Learning from Slime Mold

This is an amazing documentary about the research computer scientists are doing on slime mold. They are using the slime mold to solve maze and networking problems and even operate robots.

In one experiment, oat flakes were placed on a dish to represent the major cities around Tokyo and the slime mold was placed in the corresponding location for Tokyo. The mold created a network between the oat flakes that was strikingly similar to Tokyo’s rail system. My complaint about the experiment was that it did not seem to take topography into consideration, but I looked into it and they used light to simulate mountains, water, and other obstacles. Neat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNAxrpzc6ws&feature=player_detailpage#t=3830s

Alan Turing

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

Alan Turing was an English mathematician who is regarded as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. He is renowned in the computer science community, but he remains unknown by much of the general public. Here are just a few interesting facts about this truly remarkable man:

  • In his early 20’s, he developed the Turing machine, an imaginary device consisting of an infinitely-long tape divided into cells, a way to read and write symbols on the tape and move the tape left and right, a finite set of instructions, and some sort of memory to store the state of the machine. With this simple machine, one can simulate the logic of any mathematical concept or computer algorithm.
  • He built a machine that cracked German ciphers during World War II.
  • After the war, he was arrested for homosexuality (illegal in Britain at the time) and underwent chemical castration.
  • He came up with a way to determine whether or not a machine is intelligent, known as the Turing test. In a Turing test, a human converses with machines and other humans (unaware of which he/she is conversing with). If the human is unable to tell a machine from a human, the machine is believed to be intelligent. There is an annual competition known as the Loebner Prize that uses the Turing test to award chatterbots for human-like behavior.

If you are interested in learning more about Alan Turing, Radiolab did a podcast on him called “The Turing Problem” yesterday.

Wayne State Computer Science Transfer

It was recently announced that Wayne State University’s Computer Science department would be transferring from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) to the College of Engineering, effective in Fall 2011.

Transferring to the College of Engineering is something that the Computer Science department has discussed for a while now, so it’s not a big surprise… especially since the former chair of the CS department is now the dean of the College of Engineering. 😉 The CS department at Wayne State had been in CLAS for historic reasons; it evolved from the mathematics department, rather than branching out of engineering when it was created.

And that means that I was one of the last people to receive a BS in Computer Science through CLAS at Wayne State University. 😛

Computer Science Websites

Today, I decided to take a look at some of the Computer Science websites from universities across the country. I could not believe how awful the majority of them were. Out of the 100 (yes, 100) Computer Science websites I looked at:

  • 68% looked extremely outdated
  • 26% looked moderately outdated
  • 6% looked fairly modern

Being Computer Science departments, I was expecting much more modern websites. Prospective CS students are going to be going to these websites and to advertise your department as outdated and out-of-touch is not going to impress prospective students.