Although it’s been almost a month since the end of the semester, I wanted to share some of the final project that consumed most of my time and mental capacity in April. I was taking CS266: Bio-inspired Multi-agent Systems from Prof. Rhadika Nagpal. It was a very fun course, emphasizing seminar-style discussion of research papers, with labs working with actual robot hardware and culminating in a final project that had both a physical robot competition component and a more open-ended simulation component.
My contribution to the final project focused on the simulation, while my partners Andrew Reiter and Pierre-Emile Duhamel focused on the robots. We decided to use the recommended MASON simulation library to implement a virtual version of the competitive foraging task, and then coupled that with a genetic programming implementation to attempt to evolve robot strategies. You can read a lot more detail about our methods and results in our final paper (pdf), including our approaches using the actual e-puck hardware. The simulation is discussed in Section 3. Long story short, the GP approach worked, in that it did successfully learn strategies, but I think that our fitness function could use some work in order to develop strategies that do something more interesting than the manually written strategies.
The complete source code is available on GitHub under a BSD license.
Various videos (some of which I’ve already posted elsewhere) are below the cut.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a Christmas gift this year from my mom. For those who are wondering why I’d receive a book seemingly outside my usual interests, that’s probably because you’re unaware that I participated a lot in theater up through high school. In 11th grade I played “Baby John” in Breck‘s production of West Side Story, which was a ton of fun. Parts of the musical are thus pretty ingrained, even almost 15 years later.
As is typical for my non-fiction reads, what I enjoyed the most was the trivia. In this case I was interested in all of the artistic choices that went into the musical, especially when they got into the differences between the original Broadway production and the film version, including some pretty significant differences in song ordering.
One of the interesting and surprising historical anecdotes was that Jerome Robbins was called to testify before HUAC, and named names, thus chilling his relationship with his co-creators. It’s striking how pervasive the fear of Communism was at the time.
I think the author was stretching things a bit when trying to make broader cultural claims about the influence of the musical as a reflection of youth culture of the time, but I expect that sort of thing from art critics. I suppose to some extent it confirms that some aspect of the Romeo & Juliet story is pretty timeless, no matter the incarnation.
Overall, it made me a bit nostalgic, missing my participation in theater, even though I doubt I ever had the chops to continue performing even as an amateur. If you are a fan of this musical, I would definitely recommend reading this book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I finished this third and final book on the plane down to Cancun a few weeks ago. I didn’t get a chance to review it on account of the travel and then the end of the semester. Up front: I liked it, although not quite as much as I enjoyed Catching Fire. All kinds of spoilery thoughts on this book and the series as a whole below the cut.