Blog.

  • Evolving arthropods

    Fractal Arthropod

    Recently, while searching for an picture of evolution (specifically, the famous image of the progression from ape to man), I came across an interesting and beautiful evolution simulation. The website is actually about a piece of software called Nodebox that uses Python to draw and manipulate images. The site has loads of amazing examples of its power. Sadly, I don’t have a Mac, so I can’t use the software myself. However, since I’ve been learning create SVG files with Python, I thought I create my own simple version.

  • Visualising accidents

    Graph of accidents in 2007

    Visualising accidents sounds like a slightly morbid photography project, but want I actually want to write about is slightly less morbid:  I finally created a visualisation to illustrator some of the data concerning causes of death, published by the Guardian Data Store. I’d still like to create a program to organise data about countries so I can do more complex comparisons, but it’s proving complex to organise all the different type of data. Maybe this will inspire me to finished it.

  • Interesting uses of photos on Flickr

    I've recently come across a couple of clever uses of photographs from Flickr, which makes me want to learn how to use the Flickr API, which I hear is quite straight-forward.

    The first example uses ‘Flickr as a paintbrush‘, which means colouring a map of an area using the average colour (actually, the average hue), of photos taken at different points on that map (which requires photos to be geotagged).

  • 收 vs 受

    One of the reason for setting up this blog was to write about Chinese, particularly characters that were causing me confusion. (I also meant to write about photography, which I have not done so so far). I was spurred to write this post after two characters, 收 and 受 came up in the iKnow app at smart.fm (Chinese Characters: Level 2).

    Topics:

  • Molecular dynamics simulation

    I wanted to write about a Java molecular simulation that I made a while ago, before I became entranced by Python. The program is a simple 2D physics simulation, with circles representing billiard ball-style atoms. The idea before the simulation was initially an attempt to create a virtual lava lamp. In its first incarnation, there were two types of atom. Each atom was attracted to nearby atoms of the same type (with a force proportional one over distance squared). If the distance between any two atoms was below a threshold then the two atoms repel each other.

  • Simulating tribal island economies

    I’ve just started reading Gun, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and was particularly interested by the description of how various Polynesian islands developed. As with pretty much everything these days, I wondered how I could simulate such a situation, perhaps making a game out of it (there must be a computer game that is based on this time and place – something like The Settlers).

  • Evolving ant behaviour

    Example of simple ant behaviour - spiralling

    I've been thinking for a while about how to program ant behaviour in my simulation. The difficulty is that even relatively simple behaviours (such as following a pheromone trail) are difficult to code as a behaviour at the agent (or ant) level. While I probably could come with a reasonable behaviour if I thought about it and tested various parameters, it seems a lot simpler to evolve a suitable behaviour. After all, that’s what ants did.

  • Martian landscape photography

    Here’s an interesting mixture of science and photography: high-resolution photos of various Martian landscapes. I was quite surprised at how varied the environment is (though it should be noted that the images have been pseudo-coloured). Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised; earth’s landscapes would still be very varied without life. It just goes to show that beauty and complex patterns are not exclusive to life.

  • Short cell simulation update

    Once again I’ve been neglecting my blog. I think I have a good excuse, which is that I was writing my thesis. That hasn’t stopped me from doing the odd spot of programming however. I’ve made some progress with my microbe simulation, notably, making a GUI to visualise where on the DNA various proteins bind. I have also started a separate microbe simulation, which is more of a game to see who can evolve the fittest microbe in the primordial soup. The game elements are all there, but the program is ugly and the game limited; a bit more work is required to make it fun to play.