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Complete circuit diagram with pheromone - Cristian Jimenez-Romero, David Sousa-Rodrigues, Jeffrey H. Johnson, Vitorino Ramos; Figure – Neural circuit controller of the virtual ant (page 3, fig. 2). [URL: ]

Intelligence and decision in foraging ants. Individual or Collective? Internal or External? What is the right balance between the two. Can one have internal intelligence without external intelligence? Can one take examples from nature to build in silico artificial lives that present us with interesting patterns? We explore a model of foraging ants in this paper that will be presented in early September in Exeter, UK, at UKCI 2015. (available on arXiv [PDF] and ResearchGate)

Cristian Jimenez-Romero, David Sousa-Rodrigues, Jeffrey H. Johnson, Vitorino Ramos; “A Model for Foraging Ants, Controlled by Spiking Neural Networks and Double Pheromones“, UKCI 2015 Computational Intelligence – University of Exeter, UK, September 2015.

Abstract: A model of an Ant System where ants are controlled by a spiking neural circuit and a second order pheromone mechanism in a foraging task is presented. A neural circuit is trained for individual ants and subsequently the ants are exposed to a virtual environment where a swarm of ants performed a resource foraging task. The model comprises an associative and unsupervised learning strategy for the neural circuit of the ant. The neural circuit adapts to the environment by means of classical conditioning. The initially unknown environment includes different types of stimuli representing food (rewarding) and obstacles (harmful) which, when they come in direct contact with the ant, elicit a reflex response in the motor neural system of the ant: moving towards or away from the source of the stimulus. The spiking neural circuits of the ant is trained to identify food and obstacles and move towards the former and avoid the latter. The ants are released on a landscape with multiple food sources where one ant alone would have difficulty harvesting the landscape to maximum efficiency. In this case the introduction of a double pheromone mechanism (positive and negative reinforcement feedback) yields better results than traditional ant colony optimization strategies. Traditional ant systems include mainly a positive reinforcement pheromone. This approach uses a second pheromone that acts as a marker for forbidden paths (negative feedback). This blockade is not permanent and is controlled by the evaporation rate of the pheromones. The combined action of both pheromones acts as a collective stigmergic memory of the swarm, which reduces the search space of the problem. This paper explores how the adaptation and learning abilities observed in biologically inspired cognitive architectures is synergistically enhanced by swarm optimization strategies. The model portraits two forms of artificial intelligent behaviour: at the individual level the spiking neural network is the main controller and at the collective level the pheromone distribution is a map towards the solution emerged by the colony. The presented model is an important pedagogical tool as it is also an easy to use library that allows access to the spiking neural network paradigm from inside a Netlogo—a language used mostly in agent based modelling and experimentation with complex systems.


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[2] A. Abraham and V. Ramos, “Web usage mining using artificial ant colony clustering and linear genetic programming,” in Proceedings of the Congress on Evolutionary Computation. Australia: IEEE Press, 2003, pp. 1384–1391.
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[4] V. Ramos and J. J. Merelo, “Self-organized stigmergic document maps: Environment as a mechanism for context learning,” in Proceddings of the AEB, Merida, Spain, February 2002. ´
[5] D. Sousa-Rodrigues and V. Ramos, “Traversing news with ant colony optimisation and negative pheromones,” in European Conference in Complex Systems, Lucca, Italy, Sep 2014.
[6] E. Bonabeau, G. Theraulaz, and M. Dorigo, Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems, 1st ed., ser. Santa Fe Insitute Studies In The Sciences of Complexity. 198 Madison Avenue, New York: Oxford University Press, USA, Sep. 1999.
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[15] J. Haenicke, E. Pamir, and M. P. Nawrot, “A spiking neuronal network model of fast associative learning in the honeybee,” Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, no. 149, 2012. [Online]. Available: neuroscience/10.3389/conf.fncom.2012.55.00149/full
[16] L. I. Helgadottir, J. Haenicke, T. Landgraf, R. Rojas, and M. P. Nawrot, “Conditioned behavior in a robot controlled by a spiking neural network,” in International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering, NER, 2013, pp. 891–894.
[17] A. Cyr and M. Boukadoum, “Classical conditioning in different temporal constraints: an STDP learning rule for robots controlled by spiking neural networks,” pp. 257–272, 2012.
[18] X. Wang, Z. G. Hou, F. Lv, M. Tan, and Y. Wang, “Mobile robots’ modular navigation controller using spiking neural networks,” Neurocomputing, vol. 134, pp. 230–238, 2014.
[19] C. Hausler, M. P. Nawrot, and M. Schmuker, “A spiking neuron classifier network with a deep architecture inspired by the olfactory system of the honeybee,” in 2011 5th International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering, NER 2011, 2011, pp. 198–202.
[20] U. Wilensky, “Netlogo,” Evanston IL, USA, 1999. [Online]. Available:
[21] C. Jimenez-Romero and J. Johnson, “Accepted abstract: Simulation of agents and robots controlled by spiking neural networks using netlogo,” in International Conference on Brain Engineering and Neuro-computing, Mykonos, Greece, Oct 2015.
[22] W. Gerstner and W. M. Kistler, Spiking Neuron Models: Single Neurons, Populations, Plasticity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
[23] J. v. H. W Gerstner, R Kempter and H. Wagner, “A neuronal learning rule for sub-millisecond temporal coding,” Nature, vol. 386, pp. 76–78, 1996.
[24] I. P. Pavlov, “Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the activity of the cerebral cortex,” New York, 1927.
[25] E. J. H. Robinson, D. E. Jackson, M. Holcombe, and F. L. W. Ratnieks, “Insect communication: ‘no entry’ signal in ant foraging,” Nature, vol. 438, no. 7067, pp. 442–442, 11 2005. [Online]. Available:
[26] E. J. Robinson, D. Jackson, M. Holcombe, and F. L. Ratnieks, “No entry signal in ant foraging (hymenoptera: Formicidae): new insights from an agent-based model,” Myrmecological News, vol. 10, no. 120, 2007.
[27] D. Sousa-Rodrigues, J. Louçã, and V. Ramos, “From standard ˜ to second-order swarm intelligence phase-space maps,” in 8th European Conference on Complex Systems, S. Thurner, Ed., Vienna, Austria, Sep 2011.
[28] V. Ramos, D. Sousa-Rodrigues, and J. Louçã, “Spatio-temporal ˜ dynamics on co-evolved stigmergy,” in 8th European Conference on Complex Systems, S. Thurner, Ed., Vienna, Austria, 9 2011.
[29] S. Tisue and U. Wilensky, “Netlogo: A simple environment for modeling complexity,” in International conference on complex systems. Boston, MA, 2004, pp. 16–21.

David MS Rodrigues Reading the News Through its Structure New Hybrid Connectivity Based ApproachesFigure – Two simplicies a and b connected by the 2-dimensional face, the triangle {1;2;3}. In the analysis of the time-line of The Guardian newspaper (link) the system used feature vectors based on frequency of words and them computed similarity between documents based on those feature vectors. This is a purely statistical approach that requires great computational power and that is difficult for problems that have large feature vectors and many documents. Feature vectors with 100,000 or more items are common and computing similarities between these documents becomes cumbersome. Instead of computing distance (or similarity) matrices between documents from feature vectors, the present approach explores the possibility of inferring the distance between documents from the Q-analysis description. Q-analysis is a very natural notion of connectivity between the simplicies of the structure and in the relation studied, documents are connected to each other through shared sets of tags entered by the journalists. Also in this framework, eccentricity is defined as a measure of the relatedness of one simplex in relation to another [7].

David M.S. Rodrigues and Vitorino Ramos, “Traversing News with Ant Colony Optimisation and Negative Pheromones” [PDF], accepted as preprint for oral presentation at the European Conference on Complex SystemsECCS14 in Lucca, Sept. 22-26, 2014, Italy.

Abstract: The past decade has seen the rapid development of the online newsroom. News published online are the main outlet of news surpassing traditional printed newspapers. This poses challenges to the production and to the consumption of those news. With those many sources of information available it is important to find ways to cluster and organise the documents if one wants to understand this new system. Traditional approaches to the problem of clustering documents usually embed the documents in a suitable similarity space. Previous studies have reported on the impact of the similarity measures used for clustering of textual corpora [1]. These similarity measures usually are calculated for bag of words representations of the documents. This makes the final document-word matrix high dimensional. Feature vectors with more than 10,000 dimensions are common and algorithms have severe problems with the high dimensionality of the data. A novel bio inspired approach to the problem of traversing the news is presented. It finds Hamiltonian cycles over documents published by the newspaper The Guardian. A Second Order Swarm Intelligence algorithm based on Ant Colony Optimisation was developed [2, 3] that uses a negative pheromone to mark unrewarding paths with a “no-entry” signal. This approach follows recent findings of negative pheromone usage in real ants [4].

In this case study the corpus of data is represented as a bipartite relation between documents and keywords entered by the journalists to characterise the news. A new similarity measure between documents is presented based on the Q-analysis description [5, 6, 7] of the simplicial complex formed between documents and keywords. The eccentricity between documents (two simplicies) is then used as a novel measure of similarity between documents. The results prove that the Second Order Swarm Intelligence algorithm performs better in benchmark problems of the travelling salesman problem, with faster convergence and optimal results. The addition of the negative pheromone as a non-entry signal improves the quality of the results. The application of the algorithm to the corpus of news of The Guardian creates a coherent navigation system among the news. This allows the users to navigate the news published during a certain period of time in a semantic sequence instead of a time sequence. This work as broader application as it can be applied to many cases where the data is mapped to bipartite relations (e.g. protein expressions in cells, sentiment analysis, brand awareness in social media, routing problems), as it highlights the connectivity of the underlying complex system.

Keywords: Self-Organization, Stigmergy, Co-Evolution, Swarm Intelligence, Dynamic Optimization, Foraging, Cooperative Learning, Hamiltonian cycles, Text Mining, Textual Corpora, Information Retrieval, Knowledge Discovery, Sentiment Analysis, Q-Analysis, Data Mining, Journalism, The Guardian.


[1] Alexander Strehl, Joydeep Ghosh, and Raymond Mooney. Impact of similarity measures on web-page clustering.  In Workshop on Artifcial Intelligence for Web Search (AAAI 2000), pages 58-64, 2000.
[2] David M. S. Rodrigues, Jorge Louçã, and Vitorino Ramos. From standard to second-order Swarm Intelligence  phase-space maps. In Stefan Thurner, editor, 8th European Conference on Complex Systems, Vienna, Austria,  9 2011.
[3] Vitorino Ramos, David M. S. Rodrigues, and Jorge Louçã. Second order Swarm Intelligence. In Jeng-Shyang  Pan, Marios M. Polycarpou, Micha l Wozniak, André C.P.L.F. Carvalho, Hector Quintian, and Emilio Corchado,  editors, HAIS’13. 8th International Conference on Hybrid Artificial Intelligence Systems, volume 8073 of Lecture  Notes in Computer Science, pages 411-420. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Salamanca, Spain, 9 2013.
[4] Elva J.H. Robinson, Duncan Jackson, Mike Holcombe, and Francis L.W. Ratnieks. No entry signal in ant  foraging (hymenoptera: Formicidae): new insights from an agent-based model. Myrmecological News, 10(120), 2007.
[5] Ronald Harry Atkin. Mathematical Structure in Human A ffairs. Heinemann Educational Publishers, 48 Charles  Street, London, 1 edition, 1974.
[6] J. H. Johnson. A survey of Q-analysis, part 1: The past and present. In Proceedings of the Seminar on Q-analysis  and the Social Sciences, Universty of Leeds, 9 1983.
[7] David M. S. Rodrigues. Identifying news clusters using Q-analysis and modularity. In Albert Diaz-Guilera,  Alex Arenas, and Alvaro Corral, editors, Proceedings of the European Conference on Complex Systems 2013, Barcelona, 9 2013.

In order to solve hard combinatorial optimization problems (e.g. optimally scheduling students and teachers along a week plan on several different classes and classrooms), one way is to computationally mimic how ants forage the vicinity of their habitats searching for food. On a myriad of endless possibilities to find the optimal route (minimizing the travel distance), ants, collectively emerge the solution by using stigmergic signal traces, or pheromones, which also dynamically change under evaporation.

Current algorithms, however, make only use of a positive feedback type of pheromone along their search, that is, if they collectively visit a good low-distance route (a minimal pseudo-solution to the problem) they tend to reinforce that signal, for their colleagues. Nothing wrong with that, on the contrary, but no one knows however if a lower-distance alternative route is there also, just at the corner. On his global search endeavour, like a snowballing effect, positive feedbacks tend up to give credit to the exploitation of solutions but not on the – also useful – exploration side. The upcoming potential solutions can thus get crystallized, and freeze, while a small change on some parts of the whole route, could on the other-hand successfully increase the global result.

Influence of Negative Pheromone in Swarm IntelligenceFigure – Influence of negative pheromone on kroA100.tsp problem (fig.1 – page 6) (values on lines represent 1-ALPHA). A typical standard ACS (Ant Colony System) is represented here by the line with value 0.0, while better results could be found by our approach, when using positive feedbacks (0.95) along with negative feedbacks (0.05). Not only we obtain better results, as we found them earlier.

There is, however, an advantage when a second type of pheromone (a negative feedback one) co-evolves with the first type. And we decided to research for his impact. What we found out, is that by using a second type of global feedback, we can indeed increase a faster search while achieving better results. In a way, it’s like using two different types of evaporative traffic lights, in green and red, co-evolving together. And as a conclusion, we should indeed use a negative no-entry signal pheromone. In small amounts (0.05), but use it. Not only this prevents the whole system to freeze on some solutions, to soon, as it enhances a better compromise on the search space of potential routes. The pre-print article is available here at arXiv. Follows the abstract and keywords:

Vitorino Ramos, David M. S. Rodrigues, Jorge Louçã, “Second Order Swarm Intelligence” [PDF], in Hybrid Artificial Intelligent Systems, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer-Verlag, Volume 8073, pp. 411-420, 2013.

Abstract: An artificial Ant Colony System (ACS) algorithm to solve general purpose combinatorial Optimization Problems (COP) that extends previous AC models [21] by the inclusion of a negative pheromone, is here described. Several Travelling Salesman Problem‘s (TSP) were used as benchmark. We show that by using two different sets of pheromones, a second-order co-evolved compromise between positive and negative feedbacks achieves better results than single positive feedback systems. The algorithm was tested against known NP complete combinatorial Optimization Problems, running on symmetrical TSPs. We show that the new algorithm compares favourably against these benchmarks, accordingly to recent biological findings by Robinson [26,27], and Grüter [28] where “No entry” signals and negative feedback allows a colony to quickly reallocate the majority of its foragers to superior food patches. This is the first time an extended ACS algorithm is implemented with these successful characteristics.

Keywords: Self-Organization, Stigmergy, Co-Evolution, Swarm Intelligence, Dynamic Optimization, Foraging, Cooperative Learning, Combinatorial Optimization problems, Symmetrical Travelling Salesman Problems (TSP).

von Neumann

There is thus this completely decisive property of complexity, that there exists a critical size below which the process of synthesis is degenerative, but above which the phenomenon of synthesis, if properly arranged, can become explosive, in other words, where syntheses of automata can proceed in such a manner that each automaton will produce other automata which are more complex and of higher potentialities than itself“. ~ John von Neumann, in his 1949 University of Illinois lectures on the Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata [J. von Neumann, Theory of self-reproducing automata, 1949 Univ. of Illinois Lectures on the Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata, ed. A.W. Burks (University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, 1966).].

Salvador Dalí with anteater Paris 1969

I don’t do drugs. I am drugs” ~ Salvador Dalí.

The photo, which dates from 1969, depicts the 65-year-old Catalan surrealist Salvador Dalí emerging from a Paris subway station led by his trusty giant anteater. Surrealism‘s aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.” Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. [from Wikipedia, link above].

Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulation 1981 book

According to Baudrillard, Simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no reality to begin with, or that no longer have an original. While, Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. “Simulacres et Simulation” is a 1981 philosophical treatise by Jean Baudrillard seeking to interrogate the relationship among reality, symbols, and society:

[…] Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of symbols, signs, and how they relate to contemporaneity (simultaneous existences). Baudrillard claims that our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is of a simulation of reality. Moreover, these simulacra are not merely mediations of reality, nor even deceptive mediations of reality; they are not based in a reality nor do they hide a reality, they simply hide that anything like reality is relevant to our current understanding of our lives. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are the significations and symbolism of culture and media that construct perceived reality, the acquired understanding by which our lives and shared existence is and are rendered legible; Baudrillard believed that society has become so saturated with these simulacra and our lives so saturated with the constructs of society that all meaning was being rendered meaningless by being infinitely mutable. Baudrillard called this phenomenon the “precession of simulacra”. […] (from Wikipedia)

Simulacra and Simulation” is definitely one of my best summer holiday readings I had this year. There are several connections to areas like Collective Intelligence and Perception, even Self-Organization as the dynamic and entangled use of symbols and signals, are recurrent on all these areas. Questions like the territory (cultural habitats) and metamorphose are also aborded. The book is an interesting source of new questions and thinking about our digital society, for people working on related areas such as Digital Media, Computer Simulation, Information Theory, Information and Entropy, Augmented Reality, Social Computation and related paradigms. I have read it in English for free [PDF] from a Georgetown Univ. link, here.

The Hacker and the Ants is a work of science fiction by Rudy Rucker published in 1994 by Avon Books. It was written while Rucker was working as a programmer at Autodesk, Inc., of Sausalito, California from 1988 to 1992. The main character is a transrealist interpretation of Rucker’s life in the 1970s (Rucker taught mathematics at the State University College at Geneseo, New York from 1972 to 1978. from Wikipedia). The plot follows:

(…) Jerzy Rugby is trying to create truly intelligent robots. While his actual life crumbles, Rugby toils in his virtual office, testing the robots online. Then, something goes wrong and zillions of computer virus ants invade the net. Rugby is the man wanted for the crime. He’s been set up to take a fall for a giant cyberconspiracy and he needs to figure out who — or what — is sabotaging the system in order to clear his name. Plunging deep into the virtual worlds of Antland of Fnoor to find some answers, Rugby confronts both electronic and all-too-real perils, facing death itself in a battle for his freedom. (…)

Samuel Beckett

Interesting how this Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) quote to his work is so close to the research on Artificial Life (aLife), as well as how Christopher Langton (link) approached the field, on his initial stages, fighting back and fourth with his Lambda parameter (“Life emerges at the Edge of Chaos“) back in the 80’s. According to Langton‘s findings, at the edge of several ordered states and the chaotic regime (lambda=0,273) the information passing on the system is maximal, thus ensuring life. Will not wait for Godot. Here:

“Beckett was intrigued by chess because of the way it combined the free play of imagination with a rigid set of rules, presenting what the editors of the Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett call a “paradox of freedom and restriction”. That is a very Beckettian notion: the idea that we are simultaneously free and unfree, capable of beauty yet doomed. Chess, especially in the endgame when the board’s opening symmetry has been wrecked and the courtiers eliminated, represents life reduced to essentials – to a struggle to survive.”(*)

(*) on Stephen Moss, “Samuel Beckett’s obsession with chess: how the game influenced his work“, The Guardian, 29 August 2013. [link]

Nocturnal swarm

Nocturnal moth trails – Fluttering wings leave lacy trails as moths beat their way to a floodlight on a rural Ontario lawn. The midsummer night’s exposure, held for 20 seconds, captured some of the hundreds of insects engaged in a nocturnal swarm. [Photo: Steve Irvine, National Geographic, 2013, link]

Vieira da Silva O jogo de xadrez 1943

Picture – The idea of Viera da Silva’s art as a kind of code to be decoded comes across most clearly in The Chess Game – “O jogo de Xadrez” (above, Oil on Canvas, 1943). […] The checkered pattern of the chessboard extends beyond the table not only to the players themselves but also to the very landscape itself […] … Vieira da Silva would have loved The Matrix films […] (more).

Last night I decided to do something new. To play and broadcast live on Twitter, two chess games, blindfold. A 1st one with white pieces, another playing black. For that, I have chosen Chess Titans (link) has my contender,  a computer program most people can also access and try out over their PC’s. Chess Titans is a computer chess game developed by Oberon Games and vastly included in Windows Vista and Windows 7.  While broadcasting the game live, I added some of my thoughts while playing both games. Even if in brief, that was what I was feeling at the moment: what I was planning, and in what adversary menaces I mostly decided to spent my time.

For those reasons, what follows are those on-the-fly live comments, uncut, made at each moment, while I was thinking. No extra analysis is included here today. It will be more interesting for those who will read me on the future, I guess. This could give a precise idea what happened each time I have made a move, how I react it to some computer moves, and how some of my errors happened as you will see. How my mind went in one direction, or several, depending on the position. Those comments are highlighted by brackets () below, and were twitted live as they arrived to me. Besides, two subsequent comment brackets do not mean two subsequent twitter live chess thinking comments. Sometimes, several minutes have passed between those different thoughts.

As a final note, Chess Titans played each move in around 15-35 seconds, and in difficult positions, rarely, up to 2-3 minutes (I have chosen to play against the maximum level, 10). Playing blindfold, I have spent around 3-4 minutes for regular moves, like exchanging pieces, tweeting, etc, and mostly around 10-15 minutes for some positions, in quite difficult combinatorial patterns. First game playing white, endured 1h and a half (lost it) ,while the second almost 4h and 30 minutes within 58 moves. Here they are:

Game (1) Vitorino Ramos vs. Chess Titans level max.=10 [Sicilian] (LIVE on Twitter 23:00 GMT – 00:24 GMT, Dec. 20, 2012) Duration: 1h 24m.

1. e4, c5 2. c3, Nf6 3. Qc2, e5 4. Ne2, d5 5. exd5, Qxd5 (hmm … 6. d4 or 6.Ng3) 6. d4, Nc6 (7. c4 8. d5 but feeling problems later with his Nb4, Qa4+, Bd7!) 7. dxe5, Nxe5 8. Nf4, Qd7 9. Na3 (for 10. Bb5!), 9. …, Qe7 (was expecting 9. … a6) (10. Be3 seems too bad. Maybe 10. Be2 or Qe2. Or the line 10. Bb5+, Bd7, BxB, Nexd7+, Be3, Ng4 hmm … then Nd5!! ok … 10. Bb5+) 10. Bb5+, Bd7 11. 0-0, (better than BxB+ I guess cause of a future Ng4 by him), 11. …, g5

Vitorino Ramos vs. Chess Titans level max.=10 after 11. ..., g5

Chess diagram – crucial position after his 11. …, g5 move. White (me) to play.

(too risky maybe 12. Re1, gxN, Bxf4, Nf6-g4, f3 difficult for me to compute the rest) (12. Re1, gxN, Bxf4, Nf6-g4, f3, … hmm … Nexf3+ ?!!!)
(how about h3; 12. Re1, gxN, Bxf4, Nf6-g4, h3) (hmm???? 12. Re1, gxN, Bxf4, Nf6-g4, h3, Nxf2, Kxf2, Neg4+ ~ hmm) (we also have intermediate variants like, Bxb5, Nxb5, Q moves and gains one tempo by attacking the Knight on b5) (ok, no prob, here I go. This will be bloody …)

12. Re1 12. …, Nf3+ (Oooohhh NO!!!! damn, calculated this more ahead, not now. So stupid) 13. gxf3, Qxe1+ 14. Kg2, gxf4 (now he has Rg8++) (Bxf4 for Rg8+, Bg3 he has QxRa1, bad, bad) 15. Bxd7+, Nxd7 (h3 is an escape now for my King) (16. Rb1, Rg8+, Kh3, Qf1+, Kh4, Be7+ and I think I’m lost) (k, let’s sacrifice the Rook in a1) 16. Bxf4, Qxa1 (at least I have some counter-game now) 17. Qe4+, Be7 (Bd6 will not work due to Rg8+ followed by Qf1+ I guess…, damn, should have played 17. Qe2+!!) (Nb5 menacing Nc7+ or Nd6+ does not work either. Follows Rg8+, Kh3, Qf1+ and Q takes Nb5) (and for Qxb7 he has the robust Rb8 answer) (…. k, the end. Give up. Chess Titans level 10 won 1st game – 2nd game follows) 0-1

After two big blunders on the first game above (the bad 12. Re1 instead of a normal 12. Nd3 – check 1st diagram above -, and 17. Qe4+ instead of 17. Qe2+, since controlling f1 was crucial)  the second game did not started well also. After 6 moves I was already losing 1 pawn. Yet, still did manage to open the game and get the initiative a few moves later (around 14. …, Re8+). I feel OK with open and highly combinatorial games as these (normally it’s when I play better), but I forgot one simple fact: I was playing blindfold. Four and an half hours later I guess I’m happy to have managed to drawn a quite interesting and complex game, playing black pieces. What a long and stressful headache. Here:

Game (2) Chess Titans level max.=10 vs. Vitorino Ramos [English opening] (LIVE on Twitter 00:45 GMT – 05:12 GMT, Dec. 20, 2012) Duration: 4h 27m.

1. c4, e5 (English) 2. Nc3, f5 3. g3, c6 4. e4, fxe4 5. Qh5+ (that 4. …, fxe4 was too bad from me. Childish error. Did not see the typical Qh5+ trap, g6, Qxe5+ followed by QxRh8. It should have been 4. …, d6) 5, …, Ke7 6. Qxe5+, Kf7 7. Be2, Qf6 8. Qxe4, Bc5 9. Nf3, Nh6 10. d4 (hmm prepares Ng5+ ??!) 10. …, Bb4 11. Bg5, Qf5 12. Qxf5+, Nxf5 13. Bd3, d6 14. a3, Re8+ 15. Be2, Bxc3+ 16. bxc3, h6 17. Bd2, g5 18. h4, g4 19. Nh2, h5 20. Bf4, b5 21. cxb5, cxb5 22. f3, Bb7 23. Rf1, gxf3 24. Nxf3, Nd7 25. Kd1, a6 26. Ng1, Kg6 27. Re1, Rac8 28. a4 (hmm … Bxh5+ is dangerous if I move the rock in column c, like 28. …, Rxc3), 28. …, Nf6 29. axb5, axb5, 30. Ra7, Bc6 (did calculate Ba8 and Bd5 but hmm, I need d5 for my knight. His bishop on f4 must die) 31. Bd3, Nd5 32. Ne2

Chess Titans level max.=10 vs. Vitorino Ramos after his 32. Ne2 move

Chess diagram – position after his 32. Ne2 move. Black (me) to play. I’m 1 pawn down but with the initiative.

(I can’t take on c3 right? Nxc3, Nxc3, Bf3+, and then he goes back with Knight to e2, gee…) (hard position to mentally calculate) (32. …, b4 ?????) (damn, let me simplify all this…) 32. …, Ra8 33. Rxa8, Rxa8 34. Bxd6 (geee, that 31. Bd3 was so well played) 34. …, Ra1+ (will try to drawn him with successive pressure and checks, I guess) 35. Kd2, Ra2+ 36. Kc1 (yep, he prepares to play Bb1, I guess) 36. …, Nde3 37. Nf4+, Kf7 38. Nxh5, Ra1+ 39. Bb1 (only move for him. If not I change the rocks in e1 with time and then  his bishop on d6) 39. …, Be4

Chess Titans level max.=10 vs. Vitorino Ramos after my 39. ..., Be4

Chess diagram – position after my 39. …, Be4 move, pinning b2. White (computer) to play. I’m now 3 pawns down.

(Pinning. Guess this would end with 2 knights and 1 pawn against 1 knight and 4 pawns!!) 40. Kb2, Rxb1+ 41. Rxb1, Bxb1 42. Kxb1, Nxd6 43. Nf4 …

Chess Titans level max.=10 vs. Vitorino Ramos after his 43. Nf4 move

Chess diagram – position after his 43. Nf4 move. Black to play. Now I must stop two different white pawn clusters, on each side. Hard final.

(must be careful, now) (I guess I will do the obvious) (hmm, does not work, 43 …. Ne4 44. Ne2!) (wait, then King on f6, f5, g4 pressing g3) (k, here I go) 43. …, Ne4 44. Ne2, (now, I must think of my pawn on b5, hmm) (he has Ka2, a3 etc) (I have Nc4-d6, hope this helps, … here I go) 44. …, Kf6 45. Kb2, Kf5 46. h5 (?????!!!) 46. …, Kg5 47. h6 (?? He wants my King outside the centre, is that it? … I must take it) 47. …, Kxh6 48. Kb3 (yep, now I have problems on the other side) 48. …, Nd6 49. Kb4 (now my aim will be to arrive on f3 with my King) 49. …, Kg5 50. Kc5, Nec4 (freezing everything!) 51. d5 (hmm, I get it, he wants to reach Kd4 and Kd3. Anyway, I will go for the one in g3) 51. …, Kg4 52. Kc6

(what?????? he is just waiting) (hmm … wait, makes some sense. If 52…, Kf3 then 53. Nd4+, Kxg3 54. Nxb5, Nxb5 55. Kxb5 and I would have 1 knight against 2 pawns and my King far away) (hmm, hard call) (52…, Kf3 or not 52…, Kf3 ??!!!) (Kf3 followed by Ke3 and Kd3 etc does not work also, I think) (… hmm, wait, it might if he does not go Kc5, Kd4. If he goes I will the other way around by Kf4, Ke5)

52. …, Kf3 53. Nd4+, Kxg3 54. Kc5, Kf4 55. Nxb5, Ke5 (and it’s a drawn, I guess) 56. Kb4, Nxb5 57. Kxc4 57. …, Nxc3 ( if he goes 58. d6 then 58. …, Nd5! 59. d7, Nb6+ followed by Nxd7!!) 58. Kxc3, Kxd5 ½½ (uuuufff, managing to draw blindfold, is a good result I guess :)

One of my conclusions: never play blindfold again in a open and highly combinatorial position, namely when you have a pair of knights. That, could make you dizzy and sick. Another (among, many others): never live tweet chess again. You will loose a lot of dumb followers (which turns-out to be healthy) and simultaneously attract all kinds of weirdos, and guru-like spam on-line marketeers. Vieira da Silva was right. It extends beyond the table. Like lake ripples when a stone is thrown.

Octavio Aburto David and Goliath CaboPulmo NatGeo2012

During several years, Octavio Aburto thought of one photo. Now, he finally got it. The recently published photograph by Aburto, titled “David and Goliath” (it his in fact David Castro, one of his research science colleagues at the center of this stunning image) has been widely shared over the last few weeks. It was taken at Cabo Pulmo National Park (Mexico) and submitted to the National Geographic photo contest 2012. Here, he captures the sheer size of fish aggregations in perspective with a single human surrounded by abundant marine life. On a recent interview, he explains:

[…] … this “David and Goliath” image is speaking to the courtship behavior of one particular species of Jack fish. […] Many people say that a single image is worth a thousand words, but a single image can also represent thousands of data points and countless statistical analyses. One image, or a small series of images can tell a complicated story in a very simple way. […] The picture you see was taken November 1st, 2012. But this picture has been in my mind for three years — I have been trying to capture this image ever since I saw the behavior of these fish and witnessed the incredible tornado that they form during courtship. So, I guess you could say this image took almost three years. […], in , Dec. 2012.

Video – Behind the scenes of David and Goliath image. This photo was taken at Cabo Pulmo National Park and submitted to the National Geographic photo contest 2012. You can see more of his images from this place and about Mexican seas on Octavio‘s web link.

Oscar Niemeyer  by Ludovic Lent

Photo – Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) photographed by Ludovic Lent for L’Express, France.

First were the thick stone walls, the arches, then the domes and vaults – of the architect, searching out for wider spaces. Now it is concrete-reinforced that gives our imagination flight with its soaring spans and uncommon cantilevers. Concrete, to which architecture is integrated, through which it is able to discard the foregone conclusions of rationalism, with its monotony and repetitious solutions. A concern for beauty, a zest for fantasy, and an ever-present element of surprise bear witness that today’s architecture is not a minor craft bound to straight-edge rules, but an architecture imbued with technology: light, creative and unfettered, seeking out its architectural scene.” ~ Oscar Niemeyer, acceptance speech, Pritzker Architecture Prize (1988).

Fig. – (book cover) “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software” (additional link) is a book written by media theorist Steven Berlin Johnson, published in 2001,  Scribner. New York, NY.

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffee houses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent. Build a tangled bank.” — Steven Johnson.

Video – Animated short film (by Shulamit Serfaty) based on Italo Calvino‘s story “The distance from the moon“, in Le Cosmicomiche (Cosmicomics), 1st edition, Einaudi, Italy, 1965.

[…] In reality, from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up. We had taken the measurements carefully (we didn’t yet suspect that she was moving away from us); the only thing you had to be very careful about was where you put your hands. I always chose a scale that seemed fast (we climbed up in groups of five or six at a time), then I would cling first with one hand, then with both, and immediately I would feel ladder and boat drifting away from below me, and the motion of the Moon would tear me from the Earth’s attraction. Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up; you realized this the moment you passed from one to the other: you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon’s surface. Seen from the Earth, you looked as if you were hanging there with your head down, but for you, it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine. […], in Italo Calvino, The distance from the moon“, Le Cosmicomiche (Cosmicomics), 1st edition, Einaudi, Italy, 1965.

Picture – (on the cover) “Calvino does what very few writers can do: he describes imaginary worlds with the most extraordinary precision and beauty…” – Gore Vidal, The New York Review of Books.

Finally one of the most recent Pixar animated short films, “La Luna” released last year. Directed by Enrico Casarosa, Pixar, June 2011:

What bothers us about primordial beauty is that it is no longer characteristic. Unspoiled places sadden us because they are, in an important sense, no longer true.” – Robert Adams.

Living and working mostly in Colorado for nearly 30 years, Robert Adams was mostly concerned about a palimpsest of alterations, unfolding in front of his camera in plain western America. Even if unperceivable for so many, the landscape in turmoil was his medium. And it was there, he found out what beauty is not. In 1975, New Topographics encapsulated an evolving Man-altered landscape in an exhibition that end-up by signalling a pivotal key moment in American landscape photography. His sensibility and aesthetic approach remains pertinent today among us. One needs to only replace random and lost inanimate landscapes with random lonely people.

Recent research have increasingly being focused on the relationship between Human-Human interaction, social networks (no, not the Facebook) and other Human-activity areas, like health. Nicholas Christakis (Harvard Univ. research link) points us that, people are inter-connected, and so as well, their health is inter-connected. This research engages two types of phenomena: the social, mathematical, and biological rules governing how social networks form (“Connection“) and the biological and social implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (“Contagion“), as in the self-organized stigmergy-like dynamics of Cognitive Collective Perception (link).

Above, Nicholas Christakis (in a 56m. documentary lecture produced by The Floating University, Sept. 2011) discusses the obvious tension and delicate balance between agency (one individual choices and actions) and structure (our collective responsibility), where here, structure refers not only to our co-evolving dynamic societal environment as well as to the permanent unfolding entangled nature of topological structure on complex networks, such as in human-human social networks, while asking: If you’re so free, why do you follow others? The documentary (YouTube link) resume states:

If you think you’re in complete control of your destiny or even your own actions, you’re wrong. Every choice you make, every behaviour you exhibit, and even every desire you have finds its roots in the social universe. Nicholas Christakis explains why individual actions are inextricably linked to sociological pressures; whether you’re absorbing altruism performed by someone you’ll never meet or deciding to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, collective phenomena affect every aspect of your life. By the end of the lecture Christakis has revealed a startling new way to understand the world that ranks sociology as one of the most vitally important social sciences.”

While cooperation is central to the success of human societies and is widespread, cooperation in itself, however, poses a challenge in both the social and biological sciences: How can this high level of cooperation be maintained in the face of possible exploitation? One answer involves networked interactions and population structure.

As perceived, the balance between homophily (where “birds of a feather flock together”) and heterophily (one where most of genotypes are negatively correlated), do requires further research. In fact, in humans, one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences is that people tend to associate with other people that they resemble, a process precisely known as homophily. As Christakis points out, although phenotypic resemblance between friends might partly reflect the operation of social influence, our genotypes are not materially susceptible to change. Therefore, genotypic resemblance could result only from a process of selection. Such genotypic selection might in turn take several forms. For short, let me stress you two examples. What follows are two papers, as well as a quick reference (image below) to a recent general-audience of his books:

1) Rewiring your network fosters cooperation:

“Human populations are both highly cooperative and highly organized. Human interactions are not random but rather are structured in social networks. Importantly, ties in these networks often are dynamic, changing in response to the behavior of one’s social partners. This dynamic structure permits an important form of conditional action that has been explored theoretically but has received little empirical attention: People can respond to the cooperation and defection of those around them by making or breaking network links. Here, we present experimental evidence of the power of using strategic link formation and dissolution, and the network modification it entails, to stabilize cooperation in sizable groups. Our experiments explore large-scale cooperation, where subjects’ cooperative actions are equally beneficial to all those with whom they interact. Consistent with previous research, we find that cooperation decays over time when social networks are shuffled randomly every round or are fixed across all rounds. We also find that, when networks are dynamic but are updated only infrequently, cooperation again fails. However, when subjects can update their network connections frequently, we see a qualitatively different outcome: Cooperation is maintained at a high level through network rewiring. Subjects preferentially break links with defectors and form new links with cooperators, creating an incentive to cooperate and leading to substantial changes in network structure. Our experiments confirm the predictions of a set of evolutionary game theoretic models and demonstrate the important role that dynamic social networks can play in supporting large-scale human cooperation.”, abstract in D.G. Rand, S. Arbesman, and N.A. Christakis, “Dynamic Social Networks Promote Cooperation in Experiments with Humans,” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 2011). [full PDF];

Picture – (book cover) Along with James Fowler, Christakis has authored also a general-audience book on social networks: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, 2011 (book link). For a recent book review, access here.

2) We are surrounded by a sea of our friends’ genes:

“It is well known that humans tend to associate with other humans who have similar characteristics, but it is unclear whether this tendency has consequences for the distribution of genotypes in a population. Although geneticists have shown that populations tend to stratify genetically, this process results from geographic sorting or assortative mating, and it is unknown whether genotypes may be correlated as a consequence of nonreproductive associations or other processes. Here, we study six available genotypes from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to test for genetic similarity between friends. Maps of the friendship networks show clustering of genotypes and, after we apply strict controls for population strati!cation, the results show that one genotype is positively correlated (homophily) and one genotype is negatively correlated (heterophily). A replication study in an independent sample from the Framingham Heart Study veri!es that DRD2 exhibits signi!cant homophily and that CYP2A6 exhibits signi!cant heterophily. These unique results show that homophily and heterophily obtain on a genetic (indeed, an allelic) level, which has implications for the study of population genetics and social behavior. In particular, the results suggest that association tests should include friends’ genes and that theories of evolution should take into account the fact that humans might, in some sense, be metagenomic with respect to the humans around them.”, abstract in J.H. Fowler, J.E. Settle, and N.A. Christakis, “Correlated Genotypes in Friendship Networks,” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 2011). [full PDF].

“… words are not numbers, nor even signs. They are animals, alive and with a will of their own. Put together, they are invariably less or more than their sum. Words die in antisepsis. Asked to be neutral, they display allegiances and stubborn propensities. They assume the color of their new surroundings, like chameleons; they perversely develop echoes.” Guy Davenport, “Another Odyssey”, 1967. [above: painting by Mark Rothko – untitled]

Image – Reese Inman, DIVERGENCE II (2008), acrylic on panel 30 x 30 in Remix (Boston, 2008), a solo exhibition of handmade computer art works by Reese Inman, Gallery NAGA in Boston.

Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958[1] by Klaus Conrad,[2] who defined it as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”, but it has come to represent the human tendency to seek patterns in random information in general (such as with gambling). In statistics, apophenia is known as a Type I error – the identification of false patterns in data.[7] It may be compared with a so called false positive in other test situations. Two correlated terms are synchronicity and pareidolia (from Wikipedia):

Synchronicity: Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity for the “simultaneous occurrence of two meaningful but not causally connected events” creating a significant realm of philosophical exploration. This attempt at finding patterns within a world where coincidence does not exist possibly involves apophenia if a person’s perspective attributes their own causation to a series of events. “Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to a momentary subjective state”. (C. Jung, 1960).

Pareidolia: Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the perception of images or sounds in random stimuli, for example, hearing a ringing phone while taking a shower. The noise produced by the running water gives a random background from which the patterned sound of a ringing phone might be “produced”. A more common human experience is perceiving faces in inanimate objects; this phenomenon is not surprising in light of how much processing the brain does in order to memorize and recall the faces of hundreds or thousands of different individuals. In one respect, the brain is a facial recognition, storage, and recall machine – and it is very good at it. A by-product of this acumen at recognizing faces is that people see faces even where there is no face: the headlights & grill of an auto-mobile can appear to be “grinning”, individuals around the world can see the “Man in the Moon”, and a drawing consisting of only three circles and a line which even children will identify as a face are everyday examples of this.[15].

Fig.1 – (click to enlarge) The optimal shortest path among N=1265 points depicting a Portuguese Navalheira crab as a result of one of our latest Swarm-Intelligence based algorithms. The problem of finding the shortest path among N different points in space is NP-hard, known as the Travelling Salesmen Problem (TSP), being one of the major and hardest benchmarks in Combinatorial Optimization (link) and Artificial Intelligence. (V. Ramos, D. Rodrigues, 2012)

This summer my kids just grab a tiny Portuguese Navalheira crab on the shore. After a small photo-session and some baby-sitting with a lettuce leaf, it was time to release it again into the ocean. He not only survived my kids, as he is now entitled into a new World Wide Web on-line life. After the Shortest path Sardine (link) with 1084 points, here is the Crab with 1265 points. The algorithm just run as little as 110 iterations.

Fig. 2 – (click to enlarge) Our 1265 initial points depicting a TSP Portuguese Navalheira crab. Could you already envision a minimal tour between all these points?

As usual in Travelling Salesmen problems (TSP) we start it with a set of points, in our case 1084 points or cities (fig. 2). Given a list of cities and their pairwise distances, the task is now to find the shortest possible tour that visits each city exactly once. The problem was first formulated as a mathematical problem in 1930 and is one of the most intensively studied problems in optimization. It is used as a benchmark for many optimization methods.

Fig. 3 – (click to enlarge) Again the shortest path Navalheira crab, where the optimal contour path (in black: first fig. above) with 1265 points (or cities) was filled in dark orange.

TSP has several applications even in its purest formulation, such as planning, logistics, and the manufacture of microchips. Slightly modified, it appears as a sub-problem in many areas, such as DNA sequencing. In these applications, the concept city represents, for example, customers, soldering points, or DNA fragments, and the concept distance represents travelling times or cost, or a similarity measure between DNA fragments. In many applications, additional constraints such as limited resources or time windows make the problem considerably harder.

What follows (fig. 4) is the original crab photo after image segmentation and just before adding Gaussian noise in order to retrieve several data points for the initial TSP problem. The algorithm was then embedded with the extracted x,y coordinates of these data points (fig. 2) in order for him to discover the minimal path, in just 110 iterations. For extra details, pay a visit onto the Shortest path Sardine (link) done earlier.

Fig. 4 – (click to enlarge) The original crab photo after some image processing as well as segmentation and just before adding Gaussian noise in order to retrieve several data points for the initial TSP problem.

How wings are attached to the backs of Angels, Craig Welsh (1996) – Production by the National Film Board of Canada ( In this surreal exposition, we meet a man, obsessed with control. His intricate gadgets manipulate yet insulate, as his science dissects and reduces. How exactly are wings attached to the back of angels? In this invented world drained of emotion, where everything goes through the motions, he is brushed by indefinite longings. Whether he can transcend his obsessions and fears is the heart of the matter (from Vimeo).

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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