Quotulatiousness

February 28, 2011

“SwordFit” – combining western martial arts with fitness classes

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:02

This sounds like an excellent idea:

Since Devon Boorman opened the Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay in Vancouver seven years ago, he’s taught actors, fans of medieval weapons as well as bankers and office workers. Like an action-oriented Pilates class, the Western martial art of swordplay requires the grace of a ballet dancer with the strength of a warrior. It’s not about building muscle mass, as in weight-lifting, but about building plyometric — that is, explosive — strength.

But last fall, he added a new hybrid to his lineup.

The 90-minute SwordFit workout at Academie Duello is designed to be a mix of technical and cross-training, and features two instructors — one for swordplay and one for general fitness. Meghan O’Connell, the fitness instructor, has a background in boxing and has based many of the exercises on boxing training circuits.

[. . .]

“Swordplay makes you feel graceful and powerful at the same time — like dance,” Mr. Boorman says. It strengthens arms and shoulders, and tones the core. “If you relax your core,” he says, “your posture will crumple and you will lose your balance.”

Ms. Thomas also enjoys the couples aspect to the class. “I like the fact that we can take turns being the attacker and the defender,” she says. “It really gets a lot of frustration out.”

Mr. Thom agrees. “There’s something so visceral and revitalizing about the clanging of the swords.”

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

London’s “congestion charge” didn’t keep pace with traffic after all

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Economics, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:51

Remember the great fanfare (usually from “urban advocates” and local government bureaucrats) over the stunning success of London’s road pricing scheme? It immediately reduced traffic volumes in the downtown core of London, which also reduced the travel times for those drivers who were willing to pay the usage charges. It looked like a solid win for pay-for-use roads (which do, incidentally, make a great deal of economic sense . . . if they’re not being used as a cash cow to fund other transportation options instead).

Fast forward to today, and we discover that all the gains from introducing the congestion charge have been wasted:

According to Yass’ analysis, based on figures obtained from the Department of Transport and local bodies such as councils and Transport for London, the increase in traffic lights — and perhaps even more so, the increasing trend to prioritise pedestrian movement through junctions by changing lights’ programming — is seriously increasing congestion for wheeled road traffic (buses excepted in some cases, as they too are favoured by the lights).

The report indicates that a large fall in congestion was seen in London following introduction of the capital’s congestion charging scheme introduced by the previous mayor Ken Livingstone. A noticeable proportion of motorists ceased to drive in the charging zone, and vehicle numbers in the zone remain well down on previous levels. Nonetheless, congestion is now back up to its old state:

Monitoring reports of the congestion charging zone show that, after an initial improvement, congestion has been increasing again and is back to pre-charge levels, even though the number of vehicles entering the zone has not increased.

How could this have happened?

According to Yass, the gains achieved by the congestion charge have been wiped out by Mayor Ken’s parallel policy drive to cut down the time it takes to cross the road in London, and in particular to make the streets safer for the disabled. A large number of London’s new traffic lights would seem to have been put in at new pedestrian crossings — “most junctions were already controlled by lights”, writes Yass — and those at junctions now usually have “full pedestrian stages” where all traffic is held stopped in both directions.

February 27, 2011

Reason.TV: State budget battle showdowns

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:10

QotD: Big government and big unions

Filed under: Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

The Times managed to get the salient feature of the story entirely wrong. They were not an “anti-government” mob, but a government mob, a mob of “public servants” objecting to austerity measures that would end, for example, the tradition of 14 monthly paychecks per annum. You read that right: the Greek public sector cannot be bound by anything so humdrum as temporal reality. So, when it was mooted that the “workers” might henceforth receive a mere 12 monthly paychecks per annum, they rioted. Their hapless victims — a man and two women — were a trio of clerks trapped in a bank when the mob set it alight and then obstructed emergency crews attempting to rescue them.

You don’t have to go to Athens to find “public servants” happy to take it out on the public. In Madison, politicized doctors provide fake sick notes for politicized teachers to skip class. In New York’s Christmas snowstorm, Sanitation Department plough drivers are unable to clear the streets, with fatal consequences for some residents. On the other hand, they did manage to clear the snow from outside the Staten Island home of Sanitation Dept head honcho John Doherty, while leaving all surrounding streets pristinely clogged. Three hundred Sanitation Department workers have salaries of over $100,000 per year. In retirement, you get a pension of 66 grand per annum plus excellent health benefits, all inflation proofed.

That’s what “collective bargaining” is about: It enables unions rather than citizens to set the price of government. It is, thus, a direct assault on republican democracy, and it needs to be destroyed. Unlovely as they are, the Greek rioters and the snarling thugs of Madison are the logical end point of the advanced social democratic state: not an oppressed underclass, but a spoiled overclass, rioting in defense of its privileges and insisting on more subsidy, more benefits, more featherbedding, more government.

Mark Steyn, “States of the Unions”, SteynOnline, 2011-02-26

Athletes in the age of Facebook and Twitter

Filed under: Football, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:29

John Holler makes several good points in this story about a couple of NFL hopefuls who are having to defend their reputations due to the wonderful rumour-spreading abilities of social media and the willingness of sports reporters to try to create controversy:

Saturday at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, we got our first intense view of this media “New World Order.” Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett are two of the top quarterback candidates in this year’s draft. Yet, both of them spent significant portions of their media access to address questions that have nothing to do with football.

Newton, who has been under the media microscope for the last several months, had to clarify a comment he made about wanting to be “an entertainer” and “an icon.” It was a flippant comment made by a kid who is going to turn 22 in May. In his case, the question should be, “Yeah, so?” not a sanctimonious rant by media “entertainers” and/or “icons” to pass judgment that he is not focused on being a football player, but more interested in being a rock star.

Guess what? Newton should have nothing to apologize for. If you’re a star in the NFL, you are an entertainer. People drop hundreds of dollars to watch you perform for three hours. There are thousands of people employed to discuss what you do for a living. There is little difference between Peyton Manning and Bruce Springsteen. They do the same thing — entertain packed houses wherever they perform. [. . .]

Mallett is a different story. He has been called to task by what everyone reporting on it claims are rumors that he not only has taken drugs in college (no!) but might have an addiction to the party lifestyle. If it is true, he won’t be the first and he won’t be the last college football player to do things he wouldn’t put on his résumé. The timing of the accusations, the week of the NFL Scouting Combine, seems interesting. However, his response was hard to justify.

If there was no basis to the accusations, Mallett should have been advised to come out aggressive — denying the charges immediately and owning the situation before he gets his 15 minutes with NFL teams. Instead, he deflected the questions, which only gives rise to more speculation. In the Facebook/TMZ world we live in now, you can bet that media members are going to be provided with information — some will pay for it, others won’t — that will portray a bad side of Mallett that he likely doesn’t deserve, but will surely have to answer to.

The stakes are high for both of these young men: a badly chosen phrase could lose them literally millions of dollars by lowering their chances of being a high draft choice. It’s tough enough for media personalities and politicians to tap-dance around awkward situations, but young 20-something athletes don’t have the experience to avoid falling into the verbal traps.

Sunday book post

Filed under: Books, Economics, History, Media, Military, Wine — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:09

No, not my books: I’ve written lots, but they’re all technical manuals for software products the vast majority of you will never have heard of, and wouldn’t want to read about even if you had. I mean books I’ve read recently that I consider to be very good. I’ll categorize for convenience (both yours and mine):

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Darwin’s Watch: The Science of Discworld III, Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. An entertaining romp through (real) science placed within a fictional context. I read the first Science of Discworld book and quite enjoyed it, and this one is possibly even better. The Discworld, riding happily balanced on the backs of the four great elephants, who are in turn supported by the shell of the great turtle, has very different scientific principles than our own “exotic” roundworld. The most amusing part of the book is the wizards of the Unseen University attempting to ensure that Charles Darwin writes the “correct” book on roundworld. You’ll learn more science than you expect . . .
  • I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett. The fourth of the Tiffany Aching sequence in the Discworld series. Although written for a younger audience, Pratchett’s sense of humour and brilliant presentation make this book eminently readable for all ages.
  • Cryoburn, Lois McMaster Bujold. The latest adventure of Miles Vorkosigan deals with the political and social implications of cryogenic preservation. No soaring battles in space, no stunner shootouts, no alien invasions. Sounds deadly dull, I realize, but I don’t think Lois could write a boring shopping list. It perhaps doesn’t stand alone quite as well as it might, but even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, I think you’ll find this worth reading.

History

  • The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign, John A. English. A book that undermines several widely held beliefs about the efficiency and capability of the Canadian First Army in 1944-45. Between incompetent, scheming generals and political interference, the Canadian Army was less than the sum of its parts, and the importance of training methods and doctrine are highlighted (that is, the faulty training methods in use probably added to the casualty lists in combat). Field Marshal Montgomery didn’t like or trust General Harry Crerar, but was forced to keep him in command due to Canadian government sensitivities. Montgomery’s view of Crerar almost certainly was reflected in the roles assigned to First Canadian Army after the Normandy landings.
  • The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, Edward N. Luttwak. A fascinating book about the differences between the Byzantine empire’s military and political goals and practices and those of the Roman empire from which it descended. Unlike Rome, the Byzantines were never the “superpower” of their part of the world, and their survival often depended on carefully constructed alliances, allies-of-convenience, and outright bribery of “enemies of their enemies”. Although not well remembered in the west, the survival of Byzantium almost certainly saved central Europe from conquest by the armies of the Caliph during the initial expansion of the Muslim empire. Byzantine armies rarely had much technological or doctrinal advantage over their opponents, so war had to be conducted with the key concept of retention of force: ambush, raid, counter-attack, feint, and misdirection became specialties because they offered (relative) effectiveness at lower risk of outright defeat.
  • In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire, Adrian Goldsworthy. A selection of mini-biographies of some of the greatest generals of the Roman empire. What is amazing, in reading about some of their careers, is how little actual military instruction Roman officers received, yet how effective the army could be in spite of that. Being an army officer was viewed as just part of the normal public service — in fact, it would have been problematic for a Roman patrician to remain with the army for an extended period of time, as it would slow down his progress through the civil government ranks.
  • The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Christopher Andrew. If you wanted a thrilling account of the exciting and dangerous life of counter-espionage, you need to stick to works of fiction. The actual life of an MI5 officer is apparently much less James Bond and much more careful investigation, observation, and data correlation. Not that it isn’t an interesting career, but perhaps the “double oh” agents will get their own book (just kidding).

Economics

  • The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson. I enjoyed reading this one far more than I expected to: the author has a knack for carrying you through the less interesting bits without boring or lecturing you. The evolution of the modern monetary system, and the heroic roles played by unlikely characters in the process.
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Matt Ridley. It’s easy to find depressing statistics and dreary anecdotes. Ridley’s view is that progress is a good thing, and that we’re enjoying a golden age even if we don’t realize it right now.

Biography

  • Robert A. Heinlein: In dialogue with his century Volume 1, William H. Patterson, Jr. I’ve been a huge fan of Heinlein’s works since I read Starship Troopers at about age 11. This biography more than met my expectations: I’d always regretted never having met Robert Heinlein, but between this book and Heinlein’s own autobiographical writings (Tramp Royale and Grumbles from the grave) I feel I’ve gotten as close to knowing him as possible — until the publication of Volume 2, anyway.
  • Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, Christopher Hitchens. A lively appreciation of Thomas Paine’s most influential work, and much detail on his life. Paine was far from being the disreputable bomb-throwing anarchist his enemies painted him to be, but he also wasn’t the plaster saint his fans might imagine.

Wine

  • Billy’s Best Bottles: Wines for 2011, Billy Munnelly. Still the best annual wine guide for the everyday wine drinker in Ontario. If you like an occasional bottle of wine, but don’t want to study dozens of books in order to make a decision on what to buy, this is the book for you. He likes more “rustic” wines than I do, so I don’t find his recommendations in that category to be as useful, but he does a great job of sorting through the plethora of $10-20 wines available at the LCBO and tells you which ones are worth buying (and when to serve them).

February 26, 2011

The increasing length of freight trains in Canada

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, Railways, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:22

Some eye-opening statistics on the length of freight trains being run by Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) these days:

Transport Canada launched a six-part study into the long-train strategies at the country’s largest railways this month with an eye on developing policies for how these longer, heavier trains are assembled and run. The goal of the two-year study is to develop science-based regulations that will hopefully reduce the number of derailments in the country.

Despite the concern from regulators, these longer, heavier trains in recent years have been a godsend for North American railways, which swear by their safety. Not only do they improve the efficiency of the rails by reducing the number of trains required to transport goods, but they in turn reduce the crews needed and the fuel used to move their shipments.

If properly built, they can also reduce wear and tear on the trains and the tracks themselves by cutting down on in-train forces, lowering maintenance costs substantially over time.

The cynic in my asks why, if CN (for example) actually managed to reduce the number of rail accidents to an all-time low last year, the regulators are now launching the investigation. Fewer accidents now equals a point of serious concern on the part of the regulators? Why?

Up until the 1990s, the average freight train in Canada was about 5,000 feet (1.54 kilometres) long and weighed 7,000 tons. But it is now not uncommon to see these trains stretch to 12,000 feet, sometimes as much as 14,000 feet (more than four kilometres), weighing up to 18,000 tons.

While CN is comfortable sticking with the size of its longest trains now, about 12,000 feet, CP continues to push the boundaries of how long it can build its trains by developing some of the industry’s most cutting-edge technology in recent years to help it do so.

The benefits are clear. CP estimates, for example, that the labour costs alone on a typical transcontinental train are now 30% lower than they would be if it was using smaller trains.

So, the trains are longer, carry far more freight, cost less to run, and customers are happy. The government must act!

Spammers getting more clever

Filed under: Administrivia, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:02

I’ve noticed a significant shift in the spam comments being posted to Quotulatiousness lately: they’re less likely to be link-stuffed pharmaceutical spam and more likely to resemble real comments. I also notice that lots of the spam showing up now comes from .pl domains.

Just over the last 24 hours, there have been more than a dozen spam comments that almost qualified as real: they’re actually related to the blog post, they’re relatively well written, and they aren’t studded with links. If they’d arrived one at a time, I might well have approved them, but because they arrive in batches the pattern becomes too obvious to ignore:

  • They all have real-sounding user names, but the email addresses are all to the same domain.
  • They’re all from the same IP address.
  • They all have a link to something that looks remarkably like a commercial site, rather than a personal one.

Views of a future that didn’t arrive

Filed under: History, Railways, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

The Future That Wasn’t: Failure to Perceive Hidden Costs and Risks

Two other entangled obstacles to technological inevitability must also be considered: unappreciated psychosocial reservations and genuine, but unappreciated hazards that either slow, or virtually inhibit the adoption of what would otherwise be hugely transforming technological advances.

As a child, I was told about what my future would be like and how much better it would be in almost every way, technologically, from the world I then inhabited. I was, literally, a child of the atomic age, and the molecules in the DNA of my brain still bear the 14Carbon isotope signature of the open-air nuclear testing era, just as surely as my bones, made radioactive in my infancy and childhood by the Strontium 90 (90Sr) in the milk I drank are still, ever so slightly, more radioactive today, than are those of people born before, or after, the era of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing.

But beyond these physical stigmata of the atomic age, my mind bears the stigmata of a world promised, but never delivered. Scientists and laymen alike were quick to understand the truly staggering potential benefits of what we now call nuclear power. Countless pronouncements were made that the arrival of an era of cheap, clean, safe, and virtually unlimited electric power was at hand. Electricity generated by ‘atomic power’ and nuclear fusion, we were told, would be so inexpensive to produce that it would not even be worth the expense of metering its use to bill the customer for. People would simply play a flat rate for the service, as is the case for long distance or computer telephony today. In a speech given by Lewis L. Strauss (1896-1974), Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to the National Association of Science Writers, in New York City on September 16th, 1954, Strauss commented on how scientific research then underway would transform life for the next generation of Americans, the generation that would be born in then and in the coming decade, my generation:

“Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter…will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.”

The Santa Fe Railroad, then as commercially important and as technologically credible as Apple or Microsoft are today, anticipated fission reactor powered trains within 20 years, and ran ads in national magazines featuring a youngster only a few years older than me, asking to buy a ticket on an atomic powered version of the Super Chief which was then the preeminent way to travel across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles, in both speed and comfort.

An excerpt from Cryonics and Technological Inevitability.

H/T to Andrew Coyne for the link.

Arrested, beaten, tortured, and charged with treason . . . for watching viral videos

Filed under: Africa, Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:00

No matter how you say it, Zimbabwe is seriously screwed up:

Munyaradzi Gwisai, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe’s law school, was showing internet videos about the tumult sweeping across North Africa to students and activists last Saturday, when state security agents burst into his office.

The agents seized laptop computers, DVD discs and a video projector before arresting 45 people, including Gwisai, who runs the Labor Law Center at the University of Zimbabwe. All 45 have been charged with treason — which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death — for, in essence, watching viral videos.

Gwisai and five others were brutally tortured during the next 72 hours, he testified Thursday at an initial hearing.

There were “assaults all over the detainees’ bodies, under their feet and buttocks through the use of broomsticks, metal rods, pieces of timber, open palms and some blunt objects,” The Zimbabwean newspaper reports, in an account of the court proceedings.

Under dictator Robert Mugabe, watching internet videos in Zimbabwe can be a capital offense, it would seem. The videos included BBC World News and Al-Jazeera clips, which Gwisai had downloaded from Kubatana, a web-based activist group in Zimbabwe.

This week in Guild Wars 2 news

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

I’ve been accumulating news snippets about the as-yet-to-be-formally-scheduled release of Guild Wars 2 for an email newsletter I send out to my friends and acquaintances in the Guild Wars community.

February 25, 2011

“epistemicfail” calls on liberals to stop the evil Koch brothers

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:21

“epistemicfail” is trying to rally liberal and progressive forces to recognize and combat the evil that is embodied in the Koch brothers:

The KOCH brothers must be stopped. They gave $40K to Scott Walker, the MAX allowed by state law. That’s small potatoes compared to the $100+ million they give to other organizations. These organizations will terrify you. If the anti-union thing weren’t enough, here are bigger and better reasons to stop the evil Kochs. They are trying to:

   1. decriminalize drugs,

   2. legalize gay marriage,

   3. repeal the Patriot Act,

   4. end the police state,

   5. cut defense spending.

Who hates the police? Only the criminals using drugs, amirite? We need the Patriot Act to allow government to go through our emails and tap our phones to catch people who smoke marijuana and put them in prison. Oh, it’s also good for terrorists.

Wikipedia shows Koch Family Foundations supporting causes like:

   1. CATO Institute

   2. Reason Foundation

   3. cancer research ($150 million to M.I.T. – STOP THEM! KEEP CANCER ALIVE!)

   4. ballet (because seriously: FUCK. THAT. SHIT.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_Family_Foundations

The Kochs basically give a TON of money (millions of dollars) to the CATO Institute. Scott Walker, $40K? HAH! These CATO people are the REAL problem. They want to end the War on Drugs. Insane, right? We know that the War on Drugs keeps us SAFE from Mexicans and keeps all that violence on their side of the fence. More than 30,000 Mexicans killed as of December! Thank God Mexican lives don’t count as human lives. Our government is doing a good, no, a great job protecting us and seriously, who cares about brown people or should I say non-people? HAHAHA! Public unions are good, government is good, and government protects us from drugs and brown people. The Kochs want to end all that. Look, as far back as 1989 CATO has been trying to decriminalize drugs. Don’t worry, nobody listens to them because they are INSANE.

Let’s hope they heed his call.

What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away

Filed under: Britain, Law, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:03

Ever read the fine print of a contract to discover that the actual term of the contract contradicts the claims? Britain’s Office of Fair Trading is looking into this practice:

Companies whose small print changes the basis of consumer deals will face investigation by consumer regulator the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), it has said. According to the OFT, one in five consumers had experienced a contract problem in the last year.

The OFT has set out the criteria it will use to judge whether or not consumer contracts are unfair and should be investigated by it. The crucial factor determining the fairness of contracts will be the consumer’s understanding of what the contract means.

If the small print of terms and conditions alters the contract from what a consumer would understand it to mean from other claims made by a company, that is likely to be harmful and could be unlawful, the OFT said in a paper on unfair contracts.

“Our approach to identifying the potential for harm from a particular contract, before considering whether there is any breach of law, is to assess whether a contract term changes the deal from what consumers understand it to be,” said the OFT’s paper.

“One way in which a contract term can change the deal is where there are surprises buried in the small print,” it said. “Our research found that for 80 per cent of those who had experienced a problem with a consumer contract, the problem came as a surprise.”

In search of a grand, unifying theory of . . . porn?

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:37

Two different studies came to my attention dealing with people and pornography. (No, before you ask, the studies were not illustrated, and the pages didn’t stick together.) First up, Professors Martin Barker and Feona Attwood, and Dr Clarissa Smith tried to find out how individuals use porn:

The aim of this survey, available online at pornresearch.org, is to collect evidence around the everyday uses of pornography and find out how the people who use it feel it fits into their lives. Ultimately, the data may be used to challenge some of the assumptions now current in debate around the “sexualisation” of society.

Critics of the research have questioned whether such work is necessary, claiming that “everyone knows how porn is used”. Those behind the survey, Professors Martin Barker and Feona Attwood, and Dr Clarissa Smith, reader in sexual culture at the University of Sunderland, reckon that the real problem is that we don’t have the answers, and society is attempting to legislate in a vacuum.

While not denying the moral dimension of many of the questions, the researchers are concerned that the voices of users and enjoyers will be swamped by a prevailing critical assumption that the only issues worth considering are how problematic porn use is, or how it might affect children. The researchers believe that there can be many different and complicated reasons for looking at pornography and that not all the materials that go under that label are the same, only to be distinguished by how ‘extreme’ or ‘explicit’ they are.

Dr Smith told the Reg: “Although there is much speculation and plenty of academic work which insists on porn having demonstrable and problem ‘effects’ on users, I’ve been struck by how often researchers have told me there is no need for any empirical research on how and why porn is consumed.

You can imagine how studies like this would be resisted by other researchers who didn’t think of them first who might decry the work as being trivial and unnecessary.

On the other side of the Atlantic, researchers were more interested in the interaction between political events and the consumption of pornography:

Both Republicans and Democrats seek out internet porn to celebrate the victories of their candidates says a new study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. The abstract from the article with the toe-curling social science title, “Pornography-seeking behaviors following midterm political elections in the United States: A replication of the challenge hypothesis” reports:

The current study examined a prediction derived from the challenge hypothesis; individuals who viciously win a competition of rank order will seek out pornography relatively more often than individuals who viciously lose a competition. By examining Google keyword searches during the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections in the United States, the relative popularity of various pornography keyword searches was computed for each state and the District of Columbia the week after each midterm election. Consistent with previous research examining presidential elections and the challenge hypothesis, individuals located in traditionally Republican states tended to search for pornography keywords relatively more often after the 2010 midterm election (a Republican victory) than after the 2006 midterm election (a Democratic victory). Conversely, individuals located in traditionally Democratic states tended to search for pornography relatively less often following the 2010 midterm election than they did following the 2006 midterm election.

Friday fun link: BoxCar2D

Filed under: Randomness, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:48

Watch the Darwinian struggle of car evolution: http://www.boxcar2d.com/.

The program learns to build a car using a genetic algorithm. It starts with a population of 20 randomly generated shapes with wheels and runs each one to see how far it goes. The cars that go the furthest reproduce to produce offspring for the next generation. The offspring combine the traits of the parents to hopefully produce better cars. Now with the button at the bottom left u can choose to input cars and different terrains. This lets people post their results and even design a car by hand.

It uses a physics library called box2D to simulate the effects of gravity, friction, collisions, motor torque, and spring tension for the car. This lets the car be a wide range of shapes and sizes, while still making the simulation realistic. This is based on the AS3 box2D flash port of the library. Watch the demo of some of its capabilities.

My inspiration for this project comes from qubit.devisland.net/ga. My implementation uses the physics library to make the car a real object instead of two point masses. There are also many extra variables because of the complicated car and axles and the color cleary illustrates the evolution.

H/T to DarkWaterMuse for the link.

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