Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last Lecture

I just watched a sad video of a Computer Science professor giving his last lecture. He is dying of pancreatic cancer and gave a presentation reflecting on his life.

Article: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07262/818671-85.stm

Here is a video of the lecture: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/front_im/pausch_9-18-07.wmv

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Compiling


[link]

The Classics of Science Fiction

Here is a list of my favorite science fiction books and movies (only included works that were made before I was born):

Movies:

Blade Runner (1982) - This movie is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. Everything about it comes together to form a fascinating universe combining many complex themes. If you are only going to watch one movie from this list, watch Blade Runner.

Solyaris (1972) - I regret watching the 2002 remake of this movie before the original. I actually really liked the remake when I saw it, but after seeing the original I know that the only reason I liked was because it was merely a glimpse at this incredible film.

Alien (1979) - Although I would consider this movie more of a horror/thriller than science fiction, it is still an excellent movie that deserves a place on this list.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - It's unfortunate that humans haven't reached the level of technological development predicted in this film. An excellent novel by Arthur C. Clarke was released at the same time as the movie. The only thing stopping me from declaring this as my favorite sci-fi movie is that I didn't like the ending. In my opinion the movie would have been better off if it had ended at the discovery of the third monolith near Jupiter.

Stalker (1979) - This is an incredibly unique and bizarre movie. It may require some open-mindedness to watch because of its complexity and slow pace. However, it deals with many fascinating themes such as human psychology which really make the film rewarding.

Books:

Dune (Frank Herbert, 1965) - This is by far the best book I have ever read. It flawlessly combines culture, religion, technology, ecology, politics, and psychology into an unforgettable story. A movie, two mini-series, and numerous video games have been released based on the book, but none of them even come close to capturing the Dune universe.

Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card, 1985) - I am currently reading the third book in the Ender series. Given that I just started reading the series a little over a week ago, you can see that I have become so involved in the series that it has taken priority over homework.

Neuromancer (William Gibson, 1984) - This book has had a fairly large cultural impact. It popularized the term "cyberspace" and defined hacker culture long before the World Wide Web was even created.

Rendezvous With Rama (Arthur C Clarke, 1973) - Even though I was still in middle school the last time I read this, I still remember the entire plot of the series due to the fact that it was so interesting and original.

Foundation (Isaac Asimov, 1951) - The Foundation series involves an epic story about human civilization spanning over several hundred years.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mandelbrot Set


I spent the day making a Mandelbrot set fractal generator. Here is a link to the applet. I was originally hoping that it would be possible to have real-time zooming to allow convenient exploration of the fractal. However, since rendering each frame takes a significant amount of time, I gave up and just added a simpler zooming system.

It really is amazing the infinite complexity and beauty that arises from such a simple function. I spent at least an hour just exploring different parts of the fractal. I saw patterns which have never been seen before due its infinite complexity. I found it interesting that although you should be able to zoom in infinitely, there is actually a zoom limit in my applet due to the limitation of 64 bit double precision numbers. Here is an excellent documentary by Arthur C. Clarke about the Mandelbrot set.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Java Games

I recently made two simple Java games:

Ping:

Online applet
.jar file

This is a remake of a game I made in highschool [link]. It is based on the classic game Pong.

Swarm:


Online applet
.jar file

This actually started off as a little project I was working on to create emergent behaviors. After assigning a few simple rules to dots on the screen, the dots could actually interact with eachother in complex patterns. These are the rules which each dot follows:

- Move towards closest neighbor
- Move towards left mouse click (proportional to distance from click)
- Move away from right mouse click (proportional to distance from click)
- Move randomly

I thought it was interesting how the dots movement seemed similar to insect swarms. I then decided to make this into a simple game by adding worms which hunt down the dots. The user tries to control the dots to avoid the worms. I made the worms using B├ęzier curves and trigonometric functions. I had a few problems with the transition between the sin/cos functions (used to animate the worms wiggling), so occasionally a worm might have some strange movements ;)

(Note: the game is CPU intensive, so it might run slowly on older computers. It will probably run faster as an application from the .jar file than as an applet.)