Before I stumbled onto a mechanism that could immitate, partly, the imaging abilities of the sonar of dolphins, I worked at creating a new science and a new technology wherein "animal behavior" and robotics would cross pollinate. I invented the term
combining "etho" in honor of the European name, "ethology," for the science of the behavior of animals with "robotics." I had in mind that the progress of these two fields would be mutually stimulating.
Eventually, I was induced by circumstances to move to the graduate mathematics program of Auburn University in Alabama where former students of the Third Floor encouraged me (notably Ben Fitzpatrick, Jr.,
Distressed at a long period of failing to make anything useful of Convex Topology, I gave in to the oblique influence of Third Floor graduate John Neuberger and took up computing.
Circumstances in 1983 took me to Baton Rouge where the Computer Science department of Southern University, SU, accepted me onto its faculty to teach courses heavy in mathematics. Their need must have been great: they overlooked my deficiencies in their science. I went there to learn-while-teaching, intending to stay just two years. After 31 years, I retired to invent sonar methods inspired by dolphins.
At SU, the head-of-department, Leroy Roquemore, and his successors, gave me experience working on grants. On a NASA project related to the economics of an early idea for The Space Station, I was on a team with Charlie Plott of Cal Tech. In 1985, I invented a computer-simulations, my first, for an auction-idea of economist Vernon Smith.
Circa 1991, I invented the Orthodrop method by which I was able to solve huge, sparse systems of linear equations on my little PC. Then, Alan Hindmarsh informed me that he had recently learned of the method and that John von Neumann had distributed memeographed notes on the main idea of Orthodrop back in the 1930's.
In 1992, I began distributing by mail and later put onto a website, " Ethorobotics of Microsubmarines" subtitled "Dolphinoids for Ridgetrek." The word "ethorobotics" appeared in an article, "Day of the Dolphinoid," excerpted from that larger work, into a trade publication in 1993. Google now returns hits on the word " ethorobotics" that are independent of my early work. It seems likely that some roboticists I talked with, and handed a paper to, at a symposium in New England, liked the word and adopted it for their adaptation of physical, swimming, methods of fish to small submarines. My work in autonomous robotics was encouraged by Richard Blidberg who was an early mover-and-shaker in "unmanned, unteathered, submersible technology."
While funded by NASA, my team invented methods of capturing "wisdom" from retiring rocket scientists, and others. The project went on for a few years, but I eventually realized that I would have to NOT go further down that path or I would create precious little "wisdom" of my own - of the depth I believed myself capable. Yet, I cringe when I think of the wisdom and technical details that have been lost as the scientists and engineers of the days of the Moon missions retired or died. More generally, the United States lost much technical wisdom and even nitty-gritty know-how as it lost its "Baby Boomers" who, among other things, put a man onto the moon.
On one grant-project, I and my university collegue John Dyer (who, from high school in England had won a scholarship to Oxford in mathematics) were asked to think about what could be accomplished by using two Patriot Missile radar sets together. I applied some of my thoughts about autonomous robotics and learned a little bit about radar - which allowed me, years later, to begin simulations of the sonar of dolphins. The final report of our team must have impressed someone because it was declared "secret" and I have not seen or heard of it since.
On yet another grant project, John Dyer and I were asked what could be done by placing sensors on some of the 4000 or so oil-platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. So, remembering some earlier thoughts about using AI to explore the Mid Atlantic Ridge, I invented the initial concept of a Distributed Observatory, based upon a network of sensors and computers and software whose "intelligence" would grow over time.
would be the distributed observatory of many earth sciences, based, initialy upon those oil platforms, but also on nearby boats and so on. The data would be analyzed by a largely autonomous network of small computers working together with a rapidly growable grid of larger computers. The automated system could quickly increase its capabilities in a modeling response to a rapidly developing hurricane. The system would be self-organizing and adaptable to damage. The general idea is not restricted to the Gulf, nor to oil-platforms.
Circa 2001 (I am not sure), after examining a directional microphone for sale in some store and wondering how it might work, I accidentally created a model of what might be the mechanism of the imaging sonar of dolphins. That mechanism has evolved, in my mind, and continues to survive tests in computer-based simulations. My theory of how the microphone worked was, however, quite wrong.
Some web-pages featuring my own work and wild ideas:
Aposyndesis: Towards a Theory of Evolution of Social Groups (and war and such)
Dolphin Inspired Sonar, how do they do it and can we immitate them?
DOMES an introduction to the concept of a "distributed observatory."
Epistemological Concerns in Climate Science.