April 28, 2011

Relativistic Virtual Worlds, new arXiv paper

Recently, I submitted a paper to arXiv, cross listed between the cs.HC, cs.CG, and q-bio.NC categories. A link to the paper and abstract are presented below:

In this paper, I will attempt to establish a framework for representation in virtual worlds that may allow for input data from many different scales and virtual physics to be merged. For example, a typical virtual environment must effectively handle user input, sensor data, and virtual world physics all in real- time. Merging all of these data into a single interactive system requires that we adapt approaches from topological methods such as n-dimensional relativistic representation. A number of hypothetical examples will be provided throughout the paper to clarify technical challenges that need to be overcome to realize this vision.
The long-term goal of this work is that truly invariant representations will ultimately result from establishing formal, inclusive relationships between these different domains. Using this framework, incomplete information in one or more domains can be compensated for by parallelism and mappings within the virtual world representation. To introduce this approach, I will review recent developments in embodiment, virtual world technology, and neuroscience relevant to the control of virtual worlds. The next step will be to borrow ideas from fields such as brain science, applied mathematics, and cosmology to give proper perspective to this approach. A simple demonstration will then be given using an intuitive example of physical relativism. Finally, future directions for the application of this method will be considered.

This is part of a body of work in an area I am calling Physical Intelligence (the interaction between the human cognitive/biomechanical substrate and manipulable virtual worlds), and is definitely a work in progress. Please have a look. As always, comments are welcome.

April 19, 2011

Machinery of Biocomplexity, new arXiv paper

Yesterday, I submitted a paper to the arXiv entitled The "Machinery" of Biocomplexity: understanding non-optimal architectures in biological systems, cross-listed between the nlin.AOphysics.bio-ph, and q-bio.QM categories. Here is a link to the paper, and abstract, and a summary figure:

One popular assumption regarding biological systems is that traits have evolved to be optimized with respect to function. This is a standard goal in evolutionary computation, and while not always embraced in the biological sciences, is an underlying assumption of what happens when fitness is maximized. The implication of this is that a signaling pathway or phylogeny should show evidence of minimizing the number of steps required to produce a biochemical product or phenotypic adaptation. In this paper, it will be shown that a principle of "maximum intermediate steps" may also characterize complex biological systems, especially those in which extreme historical contingency or a combination of mutation and recombination are key features. The contribution to existing literature is two-fold: demonstrating both the potential for non-optimality in engineered systems with "lifelike" attributes, and the underpinnings of non-optimality in naturalistic contexts.
This will be demonstrated by using the Rube Goldberg Machine (RGM) analogy. Mechanical RGMs will be introduced, and their relationship to conceptual biological RGMs explained. Exemplars of these biological RGMs and their evolution (e.g. introduction of mutations and recombination-like inversions) will be demonstrated using block diagrams. The conceptual biological RGM will then be mapped to an artificial vascular system, which can be modeled using microfluidic-like structures. Theoretical expectations will be presented, particularly regarding whether or not maximum intermediate steps equates to the rescue or reuse of traits compromised by previous mutations or inversions. Considerations for future work and applications will then be discussed.

Example of the "cooption" and "inversion" scenarios described further in the paper.

This paper introduces a new metaphor for understanding non-optimality in the evolution of complex traits. This metaphor is inspired by the mechanical Rube Goldberg machine  (or mechanical RGM as I characterize it in the paper).

In mapping this metaphor to biological systems, I introduce the concept of "maximum intermediate steps" in the function of a trait (traits that are not optimized with respect to evolution, structure, or function), which can be characterized by biological versions of the RGM. I have written about this idea in one of the first posts in this blog, but this is a more formal computational look at how this might work in nature.

As always, I would appreciate feedback.

April 15, 2011

Nathan Sawaya, LEGO Artistry

I have been getting into the work of Nathan Sawaya, who makes sculptures out of LEGO bricks

Nathan Sawaya at work

Check out pictures of his work here.

April 11, 2011

In praise of repetition?

Just read James Dyson's Wired blog post called "In Praise of Failure", characterizing the trail-and-error nature of innovation.

Overall, I found his characterization of invention dead-on. However, I've noticed that Dyson Labs tends to use the same basic mechanism (centrifugal force) and applies it to all his new creations (e.g. the cyclone and air multiplier technologies). If each of his creations consisted of a novel mechanism, would the failure rate be much higher? Or is it an inventor's process that is key to successful innovation (with a healthy dose of failure, of course)?

It appears that each inventor has their own style: Edison would exhaustively prototype an idea, Dyson uses the "template" approaches, and others use whatever they are most comfortable with. And that might be the most important take-home message of this article: invention is a creative activity, and so it must be done in a way that allows the inventor maximum inspiration.

What's at syntheticdaisies.blogpot.com?

One letter missed, and I get this:

Wonder if I can buy rapture cookies from them (nougat-filled, with a swirl in the center the shape of the Virgin Mary)? Definitely optimized for Netscape 2.0 (circa mid-90s).

April 8, 2011

Surrealism of the Month III

The definition of surrealism is....machine gun jubblies.

This, as far as I can tell, is the living definition of a "literary trope". As in "happiness is a warm trope".

Postmodernism courtesy of: Katy Perry ("Firework", "California Gurls" videos), Austin Powers ("The Spy Who Shagged Me" movie)