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Space Radio with Dr. Paul Sutter

Astrophysicist Dr. Paul Sutter interviews SAM Director Kai Staats from within the Biosphere 2!

“This week on Space Radio I had the opportunity to catch up with my good friend Kai Staats. Kai joined us from the grounds of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 as we talked about his newest project, Space Analog for the Moon and Mars. Among other topics, we discussed the removal of perchlorates from the Martian soil and how Methane could potentially be used.” — Dr. Sutter

By |2021-06-12T21:38:59-04:00June 10th, 2021|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on Space Radio with Dr. Paul Sutter

The construction of SAM begins!

SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats

After two and a half years in research and development, networking and team building, chasing dollars and fund raising, this is the day we can officially say, “SAM IS BEING BUILT!”

SAM is a hi-fidelity, hermetically sealed analog and research center composed of a crew quarters, airlock and hub, and greenhouse with temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide level controls. When complete, SAM will include a half-acre Mars yard for pressure suit, tool use, and rover tests. Located at the world renowned Biosphere 2 outside of Oracle, Arizona SAM is built around the original Test Module, a 480 cubic meter sealed greenhouse with automated, gravity-fed pressure regulation system designed and built by Taber MacCallum, William Dempster, and fellow Biospherians in 1987.

This week I have moved from my residence in Cascabel, Arizona to the Biosphere 2 where I fully anticipate long, back-to-back days of physical labor and further development of this exciting program. It is likely that my own blog entries will be few and far between for the coming year, but I will be posting regular updates about our progress at samb2.space/blog/.

I hope to see you there!

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch

SAM at B2, lung repair with Trent Tresch SAM at B2 with Trent Tresch and Kai Staats

By |2021-06-13T19:58:50-04:00January 20th, 2021|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on The construction of SAM begins!

COVID-19 isolation as an analog for space travel

As one who has frequently lived in isolation, in 2013 on a remote ranch in Colorado six weeks without seeing another human, and now in a wilderness abode with the closest neighbor a quarter mile away, the nearest town more than thirty, I recognize that my situation is the opposite from those living in isolation in the city.

This disparity causes me to wonder, Would be more difficult to venture to Mars with crew mates, or totally alone? Living in a highly confined space for more than a half year is certainly one of humanity’s greatest challenges, while the practices of living alone, solo trekking, and meditation retreats are celebrated as a means to elevate the human experience.

Do we also celebrate interpersonal caring, space sharing, and communication in such a way as to uphold those who have “survived” group dynamics in close proximity for extended periods of time? Are there monks who practice daily banter rather than go months without speaking?

Perhaps the original Biosphere 2 was just such an experiment, in the end. Many lessons learned. Surely, every Apollo mission had stories to tell as does every U.S. Navy submarine captain.

In this home-bound arena many people are learning what it means to share a small space with others, or how to go it alone. What we can learn from this experience as we design and construct prototypes for off-world habitation? How can our space program benefit from what are now learning? What does personal space mean, when space is already limited? How can we train individuals to communicate in such a way as to uphold the communal space and respect personal space too? How do you assure astronauts will come out the other end of a long journey bound by the mission objectives and also bound by something even more powerful, friendship for a lifetime? And is over militar training the only way? How does architecture support or undermine interpersonal relationships?

Questions without immediate answers … we will see.

By |2020-05-19T19:32:24-04:00May 19th, 2020|Looking up!, Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on COVID-19 isolation as an analog for space travel

True or False … stay tuned

There was a period in my life, from 2012-2015 when I was adept at producing a regular series of essays. I was weekly sharing stories of my travels, adventures, meetings, and interactions with the world in so many ways. I felt, at that time, that my life was rich, dynamic, and impossibly full. Yet, now, I am working more hours each day, more full days each week than in the past decade and the richness of my engagements is equally fulfilling, even if in a different way. Yet, the stories are internalized, always on hold, for the process is each day unfolding.

When a day in Palestine, Tanzania, or South Africa is a day worth describing, a day working on Python coding leaves one wanting to get away from the keyboard, not closing the day with more typing. What’s more, there is a fear of ridicule for sharing the process if the process is one already tested and proved true or false, for in research the goal is not to rediscover, but to discover anew.

To share the process is to share potential success or potential failure in the making. And that is hard to do.

By |2018-05-17T00:46:49-04:00May 17th, 2018|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on True or False … stay tuned

Postcard from Mars – a SIMOC update: March 10, 2018

At 8 pm this evening, the ASU Capstone team that has been developing the SIMOC game interface will have completed the first working prototype. This brings to fruition six months development of this unique agent model, and lays the foundation for its continued evolution.

As with all software projects, we begin with the blue sky as our goal, and a belief that we will reach that far. In October, November, and December of 2017 we engaged two calls each week, Saturday and Monday evenings. These 1-3 hour brainstorming sessions were a chance for the entire team to explore the possibilities of a scalable, mathematical model with a gaming interface.

We continually juggled the need to build a scientific foundation, a tool to be used for research with the goal to provide a gaming interface that engaged the non-scientific community (while yet producing scientific data, under the hood). While I have extensive experience in software development through my ten years as CEO of Terra Soft, and each of the ASU team came on-board with skills and experience ranging from Python to C, bash to CSS and SQL servers, none of us have built anything quite like this. None of us was truly the leader, nor anyone following. We all pitched in, challenged each other in the conversations, and slowly laid a design foundation that seemed to work.

ASU undergraduate astronomy student Tyler Cox came on-board in July 2017 to get the ball rolling. He built the first, working agent-based model (ABM) using Python and the Mesa library. He was able to quickly demonstrate a functional “astronaut in a can” model in which the initial parameters determined if the human crew of astronauts lived or died (they mostly died). Even our simple model with a light interaction between humans, a few species of plants, and a contained atmosphere proved tricky as even a minor imbalance in the system lead to catastrophic results.

SIMOC data flow by Ben Mccord

In January the capstone team duplicated Tyler’s work on an Amazon web server, integrating SIMOC into an SQL database instead of the original JSON configuration files. Following a minor setback in which we realized Unity was overkill and a good ol’ web interface would suffice, we reset our expectations and started again. The end result goes lives tonight at 8 pm Arizona Mountain Time. It will be simple, and a little rough around the edges, but the Launch screen, Configuration Wizard, and Dashboard (game interface) will be complete (for now).

I have enjoyed the pleasure of working with the following ASU undergraduate students through the Computer Science Capstone team: Ben McCord, Greg Schoberth, Terry Turner, Thomas Curry, and Yves Koulidiati. In addition, we have this year welcomed the incredibly talented, widely published space artist and habitat designer Bryan Versteeg of Spacehabs.com as a backbone to our design process. And most recently, Kevin Hubbard comes to us with a strong foundation in the social sciences, his intent to introduce a means by which we can integrate human social behavior into a more advanced version of our model.

By |2019-07-07T13:53:05-04:00March 10th, 2018|Looking up!, Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on Postcard from Mars – a SIMOC update: March 10, 2018

Postcard from Mars – a SIMOC update: February 5, 2018

Rover by Bryan Versteeg Just two weeks ago our work on SIMOC resumed. The holiday break was longer than anticipated (by me). I feel we lost some momentum from the pace we set last fall, but we are regaining now, shooting for a working prototype by the Interplanetary Initiative meeting March 5.

The team made a decision last week to abandon Unity as our game play engine, instead building a Javascript web interface. While we will have less total functionality, we are now more closely aligned with the current goals of this first version of our game play interface. And we will far more easily achieve the desired cross-platform support through a web interface. This decision cost us a week-long sprint of agile programming. Not a tremendous amount of time, but a loss that could have been avoided had I. A lesson learned, but no long-term damage done.

Greenhouse by Bryan Versteeg With the start of the new year we welcomed Bryan Versteeg, world renowned space artist onto the team. He is now leading the design of the game play interface and playing “pieces”, the icons that represent the growing, off-world community.

By |2019-07-07T13:55:01-04:00February 5th, 2018|Looking up!, Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on Postcard from Mars – a SIMOC update: February 5, 2018

A Raspberry Pi for the Holidays

Raspberry Pi desktop through VNC

It may not look like much, but this is pure joy. Not since the development of Karoo GP for my MSc have I enjoyed discovering the potential of a computer. I recognize I am a bit late to the game, for the Raspberry Pi has been out since 2012. But for me, I finally made time to configure, launch, and explore the Pi 2B gifted to me for Christmas 2015.

The Sunfounder 37 Modules Sensor Kit has proved to be a great deal of fun. Nothing less than simple to execute, the experiments open a new world for automation, data collection, and robotics. I can’t wait to dive back in soon, to learn more.

Now, I have VNC running directly to my MacBook Pro which also provides Internet access. I have loaded Kodi, the multimedia player, and will tomorrow conduct a test-run of the Raspberry Pi with a 7″ touchscreen LCD as my principal provider of music in my Subaru. If successful, I will remove the Kenwood deck and instead install the Raspberry Pi plus amplifier and once again have full control of my driving environment.

By |2018-11-25T17:14:17-04:00December 29th, 2017|Critical Thinker, Humans & Technology, Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on A Raspberry Pi for the Holidays

Feature Construction with Genetic Programming

In working with LIGO supernovae data composed of noise-triggers (glitches) and supernovae-candidates (synthetic injections), we are pressing beyond a fitness ceiling measured by Precision-Recall. No matter the depth of GP tree or number of generations evolved, these features are not enabling the level of classification we desire.

Therefore, I am working to construct a new set of features. My first effort will be to use Karoo GP to evolve a small, multivariate expression which retains the value of its P-R score. In theory, when introduced back into the feature list, GP is able to start from this constructed feature, and build upon its inherent fitness score, thereby achieving a higher P-R value.

So, if GP evolves an expression which incorporates three of a dozen available features, and that function scores 80% Precision-Recall, then when evaluated against real data, row-by-row, that single output value itself provides an 80% P-R score without the need to evaluate those in that combination, again. If you have, for example, an evolved multivariate expression which provides an 80% differentiation of classes, its single, solved numeric value is also 80% effective as were the collection of features.

Here is an expression evolved by Karoo GP:

bw1 – 2*low + rh1 + vol/d0

Here is the equivalent expression, the original feature names replaced by the column positions in the dataset represented as a spreadsheet:

G2 – 2*E2 + A2 + B2/C2

Roughly 80% of the data points are in fact split across the x-axis such that class 0 (noise) are below and class 1 (sn event) are above, where the scatter-plot offers 2000 noise-triggers and 2000 candidate-events.

Maybe this will stimulate some ideas, or give a graduate student something to do over the weekend :)


By |2020-08-15T13:53:31-04:00August 5th, 2017|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on Feature Construction with Genetic Programming

TensorFlow enabled Genetic Programming

GECCO ’17 Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference Companion

Abstract: “Genetic Programming, a kind of evolutionary computation and machine learning algorithm, is shown to benefit significantly from the application of vectorized data and the TensorFlow numerical computation library on both CPU and GPU architectures. The open source, Python Karoo GP is employed for a series of 190 tests across 6 platforms, with real-world datasets ranging from 18 to 5.5M data points. This body of tests demonstrates that datasets measured in tens and hundreds of data points see 2-15x improvement when moving from the scalar/SymPy configuration to the vector/TensorFlow configuration, with a single core performing on par or better than multiple CPU cores and CPUs. A dataset composed of 90,000 data points demonstrates a single vector/TensorFlow CPU core performing 875x better than 40 scalar/Sympy CPU cores. And a dataset containing 5.5M data points sees GPU configurations out-performing CPU configurations on average by 1.3x.”

My first 1st-author paper is published! Thank you Lee, Eddie, Marco, Arun, and Iuri for your input, support, and collaboration. –kai

By |2017-08-05T18:31:13-04:00August 5th, 2017|Ramblings of a Researcher|Comments Off on TensorFlow enabled Genetic Programming