Friday, December 28, 2012

Writers and Voting for Baseball's Hall of Fame

T. J. Quinn has written a very nice and intelligent article about why he has given up his annual vote for Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. I approve!

"The Nonsense Math Effect"

Courtesy of the Annals of Improbable Research, here is a discussion of the nonsense math effect. That is really depressing...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Strange But True

Jayson Stark has posted his annual strange-but-true article for the 2012 Major League Baseball season. I haven't yet read the whole article, but my favorite snippet thus far is this one: But that wasn't even the Rockies' Strangest But Truest Feat of the Year. Thanks to an innovative team rule limiting all starting pitchers to 75 pitches, they didn't have a single pitcher on the roster who even threw 115 innings. And how many teams since 1900 could say that? Zero, of course -- including strike years!

That's pretty damn impressive!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Newton's Laws Still Work

I have once again tested Newton's laws of motion (though not in as dramatic a fashion as at the 2004 American Physical Society March Meeting). Yup, they still work.

Stupid wall. That was supposed to be an open passageway.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Darkened Cities

Thierry Cohen has produced some awesome pictures of what a few cities would look like if they didn't have human-made lights. I especially appreciate the pictures of Shanghai to compare to my memories and pictures of the place.

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sequel to "Who's on First?"

And now, for your listening (and viewing) pleasure, here is a sequel to "Who's on First" starting Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld. I approve!

Where have you gone, Chin Lung Hu?

Friday, December 21, 2012

I am a Selective Luddite

As some of you know, I am a luddite when it comes to cell phones. I don't want one, and I do my best not to have one. I had one for the first half of 2003 when I lived in Berkeley because it was the only chance of having a private phone number. I was living in the room of somebody else's house, and my landlady's 98-year-old mother apparently was quite a fan of answering the phone and talking to people. The mother was a nice lady --- she once asked me if my family went back to "The War", by which she meant the civil war --- but she wasn't particularly coherent and I figured there would be massive communication problems if I didn't get a phone.

Now here I am 10 years later spending 4 months in Palo Alto for my sabbatical. I again don't have access to a landline and I plan to hang out a lot with my friends --- that is why I chose to spend my sabbatical in Palo Alto, after all --- so I've gotten a phone to use for the next 4 months.

And just to prove I am a selective luddite, once 4 months have passed, I am going to drop my new phone off of the top of a very tall building. I might as well make it literal.

2013 American Mathematical Society Prizes

The 2013 American Mathematical Society have been announced. I don't remember seeing them announced this much before the Joint Mathematics Meetings before.

There are some winners from the home team (by which I mean dynamical systems). Yasha Sinai won the Steele Prize for lifetime achievement, and John Guckenheimer and Phil Holmes received the Steele Prize in exposition for their famous book (which continues to be a useful reference for researchers several decades after its release). Very nice and richly deserved!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cool Shirts and Cookie Monster Hat

I am extremely amused by this pirate crossword shirt. There are quite a few other cool shirts on this page, where you can also see an awesome Cookie Monster hat.

She Fucking Loves Science

Elise Andrew has done a huge amount good for science outreach with her Facebook page called "I Fucking Love Science". (I am a subscriber and I enjoy many of the posts, but I am particularly pleased with its outreach success.) You can read more about it in this article.

Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.

Tales from the ArXiv: "Cool for Cats"

This paper, which is about Schrödinger cat states, is called "Cool for Cats". I approve!

(I considered telling a similar joke in a paper once, but the pun didn't quite work, and I found a different one that worked better.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Happens in Palo Alto Stays in Palo Alto

I am on sabbatical, and I will be spending the bulk of it based in Palo Alto. I'll have a desk to use in Stanford's math department and I'm sure there will be good collaboration (including with friends), but the main thing is to spend some quality time with some of my favorite people.

I'm in a bit of a dark mood at the moment, but I think that's mostly because of not eating or sleeping enough yesterday. At least I can recognize that this is where my sour mood comes from, though unfortunately that doesn't prevent my mind from taking dark turns.

But enough of that! Tomorrow morning I am going to fly to Palo Alto and start hanging with my friends. I could mention names (and I am thinking of you fondly right now) but you know who you are, so you don't need me to tell you that. And even though I am not in a good mood as I write this and of course jetlag is going to kick my ass (as it always does), I'm really looking forward to spending 4 months with a home base near my friends. And, obviously, it will be very nice to be able to spend a lot of time with them in person instead of just communicating electronically.

I'm going to be with my peeps! Bring it on!

P.S. This is blog entry number 3000. I write a lot of text.

Update (12/19/12): Not so much an update but more of a glaring omission in the text above. I will be based in Palo Alto through 18 April.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"The Extraordinary SVD"

The final version of my article The Extraordinary SVD is now out.

Title: The Extraordinary SVD

Authors: Carla D. Martin and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: The singular value decomposition (SVD) is a popular matrix factorization that has been used widely in applications ever since an efficient algorithm for its computation was developed in the 1970s. In recent years, the SVD has become even more prominent due to a surge in applications and increased computational memory and speed. To illustrate the vitality of the SVD in data analysis, we highlight three of its lesser-known yet fascinating applications. The SVD can be used to characterize political positions of congressmen, measure the growth rate of crystals in igneous rock, and examine entanglement in quantum computation. We also discuss higher-dimensional generalizations of the SVD, which have become increasingly crucial with the newfound wealth of multidimensional data, and have launched new research initiatives in both theoretical and applied mathematics. With its bountiful theory and applications, the SVD is truly extraordinary.

Distribution Plushies

Those of you who are not satisfied with plush microbes or plush fundamental particles might be interested in buying statistical distribution plushies, because those are also pretty cool.

Personally, I would love to have some plushies of fundamental particles (I don't have any yet) or of microbes (I recently received a bookworm, a brain cell, and a neuron as a gift).

(Tip of the cap to Joe Blitzstein and some of the people who have commented on his Facebook post. The person who posted the specific link above for the distribution plushies is Miruna Antonia.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Parties and Alienation

I went to our math department's Christmas party for 5 minutes but then left because of the Christmas music. I was going to try to pretend that it was not for a specific holiday that is somebody else's and celebrate the end of term with my colleagues, but the Christmas music to go with everything else makes it impossible for me, so I felt the need to leave because it was starting to make me angry. There's just no point in staying when it makes me feel alienated and angry. (And it's not even that I don't like any Christmas songs --- there are, in fact, a couple that I like a lot --- but the whole feeling of inundation is something I can do without.)

Sorry if that's my flaw and nothing more (I know this bothers others less than me), but it remains true that this makes it so that I should leave. A holiday party isn't about feeling alienated. So it's best that I left.

I will get some more work done instead, and I'll celebrate with my colleagues another time.

And I will also calm down and return to my feelings of placidity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Break Expedia's Shortest-Path Algorithm

No, Expedia, if I try to go between Ithaca and Newark with stops first to Philadelphia and then to Boston, it is not ok to insist that I do Ithaca->Newark->other city->Philadelphia when I try to go directly from Ithaca to Philly.

Actually, there was additional shortest-path failing besides that (like insisting that particular direct flights that exist for some searches don't exist for others).

Expedia really needs to hire some graph theorists!

After several failed attempts and significant frustration, I basically went and bought the tickets I wanted with Orbitz instead.

Anyway, this is what I get for trying to arrange an SFO -> Clarkson -> Cornell -> Rutgers -> SFO trip, because all three of those colleges are in the middle of bloody nowhere, except with slightly different nowheres. (That said, I am very excited about this academic trip. I will visit collaborators at Clarkson, I will be starting at a collaboration at Rutgers, and I will be visiting Cornell for the first time since I left when I graduated and will be giving a talk in the colloquium for the program from which I graduated. Awesome!)

A Mathematical Name

Another one of my former students just became a father. As he writes, Kallisti Lemma [last name] was born at 11:41 PM CST on December 6, 2012 weighing in at 9 lbs 5 oz and 22 inches long.

Notice the middle name. It compelled me include the following sentence in my response: If/when Kallisti gets a younger sibling, presumably the middle name is going to be "Theorem"? Apparently, other people have suggested names like "Corolloary" and "Proposition" for future siblings.

The story behind the name is very cool. The mathematics connection is there and that was one reason why my former student really liked it, but it started from a honeymoon in Greece, the original name of Santorini being Kallisti (which means "the loveliest"), and the name "Lemma" (which in Greek means "something received, such as a gift") from a section on antiquated names from a book of names. (My former student's name apparently likes antiquated names.)

Anyway, I think this is extremely cool!

Tales from the ArXiv: Daft Punk and Ultracold Atoms

The title of this article has a nice allusion to Daft Punk. The title is Production of quantum degenerate strontium gases: Larger, better, faster, colder. Nice!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Dodgers Sign Free Agent Zack Greinke!

The Dodgers have won the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. They have agreed with him on a 6-year deal worth a reported $147 million.

Notice, by the way, that I didn't refer to Greinke as an "ace" pitcher, because on our team he is #2 in the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw.

Now let's see if we can also sign Hyun Jin Ryu. Then we're really have a starting rotation to be feared...

Update: And we managed to sign Ryu before today's 5pm eastern time deadline. Fear our starting rotation!

Update (12/10/12): In other baseball news, the Rays and Royals made a big trade. "Big Game" James Shields, Wade Davis, and a player to be named later are going to the Royals, and top prospect Wil Myers (who is awesome), a good pitching prospect, and other minor leaguers are going to the Rays. Myers should be in the lineup this year and start mashing immediately.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Apocalypse Later

I know the poster suggests that it's been cancelled, but maybe it's only been postponed?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Maps and Wallpaper

The online store Nornob has a very cool product: one can use a map from any zip code for wallpaper design. Sweet!

(Tip of the cap to Jimmy Lin.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"Geometric Cohesion in Granular Materials"

I just read a really fascinating expository article called "Geometric Cohesion in Granular Materials". It concerns how the shape of granular materials can make them stick together. A good example is clumping in staples. Way cool!

Monday, December 03, 2012


This article about Alex Rodriguez's missing the first half of the 2013 Baseball season due to injury includes the term "pre-rehabilitation", which has got to be just about the most retarded 'word' ever.

I tried to figure out via google if that monstrosity is a real word, and the main thing I found out is that Clemson University offers a degree in "Prerehabilitation Sciences".

I know, I know: I am a grammar Nazi. Guilty as charged.

Veterans Committee Elects New Baseball Hall of Famers

That is news in and of itself, given how much of an epic failure the Veterans Committee has become.

The committee actually managed to elect three new Hall of Famers: former owner Jacob Rupert, longtime umpire Hank O'Day, and catcher Deacon White.

(Oh, the ESPN article states that the name "Veterans Committee" has actually been canned. I hadn't realized that.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preview: Baseball in July in Korea

I am going to be in Seoul from 20-31 July 2013 for a big statistical physics conference. Besides doing some exploration, to which I am eagerly looking forward, I also plan to go and see at least one baseball game and perhaps more. I was talking the last couple of days about possibly seeing Chan Ho Park pitch one last time for old time's sake. Unfortunately, he announced his retirement from Korean baseball today. (There is a press conference scheduled for tomorrow.) I'm still going to have a lot of fun, though!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RIP Marvin Miller (1917-2012)

Marvin Miller has died. He was the first representative of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and he ought to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. You can read more about him in his Wikipedia entry.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Humans Suspect Nothing

This demotivational poster is wonderful.

(This one is also really amusing.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Journal of Complex Networks Now Accepting Submissions

Oxford University Press's new journal, Journal of Complex Networks, is now accepting submissions!

I am on the editorial board. :) So submit to us!

(Tip of the cap to Ernesto Estrada, our Editor in Chief. While the web interface to submit is being worked out, submissions can be e-mailed directly to him.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oxford Workshop (July 2013) on Time-Dependent Networks

On 8-9 July 2013, we're having a workshop on time-dependent and multiplex networks at University of Oxford. We're holding this in the Mathematical Institute and are funded by EPSRC. I am organizing this workshop in collaboration with Sang Hoon Lee.

Fluid Dynamics and Penguin Huddling

Recently published in the journal PLoS One is a mathematical model for penguin huddling that takes some inspiration from fluid dynamics. I know the third author (Arnold Kim), who I met when I interviewed for a faculty position at UC Merced in 2005 (and of whom I had heard before then).

(Tip of the cap to whoever does the posts for American Physical Society on Facebook.)

The Proverbial Thesis Committee

I love this issue of PhD Comics showing a stereotypical PhD thesis committee.

I'm not actually any one of these stereotypes, and I read every word of all theses I examine.

I hope to grow up to be a guru someday, though. Mmmmm... cookies.

(Tip of the cap to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Absolutely Legendary

I decided to check what Google Books felt are the most similar books to Legends of Caltech III: Techer in the Dark. Some of them make sense, but others are a bit surprising. The following books were on the first page:

Lectures on Physics: Exercises by Feynman (yay!)

Legends of Caltech (of course)

Proceedings [Volume 1] of the National Academy of Sciences (ok, I can go with that)

The Brotherhood of Eternal Love: From Flower Power to Hippie Mafia: The Story of the LSD Counterculture (I actually know why that is there ... something to do with "Lloyd grade")

and ... Mentally Incontinent (wait... what?)

P.S. Wait until the movie comes out!

Irony: Part N

I suppose I ought to appreciate the irony of several birds dive-bombing me while I am marking ballistics problems on my students' dynamics homework.

(But, really, I am annoyed that I now need to wash my jacket and take a bath. The first bird already forced that, but after the second and the positive feedback loop that might be occurring, I just needed to escape inside.)

I ought to design a homework problem based on this, though...

Friday, November 16, 2012

'Heroes of Science' Action Figures

Sadly, these 'Heroes of Science' action figures are not real. I also don't agree with some of the choices, but let's not quibble.

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.)

Giving the Finger in Binary

This is how to use a binary representation to give people the finger.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012 Most Valuable Player Awards

The 2012 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Awards have now been announced.

Buster Posey won the National League MVP in a landslide, and his victory is richly deserved.

Miguel Cabrera won the American League MVP in a landslide over Mike Trout, who should have won. Lame, just lame. (It wasn't as large a landslide as in the NL, but Trout was the best player in the AL by a large margin this year, so the voters simply blew it.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 Cy Young Awards

The results of balloting for the 2012 Major League Baseball Cy Young awards have now been announced.

David Price won the award in the American League by just 4 measly points over Justin Verlander. (Jered Weaver finished 3rd.) This was the closest AL Cy Young race since 1969, when there was a tie. Here is the complete rank-ordered list for the award.

R. A. Dickey, whose name sounds like he should be an author, won the National League Cy Young Award and became the first knuckleball pitcher to win a Cy Young award. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, who pitched just as well as he did in his 2011 Cy Young season but didn't have the run support to get a gaudy win-loss record, finished a distance second (and was barely ahead of Gio Gonzalez, who finished third). Here is the complete rank-ordered list for the award.

Alcohol Under the Microscope

I mean that literally, by the way! The other side of the link has absolutely gorgeous pictures of various alcoholic drinks under a microscope. Some people drink alcohol; I just like it when it produces pretty pictures. (Way to go, chemists!)

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.)

Stop Saying That!

ESPN's show "NFL Kickoff" decided to have a "Prince Bride"-themed episode.

(Tip of the cap to David Blau.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gutted Fish

Yup, the Miami Marlins sure treat their fans well.

In an unexpected Blockbuster --- did you see what I did there? --- the Miami Marlins have conducted another major fire sale: they are sending Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio ("just about any player making money") to the Toronto Blue Jays for a couple of the Jays' top prospects and the dreaded Yunel Escobar (and possibly more, according to the ESPN article). Wow!

It now looks like every team in the AL East except for the Red Sox are going to be interesting next year. It would be really refreshing to see both the Yankees and the Sox at the bottom of that division!

2012 Major League Baseball Managers of the Year

Davey Johnson and Bob Melvin have been named the 2012 Managers of the Year in the National League and American League, respectively.

The 20 "Most Influential" Scientists

Well, I'm not sure I actually agree with this list of the 20 most influential living scientists, but I will point out that 2 of them are in the same department as I am (University of Oxford's Mathematical Institute), and---if I not mistaken---not even a single person on this list is at Cambridge (aka, The Other Place). Booyah!

(Tip of the cap to whoever does Facebook posts for the American Mathematical Society.)

Update: In addition to what Justin has pointed out in the comments, Milana Gitaric reminds me that Stephen Hawking is at Cambridge. Well, he is easy to overlook. :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 Baseball Rookies of the Year

Well, here's a complete shock: Mike Trout was the unanimous selection for 2012 American League Rookie of the Year. He also deserves the Most Valuable Player award, though I suspect that that will go to Miguel Cabrera Instead.

As I write this, I haven't yet seen an announcement for the National League Rookie of the Year, but I think that announcement will be coming very soon (tonight).

Update: As stated in the article to which I linked above, Bryce Harper has been named the National League Rookie of the Year. This is also the correct choice. 2012 was a very strong year for rookies, and these two players are particularly young (especially Harper) and particularly awesome. I'm really looking forward to watching them a lot more in the coming years!

The Neuroscience of Speed Dating

Caltech researchers have used speed-dating experiments to identify which parts of the brain are involved in making snap judgements.

This is really cool, but if the test subjects were Caltech undergrads, then I'm afraid that the whole experiment might have to be thrown out. :)

(Tip of the cap to whoever does Facebook posts for California Institute of Technology.)

Me and Paul Simon Down at the Widnes Railway Station

I came back from Widnes this morning for the outreach session. I noticed a plaque about Paul Simon there, and it turns out that this experience has --- without any intention at all --- given me something in common with Paul Simon! :)

Quoting from the wikipedia entry: "Widnes Railway Station is one of two stations where Paul Simon reputedly composed the song "Homeward Bound", the other being Ditton railway station. It is uncertain exactly where the song was written: in an interview with Paul Zollo for SongTalk Magazine, Art Garfunkel says that Simon wrote the song in a train station "around Manchester"[6] while in an earlier interview for Playboy Magazine Simon himself mentioned the train station was at Liverpool.[7] It is likely, however, that it was written at one of the two Widnes stations during a long wait for a train, as Simon was traveling back from Widnes, where he had been playing.[8] A plaque commemorating this claim to fame is displayed on the Liverpool bound platform of Widnes railway station.[9] Simon is quoted as saying "[i]f you'd ever seen Widnes, then you'd know why I was keen to get back to London as quickly as possible."[10]"

I just bought the song. I don't remember it, but it's really good (not terribly surprising for a Paul Simon song).

Friday, November 09, 2012

Frequentists Versus Bayesians

XKCD weighs in on one of the most heated debates in the history of the world.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I bet this dude now wishes that his wife had voted. D'oh! (That said, the reasoning behind not voting is rather sensible. The "D'oh!" still applies, though.)

(Tip of the cap to Travis Hime.)

Isn't It Ironic?

I love this classic demotivational poster about irony.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Score a Victory for Caltech

Apparently, a women wearing an 'MIT' shirt was barred from voting in Florida.

As a Caltech alum, I have mixed feelings about this. :)

It's bad for the country, but it's excellent ammunition against MIT. What a moral dilemma.

(Tip of the cap to Carlos Castillo-Chavez.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

What Happens at the PLEXMATH Kickoff Meeting Stays at the PLEXMATH Kickoff Meeting

Miraculously, my visa renewal and passport arrived just in time for me to buy last-minute tickets to Spain for the PLEXMATH kickoff meeting in Tarragona. (I am flying into Barcelona and then taking ground transportation.) The itinerary is slightly convoluted and more expensive than is ideal, but that is what happens when buying plane tickets at the last minute, but it's great to actually be able to attend the kickoff meeting for our big grant. (I had long since assumed there was no chance I could attend, so this is awesome!)

Eventually, we will put some genuine content on the project's website. My project partners on this grant are Alex Arenas, Marc Barthelemy, James Gleeson, and Yamir Moreno.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Scales in the Universe

I posted a video about size scales in the universe recently after seeing it in an article by Steve Strogatz. Well, here is a a really nice interactive website that allows you to explore the scales of different objects in the universe. Very cool!

(Tip of the cap to "I Fucking Love Science".)

Implicit Assumptions

This SMBC comic isn't funny, but I am posting it because it is so, so true. In high school and college, the unstated assumptions in courses like introductory physics courses drove me nuts. That's the main reason why I had trouble with Physics 1. To this day, assumptions made implicitly rather than explicitly still annoy the Hell out of me (as speakers and authors quickly find out).

Friday, November 02, 2012

Smile and Wave

This bit of graffiti, starring the Madagascar penguins (who are rather well-armed in this picture), is absolutely awesome!

And for another amusing demotivational poster, take a look at the shadow in in this poster. Hah!

The Eyes Have It

Wow, this bit of research is really awesome. A 12-year-old kid used a Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual (the article doesn't indicate which edition) to help his father with some psychology research! The key thing they were testing was whether people are still drawn to look at eyes even when they're not in the center of a head. They wanted to distinguish whether people looked others in the eye only because of where the eyes happened to be located or at a deeper level. Awesome! I approve! I think this team might well have an Ig Nobel in their future... (Also, it just goes to show that beauty is indeed in the eye(s) of the Beholder.)

Another win, by the way, is the lead author's affiliation: "Lord Byng Secondary School, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada". Sweet!

(Tip of the cap to "I Fucking Love Science".)

Mathematics Anxiety Versus Physical Pain

According to a new study just published in PLoS One, mathematics anxiety can can prompt a response in the brain that is similar to that when feeling physical pain. I guess I do torture people after all.

(Tip of the cap to "I Fucking Love Science".)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

RIP Pascual Pérez (1957-2012)

Pascual Pérez was found dead in his bedroom in San Gregorio de Nigua, Dominican Republic (after having apparently been stabbed during a robbery). Two of the Pérez brothers --- Pascual and Carlos --- were well-known to be space cadets, though brother Melido (who I found out from the above article is mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua) seemed to be a bit less nuts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tales from the ArXiv: Lovecraftian Edition

Sometimes a new paper on the ArXiv catches my eye, and this one, which has fittingly been posted on Halloween, certainly fits the bill. Indeed, this paper is rather Lovecraftian.

My favorite line from the abstract is the following: We propose a simplified example of such a geometry, and show using numerical computation that Johansen's descriptions were, for the most part, not simply the ravings of a lunatic.

Here are some more article details.

Title: Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific

Author: Benjamin K. Tippett

Abstract: In 1928, the late Francis Wayland Thurston published a scandalous manuscript in purport of warning the world of a global conspiracy of occultists. Among the documents he gathered to support his thesis was the personal account of a sailor by the name of Gustaf Johansen, describing an encounter with an extraordinary island. Johansen`s descriptions of his adventures upon the island are fantastic, and are often considered the most enigmatic (and therefore the highlight) of Thurston`s collection of documents.

We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.

We propose a simplified example of such a geometry, and show using numerical computation that Johansen`s descriptions were, for the most part, not simply the ravings of a lunatic. Rather, they are the nontechnical observations of an intelligent man who did not understand how to describe what he was seeing. Conversely, it seems to us improbable that Johansen should have unwittingly given such a precise description of the consequences of spacetime curvature, if the details of this story were merely the dregs of some half remembered fever dream.

We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pretty Please?

I cannot overstate how much I agree with this article urging Tim McCarver to retire (though I'm sure that McCarver could). I've been ranting about his crappy announcing for more than 2 decades.

And this guy won the Hall of Fame's award for broadcasters...? Groaaaaaan.

Singularity Chess

This blog post about a game called "Singularity Chess" makes me want to think about chess in all sorts of spaces. :)

(Tip of the cap to Carlos Castillo-Chavez.)


It's time to start nurblizing! (Take a look at the new issue of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal to see what I mean.)

For shits and giggles, I decided to try this on my research synopsis webpage, and the result is pretty damn amusing. Hence, I claim that nurbled academic text can be at least as amusing as nurbled political speeches.

How to Eat a Triceratops

In case you and your fellow t-rexes want to learn how to eat a triceratops, then you should take a look at this article.

(Tip of the cap to "I Fucking Love Science".)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Beautiful Visualization of the Time Evolution of Ideology in the United States Congress

This visualization of the time evolution of ideology in the United States Congress, which constitutes today's xckd, is absolutely gorgeous.

(It reminds me of a visualization that Jim Moody and my collaborator Peter Mucha are publishing in the journal "Network Science". I don't think they have posted that one on a website yet. It also reminds me of Martin Rosvall's "alluvial diagrams".)

The calculations of political ideology were done using DW-Nominate, by the way. I am biased, but I happen to know of a better method to do this. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Damnit, It's Cold.

Damnit, it's cold.

This message was brought to you by Expats for Warmer Weather (EWW), which has possibly the best acronym ever.


Wow, Oxford Playhouse sure gives a lot of choices for what title I should use.

This is really difficult: I can't decide between "The Very Revere", "Crown Prince", and "Chief Constable"

Friday, October 26, 2012

Statistical Mechanics on the BBC

On my blog for my statistical mechanics course I have posted links to two new BBC popular documentaries on statistical mechanics. I have not watched them, so let me know what you think of them.

(Tip of the cap to Mark Wilkinson, who is my TA for the course.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Science of Joy Division

Well here's something really cool: the cover of Joy Division's album Unknown Pleasures has visualization of astronomical data has its inspiration. That is just way cool!

(Tip of the cap to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Biological Sweets

Trust the biologically minded to design desserts like this. Make sure to enjoy it while cuddling up to your favorite plush microbe, although these desserts (though awesome) are still not as cool as my student's geeky Karate Cake.

(Tip of the cap to Iain Macmillan.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Imprisoning Them with Science?

I've heard of being blinded with science, but this verdict in Italy that has ruled guilt and calls for associated imprisonment of scientists for their failure to predict an earthquake is just absurd.

Alright, follow scientists. You better choose things like your ensemble of initial conditions really well from now on! Otherwise you might be in big trouble...

(Tip of the cap to DJ Patil.)

Physics and Baseball

Well, those are certainly two of my favorite subjects! Check out these 5000 frame-per-second videos highlighting some fantastic physics (with accompanying explanations) of contact between bats and balls.

(Tip of the cap to Michael Woods.)

Update (10/23/12): And on that note, take a look at the video in this article. The bat and ball contacted each other 3 times!

"Kitiporn" and Strange Fruit

The scientist discussed in this entry at the Improbable Research blog has the last name "Kitiporn" (which you want to pronounce without fully enunciating the 't').

Diffusion of Swear Words in Japan

An article published last year in Physical Review E analyzes the diffusion of swear words in Japan. (This is not obvious from the abstract, so take a look at the .pdf file if you have institutional access to the journal.)

Here is a brief excerpt: The most beautiful example of Yanagita’s theory is the distribution of swear words. The Japanese are not known for their frequent use of swear words, but if you nevertheless are cursed at by someone with baka (∼stupid person), the one you are having trouble with is probably from Tokyo. If you instead hear aho (∼dumb), he or she is most likely from the Kyoto-Osaka area. The confrontation between these two swear words is so clear that it is considered by the people as a part of the competition between the two major cultural centers.

(Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Baseball's Comeback Players of the Year

Buster Posey and Fernando Rodney have been named Major League Baseball's comeback players of the year. Posey won in the National League, and Rodney won in the American League. Both are good choices, though I think Adam Dunn would have been a better choice in the AL (as he returned to a level reasonably close to his previous heights after a historically bad 2011 season).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Punk Music and a Mathematics Seminar

My knowledge of early new wave and late punk music in the UK finally helped me understand a slide in a mathematics seminar!

(This actually happened last week, but I forgot to post it.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Powers of Ten

Here is Steve Strogatz's latest article in the New York Times, and it's one of the best newspaper articles he's ever written (which is saying a lot).

The article concerns attempting to make sense of scales, and it includes an awesome old video (which I had either never seen before or had forgotten --- most likely, the latter, because in retrospect it does seem a bit familiar) about scaling up many powers of 10 and then down many powers of 10. The total span is 40 orders of magnitude, and this video is really excellent at conveying intuition about them. Truly fantastic. (I also noticed that the video includes what appears to be an inter-racial couple, which is also notable given when that the video was produced in 1977.)

One thing of which this video reminded me is the old Disneyland ride Adventure Thru Inner Space, which was my favorite ride at Disneyland. That ride tried to convey the idea of progressively smaller scales by "shrinking" the riders more and more as they go inside a snowflake. (It was one of the major things from my past that inspired me towards my career path.) The narration in the "Powers of Ten" video has a similar style as what I remember from "Adventures Thru Inner Space". I didn't like it when Disneyland dumped that ride and didn't ever want to go back after that. (I guess both my enjoyment of that particular ride and my reaction at its being dumped shows that I haven't changed much in two very important respects since 1985!)

"Influence of Network Topology on Sound Propagation in Granular Materials"

One of my papers just came out today. Here are the details.

Title: Influence of Network Topology on Sound Propagation in Granular Materials

Authors: Danielle S. Bassett, Eli T. Owens, Karen E. Daniels, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: Granular media, whose features range from the particle scale to the force-chain scale and the bulk scale, are usually modeled as either particulate or continuum materials. In contrast with each of these approaches, network representations are natural for the simultaneous examination of microscopic, mesoscopic, and macroscopic features. In this paper, we treat granular materials as spatially embedded networks in which the nodes (particles) are connected by weighted edges obtained from contact forces.We test a variety of network measures to determine their utility in helping to describe sound propagation in granular networks and find that network diagnostics can be used to probe particle-, curve-, domain-, and system-scale structures in granular media. In particular, diagnostics of mesoscale network structure are reproducible across experiments, are correlated with sound propagation in this medium, and can be used to identify potentially interesting size scales. We also demonstrate that the sensitivity of network diagnostics depends on the phase of sound propagation. In the injection phase, the signal propagates systemically, as indicated by correlations with the network diagnostic of global efficiency. In the scattering phase, however, the signal is better predicted by mesoscale community structure, suggesting that the acoustic signal scatters over local geographic neighborhoods. Collectively, our results demonstrate how the force network of a granular system is imprinted on transmitted waves.

As a side note, my friend and coauthor Karen Daniels and I have talked about various scientific things on and off for over a decade since we were grad students together at Cornell. This is the first paper we've published together.

What Happens in Manchester Stays in Manchester (Take 2)

I am in Manchester to give a talk in the physics department tomorrow. Sorry, but this post isn't going to be terribly exciting. :)

It's the second time I have spoken to a group in physics here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fastest E-Mailer in the West

I received an e-mail at "Mon, 15 Oct 2012 22:00:53 +0100"

I responded at "Mon, 15 Oct 2012 22:01:13 +0100" [20 seconds later]

31 seconds later, I received a reply of "No one should reply to emails that fast."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Drugs and Self-Portraits

I don't recommend trying this at home, but I have to say that this art project is damn clever (though also damn stupid). Bryan Lewis Saunder would take some sort of drug and then draw a portrait of himself while under its influence. It is very interesting to compare the different pictures.

(Tip of the cap to Alexander Morisse.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gibbsian Botching

I just saw my favorite botched reference of all time: "[21] Mason A. Porter, Jukka-pekka Onnela, Peter J Mucha, and Josiah Willard Gibbs. Communities in Networks. Notices of the AMS, 56(9), 2009."

As I wrote to the author: So, while I appreciate having an eminent scientist like Josiah as a coauthor, he died almost 73 years before I was born, so I'm afraid this reference has a slight bug in it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Politicians Versus Hedgehogs

Clearly, you want to vote for hedgehogs. I know I do!

(Tip of the cap to Dave Fallon.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Measurements on Individual Quantum Systems

I should have written a brief blog entry yesterday when the announcement was made, but here it is now.

Serge Haroche and Dave Wineland have won the physics Nobel Prize in 2012 for pioneering experiments that measure single quantum systems. This is important for quantum computing, among other things. John Preskill has described some of their work in this blog entry.

On my end, I'm happy to see a Nobel Prize for this topic (go quantum mechanics!) instead of particle physics and other things of that ilk. :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"Dangerous Intersections"

Steve Strogatz's latest article in the New York Times concerns the fold catastrophe and its manifestation---quantitatively in some cases and in toy models in others---in various phenomena. (By the way, the example in footnote 10 is something that occurs in many of the threshold models of social influence that have become increasingly popular since a paper Duncan Watts published in 2002.)

(Tip of the cap to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

Ohio State Marching Band Plays Video Games

In a recent halftime show, the marching band from The Ohio State University---notice the 'The'!---had a video-game-themed performance. The video is a bit long (about 9 minutes), but it's pretty awesome.

(Tip of the cap to Prista Charuworn.)

Monday, October 08, 2012

"Generalized Master Equations for Non-Poisson Dynamics on Networks"

Here is one of my papers that has just appeared in final form today:

Title: Generalized Master Equations for Non-Poisson Dynamics on Networks

Authors: Till Hoffmann, Mason A. Porter, and Renaud Lambiotte

Abstract: The traditional way of studying temporal networks is to aggregate the dynamics of the edges to create a static weighted network. This implicitly assumes that the edges are governed by Poisson processes, which is not typically the case in empirical temporal networks. Accordingly, we examine the effects of non-Poisson inter-event statistics on the dynamics of edges, and we apply the concept of a generalized master equation to the study of continuous-time random walks on networks. We show that this equation reduces to the standard rate equations when the underlying process is Poissonian and that its stationary solution is determined by an effective transition matrix whose leading eigenvector is easy to calculate. We conduct numerical simulations and also derive analytical results for the stationary solution under the assumption that all edges have the same waiting-time distribution. We discuss the implications of our work for dynamical processes on temporal networks and for the construction of network diagnostics that take into account their nontrivial stochastic nature.

"Dynamical Clustering of Exchange Rates"

This paper is another one of those papers that my collaborators and I submitted to a journal a long time ago (in this case, in spring 2009) that has only now appeared in final form. Hence, although it's a new paper in some sense of the word, it certainly doesn't feel new. Here are some details:

Title: Dynamical Clustering of Exchange Rates

Authors: Daniel J. Fenn, Mason A. Porter, Peter J. Mucha, Mark McDonald, Stacy Williams, Neil F. Johnson, and Nick S. Jones

Abstract: We use techniques from network science to study correlations in the foreign exchange (FX) market during the period 1991–2008. We consider an FX market network in which each node represents an exchange rate and each weighted edge represents a time-dependent correlation between the rates. To provide insights into the clustering of the exchange-rate time series, we investigate dynamic communities in the network. We show that there is a relationship between an exchange rate’s functional role within the market and its position within its community and use a node-centric community analysis to track the temporal dynamics of such roles. This reveals which exchange rates dominate the market at particular times and also identifies exchange rates that experienced significant changes in market role. We also use the community dynamics to uncover major structural changes that occurred in the FX market. Our techniques are general and will be similarly useful for investigating correlations in other markets.

Note: I know I have brought this one up before in my blog and it did appear online after dealing with page proofs a couple of months ago, but it now has page numbers, etc.

The Innocence of Youth

I just overheard one of the new Somerville freshers mentioning how he was planning to only work from 9 to 5 and see how that works for him.

Ah, the innocence and naivety of youth!

While I was there, my thought process went as follows: Try to keep a straight face. Try to keep a straight face. Try not to burst out laughing. Try to keep a straight face. Try to keep a straight face. Try to keep a straight face.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Geometry Theorem and Interpretative Dance

Here is an excellent entry for the 'Dance Your PhD' contest that illustrates a new theorem from geometry.

(Tip of the cap to Kreso Josic. [Note: Kreso has accents in his name, but I don't feel like looking up the html codes for them today.])

Friday, October 05, 2012

Yup. I've Done That. :)

Well, I didn't use experimental equipment---as depicted in this comic strip (well, comic panel)---but when I was in graduate school, I did take advantage of being a seminar-series organizer and thereby having access to a video projector by bringing my Nintendo 64 to campus for the purpose of playing big-screen Mario Kart. :) So I highly approve of this comic strip!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Birthday Problem with Johnny Carson

Steve Strogatz writes about "the birthday problem" and Johnny Carson's attempt to discuss it on "The Tonight Show" in 1980 in his latest article in the New York Times.

A Short Baseball Round-Up

The regular season ended yesterday.

I watched a bunch of the Rangers-Athletics game, and the Rangers finished their implosion with a wretched game yesterday that allowed Oakland to leapfrog them for the AL West title. Texas is still a wildcard team, which---with the new format this year---really is much worse than winning a division (and that is why I like this change).

Baltimore has made the postseason as the other AL wildcard team.

Miguel Cabrera won the first hitters Triple Crown since 1967 (making it the first in my lifetime), though Mike Trout deserves the MVP by a mile over Cabrera. It is extremely awesome that Cabrera got the Triple Crown---which one gets by leading a league or tying for a league lead in each of homeruns, RBIs, and batting average---but his season still comes nowhere close to the one Trout had. Trout will obviously win the AL Rookie of the Year Award---his season was probably the best rookie season ever---but he deserves the MVP as well (and, again, nobody else is anywhere close).

As expected, adding a second wildcard and making the battle between wildcard pairs in each league 1 and gone (i.e., a one-game playoff for a chance to advance to a Division Series) has really improved things massively.

The Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine today. I am shocked. SHOCKED, I say :) That marriage was doomed from day 1. (Additionally, the Red Sox finished in last place in an utterly disastrous season. It was their worst season in a very long time.)

(Sorry for not putting links to player stats and articles and so on, but I am feeling really overwhelmed right now and need to get back to other things, so I'm going to forego them this time.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Quote of the Day: Cardinality Edition

I uttered this gem today: There are infinitely many methods, more than half of which have not yet been discovered.

I accidentally made this comment earlier today, and this is perhaps one of the most brilliant things I've ever said. (I guess I was just channelling my inner Yogi Berra?)

In the UK applied mathematics community, such things are sometimes called "colemanballs".

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What Happens in Glasgow Stays in Glasgow

I am currently in Glasgow to visit University of Strathclyde's math department.

You know you're in Scotland when you hear comments like "I'll put that in a wee plate for you."

Update (7/01/14): I think I neglected to post my pictures from Glasgow.

Headline: Math Professor Strips Naked and is Escorted to the Hospital by Police

Greg Fricke posted this article on my timeline about a Michigan State University mathematics professor who stripped naked in class and started cussing madly.

Greg used this text with the post: I'm comforted by the knowledge that, when you go crazy, you at least will not strip naked (and the profanity laced rants will certainly be much more creative and snarky).

Notice the use of the word "when" rather than "if". When he posted that on my timeline, the first thing I did was open up the article and see if the dude is somebody I know (he isn't).

Clearly, I am a ticking time bomb. (And also a GOLDEN GOD!!!!) And, yes, if I ever truly go off the deep end, I definitely plan to keep my clothes on.

D4D Challenge

Do you want to study a huge mobile phone data set? Well, if you write a 250-word abstract quickly and you get chosen as one of the lucky winners (based on your proposal), then here's your chance.

This is a very cool idea, and I like the idea of this kind of challenge very much. If one or more of my group members or collaborators wants to do this, then I will help him/her/them, but when there are too many cooks stirring the pot (as there are with mobile phone data), I usually steer myself towards other research directions. I do have a paper that uses data from the NetFlix Prize competition, but my collaborators and I studied used the data to study human dynamics and generative/rewiring mechanisms for networks for their own sake rather than practical things.

(Tip of the cap to Lada Adamic.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Acronyms and "Sophistication"

Fun Fact: If you give something an acronym, it will sound more sophisticated even when it really isn't.

Some examples: DNS for "directed numerical simulations", ROI for "region of interest", and AUC for "area under the curve".

Scientists are very good at this, by the way. :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Golden Ratio

Steve Strogatz's latest piece in the New York Times discusses the golden ratio. I didn't like this article as much as many of his other ones, but I suspect that that is an issue of personal subject preference and nothing more.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Schaeffer!

It is once again my pleasure to announce the successful thesis defense of one of my good friends. Welcome to the club, Dr. Joe Schaeffer, who unsurprisingly had a very smooth defense of his thesis (which is in the broad area of computational biology)! I'm not putting in more details on the topic just because I'll probably get tons of things wrong if I do, and I would be relying mostly on his paper in SIAM Review that predates tons of stuff in the thesis.

My congratulations might have worked better if I didn't have a bit of a screw up with Joe's phone number, but that is a rather small glitch in the scheme of things.

Update (9/29/12): I'm not sure how I managed to forget to write this, but Joe's PhD is from Caltech and his supervisor is Erik Winfree. So those of you who want to find out more about the work in that lab now have a place to look. :)

Postdoc Opening in My Lab

We have reposted the advertisement for a 3-year (technically, 34-month) postdoctoral position at University of Oxford to study multiplex networks:

This is the same position I circulated a couple of months ago, but we had to take the advertisement down for bureaucratic reasons before. It's back up and applications are due by Friday 26 October, with a start date for as soon as possible thereafter.

The position is in the Mathematical Institute, and the successful candidate will be part of my group.

Please circulate far and wide. :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift

Yup, arranging your partner's funeral ("Surprise!") is the perfect Valentine's Day gift. At least "overwhelmed" seems like an accurate reaction to such a gift.

I suppose I should have held this in until February. :)

"Mason, what do you really think?"

Quote of the day: "Mason, what do you really think?"

Granted, I have gotten numerous variants of this over the years. (Technically, today's quote was probably a slightly variant of this.) And I would venture to guess that anyone who doesn't understand this doesn't know me very well at all.
There is also a particular scene from Buffy that might come to mind.

RIP Herbet Lom (1917-2012)

Herbert Lom died today. He is best known for his role as (Former) Chief Inspector Dreyfuss in the Pink Panther films. My eye has started twitching uncontrollably in his honor.

(Tip of the cap to Steve Van Hooser.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Political Moneyball"

Here is a exceptionally cool visualization of political donation networks.

(Tip of the cap to Peter Mucha and someone else who I can't remember.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today's Rant: Passive Voice

The subject of today's rant is passive voice

Before going on, let me first acknowledge that passive voice is sometimes necessary. That said, what the fuck? It is used way too often in science. :)

Alright, so now that I've gotten that bit of irony out of the way, what's so bad about it? As far as I can see, there are basically three things wrong with passive voice. I'll illustrate them using an imaginary sentence in a scientific paper that might start with the phrase "An experiment was conducted..." You can fill in something from your favorite discipline to complete the sentence.

(1) It lessens clarity, and that's already a cardinal sin. Who conducted the damn experiment? Was it you? Was it the janitor? Was it done by the authors of the paper you cited a couple of sentences before this one? (D'oh... there goes clarity. Now we don't even know if the experiment was original or not.) Maybe it was done by a bunch of fluffy bunnies?

(2) It dehumanizes science. I suppose I can't make this argument in quite the same compelling manner as I can about clarity, but (seriously) it does do this. You put a human face on science by indicating your ownership of the work, and I think that science (and scientists!) needs all of the humanization it can get. So write it loudly and proudly: "I conducted the fucking experiment!" At least then we know who did the work! (As an exercise, see if you can make an appropriate change at the page proof stage of an article to try to get this exact phrasing in print.)

(3) It's bad writing. In most of its guises, passive voice is just an ugly use of language. Isn't that reason enough to try to minimize how much you use it? (Again, I want to acknowledge that sometimes passive voice really does provide the most parsimonious answer to your phrasing problems, but at least try to find another solution first.)

Here's another question: How in Hell did things get this way? Did a bunch of scientific gods get up one morning and decide that passive voice was somehow the right way to present scholarship? (Because it's really not...) Did the rampant use of passive voice in science just evolve slowly? Anyway, passive voice is bad writing and should be used sparingly. I go through great pains to try to get my students [and other coauthors... :) ] to unlearn such fallacies, and you should do that too. Scientific writing can also be good writing, so let's try doing that, ok?

Corollary: Just as annoying as the unnecessary preponderance of passive voice in science is the use of passive voice to avoid taking responsibility for mistakes. All too many times, I have seen a phrase along the lines of "A mistake was made" coming from the person who made the mistake in question. That's really a bunch of bullshit and a sleazy way to attempt to shirk responsibility. Just admit "I made a mistake." and be done with it---lose the sidestepping bullshit!

This rant was brought to you by the letters A, B, and C, and by the number ε > 0.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do

What? You don't believe me? Just read the discussion in Steve Strogatz's latest article in The New York Times. By the way, this idea was one of the modules in our outreach efforts on networks for school kids last spring. That was one of the modules that needed some improvement, and Steve's article gives me some ideas of how to do it.

(Tip of the cap to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 Ig Nobel Prizes

Here are the 2012 Ig Nobel Prizes. For the most part, they're not as funny as usual---though the literature one is brilliant and I have a special fondness for the physics and fluid dynamics prizes.

Some physics stuff in the 2012 prizes---including 2 of them that I nominated (though the ponytail one was in the news so much that the Ig people certainly would have found it anyway; the other is perhaps less clear, though I'm guessing they would have found it). Notice the familiar names in the physics prize. :)

Maybe the synchronizing cows will make it next year...

(Thanks to Damien Storey, who posted on Facebook about the literature prize, for the reminder about these prizes.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"What Evidence Is There for the Homology of Protein-Protein Interactions?"

Another of my papers has appeared in final form. Here are the details.

Title: What Evidence Is There for the Homology of Protein-Protein Interactions?

Authors: Anna C. F. Lewis, Nick S. Jones, Mason A. Porter, and Charlotte M. Deane

Abstract: The notion that sequence homology implies functional similarity underlies much of computational biology. In the case of protein-protein interactions, an interaction can be inferred between two proteins on the basis that sequence-similar proteins have been observed to interact. The use of transferred interactions is common, but the legitimacy of such inferred interactions is not clear. Here we investigate transferred interactions and whether data incompleteness explains the lack of evidence found for them. Using definitions of homology associated with functional annotation transfer, we estimate that conservation rates of interactions are low even after taking interactome incompleteness into account. For example, at a blastp E-value threshold of 10^{-70}, we estimate the conservation rate to be about 11% between S. cerevisiae and H. sapiens. Our method also produces estimates of interactome sizes (which are similar to those previously proposed). Using our estimates of interaction conservation we estimate the rate at which protein-protein interactions are lost across species. To our knowledge, this is the first such study based on large-scale data. Previous work has suggested that interactions transferred within species are more reliable than interactions transferred across species. By controlling for factors that are specific to within-species interaction prediction, we propose that the transfer of interactions within species might be less reliable than transfers between species. Protein-protein interactions appear to be very rarely conserved unless very high sequence similarity is observed. Consequently, inferred interactions should be used with care.

Update (9/21/12): Nick discusses this paper on his group's blog.

GoldieBlox: The Engineering Toy for Girls

I love Kickstarter because it allows one to back eminently worthwhile projects like GoldieBlox: The Engineering Toy for Girls.

Help fight gender steretypes and also one of the earliest leaks in the science./math/engineering pipeline!

This project is just a big win.

(Tip of the cap to Rae Yip.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Taxonomies of Networks from Community Structure"

Well, this paper has certainly taken a while to finally appear in final form. The project started in December 2007 as Stephen Reid's senior thesis project from the winter 2008 term. We put the first version of the just-published paper on the arXiv preprint server in June 2010. Here are more details.

Title: Taxonomies of Networks from Community Structure

Authors: Jukka-Pekka Onnela, Daniel J. Fenn, Stephen Reid, Mason A. Porter, Peter J. Mucha, Mark D. Fricker, and Nick S. Jones

Abstract: The study of networks has become a substantial interdisciplinary endeavor that encompasses myriad disciplines in the natural, social, and information sciences. Here we introduce a framework for constructing taxonomies of networks based on their structural similarities. These networks can arise from any of numerous sources: They can be empirical or synthetic, they can arise from multiple realizations of a single process (either empirical or synthetic), they can represent entirely different systems in different disciplines, etc. Because mesoscopic properties of networks are hypothesized to be important for network function, we base our comparisons on summaries of network community structures. Although we use a specific method for uncovering network communities, much of the introduced framework is independent of that choice. After introducing the framework, we apply it to construct a taxonomy for 746 networks and demonstrate that our approach usefully identifies similar networks.We also construct taxonomies within individual categories of networks, and we thereby expose nontrivial structure. For example, we create taxonomies for similarity networks constructed from both political voting data and financial data. We also construct network taxonomies to compare the social structures of 100 Facebook networks and the growth structures produced by different types of fungi.

And as an extra note, this paper includes the following line: "Moreover, the Louvain and simulated-annealing algorithms are much more popular than spectral algorithms in investigations of community structure [14] (and life is short), so we only compare results using the Louvain and simulated-annealing algorithms for the remainder of this appendix."

Update (9/23/12): Nick Jones has now described this paper on the blog he writes for his research group.

Infinite Loop

Unfortunately, the immigration form I am currently filling out has an infinite loop.

Exploring the World of xkcd

Wow, today's xkcd is awesome! I haven't explored all of it yet --- and maybe I haven't gotten anywhere close to all of it? --- but I'll have to stop now because I urgently need to get some things done. Still, this is awesome! [Maybe today was not the optimal day for this particular one to come out, but that's hardly the worst problem in my life. I'll just have to look at it more later. :) ]

Update: This particular xkcd is not only awesome but also supremely evil, especially for those of us with OCD.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

‎"Hi, it's [name] from reception. I've got Jesus here to see you."

The important point is that this was done in complete English deadpan with an English/biblical pronunciation (rather than a Spanish one) of the 'J' and of the vowels.

("Yes. Send him up!")

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What To Do About Unlabeled Axes

So.... should I warn the new students about this when they arrive next month?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mathematics Ability Requires Crosstalk in the Brain

This is a very cool study and, I think, highly amenable to further work that builds on this using methods along the lines of what my collaborators and I have been using to examine learning of motor skills.

But, even more importantly, the name of a center that include's the study's lead author --- "Center for Vital Longevity" --- makes me giggle. :) I guess everything really is bigger in Texas...

(Tip of the cap to MoMath: The Museum of Mathematics and whoever does their Facebook posts.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My New Favorite Baseball Name

That belongs to Cincinnati Reds shortstop Didi Gregorius (who is Dutch). That name is just amazingly awesome---it's the kind of name that a female porn star should have.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Facebook and Voting

Check out this new paper that was just published in Nature about voter participation and Facebook friendships. It was a collaboration between Facebook Data team, my collaborator James Fowler (who is a political scientist by training), and others at UC San Diego.

This paper is in the process of making waves. For example, here is what the New York Times had to say about it in its article. By the way, the research for this paper was funded in part by a joint grant that James and I have from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, though please note that I was not part of this project. (I did read an early draft of this paper over 1.5 years ago and gave some comments on it, and that is the extent of my involvement.) It is really cool that we get to mention this paper in our report to the funding agency, though!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Survey Says...

This demotivational poster is a thing of beauty.

This reminds me of a survey I once saw in a bank. The bank had huge signs advertising something like an 8.2 satisfaction rating out of 10. I was very bored and my mother was doing her banking (and I guess I had nothing with me to read), so I looked at the bank's survey cards. The three choices for satisfaction were 8, 9, and 10. 8.2/10 alright...

"Singular Sensations"

Steve Strogatz is writing another series of popular articles on mathematics, and here is the first one. It concerns topological singularities. Mmmm... singularities. (And for some of you, note the discussion of "topology" versus "geometry", which I have previously discussed in this blog.)

(Tip of the cap to one of the Cornell-oriented Facebook pages. I don't remember which one anymore, as I spent a couple of hours doing page proofs after copying the link but before actually reading it.)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Fractals in Nature

Here are some nice pictures of fractal-like structures in nature.

(Tip of the cap to Kreso Josić. By the way, in case you were wondering, I make reasonably frequent use of the voluminous html codes for characters for foreign languages available from this web page.)

The "Wedge Entry Problem"

Yup, there is actually a problem called the "wedge entry problem". (And I bet that its solution is not unique...)

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Redshirt in Google Doodle

All I have to say is this: Follow this Google Doodle (with a Star Trek theme) to the end, and see what happens to the redshirt...

Monday, September 03, 2012

Instant "Noooooooo!" Button

In case you're ever distressed, you can click on a Star-Wars-style instant "Noooooooo! button. (Tip of the cap to someone named Cliff Davis. I found this on a Facebook comment on somebody else's status.)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

What Happens in Gothenburg Stays in Gothenburg

I am in Heathrow airport and will soon be flying to Gothenburg, Sweden for the 2012 edition of Dynamics Days Europe. I have been to the US wing of this conference several times, but I have never previously been to the European version of it. This is also my first trip to Sweden, and this is my first (and likely last) new country for 2012.

Fun Fact: Gothenburg is the birth place of Ace of Base, so I'll have to find a way to get a gratuitous Ace of Base reference into my talk. (It's also the birthplace of The Knife and quite a few other bands.)

Demotivational Poster of the Day: "Free to a Good Home"

Wow. Is the ad in this demotivational poster real? It's pretty awesome if it is...

(On another note, my 47 blog posts last month are my most in one of the canonical calendar months since my 50 from November 2006. I'm not really sure what happened. :) I expect the numbers will go back to a more normal level soon enough...)

"Synchronized Lying in Cattle in Relation to Time of Day"

A new paper of mine is now available in final form. This is the first sequel to the cow-synchronization paper, and it presents observations that was directly motivated by some of our work on our theory paper. The phrasing in the previous sentence in the previous sentence is important. It's not that our model per se motivated this biological sequel; rather the observations reported in this new paper was motivated by our research into what observations had and had not been reported previously. Our model effectively assumed that space was not an issue, so cows must be in fields rather than pens to use that simplistic model (which still exhibits very complicated dynamics), and we noticed when writing our paper that nearly all previously reported observations are for cows in pens rather than cows in fields. That's the origin of this paper. Here are the details.

Title: Synchronized Lying in Cattle in Relation to Time of Day

Authors: Sophie Stoye, Mason A. Porter, Marian Stamp Dawkins

Abstract: Postural synchrony, in which cattle lie down or stand up at the same time as other members of their herd, occurs both in animals housed indoors when enough resources are available and in those out at pasture, but the mechanisms by which such synchrony is achieved are poorly understood. We report a study of 6 groups of young cattle (Bostaurus) at pasture in which our aim was to study postural synchrony at different times of day and in relation to the postures of neighbouring cattle.

All of the observed groups exhibited a high degree of synchrony in lying/standing, as 70% of animals in a group exhibited the same posture over 93% of the time. Time of day had a significant effect (P ≈ 0.0046): cattle were least synchronized in the middle of the day and most synchronized in the morning and evening. With the increasing use of synchrony of lying as a measure of welfare in cattle, such temporal effects need to be taken into account.

Cattle were more synchronized with the posture of a near neighbour than they were with that of a randomly chosen member of the herd (P ≈ 0.016), suggesting that cattle were actively synchronizing their postures with that of their neighbours. These results indicate that a full understanding of the mechanisms of postural synchronization in cattle herds will need to incorporate both collective (allelomimetic) and concurrent (individual) responses.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Network Science Workshop for School Students: Part Deux

Following the immense success of last spring's outreach workshops on networks for elementary school students, my lab is going to have another set of 'networks for school students' workshops this fall!

There will be a couple of events in Oxford, and we'll also a bit of a travelling road show. (I know that some of you are teachers, so if you want us to come to your school, go to the web page and fill out the request form.)

There is a good chance that University of Oxford will also have a press release about our outreach work, so my fingers crossed that that will happen as well.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spinal Tap's IMDB Rating Goes to 11!

The maximum possible rating for the IMDB entry for "This is Spinal Tap" is 11. I never noticed that before. That is awesome (and, in retrospect, not surprising at all)!

I am watching that movie for the second time tonight, as a friend is coming over with the video for us to watch it. (I first watched the movie when I was in college.) I believe that we first talked about doing this on Spinal Tap Day (11/11/11). By the way, the reason I am looking up the movie is that I wanted to check how long it lasts. I'm a bit stressed about work, so I am pondering getting a bit of work done when the movie is over.

"There's Room?"

Smiling sheepishly and asking "There's room?" is totally not the right thing to do when you open the bathroom door and I scowl at you from inside.

Thankfully, I was only washing my hands at that point.

(This made me think of a certain Caltech dinner announcement by Steve Van Hooser, though thankfully the present situation involved much less trauma.)

On the bright side, the place where I was (my local ice cream place) played the original version of "Instanbul (Not Constantinople)" earlier, and that made me very happy. I need to go buy the original version if I can find that on iTunes. I've made a note to myself to go and do it.

My First Album: "Pac-Man Fever"

Somehow, in our meeting, we got to discussing our first CD, although I quickly changed it to "first album" because that is much more appropriate.

Well, to show you how little I have changed in the last 30 years, guess what my first album was? That's right. It was Pac-Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia. I got my parents to buy that for me when I was 6 years. Given who I am (and who I basically have always been), this shouldn't surprise anybody who knows me.

So, what was your first album?

Tales from the ArXiv: "Sticky Physics of Joy"

Here is a small piece of advice: Do NOT begin the title of your article with "Sticky physics of joy". Oy vey.

Or maybe all of the extra attention it gets is worth putting just about everybody's mind in a bad place?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Professionalism for the Win :)

Here is the ending of one of my professional e-mails from a few minutes ago: "If you want, I can stay on during MT, but given my impending absence, I think that would make very little sense. I have been a member for 4 full academic years anyway (since Oct 2008), so --- as Dracula might say --- I think fresh blood is needed."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Insane in the Squid Membrane

In case you were wondering, this is what happens when you blast early-90s hip-hop music through the nerves of a squid.

I can think of a few variants of this experiment that I would like to try...

(Tip of the cap to Adam Villani.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Petition: Ethnic and Gender Diversity for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons

Well, I think the title says it all. Here is a link that describes a petition that aims to increase ethnic and gender diversity in the depiction of humanoids and other creatures in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

If this actually works, this would constitute a nice step towards addressing some issues in geek culture (e.g. objectification of women) that I wish were not present in it. If the literature is written more appropriately (and the pictures drawn more appropriately), then it could help a lot---and at minimum it would be a good start.

(Tip of the cap to Gemma Wright.)

Vin Scully Will Be Back in 2013

YAY! Vin Scully will continue broadcasting Dodger games in 2013!!!!! Hell yes! That's even better news than the big trade! Huzzah!

(Tip of the cap to whoever does the Vin Scully and MLB posts on Facebook.)

Eponymous Shades of Blue

It turns out that "Dodger Blue" and "Oxford blue" are both eponymous. Well, I bleed Dodger blue, not Oxford blue!

(Tip of cap to Matt Sullivan.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Dodgers' Blockbuster Trade is Official!

BOOM! (OH HELL YES!). The blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and the Red Sox is now official!

The Dodgers didn't give up too much in the way of players, though we're obviously committing huge gobs of money into this endeavor (that's why the Sox wanted to make this deal). We get Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. First base is suddenly a strength rather than a weakness, Crawford will help starting next year, Beckett will be at least useful and could (if he gets his mojo back) be awesome, and Punto is a useful spare part.

I can't think of a bigger trade than this ever---either involving my team or even involving any other team---but maybe I'm forgetting something. It's a new era in LA, baby! The new ownership has really put their signature on the team now!

Also, we seem to be collecting former Marlins. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Morphogenesis for the Win!

If you like pattern formation, then you'll love the pattern on the shell of this snail that recently visited me in my apartment.

Tales from the ArXiv: It's Slinky

As a matter of principle, I approve of articles on the topic of the physics of toys. Here is a new one on the Slinky. (I believe that Mark Levi wrote a paper or two on the Slinky many years ago.) Here are some details:

Title: Modeling a Falling Slinky

Authors: R. C. Cross, M. S. Wheatland

Abstract: A slinky is an example of a tension spring: in an unstretched state a slinky is collapsed, with turns touching, and a finite tension is required to separate the turns from this state. If a slinky is suspended from its top and stretched under gravity and then released, the bottom of the slinky does not begin to fall until the top section of the slinky, which collapses turn by turn from the top, collides with the bottom. The total collapse time t_c (typically ~0.3 s for real slinkies) corresponds to the time required for a wave front to propagate down the slinky to communicate the release of the top end. We present a modification to an existing model for a falling tension spring (Calkin 1993) and apply it to data from filmed drops of two real slinkies. The modification of the model is the inclusion of a finite time for collapse of the turns of the slinky behind the collapse front propagating down the slinky during the fall. The new finite-collapse time model achieves a good qualitative fit to the observed positions of the top of the real slinkies during the measured drops. The spring constant k for each slinky is taken to be a free parameter in the model. The best-fit model values for k for each slinky are approximately consistent with values obtained from measured periods of oscillation of the slinkies.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quote of the Day: Singing E-Mail Edition

I just received the following instructions by e-mail: "Please open the attached form and complete the changes that apply. Sing, date and email back to me so I may update your information."

But how will this person verify by e-mail whether or not I sung anything?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Instabul (Not Constantinople)

Fun Fact: I am playing as the Byzantines in Civ V, so the default city is Constantinople (which I of course renamed "Instabul" because it had to be done). I just got my second city, which now has the default name of "Constantinople" because I wasn't using that name. :)

When I conquer the Ottomans' "Instanbul" (or if I play as them), I do the analogous renaming, of course. It simply must be done.

New Minor League Baseball Stolen Base Record

Billy Hamilton has set a new professional baseball record for most stolen bases in a season. He now has 147 steals this year. The old record was Vince Coleman's 145 steals from 1983, and the Major League record is Rickey Henderson's 130 steals from 1982. Professional baseball players don't steal as many bases as they used to---the game is much more power-oriented than it was in the early 1980s---so this is even more impressive in the context of how the game is currently played.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blog About Women Scientists from History

Here is a new blog about contributions of women scientists from history.

This is a really excellent idea, and I hope it leads to the contributions of these women becoming better known! I'm not a huge fan of the blog's title ("Science Chicks from History"), but I can appreciate the author making her own choice for her blog's tone. She writes the following about her new blog:

I’m just a nerdy science chick who decided to make a blog dedicated to women scientists from history. I wanted to learn more about these women and show that despite being excluded from science throughout much of history, many women still made important contributions to science.

Well done!

(Tip of the cap to Jaideep Singh.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eye Orientation of Ghosts in Pac-Man Games

Another of those things that perhaps says a lot about me: I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt with the ghost Shadow/Blinky from the Pac-Man series. And besides thinking that the shirt is awesome, do you know what else I noticed? That the ghost's eyes were oriented in the way that allows you to go through it without dying (which, by the way, is a skill ones needs to get really good at these games).

One of these years, I hope that I will get to the kill screen in Ms. Pac-Man...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thought of the Day

You know what would be awesome? When a plenary speaker at a conference is going up to the podium to give his/her talk, there really needs to be loud, blaring music playing in the background to help introduce the speaker and pump up the audience! It works in wrestling and, damnit, it would also work in science! This totally needs to happen! Who's with me?

(And each person could have his/her own theme song, of course!)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Unfortunate Town Names

Great Britain seems to have several unfortunate town names. This includes the hamlet of Shitterton, which is located near Dorset in the Piddle Valley (which is, of course, near the River Piddle). No, I am not making this up. Crazy Brits! (Maybe I should go visit Golden Balls, which is near Oxford.)

On another note: Hmmm... That appears to be 10 blog entries in the past two days. Sometimes that is what happens when I spent too much time in front of my computer. I suppose I can try to be silent for a while, but a lot of interesting things have come my way lately. What can I do?

(Tip of the cap to Bernie Hogan.)

Putting The Simpsons Into LaTeX

Yup, that's right: You can actually put characters from The Simpsons into a LaTeX document. I am so going to do this in one of my publications!

Hell, if you look at Table 305 of this document, a skull-and-crossbones is available too. (Maybe I'll use that for the exponent the next time I report a power law?) The magical staves are pretty cool, too.

I hadn't known about this stuff before. It was a very dangerous thing to let me know this information...

(Tip of the cap to Puck Rombach.)

Software Package 'R' Makes the New York Times

The statistical software package called 'R' has made the New York Times. Some of my students have used R before, but mostly I just think it's cool that a venue like the New York Times would have an article on this topic. (Note that the article is from 2009, which I managed not to realize at first.)

(Tip of the cap to Jimmy Lin.)

The "Nostalgia Travel" Bus

Maybe this says more about me than about anything else, but I was highly amused to see a "Nostalgia Travel" double-decker bus with a driver but no passengers.

I love metaphors (even sad ones). That scene could have been the opening scene of a movie.

Alas, I didn't have my camera with me.

"We're NASA And We Know It"

If you haven't yet watched this parody of this song, you really should because it's pretty funny. On a more serious note, this kind of thing is really good for conveying the excitement of science to the public, and I would very much like to see more stuff like this.

(Tip of the cap to several people.)

Bulwer-Lyton "Winners": 2012 Edition

Here are the winners of the 2012 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Some of the entries are brilliant, and some of them are just plain bad. I actually liked a few of the dishonorable mentions.

(Tip of the cap to Puck Rombach.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New to the Blogroll: Quantum Frontiers

I have just added Quantum Frontiers to my blogroll. This blog is maintained by Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, which includes many of my peeps from Caltech's condensed matter physics group (where I spent a couple of years as a CPI postdoc housed in in the theoretical subgroup right before coming to Oxford).

Graduate School Versus Kindergarten

Yup, PhD Comics has got it right on the money: graduate school is just like kindergarten. Scary, isn't it?

(Tip of the cap to 'I Fucking Love Science'.)

Scientists Train Chimps to Conduct Studies on Primates and to Apply for Grants

Yes, really. It's true. It was just reported in The Onion, so it must be true.

Comment: Wow. Just wow. (When The Onion gets something right, they really get it right! They completely nailed this one. This captures scientific life right on the money.)

"Bloody Fire Alarm Interrupted Me Mid-Sentence!"

The bloody fire alarm in my building just interrupted me mid-sentence!

(Does anybody else have a knee-jerk reaction of indignation to such things or do most people start by wondering what's going on? I'm just wondering...)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Félix Hernández Has Pitched a Perfect Game!

Félix Hernández (aka, "King Felix") of the Seattle Mariners has pitched the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Very nice!

Movie Networks

Yes, really. Here are visualizations of social networks from movies.

(Tip of the cap to Brian Keegan.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Water Bear

The "water bear" depicted on this page looks epically awesome, doesn't it? (It looks like an alien out of a science fiction novel or possibly a creature out of a Monster Manual.) Apparently, they are virtually indestructible.

(Tip of the cap to whoever does the Facebook posts for "I Fucking Love Science".)

He Got it From Whom?

"I Got It From Agnes" is an awesome Tom Lehrer song --- really, is there any other kind? --- complete with a growing network to illustrate what is going on.

This is a different recording of the song than the one I own, but the copy I have on iTunes doesn't have a network diagram to go with it (and that does add to the humor substantially).

(Tip of the cap to Edmund Chattoe-Brown and Stan Wasserman.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Political Cartoons from Union of Concerned Scientists

Several of these cartoons regarding science and its interaction with policy, media, and other things are funny, but they also paint a very depressing picture of the state of things.

Sign of the Day

I just walked out of Dartington House and some random student walked up to me holding a sign that read "Will Work for Mathematica Advice".

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me (and it wouldn't be very inconspicuous for me to come back with a camera in hand). I just wrote a post about this on Facebook and hope that somebody still in Dartington House takes a picture of this before it's too late.

Where is Stephen Wolfram when you need him?

(By the way, I told him: "Sorry. I don't use Mathematica.")

How Research Projects End

Research projects only ever end for one or both of two reasons: (1) you run out of time, and/or (2) you get bored and move on.

They're never truly finished in their entirety, and anybody who tells you otherwise is full of crap.

Update: Jaideep Singh points out that "run out of funding" is a third distinct possibility. (However, as I am a mathematician and thus have very little funding anyway, I am generally able to avoid the third option entirely.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I just found out about the website, which allows one to replace baby pictures in Facebook feeds with pictures of awesome stuff. This is tempting. Very, very tempting.

(Tip of the cap to the New York Times.)

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is right on the money in this set of panels of how discoveries occur.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

New Networks Journal!

The Journal of Complex Networks has now officially been approved by Oxford University Press. I am one of the Associate Editors (and I think I am the only person actually from University of Oxford who is on the editorial board). I just got the word that I should spread the word... So I am spreading it. :)

More details coming soon...

Could You Clarify That a Bit?

The Annals of Improbable Research blog has a brief discussion of an upcoming journal article about the virtues of vagueness in vision statements. Choice line from the journal article: "We also explore the paradox that, occasionally, the path out of ambiguity involves the initial injection of even more ambiguity into an already ambiguous situation."


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

One of the All-Time Classics: "His Theory is Retarded."

One of the all-time classic seminar audience-member comments when talking about the speaker: "His theory is retarded."

This works, best, by the way when the speaker is a job candidate. :)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Two Tricks Are Better Than One

John Preskill has written a blog entry about how being a two-trick pony versus being just a one-trick pony can make all the difference in the world when it comes to scientific contributions.

I keep wanting to learn more and more tricks primarily to prevent my own boredom, but John is absolutely right about how important it is to know at least two scientific tricks.

Friday, August 03, 2012

"Bloody Minded"

Yesterday, Somerville's Principal told me that I am "bloody minded". I've decided to take this as a compliment.

(As far as I can tell, this is the British term for "pain in the ass".)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Olympic Gymnast Uses Music From Zelda

OK, this is awesome! Olympic gymnast Elsa Garcia Rodriguez Blancas of Mexico used a medley of Zelda during her Olympic performance. Now that rocks! [And, as the article discusses, this isn't the first time she's done that. That's my kind of woman. :) ] This is just awesome beyond belief!

(Tip of the cap to Louis Wang.)

The Science of Sandcastles

An article was published in Scientific Reports today about constructing 'perfect' sandcastles. That's a pretty cool topic on which to write an article! I think that the authors might have Ig Nobel Prizes in their future...

(Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)