Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fluency Milestone #6: Algorithms

Rather than discuss Snyder's take on algorithms, or the fascinating guest we talked to in our class, I am going to talk about a a new magazine article that explains how the concept of an algorithm can be used in unusual ways.

The Article is from the December issue of Wired. It profiles the efforts of mathematician Dan Rockmore to develop an algorithm-based system to determine if a particular painting was painted by a great master or a great faker.

First, he takes a digital photo of a Rembrandt with a 20-megapixel camera. A computer analyzes the pixes, coding each one as a number between 0 and 255. Eventually, the software statistcally summarizes 72 pieces of data about each square of the picture.

The part I thought was interesting was that once all of this data has been sifted, he can assign a set of coordinates on a 3D graph to the painting. A Rembrandt can be reduced to three numbers. The shocking thing is that it seems to work. Paintings by the same artist will cluster together, while paintings by imitators and pupils are everywhere else.


If he can get his algorithm to work, he could destroy dozens of fortunes, as works by old masters are suddenly cast in doubt.

Here's the article:

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