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‘Man vs. Snake’: Netflix documentary highlights WSU professor’s record-breaking arcade gaming skills

Tom Asaki.Tom Asaki, an associate professor of mathematics at Washington State University, flicked a 1980s arcade machine joystick back and forth in the basement of his Genesee, Idaho, home, his hand strategically guiding a red snake through a maze as the machine beeped and booped in the background.

The game: a Pac-Man-esque, yet obscure, 1982 Rock-Ola release called Nibbler. The goal: consume all the food in the maze without letting the snake run into its own tail.

It is a seemingly simple concept, but only a handful of players in the world have gotten as far as Asaki, whose skills are featured in a 2015 documentary, “Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.”

The film, now on Netflix, takes an in-depth look at some of the best Nibbler players in the world, including Asaki, who said he was interviewed for the documentary about nine years ago on the WSU campus.

Asaki made headlines in May 1983 when he became the first recorded person to attempt to earn a billion points on Nibbler.

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Spokesman-Review

Hedy Lamarr’s scientific inventions topic of film, talk

Leslie New
Leslie New

We’ve inherited this idea that the species known as “inventor” is easily identified by markings like a white lab coat, furrowed brow, bottle-thick glasses and, of course, male-pattern baldness.

In which case, where does Hedy Lamarr fit in? Today, the self-taught scientist and inventor is credited (along with an equally unlikely collaborator, music composer George Antheil) with the visionary thinking, and tinkering, that resulted in military “radio-skipping” technology, aimed at blocking Axis powers from intercepting and jamming signals from radio-controlled Allied missiles during World War II.

“She and many other women have contributed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but have been dismissed or deliberately forgotten by virtue of their gender,” said Leslie New, an assistant professor of statistics at Washington State University Vancouver.

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The Columbian 

 

Mathematician breaks down how to defend against quantum computing attacks

Nathan Hamlin
Nathan Hamlin

The encryption codes that safeguard internet data today won’t be secure forever. Future quantum computers may have the and algorithms to crack them.

Nathan Hamlin, instructor and director of the WSU Math Learning Center, is helping to prepare for this eventuality.

He is the author of a new paper in the Open Journal of Discrete Mathematics that explains how a code he wrote for a doctoral thesis, the Generalized Knapsack Code, could thwart hackers armed with next generation quantum computers.

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Phys.org

Science Newsline

WSUV researchers develop much faster way to model aquatic vegetation

With half the world’s population—more than 3.5 billion people, according to an United Nations estimate—living less than 40 miles away from coastlines, scientists want to know how effectively coastal plants buffer inland areas from rising seas and extreme weather events. But doing the research was an arduous and limited task until three Washington State University Vancouver scientists got involved.

Lienard
Lienard
Nik Strigul
Strigul
Stephen Henderson
Henderson

WSUV environmental scientist Stephen Henderson worked with Nikolay Strigul, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and Jean Liénard, a mathematics postdoctoral researcher, to develop a computer model that uses photographs to re-create the complex geometry of the plants to be used in a workable computer model.

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The Columbian

Modeling maps vegetation to monitor erosion, rising seas

Stephen Henderson
Stephen Henderson

Washington State University scientists Stephen Henderson and Nikolay Strigul have developed a computer model that uses photographs to recreate the complex geometry of coastal plants.

“A large and growing percentage of Earth’s human population lives at low elevations along coastlines,” said Henderson, an associate professor in the School of the Environment at WSU Vancouver. “Developing a better understanding of the sheltering effects of aquatic vegetation on these environments will help us identify areas at risk from climate change and in the design of solutions to future problems.”

The research more efficiently gathers input for models that determine the effectiveness of mangrove forests, seagrass beds and other coastal plants at depositing sediment and reducing flooding and erosion. This could eventually help scientists predict how rising seas and more frequent extreme weather events will affect coastal population centers impacted by climate change.

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WSU News