Fridaygram: open source mentors, robotic fish, cooperative children

March 02, 2012

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By Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

Google Summer of Code, now in its eighth year, is a wonderful program that releases eager university students onto open source projects. To help participants succeed, the program connects students with mentors to guide them on their open source way.

Google Summer of Code wouldn’t work without a great bunch of mentors, and the program is now accepting applications from open source projects that want to provide mentors to participants. If you’re involved in an open source project, this is an excellent way for you to find and teach new developers, and of course to get them interested in your project in particular. The deadline for mentor applications is March 9, which is next Friday, so if you’re interested, don’t delay.

All Google Summer of Code mentors are required to be human for now. But experimenters are looking into what it takes for a robot to be a leader – of fish. To test their ideas, researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University built a robotic fish. By varying the way its tail moved and the speed of its swimming, the scientists were able to get their robot to assume a leadership role, with other fish swimming behind.

Finally, if science fiction movies have you concerned that humans might someday lose their leadership status to other primates, you can take comfort in a study that showed human children working together, while chimps and monkeys didn’t share tasks at all. In fact, adult non-humans didn’t even help their young: one of the study’s authors said that parents simply stole their offspring’s food. So, go humans!

On Fridays we (mostly) take a break from the real news and do a Fridaygram post just for fun. Each Fridaygram item must pass only one test: it has to be interesting to us nerds. We’re happy to have you reading Fridaygram, whether you’re human, ape, robotic fish, or other.