's gonna get that song.

It boils down to this: The free music distribution channel is going to exist, regardless, so record labels might as well legitimize it and use it to drive sales.

How would this help fans and artists?

The benefit for musicians and fans is unrestricted discovery. You could load up your MP3 player, and over time buy what you like and delete the cruft. Social bookmarking systems based on freely downloadable or streamable content could build dynamic, individually-tailored podcasts, and create new ways for labels to discover, promote and distribute artists.


My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.


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