Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

Posted: January 7, 2013 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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WHAT do you get when you cross a fragrance with an actor?

Answer: a smell Gibson.

Groan away, but you should know that this joke was written by a computer. “Smell Gibson” is the C.P.U. child of something called Standup (for System to Augment Non-Speakers’ Dialogue Using Puns), a program that generates punning riddles to help kids with language disabilities increase their verbal skills.

Though it’s not quite Louis C. K., the Standup program, engineered by a team of computer scientists in Scotland, is one of the more successful efforts to emerge from a branch of artificial intelligence known as computational humor, which seeks to model comedy using machines.

As verbal interaction between humans and computers becomes more prominent in daily life — from Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant technology, to speech-based search engines to fully automated call centers — demand has grown for “social computers” that can communicate with humans in a natural way. Teaching computers to grapple with humor is a key part of this equation.

“Humor is everywhere in human life,” says the Purdue computer scientist Julia M. Taylor, who helped organize the first-ever United States symposium on the artificial intelligence of humor, in November. If we want a computational system to communicate with human life, it needs to know how to be funny, she says.

As it turns out, this is one of the most challenging tasks in computer science. Like much of language, humor is loaded with abstraction and ambiguity. To understand it, computers need to contend with linguistic sleights like irony, sarcasm, metaphor, idiom and allegory — things that don’t readily translate into ones and zeros.

(keep on reading)

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Posted: November 27, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Plans to introduce computer science in schools are a fine thing – but it’s never too late for adults to learn to code, says Emma Mulqueeny. Michael Gove’s plan to teach real computer science in schools is a great idea. I know this because I’ve spent the last three years developing an organisation called Young Rewired State, which finds and fosters children who’ve taught themselves how to code by introducing them to open data and a community of their peers. The uptake has been fantastic and we’ve enjoyed plenty of support from business leaders, who are desperate to engage with young, innovative developers, but are all-too-often unable to find any. But who says only children can learn to code? A new survey has found 28 per cent of UK adults wish they had pursued a career in technology – citing reasons such as salary, the intellectual challenge and wider job opportunities – and yet very few are willing to attempt the career change. According to the survey – carried out by Hotels.com – 45 per cent won’t switch careers as they ‘don’t have a degree in IT’, 30 per cent because they ‘would need to retrain’, and 40 per cent because they feel they are ‘too old’ to change jobs. Are these people correct in thinking that moving into computers is an unachievable goal? And with over 110,000 IT vacancies in the UK, and the IT workforce expected to grow by a further 113,000 by 2015, can we afford to wait for our children to plug the gap? (via Why shouldn’t adults learn to code too? – Telegraph)

Posted: October 14, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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By force of habit we tend to assume computers are made of silicon, but there is actually no necessary connection between the machine and the material. All that an engineer needs to do to make a computer is to find a way to build logic gates—the elementary building blocks of digital computers—in whatever material is handy. So logic gates could theoretically be made of pipes of water, channels for billiard balls or even mazes for soldier crabs. By comparison Tae Seok Moon’s ambition, which is to build logic gates out of genes, seems eminently practical. As a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Christopher Voigt, PhD, a synthetic biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he recently made the largest gene (or genetic) circuit yet reported. Moon, PhD, now an assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis is the lead author of an article describing the project in the Oct. 7 issue of Nature. Voigt is the senior author. The tiny circuits constructed from these gene gates and others like them may one day be components of engineered cells that will monitor and respond to their environments. The number of tasks they could undertake is limited only by evolution and human ingenuity. Janitor bacteria might clean up pollutants, chemical-engineer bacteria pump out biofuels and miniature infection-control bacteria might bustle about killing pathogens. (via A complex logic circuit made from bacterial genes)

Posted: September 5, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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If a computer glitch lost Knight Capital $440m, how long will it be before high-frequency trading computers threaten the stability of the civilised world? Glitch: It seems a benign enough word, as if a computer said “Whoops-a-daisy! Sorry about that. I’ll get a cloth.” Or in the case of the Knight Capital glitch “Eh… I’ll get my coat.” Appropriately enough, the word may have originated with the Yiddish “glitsh” meaning “slippery place” – appropriate because we may be at the top of a slippery slide. The depressing aspect of this latest flash-crash is that it gives us lower-order humans a brief glimpse into yet another aspect of Things We Know Nothing About. As far as we are concerned, trading floors are full of mainly men wearing coloured jackets shouting at each other. They’ve eaten nothing but water-soluble vitamin C tablets since dawn. Some may have actually used “work hard but play hard” in conversation. (via BBC News – From robot trader to computer overlord?)

Posted: July 22, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The ‘chemputer’ that could print out any drug

When Lee Cronin learned about the concept of 3D printers, he had a brilliant idea: why not turn such a device into a universal chemistry set that could make its own drugs?

Professor Lee Cronin is a likably impatient presence, a one-man catalyst. “I just want to get stuff done fast,” he says. And: “I am a control freak in rehab.” Cronin, 39, is the leader of a world-class team of 45 researchers at Glasgow University, primarily making complex molecules. But that is not the extent of his ambition. A couple of years ago, at a TED conference, he described one goal as the creation of “inorganic life”, and went on to detail his efforts to generate “evolutionary algorithms” in inert matter. He still hopes to “create life” in the next year or two. At the same time, one branch of that thinking has itself evolved into a new project: the notion of creating downloadable chemistry, with the ultimate aim of allowing people to “print” their own pharmaceuticals at home. Cronin’s latest TED talk asked the question: “Could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? Can we ‘app’ chemistry?” “Basically,” he tells me, in his office at the university, with half a grin, “what Apple did for music, I’d like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs.” (via The ‘chemputer’ that could print out any drug | Science | The Observer)

Posted: June 1, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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FOR half a century, the essence of progress in the computer industry has been to do more with less. Moore’s law famously observes that the number of transistors which can be crammed into a given space doubles every 18 months. The amount of data that can be stored has grown at a similar rate. Yet as components get smaller, making them gets harder and more expensive. On May 10th Paul Otellini, the boss of Intel, a big American chipmaker, put the price of a new chip factory (known as a fab) at around $10 billion. Happily for those that lack Intel’s resources, there may be a cheaper option—namely to mimic Mother Nature, who has been building tiny devices, in the form of living cells and their components, for billions of years, and has thus got rather good at it. A paper published in Small, a nanotechnology journal, sets out the latest example of the technique. In it, a group of researchers led by Sarah Staniland at the University of Leeds, in Britain, describe using naturally occurring proteins to make arrays of tiny magnets, similar to those employed to store information in disk drives. The researchers took their inspiration from Magnetospirillum magneticum, a bacterium that is sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field thanks to the presence within its cells of flecks of magnetite, a form of iron oxide. Previous work has isolated the protein that makes these miniature compasses. Using genetic engineering, the team managed to persuade a different bacterium—Escherichia coli, a ubiquitous critter that is a workhorse of biotechnology—to manufacture this protein in bulk.

Nanotechnology: A fab result | The Economist

Posted: April 27, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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For now consider this: Every 30 seconds or so, the algorithmic bull pen of Narrative Science, a 30-person company occupying a large room on the fringes of the Chicago Loop, extrudes a story whose very byline is a question of philosophical inquiry. The computer-written product could be a pennant-waving second-half update of a Big Ten basketball contest, a sober preview of a corporate earnings statement, or a blithe summary of the presidential horse race drawn from Twitter posts. The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private). Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food franchise owners. (via Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com)