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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Joy of Life: Volume 1 Chapter 3

Volume One: The City by the Sea
-- written by Maoni

Chapter 3: Training and Schooling

Fan Xian had no idea that he was training in a very profound inner energy manuscript. Any normal martial art student would have trained with the utter most scrupulousness and prudence; furthermore, he would undoubtedly ask his master or trustworthy friends to monitor alongside.
The most dangerous part of the manuscript was at the very beginning. When depositing energy into the Snow Mountain of the Dantian[1], the practitioner’s reaction time with respect to his body would become dramatically slower than his mind, and the direct result being that the practitioner would feel as though he had completely lost control of his body.
If the practitioner had no such prior experience, he would easily come to the conclusion that he was going through a fire deviation[2], and then forcefully retract the inner energy – if he were lucky, and if he were exceptionally good at controlling his inner energy flow, he could possibly direct the energy inside his body back into the various chi channels and meridians; but that would also mean the practice achieved nothing. For new learners, such panic could very likely lead to obstacles with one’s spirit and mind.
Being a new learner, the fact that Fan Xian didn’t end up with fire deviation, yet even had a better understanding of the profound experience than those advanced practitioners must be attributed to his life experience and luck.
When he started to train in the nameless inner energy, he lived inside the body of an infant, which had not returned most of the congenital energy inherited from the mother’s womb back to the outside world. With this inside his body, he could get twice the result with half the effort. Additionally, most of the congenital energy actually ended up stored inside his chi channels and meridians magically.
The most common problem of obstacles in spirit and mind for practitioners didn’t cause many problems for Fan Xian.
In his prior life, Fan Xian lived in a sickbed for several years and was already accustomed to not being able to control his body with his mind. When he had the similar feeling, he didn’t panic. Instead, he actually felt slight joy and warmth for being able to find some of the remnant memories.
When he trained for the first time, even though he felt as though the energy streams inside him seemed chaotic and he felt his mind was disconnected from his body, he wasn’t afraid at all. Because there was no interference from fear, his mind was clear and focused. He overcame the most difficult barrier with ease.
Ever since then, training became easy. All he had to do was to recite the scripts inside his head, and then he would naturally enter a state of trance – that was why each day’s nap time for Fan Xian was a very pleasant experience, and why it was so hard to wake him up.
For an ordinary inner energy practitioner, entering into a state of meditation trance would have required good luck together with special circumstances. Using everyday’s nap in place of meditation was indeed a luxury no one could have imagined.
God certainly had special favor for this kid.
Once he was awake, Fan Xian would roll his delicate and lovely little face swiftly in the warm towel in the servant girl’s hands, which counted as a face wash. Then in the afternoon, it was time to take lessons in the study from the literature teacher, who was respectably invited by the Count’s Manor from the East-Sea County. The teacher wasn’t very old, roughly in his thirties, yet carried the distinct flavor of a pedantic scholar.
A literature improvement movement had being going on in the Qing Empire for the last ten years, initiated by an article calling for improvement in literary works written by the Minister of the Literature Cabinet, Mister Hu. Today’s world of literary was filled with battles between the ancient prose style and the modern text style.
The ancient prose style was identical to the Classical Chinese style[3] in Fan Xian’s memory. The modern text style was similar to Vernacular Chinese style[4], only with more elegant wording.
Fan Xian’s teacher was a fan of the ancient prose style, so Fan Xian’s curriculum included many classic scriptures. Although these scriptures were not the same as the Four Books and the Five Classics[5], interestingly, the contents and ideas weren’t that different, and also had the separation of Confucianism, Mohist School, Legalists, and Taoism.
As a result, during the first lesson, Fan Xian became very suspicious about where he really was.
It was a very hot and muggy summer day. The study was also hot and humid. The teacher pushed open the south-facing window, and immediately the singing of cicadas entered the room together with the cooling breeze. Turning around, the teacher found his little pupil bending over the desk staring blankly. He was just about to reprimand him when he suddenly caught sight of that innocent little face, which touched a soft spot in his heart.
The teacher actually took pleasure in the little pupil of his. At such a young age, the kid was able to speak orderly, and even comprehend somewhat the sublime words with deep meaning in the scriptures. It was really no easy task for a mere four-year-old.
The teacher also had doubts himself. Why was the Count of Southernland so anxious and had such high demands in the invitation letter to him? Because of such high pressure, he had no choice but to teach the four-year-old books of scripture. If it had been a normal family, kids at this age would have been learning just characters and memorizing some beginning literature.
When the lesson was over, Fan Xian saluted the teacher in good manners, and then waited respectfully until the teacher left the study. Then stripping off the sweat-soaked robe, he ran out of the study, as the servant girl followed hurriedly while calling out for him to be careful.
As soon as he entered the main courtyard, Fan Xian stopped running. Putting out the most innocent smile on his face, he strolled inside, and as soon as he saw the Old Madam sitting in the middle of the hall, he called out in his baby voice, “Grandma!”
The Old Madam’s face was kind and affable, and the deep wrinkles were clear marks of the many passing years. Only the occasional shine in her eyes would briefly reveal her shrewdness and the fact that she was not just a simple woman – it was said that the Count of Southernland would not have been able to achieve his fame and power without the Old Madam’s connections in the Capital City.
“What have you learned today?”
Fan Xian stood obediently in front of the Old Madam’s chair and described what the teacher had taught him that day. Then after a respectful salute, he headed toward the side hall to have dinner together with his younger sister.
The Old Madam and her grandson didn’t seem to be very close to each other. Maybe it was because Fan Xian was only a baseborn son, though the Old Madam didn’t mistreat him. She always had high demands for him, which naturally resulted in the estrangement.
Fan Xian could still remember that when he had been only one year old, the Old Madam had once held him tightly in her arms late at night and wept dearly. The Old Madam, of course, did not think a one year old infant would understand her words, or even remember them.
“Kid, if you have to blame, then blame your father. You poor little thing! Losing your mother right after you came to this world.”
What kind of family did he belong to? That was the biggest question occupying Fan Xian’s mind. He had already experienced an assassination right after he came to this world. Even though he already knew his father was a high-ranking official in the Capital City, the Count of Southernland, who he had never met in person, but who was his mother? At the time of the assassination, the Count of Southernland was still at His Majesty’s service in the conquering army. Those assassins certainly had targeted his mother directly.
Since the soul inside his body really belonged to another world, he obviously didn’t think much of the father-son relation between him and the never-met Count of Southernland. Only occasionally, he would think of that woman who had already left this world, the woman who he should have called mother.

[1] Dantian literally means "cinnabar or red field" and is loosely translated as "elixir field". It is described as an important focal point for internal meditative techniques and refers specifically to the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen (about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel).
[2] Improper training in inner energy that normally causes severe injury to self in the forms of paralysis and damage to internal chi channels and meridians. 
[3] With the characteristics of using very short verses and very uncommon characters to express very rich meanings in order to demonstrate the author’s intellectual and language capabilities. This type of literature can only be understood by well-educated scholars. However, sometimes the extreme brevity creates bifurcation and no one is sure what the original author really wanted to say.
[4] Using verses and words that are closer to the real world language, which are easier for common people to understand.
[5] The Four Books (The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Confucian Analects, and The Works of Mencius) and The Five Classics (The Book of Songs, The Book of History, The Book of Changes, The Book of Rites, and The Spring and Autumn Annals) are required readings for Confucian scholars starting from the Southern Song Dynasty.

Now support the author Maoni by clicking this link, and support the translator Lanny by following my blog! :)

Picture of the Day: (Really slides)

Photo Credits: Sean Gallather

Friday, January 30, 2009

Robot of the Day: Ikhana, another Predetor UAV used by NASA to support fire-fighting

In my previous posts, I shows the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Predator B Reaper UAVs. I feel obligated, especially after the previous post talking about my opinion on using military technology for civilian use, to introduce you another Predator UAV used exclusively for scientific data collection and fire-fighting support: The NASA Ikhana Unmanned Science and Research Aircraft System

The name Ikhana is a native American word that means "intelligence". It is really just a MQ-9 Predator B Reaper, except the payload does not include missiles or bombs, but scientific equipments (mostly additional sensors, such as thermal sensors) used to help see through heavy smokes from wild fires. Instead of killing people, the Predator UAV is used to save lives, lives of firefighters or local residents affected by wild fires.

Talking about fire-fighting, there were two big fires, the "Station Fire" and the "Guiberson Fire", near Los Angeles in the last California fire season. These two fires were very close to local residence and damaged and threatened many houses and properties. Ikhana was used for data collection in the Station Fire. Although the Ikhana UAV was not used in the Guiberson fire, I was fortunately enough to be part of a NASA team (as a continuation of my summer internship with NASA) and actually flew to LA and participated the fire-fighting, working on another NASA project in support of the fire fighters to better collect information. This project is called GeoCam, and it is the topic of another blog post in the near future.

Picture of the Day:

Here's me videotaping a user from the US Forest Service using an android phone (running our GeoCam client software) to take picture of a live fire at the Guiberson Fire, and he took a picture of me instead. The other person in the picture is the technical manager of the project, a NASA scientist.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

AI and Robots: Rise of the Machines -- Robotics Professors Discussing AI

Yes, they are coming, the robots and the intelligent machines, into every aspect of our lives. Is this good or bad? Are we understanding humanity better during the process? Or are we really digging our own graves?

Why are people so fascinated by robots? (I know my answer: I want build a robot that do all my work! :) Why do humans have such a dystopian view of the future where robots are concerned? These are some of the questions asked in an interview with Noel Sharkey,a Robotics and Artificial Intelligence professor at University of Sheffield, UK. When asked when the first mass produced robots will have a serious impact on society? Dr. Sharkey expressed his concerns about the advances of military robots. (Remember the Predator, Reaper robots we talked about recently?)

Every roboticists and AI researchers in the US know that the majority of the research in this field are driven by military funding and initiatives. The biggest one of them all is DARPA -- standing for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Many of you might not be aware that the Internet actually was created in a research program of ARPA (the earlier name for DARPA). As a matter of fact, part of my research is funded by the Army Research Lab. After all, there's not much different between Search and Rescue and Seek and Destroy.

I, and I believe a great number of other researchers, are strong believers of Azimov's Three Laws of Robotics, especially the first half of the first one:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Other other hand, I also must admit that the military driving force drove the advancement of technology, which benefits the entire human race. Just to name a few: the Internet, Satellites, cell networks. Therefore, the stance I take on this issue is that robotics and AI technologies developed for military purposes can also be used for normal people, and I shall work very hard to help make that into reality.

So how do we make sure we don't create the Terminator Scenario? Some people believe we should upgrade ourselves and turn ourselves into cyborgs (half human and half machine), so we still dominate the world, instead of robots. A robotics researcher friend of mine at NASA Ames (no mentioning names) holds this view, and a Robotics and Artificial Intelligence professor at the University of Redding, UK, is another strong believer.

My guess is that robots will become more capable and intelligent, and humans will also become more capable with wearable devices or implanted devices. There are already robotic suits enabling wearers to carry weights far exceeding human capabilities, and there are also robotic hands that connect directly to nerves in people's arms controllable by human brain. I am SERIOUSLY not joking about these things, and you'll reading more about them in my future blog posts (specifically under the Robot of the Day label).

Whether to rely on robots or becoming a cyborg is your own choice, but the time that you have to make that choice might not be very far in the future. There's at least one thing clear: We live in a very exciting era of the world, and we should enjoy it!!

Picture of the Day:

I actually have not seen this movie. Is it good?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

AI and Robots: Insurgents "Hack" U.S. Drones

The Predator series of unmanned drones have been great weapons for the US government to fight terrorists and insurgents (see my previous posts). The US Department of Defense actually plans to replace one-third of military planes with unmanned drones. Any sensible person would have agreed that these unmanned drones are very sophisticated and advanced technologies highly classified because of the military and intelligence associations. However, on December 17, 2009, an article on Wall Street Journal reviewed that:
Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
WHAT???!!! When I first heard this on the NPR radio, I was on my way home, and I almost swerved off the road at this shocking news! This is unbelievable! I know the video downlink from our research UAVs are not encrypted, which means anyone with an antenna, a comm box, and a video capturing software could download video feeds from our planes. But come on! We are talking about 12 million dollars drones used by the U.S. Air Force and the CIA to fight real wars! Haven't they ever heard of the word "Encryption"? Even my neighbors' wireless networks are encrypted and cannot be accessed without a password. This is simply beyond my pithy understanding! The article used the word "hack" in the title. Did the insurgents really had to hack? The door was wide-open.

Imagine a bored terrorist pulling his laptop out to kill some free time by watching some real-time war clips, then he sees his terrorist friend's bunker in the live video feed, so he calls his friend and says, "Start your SkyGrabber program, man, I think that's your bunker!"
U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.

According to Dan Verton, a cyberterrorism expert, "we thought that this particular enemy was either incapable or not interested in learning how to do this...we've always been wrong on both accounts!" This is simply amazing! Didn't we know there's the Internet, and you can find tutorials for anything you want? Amazing!

"It is part of their kit now."

That's got to be the best line of the story! Especially at the thought that maybe they didn't even have to buy multiple copies and simply used pirated copies.

What's the merit of the story? Human stupidity is far more powerful than machine intelligence! As a matter of fact, I'll make that my Tao of the Day!

Human stupidity is far more powerful than machine intelligence!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Robot of the Day: MQ-9 Reaper

Since I am really in this UAV mood, let's talk about another UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) today.

The MQ-9 Predator B Reaper is a scaled up version of the MQ-1 Predator UAV we discussed in the previous post. It is also designed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, only larger, faster, more powerful, and much, much more deadly!

Picture credit: U.S. Air Force

Reaper was designed to be a hunter-killer, hence the name. It has a wingspan of 66 feet (20.12m), can fly at an impressive 300 miles per hour, and can stay in the air for up to 30 hours. The Reaper UAV is still powered by propellers at the rear end of the plane. It can carry 3800 lb of weapons. For example, it can carry 14 Hellfire missiles or other weapons such as the 500-pound, laser-guided bombs shown in the picture above. The U.S. Air Force was activated to operate the MQ-9 Reaper UAVs on May 1, 2007.

Fully loaded Reaper!

Looks like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection also upgraded their UAVs to the Predator B Reapers!

Picture of the Day:

Disclaimer: This is not my house. Read the story below!


"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after two days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn’t realize that it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of the many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn’t take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Robot of the Day: MQ-1 Predator

The MQ-1 Predator is probably the most famous UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) of all times. It was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the USAF (U.S. Air Force) and the CIA.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

The MQ-1 Predator UAV has a wingspan of 47.8 ft (14.8m), can fly a maximum of 135 miles per hour, and can stay in the air for 14 hours. The cost for an early production was around $3.2 million.

Initially it was only a reconnaissance system allowing the remote operators to acquire aerial video in real-time. After the CIA deployed the Predator UAVs to Afghanistan, they expressed strong desire to add the capability of firing Hellfire missiles from Predator UAVs to kill terrorists. So it was done. On February 4, 2002, a CIA Predator attacked a convoy of sports utility vehicles, killing a suspected al Qaeda leader who the CIA thought were Osama Bin Laden.

The Predator UAV requires a satellite link and is operated by two pilots (most likely in a military base in Nevada) sitting in front of cockpit like devices. The control of the UAV falls under the tele-operation category because most decisions are made by human operators.

The first video below showcases the capabilities of the MQ-1 Predator to quickly track down a moving vehicle (note that it is much easier to tracking a lone moving car in a desert compared to tracking down the same car, say, in LA traffic). The second video shows firing of the missiles.

An unknown number of Predator UAVs are also used by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. I would guess these Predators don't shoot missiles at illegal aliens.

Picture of the Day:

Residents in Norway were stunned by the beautiful yet mysterious light show. Turned out it was caused by the malfunction of a Russian missile test. Follow this link to read more.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 3

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones

Chapter 3 He is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky

The Bell-Tower Street in the Riverwest State Capital City of the Eastwood Grand District doesn’t have a real Bell-Tower. It acquired such an old-fashioned name because when the Federation Troops were first stationed on Eastwood Planet, they made a retarded and heartbreaking mistake – incorrect gravity estimation.
This is where the battleship crashed. The fireworks-like display of smoke and explosions reflected on the many servicemen’s faces, making the faces turn into colorful displays of red, blue, white and black. That was when the Fourth Military District Commander said that famous quote with a heavy sigh:
“My heart at this moment is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky.”
The big antique bell-tower clock brought along by the Fourth Military District Commander fell out of the battleship wreckage amidst the splendors of the fireworks and crashed hard onto the surface of the mine planet. The battleship was completely destroyed, but the big clock somehow survived the crash and remained functioning. This was undoubtedly the most heartless ridicule to the abilities of the Federation Government and Federation Military.
The following outcomes proved that the Fourth Military District Commander’s poetic comment was not very far off – the Federation Administrative Committee was furious about the accident, extremely furious. They demanded a full district-wise investigation, dismissed many military officers, and also ordered then to leave that still-running big clock where it was, as a reminder for all government workers. That Fourth Military District Commander was also reassigned to the remote frontier border of the Westwood Grand District, where he spent the rest of his life in loneliness down and out.
Many years went by. That big bell-tower clock had long perished from the frequent acid rains and ended up in a waste station at some unknown location. The name Bell-Tower Street, however, lived on.
Today’s Bell-Tower Street had neither fireworks, nor loneliness. It was actually quite different from the normal days, filled with angry but also laughable chanting. Tattered slogan banners drifted up and down in the crowd. Excited Eastwood residents hyped-up from drinking too much coffee joined in the crowd, and testy drunkards from drinking too much liquor also joined in. Immediately, the police force working hard at maintaining order became overwhelmed, and the chaotic scene began to develop into an absurd drama.
Bao Longtao stood behind the blockade line with a stone-cold face. He had no worries about the possibility of the Eastwood residents breaking through. Although the Eastwooders had been bored for so long and became overly excited at the perfect opportunity to vent their emotional stress, although the blockade line was only made of thin, yellow tape … the Federation was a society of law and order. Everyone knew what could be challenged and what could not.
What really bothered Deputy Chief Bao was that earlier thought. The time these goddamned orphans chose to show up was just perfect, and the reason they picked for the protest also appeared to be too lovable. As soon as the news media got involved, even the Governor’s Office couldn’t really do anything to the orphans. All and all, behind the chaos, there seemed to be some hidden order. And that feeling set off an alarm inside him.
“Jian Shui-Er!”
“We want to watch Jian Shui-Er!”
The chanting of protest continued. Those young, tender voices had become hoarse, but that did not dampen the exultation and excitement.
Bao Longtao had made the decision to inform the Governor’s Office at the very beginning, requesting expert negotiators from higher-up federal departments, instead of executing a strong oppression – partly because of the presence of reporters, and partly because it was really the State Government who was in the wrong this time; finally, his cautious nature also played an important role.
Not long after, officials from the Governor’s Office, the Federal Telecommunication Committee, and the Public Relations Office of the State Police Department all arrived, rushed to the center of the Bell-Tower Street parade, and attempted to persuade the Eastwood residents to call it off. However, regardless of the excuses they used, they could not explain why that light-purple haired figure was still missing from the local television screens.
No official would admit that the stupid decision to protect the local Production Department of the Riverwest State TV Station actually came from themselves. All attributed the problem to technical difficulties. As the negotiation continued, more and more orphans stealthily slipped into the crowd and disappeared under Bao Longtao’s sulky stare.
Not long after the leader boy Brother Wei led those unbending orphans and vanished into the crowds, the entire Bell-Tower Street erupted into a joyous cheer!
The joyous cheer marked the end of the negotiation, and with a beep, the ultra-thin scroll-screen television in the coffee shop was turned back on. The entire Bell-Tower Street quickly quieted down. Numerous police officers finally had the chance to wipe the cold sweat off their foreheads, while the female reporter curled the corners of her lips upward triumphantly and the many officials cursed secretly at the stupid and integrity-lacking Governor.
At exactly eight-thirty in the evening, Channel 23, together with the pretty face of Jian Shui-Er, returned to the Capital City of the Riverwest State, and the whole planet joined in the jubilation.
The night sky of Eastwood always looked eerie. The dark-grey sky with a constant diffusing dark-red glow looked similar to the Hell’s Gate described in many cleric’s books. Though for residents of the planet, this was a scene they had watched for many years, a scene they got used to that deserved no more attention.
The sky lacked clusters of stars. The only few sparkled stubbornly, as though they couldn’t resign themselves to the fact that the stone-like Eastwooders simply ignored the star rays they worked so diligently to spread over the planet.
Two silhouetted figures snuck through the shadows under the streetlights, one big and one small. They skillfully avoided the security cameras along the way and slipped through a small alley by the Bell-Tower Street, until they saw a big green tree in front of them.
The big green tree sat on a small green hill. There was no light around. With the distant night sky as the background, the picture looked almost like an exquisite paper-cut art piece.
In the middle of the picture someone sat under the big green tree. The outline was that of a youngster. He sat cross-legged, and the object he placed on his knees shone with a faint glow, making his silhouette appear even lonelier.
“Why is Brother Le always … always alone all by himself?” The smaller figure out of the two murmured slowly. His voice was still hoarse from the thousands of times of chanting the words “Jian Shui-Er” earlier that afternoon.
The other figure was obviously the leader boy Brother Wei. Gazing at the lonely view of the boy under the big green tree, he couldn’t help but gasp in admiration.
“He is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky….”
That famous saying of the Fourth Military District Commander many years ago had become a well-known and unforgettable quote for all the residents of the Eastwood District, so well-known that even someone as ignorant as Brother Wei knew how to use it.
Brother Wei and the younger boy ran up the green hill. As they got near that lonely back view, they suddenly noticed that the shoulders of the boy were twitching as though he was weeping silently.
Brother Wei’s face turned pale. He walked next to the boy and asked.
“Xu Le, what’s the matter?”
The lonely boy did not raise his head. Still fixing his gaze on the portable ultra-thin TV on his knees, he stared at the purple-haired girl on the screen. The faint light from the screen illuminated his face as tears streamed down his cheeks.
After a long while, when the ending music of the episode started in the quiet night, the boy named Xu Le finally looked up. Narrowing the pair of honest and sincere eyes, he wiped off the tear drops on his face and the drool by his lips and declared in a most earnest tone.
“Jian Shui-Er … is so absolutely… gorgeous! One day … I’ll certainly and positively … make her my bride!”

Now support the author Maoni by clicking this link, and support the translator Lanny by following my blog! :)

Picture of the Day:

Don't tease a crocodile! (This is real, not PS)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Paper Review: A Comparison of Event Models for Naive Bayes Text Classi cation

This paper is written by Andrew McCallum (Just Research) and Kamal Nigam (Carnegie Mellon University) and published at an AAAI-98 workshop on learning for text categorization. This is a seminal paper cited by 1426 papers according to Google Scholar!

Two text classification approaches, the multi-variate Bernoulli model and the multinomial model, both use the naïve Bayes assumption. This paper tries to differentiate the two models and compare their performances empirically on five text corpora.

In text classification, a naïve Bayes classifier assumes that the probability of each word occurring in a document is independent of the occurrence of other words in the document and is independent of the word’s context and position in the document. This assumption simplifies learning dramatically when the number of attributes (features) is large. Both approaches use training data to calculate estimates of the generative model and then uses Bayes’ rule to calculate the posterior probability of each class given the evidence of the test document. Then the class most probable is selected.

One major difference between these two approaches is that the multi-variate Bernoulli model doesn’t care about word frequency in documents, while the multinomial model does. Another difference is that the multi-variate Bernoulli model explicitly includes the non-occurrence probability words that do not appear in the document.

When selecting features, in order to reduce vocabulary size, only words that have the highest average mutual information with the class variable are kept. Average mutual information is the difference between the entropy of the class variable and the entropy of the class variable conditioned on the absence or presence of the word.

Five text corpora are used and they are Yahoo! ‘Science’ hierarchy, Industry Sector, Newsgroups, WebKB, and Reuters. Empirical results show that the multi-variate Bernoulli model works well with small vocabulary sizes, but the multinomial model performs better at larger vocabulary sizes. The multinomial model produced on average a 27% reduction in error over the multi-variate Bernoulli model at any vocabulary size.

The boringness of a paper is inverse proportional to the amount of time it takes to put the reader to sleep.

Video of the Day:

You have to watch past 0:40 to really appreciate it! It's an LCD!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Random Thoughts: Y2K all over again in 2010

Many of you probably still have some vague memories about the Y2K bug. Come on, it was only 10 years ago. Many people thought it was going to be the end of the world for all computers; catastrophes caused by failing computers were going to happen everywhere; people were going to be killed!

So what happened? Nothing major really? A little glitch here and there, but people kept living their normal life. Why such a big hype before, but so quite afterward? It was because many programmers and engineers paid great attention to the Y2K bug and worked diligently before the millennium passing to make sure things went okay. I could clearly remember where I celebrated the new millennium at -- next to my servers at work, to make sure nothing fails when time went pass 0:00am on 1/1/00.

So what was really the Y2K bug. In simple words, a lot of programs only use two digits to store year and assumes the first two digits of the year will always be 19. that means after the last two digits turned from 99 to 00, the first two digits remained the same, resulting in 1900.

Interestingly enough, when everyone's clock went from 11:59pm 12/31/2009 to 12:00am 1/1/2010, a bug similar to the Y2K bug hit the world (especially Europe) and caused all kinds of havoc:
  • ATMs and point of sale machines rejected debit cards of 30 million people in Germany since New Year's Day
  • Similar problem occurred in Australia where point of sale machines skipped ahead to 2016 rather than 2010
  • Symantec's software (anti-virus, anti-spam, etc.) treated all new updates from the company as old data and refused to update
  • Some users of mobile phones also reported that they started to receive messages dated in the future: 2016
  • Palm had to release a new version of the operating system so their customers' Palm Pre phones would continue to sync and the calendar program would continue to function
I feel really sorry for the many Germans who got stranded at ski resorts because they had no way of paying hotel and restaurant bills. Many people also had to stay in long lines to withdraw cash from the counter. This really goes against the holiday spirit! But who is here to blame for this Y2010 crisis?

A French (credit) card manufacture, Gemaltao, had admitted that the problem was because of a programming failure, which affected chips on credit cards and debit cards. The estimated damage is over €300m.

So how could a software bug cause 2010 to turn into 2016? My guess would be that the programmer used a hexadecimal data type instead of the decimal data type for the last two digits of the year field. Let me explain here.

For decimal numbers, each additional digit would mean 10 units of the previous digit. For example:

10 = 1 x 10 + 0
15 = 1 x 10 + 5
123 = 1 x 10 x 10 + 2 x 10 + 3

For hexadecimal numbers, each additional digit would mean 16 units of the previous digit. Therefore, the same representations in the previous examples would mean very different numbers in decimal:

Hex 10 = Decimal 1 x 16 + 0 = Decimal 16
Hex 15 = Decimal 1 x 16 + 5 = Decimal 21
Hex 123 = Decimal 1 x 16 x 16 + 2 x 16 + 3 = Decimal 291

If you look at the first example closely, you'll see that year 10 in hexadecimal turned into year 16 in decimal. This also means the program at fault still only used two digits to represent the year field (probably assuming 20 for the first two digits to save memory), but used the wrong data type.

The other merit of the story is that when people are relying on technology more and more nowadays, what consequences do we face if some key technologies fail? We can only do so much to anticipate certain failures (such as the Y2K bug), and when failure strikes, we suffer.

To think further, what if the failure were caused intentionally by criminals? I don't see them taking over the world easily, but they can certainly cause a lot of damage (disruption of power grid comes to mind). How can we get ready to deal with this kind of challenges? I guess that is an open question still waiting to be answered...

"Always code as if the person who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." -- Martin Golding

Picture of the Day:

Look at all those people stranded at the Austrian ski resort!! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Joy of Life: Volume 1 Chapter 2

Volume One: The City by the Sea
-- written by Maoni

Chapter 2: The Nameless Yellow Book

As far as Fan Xian was concerned, maybe the only benefit of a second life was that he could freely move his limbs. He could run and jump all he wanted now. That was indeed a very gratifying feeling. It would probably be very difficult for people who had not suffered from the same kind of illness to truly appreciate the joy.
“This must be a blessing from Heaven,” he comforted himself.
It took him all four years to finally comprehend it and accept the fact. Now that he had the opportunity to live again, why not make it a good one? Since God was so kind to bestow upon him a brand new life, just for consideration of God’s feelings, he should live it sincerely. For instance, since he could move now, why not move some more?
 Therefore, all the servants of the Count’s Manor soon learned that this baseborn Young Master was not the idling type[1].
“Young Master, come down please! I beg of you!”
At the moment, Fan Xian was sitting at the very top of the rockwork hill in the courtyard, staring at the ocean horizon in the far distance, smiling.
In the eyes of the servant girl, the fact that a four-year-old would climb that high together with such a mature smile on his face clearly indicated that the little fellow had gone completely mad.
The crowd by the foot of the rockwork hill gradually grew in size and soon there were seven or eight servants surrounding the rockwork hill worried sick.
Although the Count of Southernland was in His Majesty’s favor, neither his rank of nobility nor the post he held was of great importance. Naturally the income wouldn’t be very impressive. Even if there was quite a bit of income, the majority of the money wouldn’t be spent on his mother and a baseborn son. Therefore, the Count’s Manor didn’t have many servants.
Seeing the worried faces of the people at the foot of the rockwork hill, Fan Xian let out a sigh and eventually climbed down.
“I am just doing a little bit exercise. What’s there to worry about?”
The servants obviously had grown accustomed to the Young Master’s odd habit of speaking in an adult’s tongue. Wasting no time, they quickly grabbed him and sent him into the bathtub.
After Fan Xian had been thoroughly cleaned from head to toe, he was soon picked up by a servant girl. Holding the Young Master in her arms, the girl caressed his face, grinning jokingly.
“Young Master is as pretty as a girl. I wonder which little miss will be so fortunate to be your bride when you grow up.”
Fan Xian didn’t reply and kept a stupid look. He didn’t want to flirt with a teenage girl through the tongue of a four-year-old kid. He would never consider such a tasteless act – he’d rather wait till at least six before taking on such grand challenges.
“Time for your nap, my little boss!” The servant girl smacked the little kid gently on the behind.
For the servants, it was always beyond their understanding why the Young Master of the Count’s Manor, who had began to demonstrate clear signs of naughtiness and disobedience despite his young age, would display the kind of self-discipline and assiduity only shown from grown-ups when it came to certain things: for example, taking naps.
For anyone who had a normal childhood, it would probably be difficult to forget in the old days how great battles were fought against those big devils who forced them to take naps in the beautiful and enchanting sunshine of the early afternoon.
Among those devils, some were called Dads, others were called Moms, and some were even called Teachers.
Young Master Fan Xian never exhibited the need for anyone to force him into a nap. Every day by noon, he would put on the most lovely and innocent smile and submissively go back to his bedroom to take a nap. He also wouldn’t make any noise during the nap.
At first the Old Madam had great doubts, and even assigned servant girls to monitor the kid, thinking he was just pretending to be taking a nap and would make some kind of trouble in bed instead. For the next half a year, their close monitoring only revealed that the kid was truly sleeping very soundly. So soundly that it proved to be quite difficult to wake him up.
Ever since then, the servant girls never paid more attention, and only kept their watch outside while the Young Master took his naps.
It was the summer time. Naturally, the servant girls were quite weary. Leaning slightly, they swayed the fans in their hands occasionally, as small flying insects danced swiftly in the breeze.
After returning to the bedroom, Fan Xian climbed into bed. Lifting up the bamboo matting on top, he gingerly pulled out a book from the secret casing he hollowed out himself.
The cover of the book appeared slightly yellowish, as though it was quite aged. There was nothing on the cover, not a single character, other than a few silk fabric patterns embroidered onto the edge and the corners. It was unclear whether these patterns really meant anything, except that the end stroke of each pattern curled up, like clouds flowing in the wind or the large and loose sleeve corner of ancient robes.
He opened the book gently and turned to page seven. It was the drawing of a naked male figure whose body was covered by some vaguely seen red lines. Whatever paint was used to draw these lines, it must have been special, because it seemed to have created this visual illusion that the lines were slowly flowing toward a certain direction.
Fan Shen[2] heaved a sigh. With the look of a mere four-year-old, he dared not reveal his true self. Luckily he had this book to help him kill some of the boring time.
The book had been left for him by that blind youngster named Five-Bamboo, when he was still an infant.
Fan Shen always remembered that blind youngster, the servant of his mother in this world.
Many years back when he had found himself trapped inside the infant’s body, the youngster held him in his arms. During the journey all the way from the Capital City to this port by the sea, the blind youngster probably thought that he wouldn’t remember anything for his young age, however, the soul of Fan Shen was not that of an ignorant infant. Along the journey, he could clearly sense the sincere consideration for the little baby coming directly from the blind youngster’s heart. There was no pretending.
For whatever reason, the blind youngster left right away as soon as he escorted the baby to the Manor of the Count of Southernland, despite the Old Madam’s strong urging for him to stay. Before his departure, he had placed the book right next to the little baby.
This had troubled Fan Shen for quite a while. Shouldn’t this servant be worried about the possibility of him starting to practice things out of the book blindly? But soon he thought of the answer. Being a young kid, there was no way for him to recognize the writings in the book. Then of course such a problem wouldn’t have existed.
Fan Shen happened to know the characters of this world, and after such a dramatic reincarnation, he’d have no problem believing in things such as ghosts or celestial beings. He had no doubt that this book, which looked very much like a prop in a Hong Kong TVB TV series, contained the secret methods of developing some sort of inner energy.
Too bad the book didn’t have a name. Otherwise, he could have asked those kids on the street about it and find out whether this type of inner energy was any good.
Fan Shen couldn’t help but giggle when he reflected on these thoughts. Since God gave him the opportunity of a second life, he’d better cherish it. A manuscript for inner energy was something great that he didn’t have in his own world. Even if this nameless manuscript was no good, it didn’t stop him from practicing it ever since he was one year old.
One can’t really start any earlier than that unless someone starts training as a fetus still inside their mother’s womb.
There was absolutely no one else in this world, including those few Supreme Grand Masters who were pretty much regarded as deity beings by the common people, no matter what kind of geniuses they were, who could have started developing inner energy almost right after birth like Fan Shen did.
“How do you call this? This is called the early bird gets the worm. It’s also called the slow walker needs a head start. Besides, I am no dumber than those who are just starting their training,” Fan Shen thought to himself.
He could already feel a stream of inner energy slowly circulating around his body following the lines shown in the book. That was a very relaxing feeling, as though a warm stream of water was rinsing every inch of his inner organs.
Gradually, his mind went into a trance, and soon he fell asleep comfortably in bed.

[1] Remember, “Xian” means leisure, idle and unoccupied.
[2] I guess the author used the original name here because he wanted to emphasize that the main character felt more like being himself when he didn’t have to pretend to be the young kid.

Now support the author Maoni by clicking this link, and support the translator Lanny by following my blog! :)

Lanny's Law of Success: Efficiency improves exponentially as deadlines approaches.

Corollary: To improve efficiency, set more deadlines.

Video of the Day: Kung Fu Baby!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Random Thoughts: Worst products of CES 2010

CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow where many latest technology innovation are revealed and exhibited, and this year's show is happening right now at Las Vegas.

I ran across an article in the Huffington Post listing some of the worst products of CES2010. I must confess that I am utterly amazed by the creativity and innovativity involved for some of the products selected. I'll show three of them here (also with embedded videos), and hopefully you'll enjoy them as much as I did! So here you go!

1. As Seen On TV Hat

Ever found yourself utterly bored from what you are doing and would rather watch your favorite movie instead? Now for only $19.95, there's a solution for you: A baseball hat that let's watch movies anywhere, anytime (as long as you are wearing the hat)! Now you can jog outside (a desert is recommended) while watching a movie; or you can hike that boring hiking trail and enjoying a thriller (stay away from the cliff, not that kind of a thriller); how about enjoying a comedy show while waiting for a deer to show up near your hiding spot in the hunting trip? The possibilities are limitless -- that is, if you don't mind looking a little bit, well, how to say it -- out of place!

(Photo Credit: Endadget)

2. Phubby Wrist Cubby

Ever felt sad, depressed, distressed, because you couldn't feel the vibration of your phone and miss important phone calls? Were you ever mad at yourself because you couldn't find your cell phone or ipod? Ever felt disgruntled because you missed your better half's call while playing soccer or football? No worries! For only $12.95, your problem is solved! You can now carry your phone (or your keys, or your wallet, or your change money) anywhere doing whatever!

(Disclaimer: you are solely responsible for whatever you carry in your Phubby if you decide to shower/bath or swim)

What's even better: you can put rocks there to strengthen your arm muscles. You can even carry your pet bird or turtle with you anywhere you go, and you can even feel their heartbeat (they won't suffocate because they can breath through the holes)! Well, on second thought, I don't know if you'll be able to feel the heartbeat of your pet turtle. To make it even better, you can pick your favorite color or pictures for a Phubby Hip Cubby to carry your concealed weapon! What are you waiting for! Go to and get yours!

(Photo Credit: The Huffington Post)

3. Android-powered Microwave

Ever craved for a machine that will let you browse the Internet for a picture of your favorite food, and then with a simple push of a button, cook it for you? Well, at least you can do the browsing part with this wonderful Microwave that runs Google's cell phone operating system: Android. Maybe this will help keep your better half stick around the kitchen area more often because she could browse all the wonderful recipes online? But wait? I am the one microwaving TV-dinner all the time. Where's Android-powered stove? Anyone saw that at CES2010?

(Photo Credit: UberGizmo)

If you want to read more about these uniquely interesting products exhibited at CES2010, see a slide show of them here. Or you can watch this video below, named "7 Weirdest, Wackiest Products From CES 2010", which covers some of them.

Video of the Day:

Since we are on the subject of CES2010. Here's a product people actually thought were very good: An undestructable hard drive that will withstand fire, water, drop, and a 35000 lb tractor. Here I present you: ioSafe!

Disclaimer: Criminals, don't use this hard drive!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Robot of the Day: UAVs at BYU

Since in the previous post I talked about a BYU UAV demo dry run, I thought it might be a good idea to present some of the UAVs we used at BYU for research purposes.

The research group WiSAR (stands for Wilderness Search and Rescue) at BYU consists of faculty and students from three research labs: The MAGICC lab (ME and EE departments), the HCMI lab (CS department), and the Computer Vision lab (CS department). The objective of the research group is to investigate and develop technologies to support wilderness search and rescuers with an Unmanned Aeriel Vehicle (UAV).

In the past, we have been using UAVs built by the MAGICC lab students. The UAV in the picture below is named Madre (meaning the mothership in Spanish) and was built by the MAGGIC lab. Madre retired in 2008 and simply sits on top of a closet in our lab for displaying purposes only.

Madre: UAV built by BYU MAGICC Lab

Some students in the WiSAR group graduated and then decided to license technologies from BYU and start a local company making UAVs. The company is named Procerus and has been quite successful. So later we simply bought a plane from them. The second picture below shows the current UAV we use. We just called it "The UAV" because we couldn't come up with a good name.

UAV built by Procerus. It doesn't have a name. We call it "The UAV".

The fix-wing UAVs we used in our research are small, light, and have wingspans of 42-50 in. Each weights about 2 lbs. They are propelled by standard electric motors powered by lithium batteries -- good for up to 2 hours in the air.

The sensors onboard include three-axis rate gyroscopes, three-axis accelerometers, static and differential barometric pressure sensors, a global positioning system module, and a video camera on a gimballed mount. A 900 MHz radio transceiver is used for data communication and an analog 2.4 GHz transmitter is used for video downlink. The autopilot was designed at BYU and built on a small microprocessor. It stabilize the aircraft's roll and pitch angles and attitude, and also flies a UAV to desired altitude or to a waypoint.

Each UAV has many autonomous capabilities. For example, it can auto-launch (all you have to do is to throw it into the air), auto-land (crash land after spiraling down), and if the UAV loses communication with the base, it will automatically return to base and loiter around. The video below shows the auto-launching and auto-landing capabilities of Madre.

The gimballed camera onboard the UAV provides bird's eye view of the area. Because the UAV can quickly get to hard-to-reach areas and cover lots of grounds quickly, the visual information it provides can help wilderness search and rescuers improve situation awareness and support in search of a missing or injured person. The next video shows the kind of video the operator can see from the ground. (You can skip to the end to see the crash landing.)

Maybe you have noticed from the previous video that video data from the UAV is not easy to use (jitters, disorientation, too fast, etc.). That's why our research group developed video mosaicing algorithms to piece video frames together to help with the search task. This method enables video frames to stay in sight much longer for the video observer, thus, improving detectability.

We have also developed other automation to assist with the search and rescue work. Examples include automatically suggesting likely places to find missing person, various automatic path planning for the UAV, anomaly detection algorithms, etc. Those will be discussed in a separate blog post in the future.

The video below is a compilation of some other capabilities of the UAV made by the MAGICC lab, including obstacle avoidance, multiple UAV formation flight, etc. Too bad the audio track was disabled, but you can leave the music running from the videos above and then watch it in rhythm. :) Note that at the beginning of the video, the UAV was launched from inside BYU campus. Of course, this is no longer allowed due to tighter FCC rules and regulations!

Picture of the Day:

People have always wanted to roam the sky freely like birds.
I don't, because I've got UAVs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Research: BYU UAV Demo Dry Run

Hi, everyone who reads my blog! Happy New Year to all of you. Wish you a very exciting and productive new year! (See picture of the day below!) I only have one New Year resolution this year -- that is, to catch up with the blog! :) That means I'll have to post at least two blog entries each day! So get ready for a flood of interesting (and hopefully insightful) postings. Also be prepared for the strange parallel time/space I'll be living in.

Note that I am starting a new track today called "My Research." Postings with this tag will talk about AI/Robotics research I am working on. Hope you find inspirations in these postings and comments are especially welcome for this track!

If you have not noticed, there's a section on the right side of my blog called "Blog Labels." This is a good way to filter out postings you might find interesting to you. For example, there's a label for each book I translate. The only drawback is that you'll have to read backwards. :) Also if you like my postings, please follow my blog (see right side). I am interested to see how many people really like my postings, and the more people liking my postings, the more motivated I will be! Okay, enough babbling, let's move on to the real fun stuff.


Part of my research is about how to use an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to support Wilderness Search and Rescue (which we refer to as WiSAR). On November 14, 2009, our research group performed a field dry run in Elberta, Utah (a place in the middle of nowhere) in preparation for an upcoming demo for the Utah County Search and Rescue people.

Utahans love outdoor activities because we are blessed with lots of beautiful mountains and wilderness. As a side effect, there's also a great demand for wilderness search and rescue because people get injured/lost/missing in the wilderness. The goal of our research group is to use UAV technologies to support wilderness search and rescue operations. Obviously, real-time video from a UAV with bird's eye view can provide useful information for the search and rescuers, especially for areas that are hard to reach quickly. The UAV can also cover an area much faster than search and rescuers on foot. Our research group has been working on this for several years and made good progress. However, the technologies will only be able to make a difference if the search and rescuers find them useful and start using them. That was the reason why we are eager to do a demo for the real search and rescuers. And the purpose of the dry run is to make sure all technology components are ready.

The previous day's weather forecast predicted snow in the next day. Sure enough, when I left home at 7:30am, the ground was covered by snow. Elberta is about one hour drive from BYU campus. Interestingly, weather got better and better as I drove, and by the time I arrived at Elberta at 9:00am, there was no snow!

Elberta, Utah, early morning!

For our research, we use a fix-wing propeller-powered model-plane kind of UAV shown in the picture below. We also have a nice trailer, which has a power generator, some mounted LCD monitors, a long table, and even a microwave!

Fix-wing UAV and its container

Outside look of the trailer (showing the power generator)

Inside view of the trailer

It took about 30 minutes to get everything set up. Meanwhile, an umbrella (marking the location of the missing person) had also been placed in a distance from the "command post." By 9:45am, we were ready to throw the plane into the air (literally, that's how we launch the UAV, because the UAV has built-in intelligence for auto-launching).

Ready? Launch!

Inside the trailer, we have two laptops running. One laptop is used to control the UAV with a program called Phairwell (don't ask me. I didn't pick the name), where the operator can set waypoints for the UAV to follow (or a flight pattern). The operator can also control the UAV's heading, speed, roll/pitch/yaw, height above ground, altitude, etc., etc. Another laptop is used to view video feed coming down from the UAV. It is worth mentioning that the video frames are actually mosaiced together so the video observer can view a larger area while each video frame stays on the screen for an extended time for the ease of searching.

Laptop running the UAV control software Phairwell

Laptop running video mosaicing software

Amazingly, the weather turned into something perfect! There's nothing more we could have asked!

Sunny Elberta! What a beautiful day!

The dry run was quite successful. We performed several flights and fixed a few glitches, especially with the auto landing control. The picture below shows how the UAV lands (yes, it's a crash landing). The picture was actually taken from a previous field trial because it is quite difficult to try to keep the UAV in the camera frame.

UAV auto-landing

At 11:30am, just when we were ready to enjoy our lunch (subway sandwiches) after a successful dry run, guess what, it started to snow!!


We ended up packing everything first, and then had our lunch inside the trailer (aren't we glad there is a microwave in the trailer!). There's me packing in the snow in the picture below. Don't ask me why those other two were doing synchronized penguin walk in the background, cause I don't know!

That's it! We were fortunate enough to have a window of nice weather (against the weather forecast prediction) for the dry run, and we were ready for the demo!!

See the complete gallery for the dry run
Download geo-tagged photos for Google Earth view (double click the kml file)

Picture of the Day:

Wish you all a very exciting New Year! Hee-Ha!