Archive for April, 2019

A few interesting recent developments

April 20, 2019

Synopsis

I touch briefly on the following topics in turn:

  • [Agriculture] Mechanised Agriculture (and robotics)
  • [Energy] Solar energy from deserts
  • [Agriculture] Cellular agriculture
  • [Computing] Tensorflow probability
  • [Energy] The third wave of renewable deployment
  • [Personal Projects] My current research in mathematics
  • [Computing] Thoughts on Godot
  • [Energy] Fusion power
  • [Rocketry] Reaction Engines Limited
  • [Personal Projects] Things I’d like to learn more about
  • [Personal Projects] Forays into running my own web services
  • [Computing] Topological quantum computing
  • [Water] Status of work on desalination

Mechanised Agriculture

Swarmfarm robotics (the company I’m following in this space)

The opportunity

  • Automation of mechanised agriculture by artificial intelligence and robotics has the potential to allow a number of benefits, including: massively scaling farmsteads to larger regions, being able to farm previously non-arable land, optimised crop rotation, better soil maintenance and care, micro-control of weeding, spraying, reduced list of pesticides, micro-management of pruning and harvesting.
  • Productivity gains for farmland is a certainty. Increasing the amount of arable land is also a certainty.
  • Also interesting is whether this sort of farming could be adapted for vertical farming practices as well.

Exporting solar generated energy from large desert regions to regions with less solar production

The opportunity

  • Places like the Sahara and the centre of Australia have low population but have significant amounts of solar energy falling on them.
  • Building solar power plants in these places and then building high voltage power lines would be a way to boost the economy of the region by shipping electricity to places of high population density but with lower amounts of solar energy falling on them.

Australia to Indonesia

Sahara to Europe

Meat grown in the lab

250,000 to 12 dollars for a burger in 10 years

Other implications

  • Decrease of need for land to be used for raising cattle.
  • Reduced methane emissions.
  • Ability to release land for national parks or alternatively use it for other forms of agriculture.
  • Being able to grow other types of meat like fish, which has implications for preservation of fisheries and maintenance of biodiversity in the oceans.

Tensorflow Probability

https://github.com/tensorflow/probability

Why this is cool

  • Probabilistic programming for machine learning.
  • Builds on top of tensorflow.
  • Can run in colaboratory.
  • Supports a wide variety of different ways of testing the efficacy of a machine model at runtime.

How this could be used in production systems

  • Could determine whether or not a prediction is reliable, or whether the meta-model in a reinforcement learning problem (eg a self driving car, or a chat bot cough, Duplex, cough) should stop and seek for more information.

Implications for testing machine learning models

  • I see the main application in deep reinforcement learning, but there are other opportunities for carefully evaluating the efficacy and/or suitability of different models against a particular duo of train and test datasets.
  • One could potentially start building pipelines to ‘test’ models against particular instances at runtime, particularly when a model might have become stale.

Other implications for data science

  • As mentioned before, I’d be very interested to see how this could be used in reinforcement learning.

The ‘third wave’ of renewables

Future crunch synopsis

“the only limitation is ‘how fast can we deploy?'”

  • At this point, replacement of fossil fuel generation from an economic perspective becomes a bit of a no-brainer.
  • It is estimated that by 2030 there will be nowhere in the world that this no-brainer will not apply.
  • Things may eventually start to plateau once renewables reach 40-60% of base generation due to seasonal or diurnal cycles of power availability. However batteries are improving and becoming cheaper, too, and also there is the potential for shipping power internationally (eg from the Sahara to Europe, and from Australia to Indonesia).

Current research, mathematics

Type theory as a space of functions

  • I have been exploring policy theory, which is most naturally thought of as endowing the space of classes of functions that take types and operate on geometry, to itself have a geometrical structure. This is a natural way potentially of unifying ideas about topology, geometry, and algebra, and extending them to the foundations of torus categories.

Rather than data as geometry, code as geometry

  • Wheeler talked about ‘It from Bit’ in terms of coining the interplay between information theory and physics, so that one could think of ‘data’ as being analogous to physical space (subject of course to appropriate conventions, definitions, and guardrails against reification fallacies of varifold types and flavours).
  • However the exciting thing is that one could think of the programs that are acting on Bits to be somehow dual to theories acting on physical spaces. So some quite exotic potential directions to explore.

Thoughts on Godot

Status of the Godot project

2016
The sad truth is that, even after two years of being open sourceā€¦ NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT GODOT!
2017
Compared to last year, some more people had heard of Godot, but it’s still very largely unknown. We seriously need to consider ways to improve on this.
2018
I would probably say most of the industry still has not heard about it, but there is a very significant chunk that did, though.
2019 (this GDC)
From everyone we talked to, it seems at this point a majority of the industry has heard of Godot. Most of those we casually talked to definitely had heard of it and many expressed interest in developing games with it in the future


Thoughts regarding cool things that could be introduced

  • My hobbyhorse continues to be a procedurally generated D&D multiplayer sandbox and steps towards that.
  • For this, being able to use an object picker in game to drag and drop things would be quite beneficial. I was quite excited by the possibility to vote on a tutorial for same in the recent Patreon voting for this month.
  • This issue would be useful to explore: https://github.com/godotengine/godot/issues/19117 regarding Voronoi tiling and Lloyd’s relaxation. This link in a comment was particularly interesting as it revealed a wealth of resources across the web on procedural generation: http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~amitp/game-programming/polygon-map-generation/

The need for testing and ensuring that technical debt doesn’t accumulate

  • Technical debt always tends to accumulate, and as Godot continues to become more and more popular and crescendo past critical mass, there will need to be a continued effort to fight technical debt and prioritise this as roadmap items for the project.
  • More unit tests, end to end tests, and other testing would be a good idea. The potential to run the Godot editor in a browser as a consequence of work being funded by the Mozilla foundation would potentially be a good opportunity for end to end testing or other forms of integration testing.

The need to maintain minimalism in the UI and prevent code and feature bloat while maximising discoverability, documentation and flexibility / performance

  • The reasons for Godot’s emergence as a compelling and competitive challenger to many established game engines are varied. One is that it is open source, but there are other value propositions that will need to be intentionally protected as the project continues to mature if it is, in my view, to continue to be a compelling engine.
  • Performance, minimalism of UI and design, discoverability, and good documentation are key draws that pull people to the Godot project, and I think that these are things that should be protected.

Fusion Power

z-pinch research group at university of washington

Wendelstein 7-x

  • I believe that fusion product will become one step away from production ready in current experiments in 2019, and that Wendelstein 7-x will have reached its optimisation objectives either this year, or in 2020.
  • Next steps include proposed next generation power plant HELIAS https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0741-3335/58/7/074006 and/or working more closely to introduce Wendelstein findings into the ITER construction

Iter consortium

  • Inauguration of machine about 2025?

What’s next?

  • look to ITER
  • look to HELIAS and next generation plans at Max Planck
  • z pinch experiments at the University of Washington worth watching
  • probably on track for first commercial fusion power plants conservatively by 2040 or 2045

Reaction Engines Limited

TF1 & TF2 progress

  • TF1 construction and final fitout almost completed per my understanding
  • Recent test in TF2 in Colorado passing (Mach 3 air temperatures / Blackbird speed)
  • Recently announced collaboration with the National Composites Centre in the UK https://twitter.com/NCCUKinfo/status/1118800923147546624

What’s on the horizon?

  • I’d imagine a hotter temperature test in Colorado and/or at TF1
  • Tests at TF1 starting in late 2019 or early 2020
  • In 2020 things will get interesting

Things that I’d like to learn more about

rails

  • Rails udemy course

godot

Forays into running my own web services

email server

  • interesting to investigate setting up an email server to reduce total reliance on two or three dominant cloud services
  • advanced considerations including using sendgrid smtp relay service

rss server with twitter feed converter server subsidiary

  • Good to customise one’s own news feeds to ensure that one doesn’t drown in irrelevant and/or ‘clickbait’ information
  • Good to have an rss server to offload client side rss polling to a server in the cloud instead.

voip / sip server & pstn investigations

  • interesting to learn how to set things up with kamailio
  • newer more developer friendly / modern architectures also starting to emerge like https://github.com/fonoster/routr
  • flowroute or twilio as pstn integration services
  • scaling to a business and how much one can charge, including the potential for profitability
  • backing up data, failover, and ensuring production ready for running a voip server business

Topological Quantum Computing

Status of work on desalination

The use of large-scale desalination plants is posing an increasing threat to the health of the seas, a recent report from the UN University found. For every litre of freshwater created from a conventional desalination plant, an average of 1.5 litres of brine is also made.

The Guardian

Happy Easter!

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