Nerds!

King of Nerds Invents App That’ll Get Him All The Girls At Debate Camp

IDK!

What were you doing with your time when you were 15 years old? Well, unless you were founding your very own startup, get ready to feel bad about yourself. Fast Company recently talked to Tanay Tandon, a kid who last year found the time to write the algorithm for Clipped, an app that ingests news articles and spits out a bulleted summary.

Why did he do it? Because he’s a competitive high school debater, and he is tired of devoting all his time to research: Read More

the robots are coming

Georgia Tech Team Working on a ‘MacGyver’ Bot; Hijinks Sure to Ensue

More like ActionHeroBot, right? (Photo: Georgia Tech)

They might be able to make burritos and rescue the drowning, but robots are still lacking in some basic functionality. Namely: The ability to do very much with tools. Those of you who’ve seen Planet of the Apes and/or ever attempted to jimmy the cap off a beer bottle will surely recognize that this is an important part of our special sauce as a species, and one that our mechanical brethren can’t quite yet replicate. Hence, as per the MAKE blog, a team of researchers at Georgia Tech are working on that.

Specifically, they would like to build a robot MacGyver.

As this Georgia Tech announcement points out, we’re increasingly deploying robots in dangerous situations and hard-to-get-to places (hello, Mars rover!), but they lack human abilities to interact with their environment. If they lose their keys, they can’t root through their purse and find something to pick the lock:  Read More

Skynet Watch

What Are Algorithms up to Today? Fighting Off Fruit Flies

Best without bugs. (Photo: flickr.com/violetmonde)

Algorithms: They’re not just for Amazon recommendations and online dating anymore. The latest application, as per the New Scientist: Battling oriental fruit flies, a species that inspires the cold sweats in anyone who makes his livelihood on a fruit orchard.

These pests are a far more serious threat than the nuisances spawned by slovenly kitchen habits. They infest at least 230 different kinds of crops. The result? Rotten, maggot-infested fruit and crop losses that can add up to billions of dollars.

Luckily, scientists in Taiwan–where the bugs are a persistent problem–are working on a solution: Read More

The Machines

In the Future, a Computer Will Probably Write this Post

Mr. Hammond (LinkedIn.com)

Like any proud papa, Narrative Science cofounder and CTO Kristian Hammond has ambitions for his article-writing algorithm. In 15 years, he told Wired, 90 percent of news will be computer-generated. In 20 years, there’ll be no topic his company doesn’t cover. He even believes that a computer will win the Pulitzer Prize within five years. Well, it is Big Data Week, after all.

Narrative Science got its start covering the data-driven topics of sports and finance. Then came work from a fast-food company, turning sales figures into regular written reports for franchise-owners. Nowadays, they can even vary tone. Hammond wants to see the company breaking news, though that’ll require investment in data mining and natural language processing. All that leads to a future that looks a little something like this, according to Wired: Read More

Modern Justice

As SEC Turns to Computers to Detect Fraud, Wall Street Cries Foul

"Shit, she took a screenshot."

One of the reason that Bernie Madoff was able to stay undetected for so long was that he could alternately charm and intimidate the young SEC staffers sent to investigate his firm. In the wake of that scandal, reports The Wall Street Journal, the SEC has developed a computer system that analyzes performance from thousands of hedge funds and looks for  unusually good performance year-over-year that, like Mr. Madoff, seems too good to be true.  Read More

Data Dating

OkCupid Is Easy to Cheat On, Mathematically Speaking

They can teach you how to get a date

OkCupid has earned a reputation for its fun and insightful use of data, playing with the mountains of statistics it has on the science of love. But today it met its match in the mathematics blog Isomorphismes.

The main thrust of the argument here is that the mandatory questions users need to answer when creating a profile and finding a match really skew the system. They are often rather sensitive questions, for example Isomorphismes’ mandatories include: Do you think homosexuality is a sin, would you try to control your mate with suicide, would the world be a better place if people with low IQs were not allowed to reproduce (yikes!). Read More

Bad Ideas

Brooklyn Scammer, DecorMyEyes.com, Will See Jail Time

Image via NYT

Vitaly Borker made headlines back in December after he started attacking customers who complained about his business with abusive emails and threats of violence. It was also an interesting situation because Borker had managed to make his site the number one result on Google for a simple search on the term “eyeglasses”. Borker told The Read More

Creativity

How Computer Science Solved the Puzzle of the 9/11 Memorial

Sept11 Memorial

One of the more arcane challenges for the foundation creating the 9/11 memorial downtown was how to arrange the names of the more than three thousand victims of the tragedy.

It was complicated enough to fit them all within a taxonomy of their location at the time of the attacks, but grew more complex with hundreds of requests for certain names to be placed adjacent to loved ones.

So the foundation turned to computer science, hoping an algorithm could help them sort the problem. Read More