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In 1990 (*), on one of his now famous works, Christopher Langton (link) decided to ask an important question. In order for computation to emerge spontaneously and become an important factor in the dynamics of a system, the material substrate must support the primitive functions required for computation: the transmission, storage, and modification of information. He then asked: Under what conditions might we expect physical systems to support such computational primitives?
Naturally, the question is difficult to address directly. Instead, he decided to reformulate the question in the context of a class of formal abstractions of physical systems: cellular automata (CAs). First, he introduce cellular automata and a simple scheme for parametrising (lambda parameter, λ) the space of all possible CA rules. Then he applied this parametrisation scheme to the space of possible one-dimensional CAs in a qualitative survey of the different dynamical regimes existing in CA rule space and their relationship to one another.
By presenting a quantitative picture of these structural relationships, using data from an extensive survey of two-dimensional CAs, he finally review the observed relationships among dynamical regimes, discussing their implications for the more general question raised above. Langton found out that for a 2-state, 1-r neighbourhood, 1D cellular automata the optimal λ value is close to 0.5. For a 2-state, Moore neighbourhood, 2D cellular automata, like Conway’s Life, the λ value is then 0.273.
We then find that by selecting an appropriate parametrisation of the space of CAs, one observes a phase transition between highly ordered and highly disordered dynamics, analogous to the phase transition between the solid and fluid states of matter. Furthermore, Langton observed that CAs exhibiting the most complex behaviour – both qualitatively and quantitatively- are found generically in the vicinity of this phase transition. Most importantly, he observed that CAs in the transition region have the greatest potential for the support of information storage, transmission, and modification, and therefore for the emergence of computation. He concludes:
(…) These observations suggest that there is a fundamental connection between phase transitions and computation, leading to the following hypothesis concerning the emergence of computation in physical systems: Computation may emerge spontaneously and come to dominate the dynamics of physical systems when those systems are at or near a transition between their solid and fluid phases, especially in the vicinity of a second-order or “critical” transition. (…)
Moreover, we observe surprising similarities between the behaviours of computations and systems near phase transitions, finding analogs of computational complexity classes and the halting problem (Turing) within the phenomenology of phase transitions.
Langton, concludes that there is a fundamental connection between computation and phase transitions, especially second-order or “critical” transitions, discussing some of the implications for our understanding of nature if such a connection is borne out.
The full paper (*), Christopher G. Langton. “Computation at the edge of chaos”. Physica D, 42, 1990, is available online, here [PDF].
“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).].
“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].
Images – Portugal (1A – top left, original input satellite image below), geodesically stretched by one of my Mathematical Morphology algorithms, in order to represent real travel times from each of the 18 regional districts in Portugal, to the rest of the territory. From the 18, three capital districts are represented here. As departing from Lisbon (1B – top right), from Faro (1C – South of Portugal, bottom left), and from Bragança (1D – North-East region, bottom right). [World Exposition, Lisbon, Territory pavilion, 1998].
For my complete and positive surprise, their interview ended with some new examples, being one of my old works referred (from 57m 12s up to 60m 26s on http://camaraclara.rtp.pt/#/arquivo/131 ). It’s a long story on how I ended doing these kind of maps. Part of it, it’s here. During 1998, the World Exposition was in Portugal, and I got invited to present a set of 18 different maps from the Portuguese territory. So I decided to geodesically stretch the travel distances from any of the 18 different capital districts, to the rest of the territory, in order to represent travel Time not Distance, or Distance as time. For that, I have coded new algorithms based on Mathematical Morphology (MM), taking in account every road (from main roads to regional, check some images below), from which I applied different MM operators.
Unfortunately, many of those maps are now lost. I did tried hard to find them from my old digital archives, but only found those above, which represent the departure from Lisbon (the Capital), Faro and Bragança. So, if by any reason you happen to have some photos from the 1998’s World Exposition in Lisbon, inside the Territory pavilion, I would love to receive them.
A sketchy summary of this TV program went on something like this (the poor translation is mine): At the year Google promises to launch his first and exhaustive world-wide open-access digital cartography of the African continent, Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral, passioned by the Portuguese World Discover History and collector of historical maps, joins as guest with Manuel Lima, the Portuguese information designer that recently Creativity magazine has considered one of the top bright minds along with Google and Amazon founders, debating the importance of “navigating” reality with a map. From the Portuguese cartographic history, know to be the best in the XV and XVI centuries, up to the actual state-of-the-art in this area, from which Manuel Lima is considered to be one of the top researchers at global scale.
New work, new book. Last week one of our latest works come out published on Springer. Edited by Jeng-Shyang Pan, Marios M. Polycarpou, Emilio Corchado et al. “Hybrid Artificial Intelligent Systems” comprises a full set of new papers on this hybrid area on Intelligent Computing (check the full articles list at Springer). Our new paper “Second Order Swarm Intelligence” (pp. 411-420, Springer books link) was published on the Bio-inspired Models and Evolutionary Computation section.
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. (…)
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 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]
[…] Analogy is the core of all thinking. – This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work. Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over thirty years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition. We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain’s job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.
Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, “I undressed the banana!”? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, “Exactly the same thing happened to me!” when it was a completely different event? How do we recognize an aggressive driver from a split-second glance in our rear-view mirror? What in a friend’s remark triggers the offhand reply, “That’s just sour grapes”? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea? The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy-making – the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought. Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights.
Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds. By plunging the reader into an extraordinary variety of colorful situations involving language, thought, and memory, by revealing bit by bit the constantly churning cognitive mechanisms normally completely hidden from view, and by discovering in them one central, invariant core – the incessant, unconscious quest for strong analogical links to past experiences – this book puts forth a radical and deeply surprising new vision of the act of thinking. […] intro to “Surfaces and Essences – Analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking” by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander, Basic Books, NY, 2013 [link] (to be released May 1, 2013).
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
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 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 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 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 ½–½ (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.
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).
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.
Four different snapshots (click to enlarge) from one of my latest books, recently published in Japan: Ajith Abraham, Crina Grosan, Vitorino Ramos (Eds.), “Swarm Intelligence in Data Mining” (群知能と データマイニング), Tokyo Denki University press [TDU], Tokyo, Japan, July 2012.