NEW YORK — Robots are simply more efficient than humans at certain tasks. They already excel at building cars, exploring distant planets and hunting for explosives, but it turns out that robots might also evolve much faster than their flesh-and-blood counterparts.
Nick Cheney, a Ph.D. student at Cornell University, presented his research at an Inside Cornell lecture on May 21. Cheney has developed a method by which complex computer simulations in a specific virtual environment — robots, by his definition — can evolve from selective pressures, just like animals in nature, but on a timescale of days instead of countless generations.
To demonstrate the technology, Cheney showed how a series of diverse but effective robots spontaneously evolved from a single, inefficient ancestor. He programmed a virtual environment with only one parameter: robots that moved faster would be able to produce more offspring. Therefore, the only selective pressure was speed (in the wild, Cheney compared this behavior to running from predators).
“Nature is amazing in how it designs things,” Cheney said. “We want robots to interact with their environments as naturally as animals do.” Cheney considers natural selection — the process by which biological organisms survive, reproduce and change over time to better suit their environments — to be a natural algorithm, extremely similar to what engineers use to optimize robots over time.
Read it all at Tech News Daily.
Meet the quokka, the happiest animal around
Do you guys know about the quokka? It’s a cat-sized marsupial that lives almost exclusively on the Rottnest Island, a little seven by three mile speck off West Australia. Quokkas look like tiny kangaroos, except a bit rattier and with pleasant facial expressions. Here are nine quokkas just chillin’.
More found HERE.
The First American Anti-Nazi Film, Rediscovered
In the early nineteen-hundreds, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, the great-great-grandson of the railroad and steamship tycoon, saw the heirs and heiresses he lived among as “dull, uninteresting, hopelessly mediocre people.” Seeking excitement, Vanderbilt enlisted in the First World War (supposedly he became a driver when a general asked if any of his men could handle a Rolls Royce); once discharged, he decided to try to hack it as a newsman. With the advantage of money, Vanderbilt could afford film equipment in a time when cameras were still a luxury; with the advantage of name, he got to places most reporters couldn’t go. Vanderbilt toured Europe with two French cameramen, and managed to interview the day’s notorious newsmakers, including Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin. But the plutocrat-cum-journalist set his sights on a man even more dangerous. When he had a chance to sit down with the former Crown Prince of Germany, in Berlin, he asked, “Strange, isn’t it, that you Hohenzollerns are so much easier to see than Hitler?”
On March 5, 1933, the day elections gave the Nazis a parliamentary plurality, a triumphant Adolf Hitler addressed a hysterical crowd at the Sports Palace in Berlin. From the wings of the stage, Vanderbilt managed a brief audience with the new Reich Chancellor. According to Vanderbilt’s account, he introduced himself, in German, and then Hitler, with a motion to the throngs that awaited, began speaking: “Tell the Americans that life moves forward, always forward, irrevocably forward. Tell them that Adolf Hitler is the man of the hour, not because he has been appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg but because no one else could have been appointed Chancellor instead. Tell them that he was sent by the Almighty to a nation that had been threatened with disintegration and loss of honor for fifteen long years.” Vanderbilt, an all-American blue blood, risked a final question. He shouted, “And what about the Jews, Your Excellency?” Hitler brushed it off—“My people are waiting for me!”—and pointed Vanderbilt toward Dr. Ernst Hanfstaengl, his Harvard-educated (and Anglo-acclimated) foreign press chief. “He will tell you about the Jews and all the other things that seem to bother America.” Hanfstaengl proved mostly interested in Vanderbilt’s money.
Two and a half weeks later, Vanderbilt set sail for New York, carrying footage he had taken of Jewish refugees fleeing for their lives. Buzz built of a Vanderbilt “scoop”; Motion Picture Daily anticipated that “the Hitler storm will gather when Cornelius Vanderbilt’s picture of Nazi oppression of the Jews is released in this country.” In the following months, Vanderbilt hired Mike Mindlin, who’d just wrapped up a sexploitation film, as director, and a well-known NBC newsman named Edwin C. Hill as narrator, commentator, and interviewer. Vanderbilt played himself, a courageous young reporter. “At last, before your very eyes,” the trailers declared, “uncensored scenes of Hitler’s reign of terror! Ripping aside the curtain on history’s most shocking episode and exposing the Nazi menace in America!”
The film by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. (as his name read in the credits), ”Hitler’s Reign of Terror,” premièred at the independent Mayfair theatre on Broadway on April 30, 1934, and garnered the biggest single opening day in the house’s history. It was a quirky admixture of stock newsreel footage, and genuine documentary material shot by Vanderbilt: sixty-five minutes of frenzied crowds burning books and parading by torchlight in Germany, speeches at a 1933 anti-Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden, street scenes of Vienna and Berlin amid Nazi brownshirts, interviews reënacted in English, and an actual interview with Helen Keller, whose books were burned by Hitler’s decree. (She avows that history has taught nothing to Germany’s leaders if they think it possible to kill ideas.) Vanderbilt photographed the graves of Hitler’s parents, and discovered that Hitler was considerably unpopular in Leonidad, his Austrian home town.
In a May 1, 1934, review for the New York Times, the aptly named Mordaunt Hall wrote, “Hitler’s methods are scourged by Messrs. Vanderbilt and Hill, but their words would be infinitely more effective if they were endowed with a slight degree of subtlety and a sense of humor.”
Much more at the New Yorker.
I Built This AK-47. It’s Legal and Totally Untraceable.
The wooden and steel parts I need to build my untraceable AK-47 ?t within a slender, 15-by-12-inch cardboard box. I ?rst lay eyes on them one Saturday morning in the garage of an eggshell-white industrial complex near Los Angeles. Foldout tables ring the edges of the room, surrounding two orange shop presses. The walls, dusty and stained, are lined with shelves of tools. I’m with a dozen other guys, some sipping coffee, others making introductions over the buzz of an air compressor. Most of us are strangers, but we share a common bond: We are just eight hours away from having our very own AK-47—one the government will never know about.
The AK-47, perhaps the world’s best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.
Note…..this is plain and simple a slap in the face of Americans and justice!
President Barack Obama has asked his friend Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Holder’s unprecedented investigation of a Fox News reporter.
Holder approved the Justice Department’s extraordinary 2010 investigation of contacts between a Fox News reporter and a State Department official who has since been charged with leaking classified information, according to NBC.
The Justice Department searched the reporter’s e-mails and phone calls under the legal claim that he may have contributed to a crime.
The Fox News revelation followed the news that the Justice Department had investigated the phone records of reporters working for The Associated Press.
On May 24, however, Obama reacted to growing alarm in the media by asking Holder to review the Justice Department’s procedures for investigating the media.
“We must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field,” the president said at a speech in Washington D.C.
“But a free press is also essential for our democracy [and] I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” he said.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs … [and] I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review,” he said.
“I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.”