Programming Competition

Earlier in the semester, I was informed of a programming competition. Obviously, I was interested, but as a relatively new programmer, I had my reservations. Sure, I have vast experience with front end languages like HTML and CSS, but Java is an entirely different beast.

After inquiring about the competition further, I earned a space on the team as an alternate. That seemed ideal to me because I could gain knowledge from my senior teammates during practice and not have to stress about actually competing.

One of the members did drop out though, and I was promoted. The other members of my team were more educated and I felt intimidated by their knowledge. Fortunately, I found that I could keep up with them on a conceptual level. This allowed me to be a useful part of the team.

The competition was earlier today at Southern Polytechnic State University. We competed against twenty-eight other teams, one of which was also from Georgia Gwinnett College. It lasted three hours, but it felt like less than one.

In the end, we had only solved three of the eight problems. The average number of problems solved was just under four. We were extremely close on several of them, but could not quite tweak our algorithms enough. I was satisfied with our below average performance, but other members of the team were less thrilled. The reason that I could live with it is because I had not learned several of the concepts incorporated into the contest. I will have learned them by next fall and will hopefully crush the competition with the help of next year’s team.


Humans break natural selection

Humans break natural selection

As most of you probably know, natural selection is the process that allows evolution to occur. The phrase survival of the fittest explains it in a simple manner. Organisms with biological traits that allow them to survive will pass the traits on to their offspring and so on until the entire species has evolved. Unfortunately, humans in first world countries have broken natural selection.

Humans are generally empathetic and try to keep all people alive despite any crippling medical conditions or other negative traits. Current technology and medicine allows for some of those people to go on and reproduce. This prevents natural selection from taking place.

Selective breeding is a simple solution to our stagnating evolution. In my ideal world, couples would not be allowed to have children naturally. Instead, they would apply to adopt a child with genetically superior traits from the government. It would require a lot of scientific testing between all sorts of genetic combinations, but it should be possible.

Scientists controlling our species could advance humans in unbelievable ways. We could expect to see the average life expectancy to increase by at least a decade. Everybody might be a genius by modern standards and traits that promote muscle development could become the norm. Undesirable traits could also be bread out like rage, depression, greed, and psychopathy.

Many people believe that technology embedded into humans is the next logical step, but I believe that selective breeding should come first. Obviously, nobody alive today would benefit from selective breeding, but the sooner it begins, the sooner the human race can speed up the evolutionary process.

Bad Luck Brian

My favorite exercise in running. I use the treadmills at school to run almost exclusively. Friday evening, I had the urge to jog a couple of miles, but the gym had already closed. The sun had not set, so I exercised outside.

Almost immediately, I remembered why I do not run outside ever. The pollution from cars is just too annoying. I prefer to run in clean air, not car exhaust air. Nevertheless, I pressed on.

It happened near the end of my run, half a block from my neighborhood. I sped through the crosswalk when a speeding car approached the exit of the neighborhood. There was an instant where I contemplated stopping and making sure the car would stop. Unfortunately, I decided to have faith in the driver. As you might guess, my faith was misplaced.


Why are green cars not mandatory?

A few days ago while walking across campus, a car’s potent exhaust polluted the air surrounding me. I was considerably frustrated, but not at the driver or car manufacturer. Instead, my aggravation targeted the government. Why are green vehicles not mandatory?

Pollution is a very serious matter and I have not seen any substantial steps by the government towards limiting one of the largest, if not the largest, causes of pollution, automobiles. Scientists, entrepreneurs, and car manufacturers have worked to solve the problem with alternative fuel sources and hybrid cars, but I was unable to find any concrete, federal legislation with a date for the switch from gasoline powered cars. I have heard that such a date exists, but was unable to find it on my own.

We might not have the infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles, but at least we can force a switch to hybrid electric automobiles. Hybrid electric vehicles do not require gas stations to be revamped, since most hybrids do not need to be manually charged. Instead, they automatically charge while you drive through a process known as regenerative braking. Regenerative braking converts the kinetic energy lost when braking into electricity to charge the battery.

The cost to switch will likely be prohibitive, but that is such a minute issue compared to the amount of pollution humans produce on a daily basis. People might also raise up in arms against lower acceleration rates and max speeds that alternative fuel vehicles might have. Again, I believe that humanity as a whole should suck up the slight inconvenience of tacking a couple of seconds onto the 0 to 60 mph time and concentrate on lowering harmful emissions to the atmosphere.

Please stop making phones thinner

This post is a response to Apple’s new iPhone 5, but can be directed to any manufacturer that pushes for thinner phone designs. Thinner phones used to be a selling point when the average smartphone felt like a brick. Thinner and lighter phones are not something the public cares about anymore compared to other aspects of the phone. For example, people care that their phone can easily last a full day on a charge. The new iPhone probably can last long enough for most people, but why not embed a larger battery in a slightly thicker case?

The iPhone 5 was able to shred 18% of the 4S’s body to create a thinner profile, but nobody found the 4S thick. Instead of shrinking the phone’s depth,  that space could hold more chips, or, at the very least, a larger battery.

Components of the phone were made smaller to achieve the thin design. Smaller parts is not always a good thing though. The best example is the 25% smaller camera over the iPhone 4S. Supposedly, it is still better than the shooter on the 4S, but a larger camera sensor usually means a better picture. One of the reasons the new smaller camera is able to outperform the iPhone 4S’s is because the faster processor can achieve better software noise reduction. A larger lens would have meant a better photo to begin with, and it would still benefit from improved software noise reduction.

Some manufacturers, like Nokia, are doing it correctly. The Nokia Lumia 920 has a slightly fat 10.7 mm profile, but it packs a larger camera sensor and a hefty 2,000 mAh battery. I hope that more manufacturers stop worrying about the phone’s thickness and pack in as much hardware as possible.

Why the Nokia Lumia 920 might be my next phone

There is no denying that Android phones and the iPhone dominate the smartphone market. They only leave 4% market share for Windows Phone devices, like the Lumia 920, to take. The last two phones that I have owned were both iPhones, but now I am considering switching to the underdog.

The spec sheet on Windows Phone 7 devices has been limited due to Microsoft, but now manufacturers can create top of the line hardware for Windows Phone 8. A dual-core processor and HD display are requirements for my next phone and the Lumia 920 checks both those boxes. In fact, The Verge describes the screen as “one of the more impressive LCD displays we’ve seen.”

What really impressed me about this phone is the PureView branded camera. The only other camera with the PureView name used impressive technology to take a 41 megapixel photo and downscale it to a lower resolution to remove the graininess. The camera on the 920 works differently though. Instead it focuses on keeping the image still with optical image stabilization. Keeping the lens still allowed Nokia to keep the shutter open for a longer period of time while taking a photo. This allows more light into the sensor and provides better, less grainy photos. The difference is especially noticeable at night and indoors where lighting is far from ideal. My iPhone 4’s camera takes grainy photos indoors, so the Lumia 920 should be a significant upgrade.

Comparison photos taken on leading smartphones:

Image Credit: The Verge

The Lumia 920 has the main things that I want out of a phone – a beautiful display, speedy processor, and a high quality camera.