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To: mwforum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: mosquito project (was: Introduction)
From: "Daniel Ajoy" <da.ajoy@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 02 Jan 2007 14:14:18 -0500

On 15 Sep 2006 at 11:37, Gary McCallister wrote:

> I also have a program for how
> a mosquito finds its prey.  

Chris Myers sent me the attached paper written by Seymour
Papert, it describes a "logomecium", and I found it very
similar to your mosquito project:

Consider a hypothetical student who has constructed a 
simulation of tropism by programming a screen creature 
(called a logomecium) to move toward another screen object 
(the goal). The logomecium is able to detect whether the 
goal is more to the left or to the right and its law of 
motion is to move forward continuously making small 
adjustments of heading in the direction detected. This kind 
of construction comes up naturally in a variety of contexts 
including biological simulations (from which the logomecium 
gets its name), games (for example when one character 
chases another) and some interesting geometric situations 
(e.g. if the goal follows a path, say a circle, what does 
the logomecium do?).

So far no PT, but at least an insight into another strand 
of z I like to call "cybernetics" that includes building 
physical as well as screen-based "creatures." But 
probabilistic thinking comes into the picture when we 
consider what happens if the logomecium encounters an 
uncrossable (but transparent) obstacle. The solution that 
is easiest to implement and can also lay claim to being 
conceptually the richest consists of introducing a 
probabilistic element into the behavior of the logomecium.


The logomecium's behavior using the random strategy can 
fruitfully be compared with the computationally more 
complex behavior of recognizing that it is blocked (which 
it does not have to do for the random strategy to work) and 
finding its way around the obstacle. The idea that obstacle 
avoidance can have probabilistic and/or deterministic 
components leads to looking at real creatures (e.g. 
paramecia or flies or bees) and trying to determine whether 
there is a probabilistic element in their behavior. 
Whatever the outcome, there is room here for discussion 
about the use of randomness as a powerful problem-solving 
technique. It is not hard to elicit animated discussion 
about the many ways in which "nature" has "used" this 
technique. A teacher (or a text or an advice program) could 
encourage individual students to undertake research 
projects aimed at searching for situations where randomness 
is useful as well as for situations in which randomness is 
a nuisance to be overcome.

OpenWorld Learning

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