The Bumblebees are Back, and They’re Bad!

The virtual bumblebees are now available for download under an MIT license. The bees were kinda/sorta always available, but I have clarified the licensing. To celebrate, the Journal of Open Source Software has published a software abstract, “Virtual Bumblebees Artificial Life Simulation.” The Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS) is a great project that aims to be “a developer friendly journal for research software packages.” The overall idea is that research software should occasionally be able to stand alone as the outcome of a research project and in this case, it fit the bees perfectly. So I was quite happy

Inspiring Books

Marvin Minksy has died. Minsky was a pioneer of robotics and artificial intelligence at M.I.T. for half a century or so. And among other things, he invented the useless machine, a device that simply switches itself off and has no other purpose. One is shown in the picture above. This reminds me of another story I’ve been wanting to tell. Last spring and summer, I told the story of the virtual bumblebees and how I was inspired by Artificial Life by Steven Levy. Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology No Description Importantly, I checked this

Touchscreens: A New Hope

About three months before Beatrix hatched, I wrote that I might have a disease I called “touchscreen HCI disorder.” She’s now three and I asked her to help me set up an initial vector for my Bumblebees talk. She started poking the screen on my laptop and, since it’s not a touchscreen, got frustrated when it didn’t work. Clearly, touchscreen HCI disorder is genetic. Image by Intel Free Press / Flickr.

I’m Going to MathFest…

This August, I will be speaking about my Virtual Bumblebees. Here’s the abstract: Based on Langton’s Ant, this talk briefly describes a simple simulation environment for quasisocial behavior. The world is a sparse rectangular grid of cells. Each cell may be empty, have a red dot, or a blue dot. Superimposed over the rectangular grid are one or more virtual bumblebees represented as yellow dots. The virtual bumblebee moves through the world by taking a single step in one of four cardinal directions placing it into an adjacent cell. There are three rules for deciding the behavior of the virtual

I like my research like I like my coffee, covered in bees

Introducing My Bumblebees

During the 1980s, some researchers abandoned top-down artificial intelligence in favor of a bottom-up approach. One of these bottom up approaches became the field of artificial life. In 1992 or 1993, I checked out Artificial Life by Steven Levy from the Lane Public Library. In his book, Levy describes much of the research on artificial life to date, including the works of Stephen Wolfram and Christopher Langton, in a pleasant and accessible way (for a twelve-year old). One of Langton’s creations captured my attention. It is called the virtual ant or sometimes “vant.” The virtual ant is a cellular automaton