Oct. 14, 2016

Switching classes: In EE 285, we have been discussing cellular automata (CA). (Wikipedia and a page from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). These are interesting mathematical exercises that can be used to study some aspects of computational theory, and they have some applications in modeling physical and biological systems. In 285, we are using CA to practice the use of two-dimensional arrays, and I made an example to illustrate the process of diffusion. (Diffusion pops up in in various places in semiconductor technology.) In 2002, Stephen Wolfram (Yes, that Wolfram), wrote a 1200-page book on cellular automata. Apparently, he thinks that the subject is important.

While there are are many different ways to implement the rules governing the evolution of a CA system, the classic example is the "Game of Life", introduced by John Conway. I came across this youTube interview with Conway, in which he talks about inventing the Game of Life. He comes off as a fairly odd duck, and I thought the interview was entertaining. Maybe you will, too.

Little known fact: I wrote a Game of Life program when I was learning Fortran (My God, Fortran...) as a freshman many decades ago. The class was an early version of Com Sci 207, and it is the only formal programming class that I've ever taken. The Game of Life program is the only thing I remember from the class.

Oct. 13, 2016

In EE 201, we have been discussing feedback, and the notion of more automation in airplanes generated some commentary. A while back, I read this interesting Vanity Fair article which discussed the crash of Air France 447 into the Atlantic ocean in 2009. It provides some insight into why more automation makes flying safer and what can happen when the pilots - both human and automatic - fail. The article is a bit long, but it's a good read.

Oct. 3, 2016

"Artisanal" cobalt mining in the Congo

Here is an eye-opening story about cobalt mining in Africa. Take a look at what some people endure in order for us to have the raw materials for our fancy pocket computers. It might be worth a bit of thought as you wander across campus looking at cat YouTubes on your mobile gadget.

Sep. 30, 2016

Black Moon

Today is the day of the foreboding Black Moon. Meaning simply that this is the second new moon of the month. Since the new moon is out when the sun is out, you will have to go out during the day to enjoy it. (Moonrise is at 6:43 a.m. and moonset is at 7:03 p.m.) While you are out to trying to see the moon somewhere in the sky near the sun, you pick up some vitamin D as a side benefit.

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