Saturday, May 22, 2010

Google Shenanigans

Google has been all over the news today for making their homepage logo into a playable Pac Man game. Something I find interesting is that while none of the news I saw mentioned it, Google is also running a round of voting for the selection of drawings submitted by primary school children to be used for the logo at a later date. The contest is called Doodle 4 Google and is run in partnership with Smithsonian. The drawings are a handful selected from over 33,000 entries under the theme "If I could do anything, I would...," each with a short statement. I found the remaining candidates interesting despite what seems to be an obvious presence of bias in the selection process prior--I would love to believe that around 40% of US children have the restoration and preservation of Earth as top priority, but I have a feeling that on the whole entries might have been more along the lines of the finalist who answers with "...go to Japan," but with less deft artistry.

It seems that most of the time I see Google in the news it is over some imagined privacy theft, as though Google is secretly plotting to shame everyone on Earth at the same time by revealing our most incriminating queries (or what have you). Clearly in this case they are harvesting the unbounded imagination of our children... who knows what nefarious deed Google might conspire based on the suggestion to build subsidized housing for the homeless on the moon. And not only that, but Google with their unquenchable lust for data couldn't help but steal our opinions on this information too, as if their stated plot to give away 3 laptops, 80 netbooks, $15,000 scholarship, and a $25,000 computer lab grant weren't nefarious enough.

Actually I am somewhat disappointed by those figures, they seem a bit paltry (relative to Google); $15k wouldn't even pay for a degree at an in-state public university. Voting takes place here and is only open 5/18-5/25.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mandelbrot Composition

Some more results of exploring reflection and the Mandelbrot set:

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I've added threaded scene capture to my ray tracer so that I can make animations. Combine this with a map of the Mandelbrot set, and you can do things like this:

This animation also uses the reflection model of the ray tracer to complicate things a bit near the end, as you may have noticed.

One of the first animations I got out plays like a short film:

This result was accidental, I had meant to iterate by floating point values but was casting to integers at the wrong place; as it turns out, some interesting things happen around integral values.

If that's a short film, this might be a summary of that film:

note that I practically always display the set with a basis orientation contrary to convention--this is mainly because the blobs lend themselves more readily to anthropomorphizing than the alternate, and are thus naturally more aesthetic.

The following shows the set lights off and lights on:

In fact, the only difference between the two (IIRC) is that for the second I added an additional light to the ray tracer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Deepwater Horizon

The recent explosion of Deepwater Horizon and subsequent venting of crude oil has garnered a lot of coverage lately, and rightly so. However, there's an interesting perspective to this story that I think has been overlooked.

Consider that the estimated minimum leakage rate is 5,000 barrels of crude oil every day (according to Reuters). Is this a lot?  The daily consumption of petroleum in the US is somewhere around 19,500,000 (2008 data, from EIA); 5,000 barrels is 0.00026% of our daily consumption of refined petroleum.

There's a really important point in this: a sleight 5,000 barrels of crude oil per day seeping into the ocean is enough to do quite a bit of damage. With that in mind, doesn't it seem reasonable that the gases seeping into the air from burning 19,500,000 barrels every single day would probably have some consequences?

If only all consequences were as obvious as tar covered wildlife washing onto our doorsteps. There was a time, not long ago, that we could get away with pretending that the Earth was an infallible provider of infinite resources. That time has now passed, and the oblivious industrious bustle of humanity elicits tacit threats of autocataclysmic destabilization, by endeavors of awe-some magnitude undertaken at unprecedented pace with slightest regard for the fragile ecosystem from which we emerged. I'm immensely saddened to see the failure to  prioritize the maintenance of viability for life on Earth, particularly when it is overlooked for something as senseless as one more quarter of profitability. If only corporations were most interested in ensuring the future of life, if only...

New estimates place the rate of flow around 200,000 barrels a day. Even though that's a mind boggling amount of oil, it's still only 1% of the daily US consumption--and worldwide consumption is a fair bit more than that.