June 17, 2001
(Almost every link is to a different java braintoy...) I've written about my ex-ex-college instructor Jeffery Ventrella and his site in a previous entry There's one idea that I think I more or less came up with, but he put into code... there's this classic Game called 'Life', where there's a checkerboard of 'cells', where on each click of the clock, a cell lives, die, or is burn based on some simple rules about how many neighbors it has. The general name for this kind of thing is Cellular Automata... a simulation of a machine made of cells.
There's this other idea called Genetic Algorithms... you describe potential solutions to your problem in terms of parameters, which act as "genes", then you use an evolutionary process to breed new solutions and seperate the winning ideas from the losing ones, and eventually the solutions start looking better and better. One famous example of a GA is Richard Dawkin's biomorphs... it's a set of parameters that draw little tree- or creature- looking patterns, and generally the user selects which one he or she likes out of 10 or so variations, acting as the hand of Darwin for aesthetic purposes, since the one selected is used as the parent for the next generation. You can breed some neat looking stuff. (Or you can let the computer run through various bouncin' baby biomorphs itself.)
So, my idea, or at least partially my idea, was to combine these two schemes. Figure out how to describe different CAs with gene settings, then breed them, allowing the user to pick which ones seem interesting. Ventrella put this idea into code, and invited me over to see it running on his empoyers SGI box. By clicking high or low, the user decided how 'fit' that CA was. Well, he's made a cool version of this for windows. He wrapped it around a theme of trying to breed GAs that have 'Gliders', little cell collections that shuffle along the screen (many GAs tend to churn in place, while ones with Gliders tend to look a bit cooler anyway.) So check it out, it's a very cool program to play with. You'll be seeing some Cellular Automatas that no one has seen before, and probably no one will see again!
Quote of the Moment
Well, I believe in the soul. The cock. The pussy. The small of a woman's back. The hanging curve ball. High fiber. Good scotch. That the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent over rated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there oughta be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas eve. And I believe in long slow deep soft wet kisses that last three days.
--Crash Davis, "Bull Durham". (A little much, but hey.)