Friday, November 28, 2003

Evolutionary & Swarm Design: Swarm-based Modeling

Some people are too clever for their own good, and no I'm not talking about me, Justin and ALX....

This project is part of a series of projects on mimicing evolutionary techniques and other biological models like swarming and applying them to software.

Lots of these projects seem to be dedicated to producing self-evolving pretty pictures... which is great fun for people like me - but probably not too useful in the semi-mythical entity soemtimes known as 'the real world'.

I guess they're hoping to be able to apply these techiniques for useful stuff too.....

It's another situation where the techniques that nature uses - slow incremental system development - turns out to produce some amazingly innovative solutions to problems... e.g. intelligence... stuff man has never quite managed to replicate...... Theres a big neural network framework in python I might explore someday....

Anyway - the introduction to their project says it better than I ever could... they've even got a gallery of swarmart

Nature offers an amazing, yet largely unexplored, repertoire of approaches to build complex and elaborate systems. Instead of composing its entities from pre-fabricated parts, as is the standard way of our current designs through engineering, nature uses alternative approaches to explore design solutions for the creation of its organisms as, e.g., structure formation, growth, self-assembly, self-organization, emergence, and evolution.

Our current research projects demonstrate how to breed computer programs and how to utilize evolutionary techniques for interactive system design. Interactive evolutionary design approaches turn out to be especially useful for the fine-tuning of highly parameterized computer models. We also investigate models of emergent computation through "swarm intelligence" systems in order to understand how to build and program massively parallel systems of interacting entities.

Another Inspirica application demonstrates how new form ideas for chairs can be evolved, starting from a 'regular' chair shape.

The Biomorph forms are bred using an Evolution Strategy approach as implemented in Evolvica.

The Swarm Evolver project demonstrates how programs describing swarm dynamics can be evolved. This provides a tool for 'programming' the behaviours of massively-parallel, interacting agents (such as flocks of birds, swarms of bees, or schools of fish), without actually having to program.

Evolvica is an evolutionary design system that provides kernel functionality for a variety of different classes of evolutionary computing: (1) Evolution Strategies, (2) Evolutionary Programming, (3) Genetic Algorithms, and (4) Genetic Programming.

The ArtFlowers application utilizes Evolvica to breed growth programs for artificial plants. The plant architectures and their growth patterns are encoded by Lindenmayer systems.

posted by Mike Foord on Friday, November 28, 2003

The Opte Project - Map of the Internet

This is an interesting one - a new (well new to me anyway) project to map the internet. He checks every possible IP address and does a traceroute to map them all in relation to each other - and produces rather pretty maps as a result.... Looks like a far off galaxy......

The goal of this project is to use a single computer and single Internet connection to map the location of every single class C network on the Internet.....
At the rate of 194 traceroutes per-second it is possible to scan the entire theoretical 2^24 space within a single day....

The data represented and collected here serves a multitude of purposes: Modeling the Internet, analyzing wasted IP space, IP space distribution, detecting the result of natural disasters, weather, war, and esthetics/art.

posted by Mike Foord on Friday, November 28, 2003

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Background Radiation of the Net - The Register

Every now and then an article turns up which is worth reading not for it's content but for it's style.... I'm not sure if this is one of them though - it's certainly weird !

The Register are normally a reliable source of news on the computer industry and this article is making a serious point about he amount of 'static' carried by the internet networks.... (and who is paying for it).

They track the traffic information from a route which is 'dead but still being routed too' - and make lots of esoteric and semi-philosophical comments along the way.... far out......

When the city sleeps, it's never completely silent. But when the Internet sleeps, what kind of static does it make? What does it sound like? Like the weird warbles astronomers claim to hear from outer space?

We'd like to share what the Internet sounds like when it sleeps, and in its current highly agitated state, we think it's worth sharing.

posted by Mike Foord on Thursday, November 27, 2003

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

BBC - Computer viruses now 20 years old

This article 'celebrates' the twentieth birthday of computer viruses... As usual for a mainstream news article it's *partly* right... It misses out the entire spectrum of boot sector viruses - particularly the ones that plagued machine like the Amiga, long before the advent of the internet.

Before harddrives were common (at least for your average user) a small piece of code called the 'boot sector' used to be executed whenever you booted up from a floppy disk. The virus writers used to hide viruses here (often malicious ones). The Amiga scene particularly was rife with pirate software so disks used to get swapped around all the time - and if you didn't have a good virus killer it was inevitable you would have live exampels of several viruses in your collection (there was also a thriving freeware/shareware scene - so there were plenty of viruskillers too).

The most disturbing thing now is that the virus and trojan writers have teamed up with the spam merchants and the viagra peddlers to make money from viruses. They use the infected machines as proxy servers - either for the e-mail they force upon thousands of us - or to obscure the location of their fraudulent websites. Particularly the software that obscures the real location of websites is *impressive* - but none the less unpleasant and a nuisance for it's innovation. The trouble is that the extra strain that spam puts on the infrastructure of the net threatens to make life more difficult for those of us who just use it for less morally repugnant uses. Mind you.... we could get into another debate about the morals of file sharing (a subject dear to my heart - but at best morally dubious unless you embrace some kind of philosophical software communism... 'information wants to be free')......

Even more of a thorny issue are the kind of networks (like freenet ?) that allow people to store and share files across a distributed, encrypted network. If you open up part of your hard drive to a network like this it's impossible to tell what files are actually being stored there, or who uploaded them. For political dissidents in China - or under other oppressive regimes - this is a boon. They can safely distribute material which would otherwise be banned and traceable to them. It's also a boon to the sistributors of such vile material of child pornography... which unfortuantely the internet has stacks of......

As usual there are plenty of 'grey' areas... and everyone draws the boundaries differently. As soon as a method to circumvent oppressive laws is discovered - it's abused by criminals.......... As soon as methods of restricting abuse are found - they're used to infringe upon the 'fair use' of people with no criminal intent. it's probably another of those issues to which there are no right or straightforward answers.. and it *has* to be a constant striving to pick out a middle path between competing and irreconcilable needs.....
posted by Mike Foord on Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Tuesday, November 04, 2003 Gemini Underwater Sports Car on Gadgets

Talk about serious gadgets... here's a must have from - and a snip at a mere 470 thousand pounds... it's an underwater sports car - a submarine plaything for the ridiculously rich... blimey.. I want one !
posted by Mike Foord on Tuesday, November 04, 2003