December 8th, 2008


The NeoCons in a nutshell: "It's okay when WE do it."

It is now well documented and known all over the world that the U.S. government tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and that the U.S. government has had people kidnaped and "renditioned," that is, transported to Third World countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Even as the U.S. government was torturing people, the U.S. government was prosecuting the son of Charles Taylor, the former ruler of Liberia, for torturing political opponents of his father's government. The U.S. government did not employ the Yoo torture memo to justify Liberia's use of torture against those who wished to overthrow the Liberian government or commit terror against it. The U.S. government's position is that Liberia's government had no right to use torture to defend itself. Only an "indispensable nation" such as the U.S. has the right to torture people who are imagined to threaten it.

I use the word "imagined" because approximately 99 percent of the detainees tortured by America were totally innocent people picked up at random or sold to the stupid Americans by warlords as "terrorists." (The U.S. government offered rewards for terrorists, like the bounty offered for outlaws in the "Wild West." The result was that warlords in Afghanistan and Pakistan grabbed whoever was not one of them and sold their captives to Americans as "terrorists.")

According to Carrie Johnson, a Washington Post staff writer, on Oct. 30, 2008, a federal jury in Miami convicted Charles Taylor's son, Chuckie, of torture. Chuckie will be sentenced by the indispensable Americans in January for torture, conspiracy, and firearms violations. He may spend the rest of his life in an American prison. While Chuckie's trial was underway, the Bush regime was torturing people.

The Washington Post writes that Chuckie's conviction is "the first test of an American law that gives prosecutors the power to bring charges for acts of torture committed in foreign lands." In other words, U.S. law against torture applies to the entire world, to every other country except the United States. The hubris is unimaginable – no country can torture except the U.S.

Anyone else who tortures gets life, or, in the case of Saddam Hussein, gets hung by the neck until dead.

Isn't it great to be an American? Our laws don't apply to us, only to every other nation. This is what it means to be the moral light of the world, the unipower, the salt of the earth.

Watch a genetic algorithm evolve virtual cars for rough terrain.

This is a genetic algorithm I wrote to design a little car for a specific terrain. It runs in real-time in Flash.

The fitness function is the distance travelled, before the red circles hit the ground or time runs out. The degrees of freedom are the size and inital positions of the four circles, and length, spring constant and damping of the eight springs. The graph shows the "mean" and "best" fitness.

I should really make a new version with better explanations of what's going on.

edit: thanks very much for all the nice comments! i'll try and find some time to make a more polished version where you can fiddle with the parameters, create maps etc.

It's interesting to watch it work. As an engineer, one of the first things I think of when designing something is stability. However, there is no measure of stability in the cost function of this thing, so stability is pretty much irrelevant to it. It's true that with a really, really unstable car, the red circles will hit the ground, tossing that gene set into the genetic junkbin fairly quickly. But a car that wobbles around every which way, yet runs the course fast, is considered highly "fit" by the program and lots of similar ones will appear in the next generation.

My only complaint about it is that the line between the wheels doesn't "hit ground." It really should, since that would make bigger wheeled cars much more fit. (Which on rough terrain they obviously are.) Or remove that line, thus forcing the frame to evolve a reasonably functional suspension geometry. Another interesting tweak would be to make the course a loop, and start each car at a random location. That way the genetic algorithm can't optimize for just the first X seconds of the course.

See also: Evolving Mona Lisa.
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"What's new, what's cool, etc."

There's a lot of moderately interesting stuff I read about on Reddit, but I'm just too lazy to LJ. If you're bored enough to want to see everything I upmod on Reddit, you can easily do so:

Generally, when my techie friends say "What's up?" to me, they mean "Tell me about any interesting stuff you've seen on the interwebz lately." This link provides that in spades. But occasionally I meet one of those weirdo, freak-job, social people who actually wants to feel some kind of connection to their fellow man, and wants me to share my feelings when they ask that question. So if you're one of the latter, be sure to tell me so, and I won't just recite this URL at you when you ask me what's up. You freak. ;]

How They Made The Memristor.

Moore’s Law, the semiconductor industry’s obsession with the shrinking of transistors and their commensurate steady doubling on a chip about every two years, has been the source of a 50-year technical and economic revolution. Whether this scaling paradigm lasts for five more years or 15, it will eventually come to an end. The emphasis in electronics design will have to shift to devices that are not just increasingly infinitesimal but increasingly capable.

Earlier this year, I and my colleagues at Hewlett-Packard Labs, in Palo Alto, Calif., surprised the electronics community with a fascinating candidate for such a device: the memristor. It had been theorized nearly 40 years ago, but because no one had managed to build one, it had long since become an esoteric curiosity. That all changed on 1 May, when my group published the details of the memristor in Nature.

Combined with transistors in a hybrid chip, memristors could radically improve the performance of digital circuits without shrinking transistors. Using transistors more efficiently could in turn give us another decade, at least, of Moore’s Law performance improvement, without requiring the costly and increasingly difficult doublings of transistor density on chips. In the end, memristors might even become the cornerstone of new analog circuits that compute using an architecture much like that of the brain.