Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Happens in Ithaca Stays in Ithaca

I am back at Cornell for the first time since I left in July 2002 (after graduating with my PhD in May 2002). I will be giving tomorrow's Center for Applied Mathematics (CAM) colloquium. As some of you (many of you?) know, I am an alum of that program.

I am staying in the Statler Hotel on campus (of course). One of the first things that came to mind as I was entering the hotel was a friend of mine who was an undergrad in Cornell's hotel school. I met her in my bowling class my first term at Cornell (she was a frosh), she insisted on becoming my bowling partner for the class, and we became friends. Sadly, we haven't had any contact since 2003, and she has one of those ungoogleable names. This is somebody with whom I would love to get back in touch.

Update: All of a sudden, I am wondering if 'The Elevator Nazi' still works in Rhodes Hall. (Though given how old she was back in the day, I would think that she must be retired by now.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quote of the Day: Snarky Edition

Here is my latest beauty: I'll comment on scientific things after I finish going through all of your e-mails. Snark first, science later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Happens in Potsdam (NY) Stays in Potsdam (NY)

I am here at Clarkson to give a talk tomorrow. This is my first time in the state of New York since I graduated from Cornell and left in 2002.

Getting here was a bit challenging --- this is the first leg of the most complicated travel itinerary I have ever arranged --- and my luggage has yet to make it here (sigh...). Hilarity is in the process of ensuing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Liquid Sculpture Photography

Markus Reugels has produced some really awesome high-speed liquid sculpture photography. For example, see the gorgeous works on this page and this page.

Naturally, this should remind you of the Gallery of Fluid Motion, which is usually a big win, as well as of research by certain people (of whom my OCIAM colleagues will certainly be familiar). Sometimes, fluid mechanics can indeed produce some pretty damn awesome stuff!

(Tip of the cap to Jimmy Lin.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

News Reporter Fail Compilation

There are some really awesome moments in this compilation of mess-ups by news reporters. My favorite part is the series of failed attempts to demonstrate how to quickly break into a car to steal stuff.

(Tip of the cap to Sammy Kline.)

Possibly Overheard at a Comic Book Store

The quotes on this blog were supposedly actual quotes overheard at a Comic Book store. They certainly play to certain stereotypes and the ones I read are pretty damn funny. I can't vouch for their veracity, though. (I do, however, want them to be real!)

(Tip of the cap to Keith Fraser.)

Oxford, Not London!

I dedicate my version of this meme to everybody who has ever asked me what it's like to live in London. :)

Update: It occurs to me that I should create one of these with a complex systems or networks theme. :)

Update (1/26/13): Here is attempt 1 at one with a complex systems theme. I think it's ok, but I also think I can do better. Attempt #2 is a slight improvement (thanks to Mariano Beguerisse Díaz for the suggestion), though I still think the whole thing can be improved greatly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Mason Experience

My new slogan: "I hope you enjoyed the Mason experience." :)

[I seriously need to get a specialized stamp with that tagline.]

"Delta Machine"

Depeche Mode's upcoming new album (out 26 March!) is called "Delta Machine". That's right! I am going to have the opportunity for many puns that combine mathematics and Depeche Mode.

For some of you, this is probably your worst nightmare.* Consider yourself suitably warned!

* Remember what happened when their 1997 album came out...?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sketchy Futon

Fun Fact: The Stanford psychology department has a very sketchy futon in front of its ground-floor bathrooms.

I assume that it gets used for 'experiments'.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tales from the ArXiv: Statistical Physicists Conclude that Love is Universal

Here is a new paper about love.

Title: A model about love in human dynamics

Authors: Bin Zhou, Shujia Qin, Xiao-Pu Han, Bing-Hong Wang

Abstract: Human-initiated systems are the most complex systems. From now on, many people have done lots of works which are mostly centralized in time and space aspect in human dynamics, but relative to the cognizance which we have known, there must be underlying mechanisms about human society behavior that have not yet been discovered. We should research human society behavior form more other aspect to get more deeply and externally truth. In this letter, we propose a love model from a completely new angle to explain the love question between males and females in human society behavior. First, we establish the dynamics mechanism about the love model and get the exact analytical result about our love model, we compare the simulative results with the analytical predictions and find they completely coincide with each other, therefore, the analytical results can absolutely express the rule of our love model. Second, in several different conditions, we get the approximative and compact results which almost agreement with the simulative results, hence, the approximative results is dependable. Finally, we collect the experimental date by the network and compare it with the simulative results, and we can find, when the model parameter is given a specifical value, that the experimental evidence corresponds with the simulative results. This explains the love question which is universal existent between the male and female in reality and indicate the correctness and practicality of our love model in a certain extent.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Person's Tribute to Vin Scully

No, not mine. But Grant Brisbee has written an interesting tribute to Vin that I am including here partly to make it easier for me to find the link in the future. :) And Vin Scully really is the best announcer ever. It's been such a joy to listen to him announce baseball games for more than 30 years.

Mathematics vs Physics

The new Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal illustrates the difference between mathematics and physics.

I know what side I'm on. :) [And no biases whatsoever here...!]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

RIP Stan Musial (1920-2013)

Baseball has suffered another big loss, as Hall-of-Fame player Stan ("The Man") Musial died today.

RIP Earl Weaver (1930-2013)

Earl Weaver, long-time cantankerous (and Hall-of-Fame) manager of the Baltimore Orioles, died while on an Orioles-associated cruise.

One thing worth mentioning is that the canonical manager-umpire arguments that one sees in commercials and the like often has a manager modeled after Earl Weaver (e.g., turning the cap backwards and going face-to-face with the umpire).

I sometimes have a soft spot for cantankerous people, by the way. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Proposed Mash-Up: "Baby Love" and "Back to Black"

Do you know what the world needs?

A mash-up of The Supremes' "Baby Love" and Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" --- that's what.

Seriously: Listen to those two songs side by side, and you'll see what I mean. [The different levels of darkness in this song admittedly make this mash-up a bit distributing, but (a) that is part of the charm and (b) musically this just works.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Glass Viruses

These glass viruses are extremely awesome!

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

[Good Supervisor] >> [Big Name]

I just got an e-mail from a student who wants to do a PhD. This person asked me about who are the big names studying complex systems from mathematics and applied mathematics.

Something is just so epically wrong with the way we're doing things when random students wanting to work in the area ask me "Who are the big names?" rather than "Who are good advisors?" or "Who are good people with whom to work?"

Damnit, the fact that this is the usual question (instead of my alternatives or similar) means we're sending the wrong damn message!

I don't care who the bloody big names are. I care about who has relevant expertise and is doing something interesting and is good to work with and is a good advisor and is not an asshole. They don't need to be high on any sort of stupid totem poll. Damnit, that's not what it's about.

Almost the whole damn world is missing the point. (You might be working with a big shot, but are you really helping yourself by making yourself miserable? If somebody is a big name, great. It doesn't hurt. But it is fundamentally the wrong question to ask! And students ask these kinds of questions rather than the better alternatives because their teachers are not steering them in the right direction regarding what questions they should be asking.)

I am waiting for the big award whose descriptive text says that the recipient "must be a competent scientist who is not an asshole." I want to see that award. It needs to exist.

[[steam coming out of every part of my body]]

Update (1/17/13): As it turns out, I completely misunderstood this student's question. This student apparently wanted to know what areas of mathematics to study to do research in networks. Now that is a good question!

'C' Doesn't Stand for Fruit, Idiot!

I agree 100% with this demotivational poster!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quote of the Day: Spoiler Alert

I think my best line from last night (after my cousin mentioned that she didn't want to hear info about the Steve Jobs biography before she reads it) was the following: Not to spoil the ending, but he dies.

You're welcome.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Do You Have Enough Subject Classification Tags?

Really, Alex and Alan? Are 19 separate classes in the Mathematics Subject Classification truly necessary? Don't you think that's just a bit extreme?

There is nothing wrong with this, but you've managed to win my WTF award for the day. (That said, this paper now makes me wonder if this is the record.)

In summary:

(a) That seems a bit extreme.
(b) I wonder if this is the record.
(c) Seriously, WTF?

Update (1/14/13): One of my students checked the data that we have, and the maximum number between 1980 and 2009 appears to be 8 secondary MSCs (the one above has 1 primary MSC and 18 secondary MSCs). Wow.

A Log-Log Plot, Anyone?

I have to admit that my first reaction to seeing this infographic about penis sizes in the animal kingdom was a strange desire to make a log-log plot. :) (Also, I am amused by the appearance of the 'Enlarge' command above the chart. Alright, my mind is safely in the gutter now.)

And now this is making me think of a possible new t-shirt design for the Power Law Shop. I think I better step away from my computer before bad things start to happen...

Mason Being Mason

I just started looking at an article in Notices of the American Mathematical Society. My first reaction: "I'm pretty sure this author gave me a ride once."

That's how I'm supposed to react, right? (I told you I was awesome.)

"Our Simplification Simplifies the Dynamics"

I just noticed the beautiful phrasing "Our simplification simplifies the dynamics, ..." in the page proofs of one of my papers. This is going to have to be changed, though at some level it is admittedly kind of 'awesome'.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Conference on Ad Hoc Biological Adaptation Hypotheses

I would totally attend this event!

To be honest, though, sometimes I wonder how much this differs from some things I see in real scientific conferences and papers (not to be cynical or anything).

No Death Star For Us

Here is the US Government's response to a petition to build a Death Star by 2016. Very well played!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Overly Honest Methods

The Twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods is getting really big these days (or, it is "trending", to use Twitter terms). Here is an article about it. It's interesting how most of these seem to come from biology, though I don't know how much this is just because there are so many bloody biologists. :) You can see more doozies in this Huffington Post article.

I have to say that this is not optimal for my productivity, though I have managed to be pretty good about things thus far. :)

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science for the article above and to Kreso Josic for first letting me know about this meme. I'm not up for looking up the html codes for the accents Kreso's name at the moment, but I'm sure he'll forgive me.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Evolutionary Advantages of Wrinkled Fingers When Wet

I was always wondering why fingers and toes become wrinkled when wet. A new study has shed some interesting light on the subject. (It appears to be basically for traction, much like the treads in a tire.) Very cool!

The research reported in this article was done by biologists. Given the topic, I was actually thinking that certain fluid mechanists I know might have been involved. :) I wouldn't be surprised if some of them picked up this problem in the future. (Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.)

Writers Don't Elect Anybody to Baseball's Hall of Fame

Well, nobody got elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame from the writers' ballot this year. Lame.

Well, at least I wore my 'Plunk Biggio' shirt in support. That doesn't make up for the additional 39 votes needed.

Anyway, lame.

Update: As I write this, the article above doesn't include the vote totals (though I am sure it will later). Rob Neyer's article has the vote totals among those who received enough votes to stay on the ballot next year.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I Guess the UK Doesn't Want Me to Pay My Taxes?

And for at least the second time (and possibly the third?), Barclays has blocked my debit card as a result of my attempt to pay my UK taxes. I think that I should take this as a sign that I shouldn't pay taxes...

Sigh... I will never get those 30 minutes of my life back.

My Face Hurts. :(

So, remember my recent experimentation with Newton's laws (which, of course, follows up on several past experiments with Newton's laws).

Just to remind you, birds are not the only ones who crash at full speed into glass doors and windows. :) A few minutes ago, I walked into the glass door face first. Ouch. It totally looked like it was open, so I just tried to walk through it! (And my name isn't even Luka...)

And the cherry on top of all this is that, a couple minutes later, my landlady, wondering what the noise was, came and asked me with complete seriousness if I crashed into the door (as if that were the obvious explanation).

It is times like these when I wonder how I got this far. Anyway, about Newton's laws: they still work pretty well.

My face hurts. :(

"Refereeing Nirvana"

My somewhat snarky letter to the editor has appeared among the letters in the February 2013 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Notice the reference to a certain bit of 90s music that I included? (Yeah, I know: It's the wrong decade. It works, ok?)

Monday, January 07, 2013


I am commuting more these days.

That's not a bad thing, though. If nothing else, at least it makes me easier to measure accurately. :) (I have always loved this joke.)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Discussion of Science Books and Other Sources of Inspiration on 'Quantum Frontiers'

John Preskill has written a blog entry on Quantum Frontiers about books and other sources of scientific inspiration from when we were kids. Thus far, three of us have brought up baseball cards as part of such inspiration.

Update (1/09/13): In case you have not peen following the comments on the IQIM blog post above, let me urge you to read what various people have had to say about what popular science books (and other things) got them interested in science when they were kids. I think it's really cool to read what a lot of people are writing about that.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

"Awesome" Headlines

Some of these newspaper headlines are "awesome" (as well as awesome). I approve!

I have seen a few of these circulating around the internet, and I remember at least two of them (the baseball ones) from the original newspaper articles themselves before they were circulated because of their humor content.

(Tip of the cap to Jed Yang.)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Achievement Unlocked: "Divine Light of the Porcelain Goddess"

Achievement Unlocked: "Divine Light of the Porcelain Goddess": Use iPod as a flashlight to avoid killing oneself on the way to the bathroom.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Don't Believe the Hype!

Don't believe the hype! It's still 2012. Seriously.

In fact, that's not accurate either. It's still 1988! At least in my world.