Action Videogames Train Your Brain For Decision-Making

September 21, 2010

Researcher Daphne Bavelier is back with more videogame research. Once again, the study used The Sims 2, Call Of Duty 2, and Unreal Tournament.

The results of this study showed that those who played the action games made quicker decisions:

“In the problem-solving exercise, the action-game players made decisions 25 percent faster than the strategy group, while answering the same number of questions correctly.”


Chernoff Face Tutorial on Flowing Data

September 20, 2010

If you’ve read Blindsight, then you have come across Chernoff faces.

I recently spotted a tutorial on Flowing Data for using Chernoff faces with R.


How Language Shapes How We Think

September 17, 2010

The New York Times has a fascinating article on how the language we speak may or may not shape the way we think. The title is “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” and it is written by Guy Deutscher.

This is clearly a topic that has been plagued by pseudo-science over the decades, and we are only now beginning to get real data. Consider the Australian aboriginal language Guugu Yimithirr, in which the position of objects relies on cardinal directions such as “north” or “south”. They do not make use of such terms as “in front of” or “behind”. This is well illustrated as follows:

“One way of understanding this is to imagine that you are traveling with a speaker of such a language and staying in a large chain-style hotel, with corridor upon corridor of identical-looking doors. Your friend is staying in the room opposite yours, and when you go into his room, you’ll see an exact replica of yours: the same bathroom door on the left, the same mirrored wardrobe on the right, the same main room with the same bed on the left, the same curtains drawn behind it, the same desk next to the wall on the right, the same television set on the left corner of the desk and the same telephone on the right. In short, you have seen the same room twice. But when your friend comes into your room, he will see something quite different from this, because everything is reversed north-side-south. In his room the bed was in the north, while in yours it is in the south; the telephone that in his room was in the west is now in the east, and so on. So while you will see and remember the same room twice, a speaker of a geographic language will see and remember two different rooms.”


Data Dangers Redux

September 16, 2010

Recent bit from the New York Times about burglars picking houses based on Facebook status updates. Not surprising at all. Does remember to namecheck PleaseRobMe.com.

See also Tom Scott’s project that datamines public phone numbers from Facebook.


Your Brain On Computers

September 15, 2010

The New York Times has had a nice series of articles recently on the topic of brains and computers entitled “Your Brain On Computers”.


The Matthew Effect Shows Up in ADHD Diagnosis

September 14, 2010

It seems that the Matthew Effect shows up in the diagnosis of ADHD.

If you have read Outliers, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.


Every Rubik’s Cube Position Solvable In 20 Moves Or Less Proven

September 13, 2010

It is always interesting to see computing power used to completely solve a game such as Connect Four or Checkers.

Now, it has been proven that every position of a Rubik’s Cube can be solved in 20 moves or less.

“It took fifteen years after the introduction of the Cube to find the first position that provably requires twenty moves to solve; it is appropriate that fifteen years after that, we prove that twenty moves suffice for all positions.”


Games As A Killer App For AI

August 2, 2010

It has been ten years to the day since John E. Laird and Michael van Lent published their paper “Human-level AI’s Killer Application: Interactive Computer Games”. In ten years, what has and hasn’t changed?

(Direct link to PDF at Laird’s homepage)


Microsoft Rule Engine Survey

June 1, 2010

Are you interested in helping to shape Microsoft’s future rules products?

Microsoft is running a survey on rule engines in general, and its own rule products (WF Rules, MS BRE) in particular through the end of this week – June 4. (I would have blogged it yesterday, but was off due to holiday.)

The survey should take approximately 5 minutes to complete. If you have used the WF Rules product, you will get a few additional questions about your usage of the features. If you only use non-Microsoft rule engines, your participation is welcome as well.

Your input is appreciated.

Microsoft Rule Engine survey


Rules In WF4

March 17, 2010

My blog stats show trending topics around searches for “wf4 rule engine” and “wf rule engine” and “wf rules” among other variations. If those topics are leading people to this blog, then I might as well address the topic directly.

What Is WF?
For those who don’t know what the queries above mean – it means that people are searching for the rule engine feature (named Windows Workflow Foundation Rules Engine aka “WF Rules”) in Microsoft’s Windows Workflow Foundation (aka WF). The feature originally shipped with .NET 3.0, and I have written previously about the feature set especially as it compares to Microsoft’s other rules offering.

Changes To WF
With .NET 4.0, the Workflow Foundation is introducing a new workflow model (more details here) – so we now talk about the workflow model in .NET 3.0/3.5 as “WF3” and the new workflow model in .NET 4.0 as “WF4”. However, as mentioned at that link, all of WF3 is still available in .NET 4.0. (Note: the assemblies ship in the ‘Extended’ .NET 4.0 install and not the ‘Client’ .NET 4.0 install.)

Rules Integrated With WF4
WF4 does not include a new forward chaining rules engine that is closely integrated with the WF4 activity model (that does not preclude one being made available in the future). Again, to be very clear, the existing WF Rules features are still available in .NET 4.0 and may be used within WF4. Put another way, there is still a forward chaining rules engine in .NET – it has not gone away. A direct statement from Microsoft on the topic can be seen on the .NET Endpoint blog as follows:

“Two other major WF 4 activities that were discussed at PDC, a new state machine activity and a new forward chaining ruleset activity, will not be available with the VS2010 beta 1 release – and we will cover each of these topics in greater depth in the next month. At this point, a new forward chaining rules engine won’t be ready for the .NET 4 timeframe, and will probably see a CTP release post-VS2010 to gather feedback and to allow customers the opportunity to evaluate the direction we are considering. It’s important to note that we are working to ensure integration with the WF 3 rules engine will be possible in a number of ways, though; one example of integration back to the WF 3 rules engine is the SDK sample activity I mentioned above.”

WF3 -> WF4 Migration
There is also now some rules-specific migration guidance published here as part of some overall WF3->WF4 migration guidance. See also the WF Migration Kit CTP 1 that I posted about previously. Questions about using the WF3 rules with WF4 should most likely be addressed via the forums.

Tell Microsoft What Rules Features You Would Like To See For .NET
Finally, if you have interest in rules on the .NET platform and are willing to provide feedback to Microsoft – I encourage you to do so. In fact, it would be great if you could be as concrete as possible about your feature needs. The inclusion of a feature often depends on customer feedback. Here are some examples of feedback that you could provide to Microsoft:


  • If using the existing WF Rules feature with WF4 via the Interop activity satisfies your technical needs and why or why not.

  • If you would like to see WF Rules more fully integrated with the WF4 programming model, or not.

  • If you use or would like to use rules in applications apart from WF.

  • Specific feature feedback about WF and/or MS BRE.

  • If your needs skew more towards the runtime rule engine or BRMS tools.

Specific feature requests for the future should be provided through Connect (detailed instructions for providing feedback about WF4 through Connect).
Also, if you are interested in discussing your rules scenarios and requirements in more detail with someone from Microsoft, you can contact me via the contact form on this blog, or email me at my firstname.lastname at my employer’s domain.com.