Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

July 17, 2019

Using Machine Learning To Automatically Translate Long-Lost Languages

Filed under: Computer Software,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:25 PM

Machine Learning has become such a buzz word that any new product or research being released nowadays has to mention ML in it somewhere even though they have nothing to do with it. But this particular usecase is actually very interesting and I am looking forward to more advances in this front. Researchers Jiaming Luo and Regina Barzilay from MIT and Yuan Cao from Google’s AI lab in Mountain View, California have created a machine-learning system capable of deciphering lost languages.

Normally Machine translation programs work by mapping out how words in a given language are related to each other. This is done by processing large amounts of text in the language and creating vector maps on how often each word appears next to every other word for both source and target languages. Unfortunately, this requires a large dataset (text) in the language and that is not possible in case of lost languages, and that’s where the brilliance of this new technique comes in. Focusing on the fact that when languages evolve over time they can only change in certain ways (e.g. related words have the same order of characters etc) they came up with a ruleset for deciphering a language when the parent or child of the language being translated is known.

To test out their theory/process they tried it out with two lost languages, Linear B and Ugaritic. Linguists know that Linear B encodes an early version of ancient Greek and that Ugaritic, which was discovered in 1929, is an early form of Hebrew. After processing the system was able to correctly translate 67.3% of Linear B into their Greek equivalents which is a remarkable achievement and marks a first in the field.

There are still some restrictions with the new algorithm in that it doesn’t work if the progenitor language is not known. But work on the system is ongoing and who knows some new breakthrough might be just around the corner. Plus there is always a brute force approach where the system tries translating a given language using every possible language as the progenitor language. It would require a lot of compute and time but is something to look at as an option.

Well, this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

Source: Machine learning has been used to automatically translate long-lost languages

May 27, 2019

Microsoft and Brilliant launch Online Quantum Computing Class that actually looks useful

Filed under: Computer Software,Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 12:14 PM

Quantum computing (QC) is the next big thing and everyone is eager to jump on the bandwagon. So my email & news feeds are usually flooded with articles on how QC will solve all my problems. I don’t deny that there are some very interesting usecases out there that would benefit from Quantum Computers but after a while it gets tiring. That being said I just found out that Microsoft & Brilliant have launched a new interactive course on Quantum Computing that allows you to build quantum algorithms from the ground up with a quantum computer simulated in your browser and I feel its pretty cool and a great initiative. The tutorial enables you to learn Q# which is Microsoft’s answer to the question of which language to use for Quantum computing code. Check it out if you are interested in learning how to code in Q#.

The course starts with basic concepts and gradually introduces you to Microsoft’s Q# language, teaching you how to write ‘simple’ quantum algorithms before moving on to truly complicated scenarios. You can handle everything on the web (including quantum circuit puzzles) and the course’s web page promises that by the end of the course, “you’ll know your way around the world of quantum information, have experimented with the ins and outs of quantum circuits, and have written your first 100 lines of quantum code — while remaining blissfully ignorant about detailed quantum physics.”
Brilliant has more than 8 million students and professionals worldwide learning subjects from algebra to special relativity through guided problem-solving. In partnership with Microsoft’s quantum team, Brilliant has launched an interactive course called “Quantum Computing,” for learning quantum computing and programming in Q#, Microsoft’s new quantum-tuned programming language. The course features Q# programming exercises with Python as the host language (one of our new features!). Brilliant and Microsoft are excited to empower the next generation of quantum computer scientists and engineers and start growing a quantum workforce today.

Starting from scratch

Because quantum computing bridges the fields of information theory, physics, mathematics, and computer science, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Brilliant’s course, integrated with some of Microsoft’s leading quantum development tools, provides self-learners with the tools they need to master quantum computing.
The new quantum computing course starts from scratch and brings students along in a way that suits their schedule and skills. Students can build and simulate simple quantum algorithms on the go or implement advanced quantum algorithms in Q

Once you have gone through the tutorial you should also check out IBM Q that allows you to code on a Quantum computer for free.

– Suramya

May 24, 2019

Science is bringing personal cooling closer to reality with a wearable cooling Patch

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 6:03 PM

In an announcement that is going to cause a lot of couples to sigh in relief, researchers from University of California, San Diego have come up with a wearable patch that cools the skin temperature down by ~10 Deg C. It is still in research phase but the basic prototype works and I am definitely in queue to buy this when it comes out. I love cool temperatures and my wife is the polar opposite and prefers hot and humid weather (30 Deg + ) so usually one of us is suffering. Its gotten to the point that I know that if I am feeling comfortable then she is cold. We usually end up carrying an extra jacket for her when we travel to moderately cold places and lots of cold water for me if we are going somewhere where she would be comfortable. This would allow us to keep the house warm enough for her without making me miserable due to the heat. According to the press release:

Thermoelectric systems use semiconductors to pump heat from one side of a device to the other, creating a cool zone and a hot zone. Such systems can provide compact, easily adjustable cooling, but getting them to efficiently dissipate heat has proved challenging.

Renkun Chen, Sheng Xu and their colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, addressed this problem by embedding multiple pillars of a semiconducting material between two stretchy polymer sheets. One sheet served as the hot zone, the other as the cool zone. This design conferred flexibility and insulated the hot and cold sides from each other, allowing the hot layer to dissipate its heat into the air.

This system would also have an application in offices. Usually the temperatures in office are kept cool because of research in early 60’s that calculated the optimal temperature taking into account the comfort of a forty-year-old, hundred-and-fifty-four-pound man wearing a business suit, (Learn more about the Sexist history of Office temperature here if you are interested) and this means that women in offices usually freeze and don’t perform at the peak of their performance. Once this patch is released, the office could be kept at a warmer temperature making it more comfortable for the women (and folks not wearing jackets/suits to office) and anyone who dislikes the warmer temperature (like me) would wear this patch and be comfortable as well. Decreasing the cooling required would reduce the load on AC’s and power infra as well.

So in conclusion I hope that this gets a commercial release quickly. 🙂

Source: Air conditioner ‘in a patch’ provides portable cooling – Nature.com

– Suramya

August 11, 2018

Free Digital Collection of 6,000 19th-Century Children’s Books

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 10:02 PM

Do you like fairy tales? Did you love reading books like Aesop’s Fables, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales? If so then you should check out this amazing collection of over 6000 children’s books from the 19th and early 20th century. It is available via the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library archive and is pretty comprehensive.

Unfortunately it looks like you can’t download the books for offline reading (at least not that I could find) and the pages of the books have not been converted to text but are rather images. Most are very good scans but still text versions would allow you to search for keywords. I wonder if they would be ok with me downloading the collection and running OCR on the books and then sharing the text versions. Something to think about for my next project

Source: LifeHacker.com

– Suramya

February 13, 2018

Explaining HTTPS using carrier pigeons

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Security Tutorials,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 7:07 PM

HTTPS is something that a lot of people find hard to explain without going into a lot of technical jargon which frankly just confuses most people and causes them to zone out. However it is an essential service/protocol so understanding it is a good idea. To address this issue Andrea Zanin who is a student created the following primer that explains how HTTPS works using carrier pigeons as the messengers.

Below is an explanation on how HTTP would work with carrier pigeons:

If Alice wants to send a message to Bob, she attaches the message on the carrier pigeon’s leg and sends it to Bob. Bob receives the message, reads it and it’s all is good.

But what if Mallory intercepted Alice’s pigeon in flight and changed the message? Bob would have no way of knowing that the message that was sent by Alice was modified in transit.

This is how HTTP works. Pretty scary right? I wouldn’t send my bank credentials over HTTP and neither should you.

Check out the link for the full writeup.

Well, this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

July 11, 2017

Like XKCD but don’t get the jokes?

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 11:38 PM

Do you like the XKCD Comics, but don’t always get the jokes? Or do you have someone in your life that keeps quoting it but you can’t make heads or tails of it? If so then you should check out ExplainXKCD.com, a website dedicated to explaining the XKCD Comics. e.g. Lets take the following comic from July 3rd 2017:

The site explains it as follows:

In the United States, the 4th of July is celebrated as Independence Day. This comic claims to show the timeline of different activities that are used to celebrate the holiday. One common activity is to watch fireworks displays. With the rise of personal drones there have been several videos of fireworks from drones, including flying the drones through the middle of the display. The comic then purports that starting in the year it was published (2017), fireworks and drones will be at some sort of war with each other, starting with drone pilots leading their drones into the path of the rising fireworks before they explode, leading to fireworks technicians intentionally trying to strike down drones. In 2019, Randall posits that the drones will be weaponized with fireworks and competitions will be held to shoot down your opponents’ drone. This wanton destruction of drones leads them to turn against their pilots and humanity in 2020 (after gaining sentience, presumably by their AI evolving through the competition), and then in 2021, they will be celebrating their Independence Day from the humans.

The title text refers to another popular 4th of July activity in the United States: Barbecues with fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers. But since the drones don’t have mouths or a digestive tract, they simply make a mess by using their rotors as a blender.

Check it out if you have some time to kill. Its a fun and distracting read.

– Suramya

January 12, 2016

Got some personality Insights from IBM’s Watson

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 1:01 AM

I was watching Felicia Day’s Flog earlier today and in it one of the sites she talks about is Personality Insights. This site claims to be able to help you gain insight into how and why people think, act, and feel the way they do by applying linguistic analytics and personality theory to their writings.

Since I was intrigued I decided to try it out using text from two of my Blog posts from the past. The first one was using the text from Some thoughts on the mails on how folks born in x-y range are the best. According to this:

I am likely to:

  • Reply on social media
  • Buy eco-friendly

Which is about a 50% accurate as I normally don’t reply on/use social media that much. Though I do prefer to be eco-friendly when possible so that part can be taken as accurate.

I am unlikely to:

  • Buy healthy foods
  • Use a coupon
  • Click on an ad

All of which are mostly true. I don’t normally click on ad’s, unless I manage to do it accidentally. I use an ad blocker and try to filter out as many of the annoying ads as I can. Using a coupon requires way too much effort so I tend not to do so unless its relatively simple and doesn’t require too much effort. As for healthy foods, most of the time they are absolutely tasteless so I avoid them for the most part.

Other than that, the site thinks I am an extrovert (not really), assertive (which is kind of true) and my ‘ choices are driven by a desire for connectedness.’ Not sure what that means exactly but sounds really deep and inspiring. 🙂


Screen shot of the results of the test, with more details

The second entry was a more recent entry from September on the App created to tell slow people that they are bored and why this is a bad idea. The results of this one contradict the previous one in a few major area’s, although to be fair the text sample is a lot smaller so that could have skewed the result (as per the site). According to this:

I am likely to:

  • Change careers
  • Click on an ad
  • Follow on social media

This one is only about 33% accurate as I have been known to change careers quite often before I joined GS. I def don’t click on ads and rarely follow folks on social media. To give you an idea I started using twitter mid 2015.

I am unlikely to:

  • Buy eco-friendly
  • Reply on social media
  • Spend on health and fitness

This is about 60% accurate, I prefer to buy eco-friendly but rarely reply on social media and hardly ever spend on health and fitness. Other than that the site thinks I am unconventional and shrewd (first time I have had someone tell me that) who is unconcerned with art (which is true, I find most of the so called art boring and silly. Don’t even get me started on ‘modern art’ ) and chooses based on a desire of efficiency (which is true, I like to think that I am efficient)


Results from the second text sample

In all this was an interesting read and though parts of it made me laugh it does give you a glimpse of what might be coming in the near future when computers will be able to diagnose your personality and figure out your mood based on your behavior and writings.

Well this is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

September 2, 2015

Science Comics: Coming soon to a store near you

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 1:00 AM

When you say comics most people think of Superhero comics like Spider-man, Superman or stuff like Tintin, Chaha Choudhary, Super Commando Dhruv etc. No one really thinks of comics as a medium to teach serious science. ‘First Second Books’ (Yes, I also think the name is silly) plans to change this by releasing an all new series of nonfiction graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers that cover topics in the world of Biology, chemistry, Physics etc.

The first release (called Dinosaurs and Coral Reefs) of the series is going to be in May 2016 so there is a bit of wait before the books are available. I am sure they will make an excellent gift for kids in your life. Which is why I am already planning on buying all the books in the series. (They are not for me, Honest 🙂 )

dinos_sampler_7_0
Sample Page from the comic

Check out the link: First Second Books Unveils New Science Series for more samples from the series.

– Suramya

Source: PopSci Twitter feed.

August 19, 2015

University Computer courses available online for free

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 12:27 AM

Thanks to the whole push on elearning, there is a whole trove of courses made available online for free by various universities like UCLA, Stanford etc. Unfortunately till now there was no consolidated list of these courses available so you would have to search through each of the university’s website to find a course that you liked which you can imagine was quite painful and manual. Fortunately those days are over now thanks to the effort of someone called ‘prakhar1989’ who has compiled a list of ‘Awesome Courses’ available online for free and posted it online on Github so that folks can maintain it easily.

There is a lot of hidden treasure lying within university pages scattered across the internet. This list is an attempt to bring to light those awesome courses which make their high-quality material i.e. assignments, lectures, notes, readings & examinations available online for free.

Some of the Courses from the list are:

  • CS 61C Great Ideas in Computer Architecture (Machine Structures) by UC Berkeley
  • CS 140 Operating Systems by Stanford University
  • CS 162 Operating Systems and Systems Programming by UC Berkeley
  • CS 425 Distributed Systems by Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • CS 2043 Unix Tools & Scripting by Cornell University
  • CS 5412 Cloud Computing by Cornell University
  • CIS 194 Introduction to Haskell by Penn Engineering
  • CS 421 Programming Languages and Compilers by Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • CS 5114 Network Programming Languages by Cornell University
  • CS 61B Data Structures by UC Berkeley
  • CS 97SI Introduction to Competitive Programming by by
  • 6.851 Advanced Data Structures by MIT

The list goes on and on. Some of the courses are quite interesting. I did go through the first lecture on Introduction to Haskel and for the first time the language actually made some sense to me. Unfortunately doing the course requires time and effort and at this time by the time I get home I am in no mood to study. Hopefully this will change of the next few weeks as things settle down.

Check out the site if you want to do some learning on your own time and pace.

– Suramya

August 13, 2015

Online Tools help share details of NASA’s Journey to Mars with us mere mortals

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 12:30 AM

This month marks the three year anniversary of Curiosity rover’s arrival on Mars and what better birthday present can NASA give to the rover than releasing two new online tools that allow casual users to explore Mars from the comfort of their homes.

First off we have Mars Trek, which is a web-based application providing high quality visualizations of Mars using data collected by NASA during the past 50 years of exploration. The second offering is called Experience Curiosity that allows viewers to journey along the Curiosity rover on its Martian expeditions. It simulates a 3-D version on Mars based on data from the rover and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

These are not the only tools that NASA has made available. A few months ago they also opened up a whole bunch of data to the public using free API access points so that people can consume the data and come up with innovative uses for the datasets. Their About Me section pretty much sums up what they are expecting to achieve with this site so I am just going to quote it instead of trying to think of sometime impressive to say:

We have a new Open Innovation team to continue NASA’s efforts to meet the White House mandate to set our data free – in a format that is useful for you. In doing so, we hope to spark your creative juices and equip you with tools to innovate your world – whether local, global, or interstellar – leveraging our digital assets. We may not be able to offer you the ride-of-your-life on a spaceship (at least for now), but we can certainly work together to solve looming challenges here on Earth – using NASA data, tools, and resources.

If you think you have an interesting application for the data then check out NASA’s data portal and the list of API’s they have made available.

Source: New Online Exploring Tools Bring NASA’s Journey to Mars to New Generation

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