Category Archives: Uncategorized

Condensed notes from “Ethics of AI” at NYU, October 14-15th, 2016

Last October I attended the Ethics of AI conference at NYU. (link to program notes and videos). I’ve decided to publish some of my tweets and notes from the conference here.
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Debye relaxation in water, aka “how microwaves work” explained at last

My new paper,The origin of the Debye relaxation in liquid water and fitting the high frequency excess response” has been published in The Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
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Using nicotine as a cognitive enhancer

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with nicotine as a nootropic. A nootropic substance is one that improves cognitive function without any harmful effects, and ideally is non addictive and non habit forming. A lot of nootropics do not have hard science backing them up. Nicotine is one of the very few that has scientific literature showing general cognitive benefits.

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Testing out decision trees, AdaBoosted trees, and random forest

Recently I experimented with decision trees for classification, to get a better idea of how they work. First I created some 2 dimensional training data with 2 categories, using sci-kit-learn:

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Some subtler problems with Wikipedia articles

Wikipedia has a lot of problems, including some subtle but serious ones that seem difficult to fix without radical changes to how the platform operates.

I’ve watched the growth of Wikipedia since my first edit, which was in 2004. Since then, I’ve accrued 16,044 edits. 10,287 of those were in 2007, when I was very active as an anti-vandalism patroller. Over the years I’ve created 68 pages in total. Wikipedia has always had obvious problems such as vandalism, systemic bias, and link dropping, which are being addressed by a variety of concerted efforts.  Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of more subtle problems with Wikipedia articles, which has caused me to seek out higher quality sources of information. To put it bluntly, Wikipedia articles are just not very well written. They lack logical progression and consistency in their style and level of technical depth. Of course, it’s difficult for the Wikipedia platform to achieve either, since many different authors are constantly adding and subtracting sentences from every article.  Continue reading

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Recursion is slow

Recursion is something that many computer science majors consider elegant. However, in simulation, speed far outweighs how many lines of code are underneath. [That is one reason why physicists still code in Fortran.]

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An introduction to the water structure problem

Although the macroscopic properties of water have been heavily studied, there are things we don’t understand about this ubiquitous substance. In this post, I will provide an introduction to the problem of describing water’s structure. At first glance, the idea of a liquid having structure seems preposterous. Indeed, liquids cannot maintain a structural arrangement of atoms like solids can. Instead, the atoms/molecules tumble past each other in constant state of motion. This allows for the defining property of the liquid state – the ability to fill a container.   Continue reading

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Our Nature Communciations paper – ice-like phonons in liquid water

Our paper, “The hydrogen-bond network of water supports propagating optical phonon-like modes” was published on January 4th in Nature Communications (full open access pdf). A press release about our work has been issued by the Stony Brook Newsroom and picked up by news aggregator Phys.org.

Our work shows that propagating vibrations or phonons can exist in water, just as in ice. The work analyzes both experimental data and the results of extensive molecular dynamics simulations performed with a rigid model (TIP4P/eps), a flexible model (TIP4P/2005f), and an ab-initio based polarizable model (TTM3F). Many of these simulations were performed on the new supercomputing cluster at Stony Brook’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science.

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“Accelerando” by Charles Stross

AccelerandoAccelerando_(book_cover)
by Charles Stross
2006, 415 pg

“There is an intrinsic unknowability about the technological singularity. Most writers leave it safely offstage or invent reasons why it doesn’t happen. Not Charles Stross. Accelerando lives up to its name, and is the most unflinching look into radical optimism I’ve seen.” – Vernor Vinge

During winter break I finally read Accelerando.  I say “finally” because this book was first recommended to me in 2009 at the (now defunct) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute transhumanism club. Accelerando is notable as being perhaps the first novel to have a storyline which traverses directly through a technological singularity.
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Maximum entropy priors

How do we assign priors?

If we don’t have any prior knowledge, then the obvious solution is to use the principle of indifference. This principle says that if we have no reason for suspecting one outcome over any other, than all outcomes must be considered equally likely. Jakob Bernoulli called this the “principle of insufficient reason”, a play on the “principle of sufficient reason”, which asserts that everything must have a reason or cause. This may be the case, but if we are ignorant of reasons, we cannot say that one outcome will be more likely than any other.
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