Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Iván Rodríguez are in the Hall of Fame!

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Iván ("Pudge") Rodríguez are heading to Cooperstown!!!!

Rodríguez made it (with 4 votes more than the minimum) on the first ballot, becoming the second catcher (the other was Johnny Bench) to do so. It's about damn time that Bagwell and, especially, Raines made it into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. They both should have been inducted years ago. Trevor Hoffmann (5 votes short) and Vladimir Guerrero (15 votes short) both cracked 70% of the vote (at least 75% is needed) and should make it next year. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds made good progress and finally seem on their way. (If not for their extracurricular issues, they would have of course been inner-circle Hall of Famers and made it with exceptionally large vote percentages on the first ballot.) Mike Mussina gained enough votes to crack 50% of the vote and should gain more next year and hopefully make it soon. Edgar Martínez gained a very large number of votes, and he (along with Mike Mussina) are who we now need to get behind so that they get their richly deserved enshrinements into the Hall. Curt Schilling's vote total went in the wrong direction, seemingly because of his controversial tweets, but he richly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, so hopefully he'll eventually make it as well.

Larry Walker, in his 7th year on the ballot, surpassed 20% of the vote and made some progress, but it looks like he's going to have to wait until some version of the Veterans Committee selects him for the Hall. In my mind, Walker is a Hall of Famer, and a lot of people don't realize just how good he is. Manny Ramírez, who comes with a particularly enormous performance-enhancing-drug (PED) cloud (with two suspensions to his name), cracked 20% of the vote. Voters are clearly softening on this front, as was expected and as I believe is correct, but a rather large difference between Ramírez and players like Bonds and Clemens is that the cloud is much darker for Ramírez, so it will probably take him a long time to get elected. (I suspect he will make it eventually, perhaps from a Veterans Committee.) His statistics on their own obviously merit induction, but Ramírez's relationship with PEDs is very far beyond the border. Jeff Kent, who also belongs in the Hall, continues to get much less support than he deserves. (Fellow middle infielders Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell can commiserate. Whitaker even fell off the ballot, which is ridiculous.)

Former commissioner Bud Selig and executive John Schuerholz were elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this offseason by a Veterans Committee.

You can find more information on the Hall of Fame tracker. has a page detailing who will (and others will likely) appear on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Hoffman and Guerrero will surely make it next year. I don't think any of the other holdovers will make it next year, but watch for Martínez, Mussina, Clemens, and Bonds to make further progress. Among the newcomers, Chipper Jones will make it easily, Jim Thome will get a lot of votes (but is unlikely to make it in his first year), Scott Rolen will probably get a lot less support than he deserves (though he may be inducted into the Hall of Fame eventually), Omar Vizquel will get a bunch of votes, and perhaps Johnny Damon and Andruw Jones will get enough votes not to get kicked off the ballot. I suspect Thome will make it in his second or third try, and Vizquel will likely make the Hall eventually as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Adventures With Old Caltech Catalogs

The 1974–1975 Caltech catalog was the first one to include the unit requirements for all* options in "modern" form (where "modern" means that's how it was when we arrived as frosh).

And in that catalog, Applied Math and Math required 483 units, and each of the other options required 516 units. (So then at some point that 516 was changed to 486. So Applied Math and Math were the pioneers!)

In prior years, each option (perhaps with some commonality due to influence of Divisions) essentially listed the requirements in their own format (occasionally including the modern format). Some of them listed required unit numbers (e.g., 530), but they were different for different options. Applied Math in 1973–74 required 537 units, but Math didn't list any one number in this format (though one could compute a minimum based on other types of requirements, such core courses, electives, and units per term). So somehow for 74–75, Applied Math and Math decided to be different from everybody else (naturally).

* except for the "Independent Studies Program", which is understandably much less structured in the catalog

Note: See this discussion for further background.

Note 2: I majored in Applied Math at Caltech. I graduated in 1998, and I first enrolled there during the 1994–95 school year.

This was really bugging me. Now I'll get back to what I was supposed to be doing.

Is Reality a Group Project?

Well, is it?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Course Proposal (University of Washington): "Calling Bullshit"

Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West from University of Washington have developed an important and interesting course called Calling Bullshit. It isn't yet part of a course catalog, but they have assembled a great selection of reading, and hopefully it will be an "official" offering soon.

As they write: "We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument."

(Tip of the cap to the Bansal lab.)

Update: I have updated this blog entry (adding and slightly changing some text above) to make it clear that the course isn't literally being offered yet, but its material has been assembled, so go take a look at it!

Update (1/14/17): I wrote a blurb about this course for the Improbable Research blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Alternative Explanation

You never know.

Encounter at the Gates of Hell

Sweating from the profuse heat, at the gates of Hell, you encounter a devil, dressed in a lounge suit and singing "Baby It's Cold Outside."

(I would humbly suggest requesting "I Won't Back Down".)

Monday, January 09, 2017

Headline: "God Banned By Facebook For Wanting Healthcare and Education"

I am highly amused by this article, and especially by this online conversation. That is hilarious!

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Proof that England has Sun

"A Predator–2 Prey Fast–Slow Dynamical System for Rapid Predator Evolution"

One of my papers has now been posted in final form. (A second one appeared online today, but it joins a long list of papers that are still awaiting their coordinates. I will blog about those papers when they have those coordinates.)

Anyway, let's talk about the paper that does have its coordinates. It's about plankton modeling, and here are the details.

Title: A Predator–2 Prey Fast–Slow Dynamical System for Rapid Predator Evolution

Authors: So a H. Piltz, Frits Veerman, Philip K. Maini, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We consider adaptive change of diet of a predator population that switches its feeding between two prey populations. We develop a novel 1 fast–3 slow dynamical system to describe the dynamics of the three populations amidst continuous but rapid evolution of the predator's diet choice. The two extremes at which the predator's diet is composed solely of one prey correspond to two branches of the three-branch critical manifold of the fast–slow system. By calculating the points at which there is a fast transition between these two feeding choices (i.e., branches of the critical manifold), we prove that the system has a two-parameter family of periodic orbits for su ciently large separation of the time scales between the evolutionary and ecological dynamics. Using numerical simulations, we show that these periodic orbits exist, and that their phase di erence and oscillation patterns persist, when ecological and evolutionary interactions occur on comparable time scales. Our model also exhibits periodic orbits that agree qualitatively with oscillation patterns observed in experimental studies of
the coupling between rapid evolution and ecological interactions.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Treants Love Baseball

I really like the new SMBC!

Maybe I was a treant in a past life? :) (Or "ent", if you prefer earlier terminology.)

"Mathematics for Human Flourishing"

I just read Francis Su's address from the 2017 Joint Mathematics Meetings as the conclusion of his tenure as Mathematical Association of America (MAA) president. This is an important read for those of us teaching mathematics at universities (and for many others).

(Tip of the cap to Susan Holmes.)