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Photo – Young Glenn Gould in February 1946 with his English Setter dog, Nick.

Yes, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter has is own day also. It’s Pi Day. March 14th. Created by physicist Larry Shaw, Pi Day is a holiday commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). There is a reason for this date. Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 (or 3/14 in month/day date format), since 3, 1 and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form. If you want to check it out, here are the first one million digits of π. Ironically, this is also the date when Albert Einstein was born. So, how about some good music along with that, to celebrate it?!

Figure – A comic strip by Randall Munroe (at – a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language) about Computational Complexity, the Travelling Salesman (TSP) problem, and – last, but not least – about crowd-sourcing the whole thing into ebay! … LOL

… hey wait, just before you ROTFL yourself on the floor, just check this out. For some problem cases it might just work. Here is one of those  recent cases: Interactive, online games are being used to crack complex scientific conundrums, says a report in Nature. And the wisdom of the ‘multiplayer’ crowd is delivering a new set of search strategies for the prediction of protein structures. The problem at hands is nothing less than protein folding, not an easy one. You can check Nature‘s journal video here. While the online game in question is known as Foldit (link – image below).

Figure – Solving puzzle #48 with FOLDIT, the online game.

There are a lot of consequences with this approach. Here from an article of the Spanish El Pais newspaper (in, Malen Ruiz de Elvira, “Los humanos ganan a los ordenadores – Un juego en red para resolver un problema biológico obtiene mejores resultados que un programa informático“, El Pais, Madrid – August 8, 2010):

[…] Miles de jugadores en red, la mayoría no especializados, han demostrado resolver mejor la forma que adoptan las proteínas que los programas informáticos más avanzados, han hallado científicos de la Universidad de Washington (en Seattle). Averiguar cómo se pliegan las largas cadenas de aminoácidos de las proteínas en la naturaleza -su estructura en tres dimensiones- es uno de los grandes problemas de la biología actual, al que numerosos equipos dedican enormes recursos informáticos. […] Sin embargo la predicción por ordenador de la estructura de una proteína representa un desafío muy grande porque hay que analizar un gran número de posibilidades hasta alcanzar la solución, que se corresponde con un estado óptimo de energía. Es un proceso de optimización. […] Para comprobar su pericia, los científicos plantearon a los jugadores 10 problemas concretos de estructuras de proteínas que conocían pero que no se habían hecho públicas. Encontraron que en algunos de estos casos, concretamente cinco, el resultado alcanzado por los mejores jugadores fue más exacto que el de Rosetta. En otros tres casos las cosas quedaron en tablas y en dos casos ganó la máquina. […] Además, las colaboraciones establecidas entre algunos de los jugadores dieron lugar a todo un nuevo surtido de estrategias y algoritmos, algunos de los cuales se han incorporado ya al programa informático original. “Tan interesantes como las predicciones de Foldit son la complejidad, la variedad y la creatividad que muestra el proceso humano de búsqueda”, escriben los autores del trabajo, entre los que figuran, algo insólito en un artículo científico, “los jugadores de Foldit”. […] “Estamos en el inicio de una nueva era, en la que se mezcla la computación de los humanos y las máquinas”, dice Michael Kearns, un experto en el llamado pensamiento distribuido. […]

Video – Matthew Todd lecture at Google Tech Talk April, 2010 – Open Science: how can we crowdsource chemistry to solve important problems?

The idea of course, is not new. All these distributed human learning systems, started with the SETI at home project (link), originally launched in 1999, by the Berkeley University in California. But I would like to drawn your attention, instead, to some other works on it. First is a video by Matthew Todd (School of Chemistry, University of Sydney). His question his apparently simple: how can we crowdsource chemistry to solve important problems? (above). Second, a well known introductory paper on Crowd-Sourcing by Daren C. Brabham (2008), with several worldwide examples:

[…] Abstract: Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that has emerged in recent years. Notable examples of the model include Threadless, iStockphoto, Inno-Centive, the Goldcorp Challenge, and user-generated advertising contests. This article provides an introduction to crowdsourcing, both its theoretical grounding and exemplar cases, taking care to distinguish crowdsourcing from open source production. This article also explores the possibilities for the model, its potential to exploit a crowd of innovators, and its potential for use beyond for-profit sectors. Finally, this article proposes an agenda for research into crowdsourcing. […] in Daren C. Brabham, “Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving – An Introduction and Cases“, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, London, Los Angeles, New Delhi and Singapore Vol 14(1): 75-90, 2008.

Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible one” ~ Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi

What if the “invisible” were around you, and you could not see it, … unless you worked hard, really hard. And even if you worked really hard, the only thing you could saw was his shadow. The invisible’s shadow visible. No, by all means, my post is not about religion, believe me. Instead, valid science. For instance, if I gave you 6 matchsticks, and ask you to draw 4 triangles without crossing any two matchsticks, could you do it? The answer is positive. If you really think out of the box, indeed you can.

Carl Sagan (below) starts with a famous passage from Edwin Abbott Abbott‘s “Flatland – A Romance of many dimensions” (which I do vividly recommend – book cover above). A spheric creature from the 3th dimension visits Flatland, where only 2th dimension creatures live. And while a 2-D (a square) creature keeps worrying about his own sanity, the 3rd dimension creature feels highly frustrated with the outcome from their Spielberg-like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind“. In fact, the sphere his unhappy for being considered an psychological aberration.  At his own risk, and without worrying about his hypothetical unfriendly gesture from dimension to dimension, the sphere then, decides to start some ‘bizarre‘ experiences. The story goes…, but suddenly, Carl do moves on, … on what really matters:

[…] Getting into another dimension, provides an instantial benefit, a kind of X-ray vision […] Well, (says the square), … I was on another mystical dimension, called ‘Up‘ […] Now, if you look at the shadow, what you see is that not all lines appear equal, not all the angles are right angles […] The 3-D object has not been perfectly represented in his projection in 2 dimensions, but that is part of the cost of loosing a dimension in the projection […]  Now, I can not show you a tesseract , because I and you are trapped in 3 dimensions, but what I can show you is the shadow into 3 dimensions […] The 4-D hypercube, the real tesseract would have all right angles. That’s not what we see here, but that’s the penalty of projection […]

[…] So you see. While we cannot imagine the world of four dimensions, we can certainly think about it perfectly well […]

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

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