Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crowdsourcing Money: Images vs Video?

Following up on Giordano's crowdsourcing numbers post, which in turn follows up on my previous crowdsourcing corpora post is a recent Optimizely post on crowdsourcing money. The post includes a comparison of button label text and the effect of using images versus videos for a splash page for the political fundraising efforts of Obama.

(image via: wikipedia: Obama Steelers.jpg)

Details and politics aside, it is remarkable to consider the crowdsourcing of money as an experimental undertaking. Not only that but an undertaking based on a full-factorial multivariate design. As for images versus videos? The authors found:

Before we ran the experiment, the campaign staff heavily favored "Sam's Video" (the last one in the slideshow shown above). Had we not run this experiment, we would have very likely used that video on the splash page. That would have been a huge mistake since it turns out that all of the videos did worse than all of the images.

Which I think also points to the scalability of keeping things simple.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Crowdsourcing numbers

www.trackyourhappiness.orgWhen we want to perform experiments with a large number of subjects we resort to crowdsourcing. For his color naming experiment, Nathan Moroney uses the Web. An alternative approach is to write a smartphone application that periodically prods the owner for data.

Often researchers hide the size of their data. Recently Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert have published a paper in which they reveal how much data they were able to collect with a smartphone app. Over an undisclosed time interval, they collected almost 250,000 responses from about 5000 subjects from 83 countries, ranging from 18 to 88 years of age and representing 86 occupations.

For comparison, the xkcd color survey harvested over five million color terms across 222,500 user sessions. Nathan's thesaurus so far served almost 300,000 color terms in English alone.

One of the worries in crowdsourcing is the amount of disruptive subjects. In the calibrated lunch color naming experiment, this number turned out to be surprisingly low: 4% of the participants. For Killingsworth and Gilbert with their more intrusive and possibly obstreperous method, the data came from 2250 adults (58.8% male, 73.9% residing in the United States, mean age of 34 years). The details are in their paper's supporting online material.

By the way, the topic of their research are not color terms but stimulus-independent thought, also known as mind wandering. The outliers in their data are the subjects who were making love when the application woke up to poll them about their happiness status. This is also an unexpected response, as we would think a very happy person would not answer the phone during such an activity…

You can find the paper here: Science 12 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6006 p. 932

Friday, November 26, 2010

Computer! Separate Color Channels!

From Stephen Wolfram's blog comes a post about natural language processing and Mathematica 8. First, I like that he used an example with separating color channels.

(image via wikimedia: Category:Images with Mathematica source code)

Second, in addition to mentioning color he has the following to say about corpora:

"One issue that we have faced is a lack of linguistic corpora in the area. (...) But as of yesterday we now have an important new source of data: actual examples of natural language programming being done in Mathematica 8. And taking a glance right now at our real-time monitoring system for the Wolfram|Alpha server infrastructure, I can see that very soon we’re going to have lots of data to study."

Looks like an interesting effort to follow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aggression and Hockey Uniform Color: Does Black & Red Lead to Black & Blue?

From David Caldwell and Jerry Burger comes a recent study on aggression and hockey uniform color. The results have been published in a Social Psychological and Personality Science article entitled "On Thin Ice: Does Uniform Color Really Affect Aggression in Professional Hockey?".

(image via wikimedia - Category:Fights in ice hockey)

We've previously posted on anxiety and nurse uniform color but it's interesting to see some results for hockey uniform colors. Of course with respect the the authors' conclusions one wonders if there is any difference in the perception of aggression and uniform colors.

A Beaming Inventor

We recently reported on the winners of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. In the meantime Mostly Color Channel's correspondent in D.C. sent us the photographs from the ceremony, which took place Monday last week.

The ceremony involves all the pomp and circumstance required for such an important State event:

Federico Faggin and Barak Obama

When the POTUS shakes your hand, you realize he is not just a great leader but also a tall man:

Federico Faggin and Barak Obama

The current President is perfectly comfortable performing the ceremony ad lib, without reading from a teleprompter. Here he is being handed over the medal:

Federico Faggin and Barak Obama

It is harder to say who is happier for this moment, Mr. Obama or Dr. Faggin?

Federico Faggin and Barak Obama

But certainly here FF is beaming:

Federico Faggin and Barak Obama

You can learn more about the invention of the microprocessor from this IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine article: The Making of the First Microprocessor, 10.1109/MSSC.2008.930938. For a trove of historical details around the invention of the microprocessor you may also want to visit the 4004 Web site.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peer To Patent 2011 Pilot

Peer To Patent is a historic initiative by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Peer to Patent is an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications.

The Peer To Patent 2011 Pilot has opened and will run through September 30, 2011. Eleven applications have been posted for review, all in subject matter classes covering software. Patent classes covered by these apps include 380 (cryptography), 701 (vehicles, navigation, and relative location), 706 (artificial intelligence), 707 (database and file management or data structures), 709 (multicomputer data transferring), 712 (processing architecture and instruction processing), 715 (presentation processing of document, operator interface processing and screen saver display processing), and 718 (virtual machine task or process management or task management/control).

A New Viewpoint on Faces

This appears to be the month of faces, at least on this blog. The temporal lobe of macaques' brains contains six patches of face-selective cortex. This observation has prompted systems neuroscientists to ask, why so many and what do they do? Freiwald and Tsao (Science 5 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6005 pp. 845-851) targeted four of these regions for single-unit recordings and found that the different face-selective patches in macaques have independent functions. The areas where earliest processing occurred were most sharply tuned for individual views and least sharply tuned for identity. The mid-level area was more sharply tuned for identity, and the highest processing stage was strongly tuned for identity in a strikingly view-invariant way. These results yield fundamental insights into the computational process of object recognition, the functional organization of the brain, and how representations are transformed through processing hierarchies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The inverted retina

Human retina

One of the mysteries of the human visual system is why the retina has evolved to be mounted backwards, i.e., light has to travel through layers of retinal cells before reaching the detectors. Erez N. Ribak and Amichai M. Labin constructed a 3D optical model of the human retina suggesting the retina has developed its inverted shape to improve the directionality of intercepted light beams, to enhance vision acuity, increase immunity to scatter and clutter, concentrate more light into the cones, and overcome chromatic aberration.

Read the news item in the SPIE Newsroom at this link: Light propagation explains our inverted retina.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mail Chutes and Optimal Team Size

Interesting Business Insider article on innovation.

The article starts with the assertion that Google can’t keep its teams small enough. This is then followed by the story of:

'how Larry Ellison actually got efficiencies from teams. If a team wasn’t productive, he’d come every couple of weeks and say “let me help you out.” What did he do? He took away another person until the team started shipping and stopped having unproductive meetings.'

Friday, November 19, 2010

Photorealistic ink-jet printing

Most scientific papers are written according to a rigid structure that can be traced back to the Iraqi scientist Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham (965–1039), known in Europe under his Latinized name Alhazen. Alhazen proposed the scientific process in use today and consisting in observing a phenomenon, formulating a hypothesis, and conducting an experiment to prove it.

Consequently, we structure papers in an abstract, an introduction with the background, a method section describing the experiment, presentation of the results, discussion and conclusion, and a list of the references. This format was introduced by that unrepentant optimist who was the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How great companies die

We all know of great companies that have gone under. When we are teenagers and have a flourishing phantasy coupled with still little real world experience, we often develop conspiracy theories of evil conglomerates destroying great companies. This is reflected in the American tradition of siding with the underdog and buying goods from the second largest company.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Face of Sydney

I was poking around on the Web and found a link to this article. I no longer recall where I originally saw it, but it perfectly ties in to a few of the other threads of our blog.
When I first saw this, I immediately saw ties to the World Wide Gamma. I love the idea of taking loads of data, mashing it up, and seeing what happens. Last Friday I mentioned this to Giordano and he immediately saw the ties to Nathan's prosopagnosia post. I love our 9:30 AM Friday breakfast meetup!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your brain: use it or lose it

The French have always been snobs for literacy. When a guest visits you in your house, the Californian will first look what car you drive, the German will look for any dust, and the French will check the books in your library. Thus, it is not surprising it was a French team of researchers to study how learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language.

Virtually all adult neuroimaging experiments are performed in highly educated college students. The observed brain architecture therefore reflects the influence of culture and education over and above spontaneous brain development. Thus, the researchers asked: "Does literacy improve brain function? Does it also entail losses?" Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, they measured brain responses to spoken and written language, visual faces, houses, tools, and checkers in adults of variable literacy.

The conclusion of their research is that literacy, whether acquired in childhood or through adult classes, enhances brain responses in at least three distinct ways. First, it boosts the organization of visual cortices. Second, literacy allows virtually the entire left-hemispheric spoken language network to be activated by written sentences. Thus reading, a late cultural invention, approaches the efficiency of the human species' most evolved communication channel, namely speech. Third, literacy refines spoken language processing by enhancing a phonological region, the planum temporale, and by making an orthographic code available in a top-down manner.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

"The First Pass is Relatively Arbitrarily Picked Colors"

From the summer toPost folder is a hurl from Tim with a link to a Chuck Close interview on Colbert:

Which regardless of your opinion of Colbert, is a remarkable interview. First, Close gets Colbert to say toner. Second, Close describes paintings as "colored dirt on a flat surface". Third, Close checks his hand before revealing he suffers from prosopagnosia.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why the Leopard Got Its Spots

A new study shows why leopards and other big cats are spotted, striped or melanistic — all black. In short, big cats' patterning and pattern attributes evolved in relation to their ecology and behaviors. This is evolution in action: if you stand out by color or texture you get eaten and your species becomes extinct. Blend in and you thrive.

Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 10.1098/rspb.2010.1734 (2010).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teal Icosahedron: webOS PDK for Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010

Starting with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010, go to the webOS PDK download page and get a copy of the SDK/PDK for 64-bit machines. The following steps can then get you to a rotating teal icosahedron.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Measuring NCS Colors and Matching Marmalade

The NCS has announced the NCS Colour Scan 2.0 which is described as follows:

"Lightweight, easy to use and infinitely adaptable, NCS Colour Scan 2.0 gives the NCS Notation of a selected colour from any surface, also immediately visible in the screen. You can now identify colours on walls, render, carpets, furniture, flooring, and clothing - virtually any inspiration object."

As for the NCS Notation, the following video provides an overview, including custom mixing a marmalade color at 9 minutes in:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Plethora of Colorful Pixels, Some Assembly Required

From Pixels XL comes revestimento removible or removable decorative color tiles. Nifty. Looks like a different palette than the post-it mosaics. The t-shirt is clever.