Author Archive

May 7, 2012

Most interesting thing I learned in class

by licalvin

One of the first lessons we learned is that constraints can help creativity. I know it’s not very profound by itself, and perhaps what I found to be most fascinating isn’t very profound at all, but I feel it is worth expounding upon.

We recognize that an over-constrained problem can kill creativity. The fact that there exists a notion of too little constraints for creativity is quite fascinating. I think there are 2 primary types constraints, an economic one and an artificial one.

An economic constraints is one granted by scarcity. When people say laziness is the mother of inventions, it’s where their creativity allows for them to fill a need or create value in a place where they never experienced before.

An artificial constraint is one that is not granted by scarcity. It is a constraint perhaps of one’s education or one’s available knowledge or material. This might be an arbitrary constraint but these constraints help propagate creativity.

That shouldn’t make sense to a mathematician, because a set can do anything its proper subset can do (besides being smaller). Why when given less that people can do more? Perhaps it’s the paradox of choice, that the choices makes it less worthwhile to create, but I don’t find that to be the case. I come to the grim, but really informative conclusion that the complexity of the world is too much for people to understand.

In what could be called the Curse of Dimensionality, when too many things are presented to people, their ability to wrap their minds around and create things with what they are presented diminishes greatly. It’s the combinatorial explosion combined with the curse of dimensionality. The space gets larger while the ability to jump through neighbors decrease. The space of possibilities increases O(n^n) while the Limit of the volume of the sphere from any given point reaches 0 as n gets to infinity. It’s as if the Universe expands and its weight is crushing the person from going anywhere. Anywhere it goes, it’s a needle in a haysack, so dial back the Universe and let’s just play locally. We’ll get somewhere, maybe it won’t be the global maximum, just a local one.

May 7, 2012

Reason for Final Project

by licalvin

The inspiration for my final project revolves around the issue of deriving context from a reading passage. If there is a word or terminology I am not familiar with, I will have to open up a new window and search for it. Then I have to go back to the sentence and see the context of the word and compare and contrast as I flip back and forth between the dictionary screen (because who uses a paper dictionary these days?) in order to get the context of one sentence.

What I found to be more useful instead is to extend the way information is presented in the context of a sentence. Sentences are linear in nature, but can be extended in a 2-dimensional manner. By expanding the text, one can actually augment the available information of a sentence instead of replacing it. What I had imagined was that when a  word or a phrase is being questioned, the definition will be revealed just below it so that the meaning can be quickly derived.

That’s why I felt it pertinent for my project to build on those principles and create such a functionality. Click a word and it searches for you, expanding the space below it without removing a word in order to help the user understand the meaning of the word. This immediate feedback helps users understand what they’re reading in a meaningful manner.

This can be extended to translations; foreign language documents can easily have portions or specific words translated as to provide the non-native speaker a more positive language experience.

Hopefully, whenever I find the time, I can expand this product and make it available for everyone through a browser extension. My dream is to turn on/off the translator and the too will quickly allow you to click on portions of text for greater clarity and understanding.

May 2, 2012

Will CISPA have a chilling effect on creativity?

by licalvin

Congressional legislation can have a powerful impact on how people pursue information and creativity. The latest internet safety bill to go before congress can have severe chilling effects on individual’s activities on the internet. That can be a very bad thing.

May 2, 2012

Translating the web

by licalvin

I wonder if this technique will work. I’m intrigued; it also requires a certain interest that I don’t think actually exists for esoteric problems. Essentially, there is a frictional element here that I don’t think a service can easily match.

May 1, 2012

Fiction(Harry Potter) + Reason(Methods of Rationality) –> Win

by licalvin

Himanshusahni’s post reminded me of a most excellent parody of Harry Potter. What if he was reasonable?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Reading it is free and so is laughing 🙂

April 26, 2012

Something new, never borrowed?

by licalvin

You can show that given a random card shuffle, it is likely that the configuration has never seen in the history of the world. Taking the Poisson distribution over 52! possible events means that every single time you shuffle the deck, it is very likely that the configuration is the first time it has ever occurred in history.

Is that not something new? An artist that uses shuffled cards bring a degree of randomness that is completely new to this universe. Where is the borrowed element?

April 25, 2012

Alcohol + Sleep Deprivation + Ellen’s Class => Profit?

by licalvin

Perhaps we should consider mature beverages during class. I think the results would be more exciting, if at least not more fun.

January 20, 2012

AI vs. Human Development and “Learning”

by licalvin

In our previous class discussions, we talked extensively about the main difference between AI and human beings in learning and development. Beyond the veracity of such questions is what I find to be a famously fallacious argument made over and over again throughout the course of the discussion. Many people claimed that we see robots “learning” through trial and error through genetic algorithms. The issue I took was when that process was equated to our own psychological development. For the longest time, the dominant psychological view was behaviorism, which stated that we are who we are because we are conditioned to be such through repeated trial and error. Or through learned behavior, i.e. “conditioning”. In a famous book published by the then young professor Noam Chomsky (the famous linguist and even more famous neo-marxist) lambasted, made fun of, and tore apart the behaviorist’s psychological paradigm on human development. Now almost nobody believes in the behaviorist school of psychology as applied to human growth and development. I think it’s important that we be careful when we make assertions of our psychological constitution when the larger community of psychologists have long ago abandoned such assertions.

Here’s his wikipedia page:

And a picture, which may be copyrighted… thank the lord SOPA hasn’t been passed yet 🙂



January 18, 2012

Unit Orgami Diagram

by licalvin

Begin by imagining a square piece of paper. Now fold it into quarters, all the folds are horiontal. Now unfold the paper, yielding 4 long horizontal layers, separated by 3 folds.

Now take the upper left corner and fold it diagonally until it matches up with the upper fold, effectively covering 1/16th of the square piece of paper. Then, we do the same fold, pivoting along the new corner that is aligned with the upperfold, turning the 45 degree turn relative to the fold to 22.5 degree turn (halving it). That will also incidentally line up the corner side to the fold. Now, fold the the upper quadrant along the fold entirely. Turn this 180 degrees and repeat for the other half.

What you have in your mind now is a shape which is half the size of the original square, with a trapezoidal shape on other corner making a diagonal. Now fold the thicker portion of each section to create a triangle that lines up with the opposite side. Now tuck each of those sides under the diagonal flaps. You have just imagined the construction of a unit origami!

I just drew a diagram, in your mind!

January 18, 2012

20 Under 20

by licalvin


This is the newspaper tower we designed and engineered.

The base of the newspaper tower consists of various elements. We began by taking 7 rolls of newspaper and tying them together with a newspaper around it. Then we skewed all of them in a rotating fashion to make a circular base. In that base, we began inserting our tower. As our tower begins to grow upwards, we noticed that it started to grow more unstable. To counter this, we added thick newspaper siding to support and counteract the leaning nature, which is what they do to help stabilize the leaning tower of Pisa. We then continued to grow this newspaper tower, only to find that, after a certain point, the newspaper rolls began sliding downwards. We solved that issue by stuffing the center of the tower with scrunched up balls of newspaper that prevented the additional rolls from sliding down. We then reinforced the bottom of the tower by tying in some of the more stable base elements by wrapping them together with newspapers.

While this design doesn’t scale, unlike some of our other colleagues, it did manage to become the tallest structure without collapsing. Overall, I would regard this structure as a success!

-Calvin Li