Monday, August 23, 2010

Weeknote #15 (w/e 22/8/10)

Lots happening this week, and I've spent most of it at the 12th international conference on artificial life, in Odense, Denmark. I first discovered the field in 1992, when I chose it as the subject of my honours project at University. Steven Levy's wonderful book got me started, and my little creation, titled BugWorld, attracted a moderate amount of attention. I'd have probably gone off into computer security, had I not discovered alife, so I think I owe the field a lot, and it was a surprise to me that this year's conference was the first Artificial Life that I'd attended.

I heard so many great talks that it would be unfair to single out any in particular, but I would point out that MIT Press have made the published proceedings freely available. This is great news.

Actually, I will highlight one talk in particular, in which I should declare an interest. My Spanish friend and colleague, Angel Goni-Moreno, gave a nice presentation based on a version of this paper, and we got some useful feedback.

The conference was great, and brilliantly organised. I was, however, disappointed to learn that this sign referred, not to the creche, but to the language center.

On a related note, I'm delighted to be able to confirm the first two panelists for our Manchester Science Festival event, Artificial Life: Promises and Pitfalls, to be held on October 26th. They are Professor Ron Weiss, from the USA, and Dr Maureen O'Malley, from the UK. We're delighted to have them, and look forward to being able to announce further panelists very soon.

Back in May I contributed to a panel on New Creativity at the marvellous Future Everything conference in Manchester. The video of the panel is now available online, although eagle-eyed viewers could be forgiven for thinking that I only own one shirt.

A recent draft paper I've submitted with Pete was picked up by the MIT Technology Review physics blog. The paper describes a new approach to quantifying levels of crush within crowds, using information theory. The coverage is fairly spot-on, and we're thinking about how to eliminate false positives. I think one of the commentators was a little naughty, though, in not declaring his distinct bias when criticising us for not considering human factors. The problem we address is not that of "why does crush form?", but, rather, "can we automatically detect it when it does form?" While a consideration of human factors may well make a simulation more "realistic", it doesn't address the central issue.

(By the way, Ben, your website could do with an overhaul.)

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