GP for the masses

My colleague Nic McPhee (with a couple of other people) is an author of a new book, A Field Guide to Genetic Programming — I think I’m going to have to read it.

Genetic programming (GP) is a systematic, domain-independent method for getting computers to solve problems automatically starting from a high-level statement of what needs to be done. Using ideas from natural evolution, GP starts from an ooze of random computer programs, and progressively refines them through processes of mutation and sexual recombination, until high-fitness solutions emerge. All this without the user having to know or specify the form or structure of solutions in advance. GP has generated a plethora of human-competitive results and applications, including novel scientific discoveries and patentable inventions.

See? It sounds cool!

Another entry in the annals of crackpottery

This is kind of sad, actually. It’s a slick website from a guy in Utah who claims to have discovered pre-Cambrian dragons. Browse around his gallery, and it’s clear that what he’s got are pictures of random rocks, and that he’s seeing shapes in them like one sees shapes in the clouds. He reminds me of Ed Conrad.

His name is Mike Hallett, so of course this period of gigantic dragons is called the Hallettstoneion. He has also written a book, which has to be seen to be believed. I swear, I think it’s actually written in crayon. Here’s a sample, in case you’d really rather not download a 40MB pdf.

Ouch. I hope his family gets the poor man some help.

Wheee, another airplane ride

In spite of all of the work piled up around me, I’m taking off today to attend the NEA/AFT Higher Education Joint Conference in Washington DC. I’m in the middle of this busy month where I spend just about every weekend flying off somewhere, in between weeks that still have the same teaching load waiting to be done.

I’m also supposed to be taped for WCCO while I’m in Minneapolis this evening, but after that, I may have to gatecrash the Minneapolis Drinking Liberally event, if it’s still going on. I hope I’m not thrown out by security.

Yeah, so? I’ve been doing this for years

Blanch, you delicate souls, blanch. Somebody else finally gets it.

I’d like to suggest a very simple strategy for American liberals: Get mean. Stop policing the language and start using it to hurt our enemies. American liberals are so busy purging their speech of any words that might offend anyone that they have no notion of using language to cause some salutary pain.

I wish I knew where Americans got this idea that being a liberal meant being Mr and Mrs Milquetoast.

Uh-oh. Bad news from Florida.

Florida did it: their ridiculous “academic freedom” bill that promoted creationism has been approved by their senate committee.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Floridians, you have a job to do.

Call or write Sen. Ted Deutch and thank him: he’s the only one who voted against the bill. Urge him to keep up the fight.

The chair and vice chair of this committee were absent and did not vote. Call them and cuss them out for abdicating their responsibilities. Tell them they screwed up, and that you do not support failure.

The rest…call or write and tell them that you won’t be voting for them in the next election. Explain that as members of the education committee, they had a responsibility to support good science education.

I don’t think all is lost just yet. This just means it moves out of committee and on to the rest of the senate (OK, maybe we are doomed). Whoever your representative is, call or write and tell them that this bill must be opposed, that it is a potential disaster for science education in the state, and that it is a lawsuit waiting to happen.