Terrible Maps

Via this kottke blog post I came across the @TerribleMaps Twitter account that collects links and images of funny, non-sense, inaccurate and other terrible maps.  Most of this stuff is quite funny.

Internet Search Tips

This title almost sounds stupid, right?  I mean, pretty much everyone who has ever been online knows how to Google.  Even kids.

But I promise you it’s not.  Searching for quick and simple stuff – yes, sure, is easy.  But not many people I’ve met know how to use even Google’s advanced search options (despite there being a gadzillion articles online), let alone other search engines.  Searching for something non-trivial, like research papers and books, is even trickier.

Hence the Internet Search Tips.  Here’s the intro from the author:

Over time, I developed a certain google-fu and expertise in finding references, papers, and books online. Some of these tricks are not well-known, like checking the Internet Archive (IA) for books. I try to write down my search workflow, and give general advice about finding and hosting documents.

Cyprus National Internet Portal for Open Data

It is via this Cyprus Mail article that I’ve learned that not only Cyprus has an official Open Data portal, but that it’s also the best in Europe:

Cyprus is one of the top five European Union countries in the field of Open Data for 2018, while the new National Open Data Portal data.gov.cy scored highest among 31 open data portals in Europe, a special honour and recognition for the Open University of Cyprus (OUC) that developed and implemented the National Open Data Portal in collaboration with the public administration and personnel department of the finance ministry.

So far I’ve only had a quick look around, and I have to say that it’s quite impressive!  Even though most of it is in Greek, Google Chrome translation handles it nicely.  Here are a couple of interesting bits to get you started:

And there is so much more … Well done, Open University of Cyprus!

Specification gaming examples in AI

Here’s a super fun list of things that artificial intelligence figured out by gaming the rules, like inconsistent and incomplete specifications, bugs, and other bits that humans frequently assume and ignore.

Some examples to get you started are:

  • Aircraft landing: evolved algorithm for landing aircraft exploited overflow errors in the physics simulator by creating large forces that were estimated to be zero, resulting in a perfect score.
  • Block moving: a robotic arm trained to slide a block to a target position on a table achieves the goal by moving the table itself.
  • Data ordering patterns: neural nets evolved to classify edible and poisonous mushrooms took advantage of the data being presented in alternating order, and didn’t actually learn any features of the input images.
  • Road runner: agent kills itself at the end of level 1 to avoid losing in level 2.
  • Ruler detector: AI trained to classify skin lesions as potentially cancerous learns that lesions photographed next to a ruler are more likely to be malignant.
  • Tetris: agent pauses the game indefinitely to avoid losing.

This is truly thinking outside the box!

Metabase – Open Source business intelligence and analytics

Metabase is an Open Source business intelligence and analytics tool.  It supports a variety of databases and services as sources for data, and provides a number of data querying and processing tools.  Have a look at the GitHub repository as well.

And if you want a few alternatives or complimenting tools, I found this list quite useful.

Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving

Harward Business Review runs this article: “Drunk People Are Better at Creative Problem Solving“.  Here are a few quotes to get you started:

Tipsy subjects solved 13% to 20% more problems than sober subjects did.


Intoxicated subjects had more “Aha!” moments than their sober counterparts.


People under the influence submitted answers more quickly than people in the control group.

I rest my case, ladies and gentlemen.

Registry of Open Data on AWS

AWS News Blog covers the Registry of Open Data on AWS:

Almost a decade ago, my colleague Deepak Singh introduced the AWS Public Datasets in his post Paging Researchers, Analysts, and Developers. I’m happy to report that Deepak is still an important part of the AWS team and that the Public Datasets program is still going strong!

Today we are announcing a new take on open and public data, the Registry of Open Data on AWS, or RODA. This registry includes existing Public Datasets and allows anyone to add their own datasets so that they can be accessed and analyzed on AWS.

Currently, there are 53 data sets in the registry.  Each provides a tonne of data.  Subjects vary from satellite imagery and weather monitoring to political and financial information.

Hopefully, this will grow and expand with time.

How an A.I. ‘Cat-and-Mouse Game’ Generates Believable Fake Photos

The New York Times is running a very fascinating article on the progress of the artificial intelligence and machine learning in both identifying and generating fake photos – How an A.I. ‘Cat-and-Mouse Game’ Generates Believable Fake Photos.   The above image shows the progress of the AI working against itself and learning from its own results – one part is trying to identify if the photo is fake or not, and the other part is trying to generate a fake photo which will pass the test.  When the test fails, the system learns, improves, and tries again.  Look at the last row of photos, which are super realistic and took the system between 10 to 18 days to learn how to generate.

But that’s not all.  It gets better, and I quote:

A second team of Nvidia researchers recently built a system that can automatically alter a street photo taken on a summer’s day so that it looks like a snowy winter scene. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have designed another that learns to convert horses into zebras and Monets into Van Goghs. DeepMind, a London-based A.I. lab owned by Google, is exploring technology that can generate its own videos. And Adobe is fashioning similar machine learning techniques with an eye toward pushing them into products like Photoshop, its popular image design tool.

Here are a few more photos that were generated:

This is remarkable.  But if you keep reading the article, you’ll quickly discover that there is even more to it.  What’s next in line after pictures?  You are correct: videos.  You better sit down before you watch this video, showing Obama’s lip sync:

So, can’t trust the TV.  Can’t trust the Internet.  Who do you trust?