Interactions: The Future of Scientific Communication

Simpler Machine Learning

Some Mathematics

Introducing Neural Networks

XOR: A Simple Neural Network in Detail

Recurrent Neural Networks

Interactions: The Future of Scientific Communication

About me

For all of human history, scientific communication has been carried out using static text and diagrams. Sometime during this century, there will be a complete shift towards dynamic, interactive media. That is, scientific communication will be carried out primarily using text and diagrams dancing on the computer screen, interacting all the time with the user. I call these dynamic interactive media “Interactions”. One current way to enable them is using the HTML5 “canvas” element.

Some of the most initial, primitive, halting steps in this direction are on display on some of today’s websites, and indeed, on this one. Much of science and engineering is enabled using differential equations, and in the future, along with the differential equations, there will be visual interactions with the differential equations, tailored to the application at hand. Likewise for all other types of related mathematics.

The result will be nothing less than the democratization of science. Advanced researchers will be able to communicate their ideas to any person with basic scientific literacy, rather than just their immediate peers. As an outcome of this, there will be a lot more cross-fertilization between different fields of science. The key to realizing this vision in its entirety is to come up with a set of general purpose APIs that can be used across a variety of applications. Along with these APIs, there should be a set of “design patterns” that guide the writers in creating the Interactions.

The difference between Interactions and ordinary simulations is the rich user interaction of the Interactions. The difference between Interactions and Mathematica is that while Mathematica is a system for computation, Interactions are a system for communication which can include computation.

The Interactions presented on this website have a light grey background. They are intended to be intuitive to use. For most of the Interactions, you just have to hover over the circles or connecting lines (neurons or weights), with your mouse, or press the appropriate buttons. A brief description of how to engage with each Interaction is given in the paragraph preceding it. I’ll mention that I still use ordinary static diagrams at places – they have a plain white background.

The Interactions presented on this website are as follows:

Math: Functions
Introducing Neural Networks: Basics
XOR: Playing with the Weights
XOR: Playing with Training
XOR: Backpropagation in Detail

All of these Interactions make use of the HTML5 "canvas" element and are coded in JavaScript. The code for the above Interactions is hosted at GitHub.

An excellent and very simple example of how equations can be made interactive is at the Maxwell’s Equations website. The author achieves the ingenious effect of making every term in each equation, including the equals signs, a clickable hyperlink which leads to a page that describes that term. It is a great site for understanding Maxwell’s equations, which encompass all of electricity and magnetism.

I am currently working on how to make equations more interactive.

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