AI Winter has returned

About two weeks ago, AI Winter set upon us again.  Although not the same AI Winter that froze over most of the AI research in the 80s and 90s.  This AI winter is an “inter-city, bi-weekly, programming study group” that will study seminal Artificial Intelligence papers over the next three months, for fun.  Philadelphia is ground zero for the event, but there are cities around the world following the program.

In the first meeting, we discussed Alan Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence, which among other things, describes the Turing test (although he doesn’t call it that).  Remarkably, everybody who arrived (over 30 people) had read the paper, which I think beats any graduate class I’ve attended thus far.  Each week a volunteer facilitates the discussion and another volunteer takes notes.  The discourse was lively and with a healthy mix of backgrounds from all in attendance, there were many insights.  It’s like a book club for readers who like breakthrough research papers in AI.  Oh and afterwards, we drink some beer.

Apparently NoSQL Summer, a “reading club for databases, distributed systems & NoSQL-related papers” was the spark which launched the Philly Lambda group to host Functional Fall, both of which were a success and hence, AI Winter.  The idea is based on “studying the masters, not their pupils.” i.e. reading the first hand source vs. a summary (ironically, that link cites Wikipedia for the quote…)

The AI winter papers should complement my Advanced AI class pretty well.  Speaking of that, I’ll be performing some data mining with a popular machine learning tool called WEKA, but more on that later.

Having a beer with Alan and John in Munich

Day 7 of 6.  Leaving the now familiar Salzburger Hof, we reversed the multi-hopped route back to Munich.  The 260 Bus from Lofer to Salzburg and Deutsche Bahn to Munich’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station).  For our last night in Europe, we treated ourselves to a more upscale place, Fleming’s Hotel.  Which, was also conveniently located near the train station, but not too near the train station, where an abundance of travelers hang out much like they did outside a famous publishing company’s headquarters on Ursa Minor Beta.

This was my third or fourth trip to Munich, so I had seen most of the major tourist attractions, including the 200th Oktoberfest.  Also, we really only had the afternoon and evening to enjoy in Munich since our flight left the next morning.  So, being the geek that I am, I went back to the Deutsches Museum.  This is one of the largest science and technology museums in the world and it is amazing.  It outshines my beloved Franklin Institute, the Smithsonian and the Exploratorium (from what I remember of it, I visited it a few years ago…)

Surfing in Munich: On a previous trip to Munich in 2008 I took this picture of river-surfers on the Eisbach, in the Englischer Garten.

Sure, all of these museums have interesting exhibits, but where the Deutsches Museum outperforms the competition, and makes it the best technological museum I have ever seen, is the detail of its technical descriptions.  Other museums really only scratch the surface, but the Deutsches Museum describes the science behind the exhibit with a depth of detail.  For example, in its Informatik (Computer Science) exhibit, one can find the following interactive exhibits:

  1. Logical operators, AND, OR, NOT, etc… implemented in both electronic and physical means!  One of which used capsules filled with mercury, where if the capsule was at a certain angle it would complete the circuit.
  2. A Turing machine simulator.
  3. A terminal explaining how the Von Neumann architecture works.
  4. An Enigma machine (not interactive, and I can’t remember if it was a four or three rotor version).

Also, fans of Gravity’s Rainbow will appreciate the V-2 Rocket on display.  One certainly gains more respect for the Raketemensch after seeing one of these up close…

Having our technological fill, we were now hungry and crossed the city to attend the famous Augustiner Brewery & Biergarten, Munich’s oldest brewery, founded in 1328.  It was Saturday night and the outside Biergarten was full, as well as the restaurant.  We awkwardly loitered outside the foyer trying to figure out how this was going to work.  Meanwhile, visibly incapacitated patrons, complete in Trachten Lederhosen, stumbled into the bathrooms of the opposite gender.  A table opened up in the Biergarten and we quickly sat down.

Enjoying a drink at the Augustiner Biergarten

Ordering “eine Maß” (one liter of beer) and our appetizer, a pretzel, that overflowed the 12” plate, we relaxed amongst the boisterous bachelor and bachelorette parties the occupied the shaded gravel that night.  But before our food arrived, a german couple about the age of our parents joined us at our small table.  While taboo in the USA, this behavior not uncommon from what I’ve experienced in Germany.  The couple was also visiting Munich and we had fun trying to communicate with each other.  So, in half-english-half-german, we talked about our trip to Austria, Euromeister 2012, and how revealing Drindl have become.

With our succesful Biergarten experience now complete,  we returned to the hotel.  The next day we fortunately had an uneventful return trip back to the U.S. and started plotting our next trip.  But, that will have to wait for another day…

Trip Metrics:

  • Total Distance: 105.1km over 6 days (65.3 miles)
  • Highest Elevation: 1457m on Loferer Alm, Day 2

What… is your quest?

Quest completed, project presented, and final taken.

For those who wish to see what I’ve been up to, here are some videos: part1, part2, and part3.  I’ve broken the classic trilogy paradigm; parts 2 and 3 are much better than part 1.

The code is available here for those that really want to see it.

Now, I can read more Turing’s Cathedral.  Which surprisingly, has started out with a nice history of Princeton University.

Nassau Hall, the university's oldest building....
A very special building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)