Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"NSA Vanilla"

In the latest installment of 'Here's the straight line; you provide the joke', we have the following situation:

Coffee Bean has a powder with the label "NSA Vanilla". As you can see on this website, there is a secret ingredient that goes by the name of "NSA Powder". I wonder if it's anthrax?

New UK Knighthoods

The new UK knighthoods have been announced in the New Year's Honours lists.

One of the recipients is my zoologist coauthor (and Somerville colleague) Marian Dawkins, who was honored for "services to Animal Welfare". Clearly, it must have been our joint work on cow synchronization that put her over the top. :) Yeah right. (My other two papers with Marian are another one on cow synchrony and a recent one on dominance relationships in animals.)

Another of the recipients is my Mathematical Institute colleague Frances Kirwan, who was named a DBE for "services to Mathematics".

Major congratulations!

Costume of the Year

Newly retired pitcher Roy Halladay went to 1980s-themed costume party... dressed as Jamie Moyer. Now that's a big win!

(Tip of the cap to whoever posts for MLB on Facebook.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Baseball Battery Anagrams

I am reading Jayson Stark's strange-but-true account of the 2013 baseball season, and I simply love the following baseball battery anagram:

From Diane Firstman: When Jason Castro caught Jarred Cosart in Houston, they made anagram history, if not baseball history -- joining Matt Nokes and Randy Nosek as the only catcher-pitcher anagram duos ever to mess with both the alphabet and the box scores.

Now that is awesome!

Subtitles: A Legal Requirement of Popular Biographies

Or, in longer form, Subtitles: A Legal Requirement of Popular Biographies (even when we're completely out of clever ideas)

Or how About: Author: Because Somebody Actually Wrote The Book You Had To Read In High School

I am thinking of this because Somerville College's Senior Common Room has a copy of this book, because the potential consumers needed to be reminded that William Golding is the dude who wrote Lord of the Flies. (To be fair, I also remembered the book title but not the author.)

What Are We Waiting For?

At Peet's Coffee a day or two ago, I asked an old man if he was in line, as I didn't want to accidentally skip ahead of him.

He answered me that "No, I'm waiting for Godot."

So I responded in deadpan with "You're probably going to be waiting for a very long time."

He didn't answer. I hope he at least appreciated that I got the reference. (In retrospect, I think a Petty-themed "The waiting is the hardest part." would have been better, but timing is everything when it comes to wit.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Spectacular Abandoned Haunting Grounds

This list (and, especially, the accompanying pictures) of abandoned places --- which might be haunted (who knows?) --- is really awesome. The explorer in me wants to set sail right now!

Of course, there is a glaring omission. My old Caltech apartment ought to have been included. Criminal.

(Tip of the cap to Maria Satterwhite.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Brief Note on Bratty Children and Their Bratty Parents

There ought to be a special place in Hell reserved for people who seem to be perfectly content with their children bothering strangers in a cafe (e.g., ones who are trying to work) just so they can scroll through the messages on their phone.

I don't need to be distracted with a child crashing into my leg with the bicycle that he's riding indoors.

Believe it or not, I actually like children and can be very good with them, but at least tell your brat when this happens that he's not supposed to do this! That's why the kid is a brat.

(OK, I'll stop now.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Darwin Awards

The 2013 Darwin Awards have now been (proverbially) handed out. There are some big "winners" here, but I think I like #9 the best just because I can emphathize with the criminal's level of frustration.

(Tip of the cap to Bonnie Harland.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Physics of Ants

Apparently, a collection of fire ants can act either as a fluid or as a solid. Check out the video in the New York Times article to which I just linked. It's way cool.

(Tip of the cap to whoever posts for APS Physics on Facebook.)

Update (12/21/13): As Jimmy Lin points out, you can also make some really cool sculptures by pouring molten aluminum down anthills. Seeing this makes me want data from Anthill Art to complement our study of a rabbit warren in this paper. Notice that the depicted fire ant colonies have a much more complicated network structure than the carpenter ant colonies.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Limit Order Books"

Our review article on limit order books finally has official page numbers and all that, so I am finally going to blog about it. Here are the details of the article.

Title: Limit Order Books

Authors: Martin D. Gould, Mason A. Porter, Stacy Williams, Mark McDonald, Daniel J. Fenn, and Sam D. Howison

Abstract: Limit order books (LOBs) match buyers and sellers in more than half of the world's financial markets. This survey highlights the insights that have emerged from the wealth of empirical and theoretical studies of LOBs. We examine the findings reported by statistical analyses of historical LOB data and discuss how several LOB models provide insight into certain aspects of the mechanism. We also illustrate that many such models poorly resemble real LOBs and that several well-established empirical facts have yet to be reproduced satisfactorily. Finally, we identify several key unresolved questions about LOBs.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"No, Mr. Bond. I Expect You to Die."

Here is a new article in British Medical Journal (which, in a KFC-like move, appears to now use the branding of simply BMJ) that estimates James Bond's level of alcohol consumption and discusses the possible effects on his health and sexual prowess/proclivity.

(Tip of the cap to Easter Eggs in Scientific Papers.)

New Members of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced which artists and others will be inducted in 2014. It includes luminaries like Peter Gabriel, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Kiss, Hall & Oates, and others.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Predictions for the Future (Circa 1900)

Here are some predictions for the future that were published in Ladies' Home Journal in 1900. Some of the predictions were spot on (or even not ambitious enough), but we haven't yet thrown out a certain three letters from the English alphabet, and that's a good thing for those of us who like to play Scrabble...

(Tip of the cap to Ellie [Park] Pattie.)

Some "Awesome" Exam Answers

Here are several exam answers that are both awesome and "awesome". Well, many of them have both qualities. I have seen a few of these before, but some of them are new. Enjoy!

(Tip of the cap to Aubri Hendrick.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gangs of Crabs

When you go to the beach, be careful about gangs of crabs. (One of our referees for this paper seems to be a crabby dude and suggested that we should bring up empirical evidence from animals like crabs. If for no other reason, we should add such comments to the paper just because of the jokes that it will enable.)

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hokey Pokey Clinic

It is "A place to turn yourself around". I love it!

Creepy Logos

Some organizations really just don't get it.

Let's consider London Transport, who in 2002 gave the 'Secure beneath watchful eyes' advertising campaign. You know: in the land of infinite CCTV cameras (which one never looks at the same way again after reading The Atrocity Archives)? And then you've got these Big-Brotherish mascots from the 2012 summer Olympics. Really, England?

Not to be outdone (though I think this is slightly less creepy than the above examples), the National Reconnaissance Office now brings us their 'Nothing is Beyond Our Reach' campaign --- complete with Cthulhu (I mean octopus). Really, America?

I get that countries do bloody annoying and invasive things. But they could at least be more self-aware about it...

(Tip of the cap to Justin Howell.)

Pancake Art

Here is some very cool pancake art. This includes some very scientific pancakes (e.g. a Lorenz attractor), which isn't a surprise given that the creator is a math teacher. (I have an odd feeling of deja vu that I might have posted a link to this pancake art a while ago, but I am doing it now anyway.)

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

Monday, December 09, 2013

Roy Halladay Announces his Retirement

This took me by surprise: Roy Halladay is signing a 1-day contract with the Blue Jays and retiring today. This took me by surprise.

New Hall of Fame Managers

Today, this year's version of the committee formerly known as the Veterans Committee elected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. All three former managers were elected unanimously, and all three of them richly deserve this honor.

There are others who were considered this time around that also deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame, but they will have to wait a few years (during the next time that candidates from the "Expansion Era" are considered).

Update (sort of; 12/10/13): Roger Angell has finally won the Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing. About damn time.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Research Assessment Exercises and Frameworks are Stupid

Well, that is not exactly a controversial statement among the crowds that I usually walk --- but anybody from the UK government reading this ought to take heed! --- but you'll be interested to read about this in the context of newly minted Nobel laureate Peter Higgs. He is an extreme case, but it still illustrates an important point: we should be allowed to do our bloody work instead of wasting our damn time with this nonsense!

(Tip of the cap to Kevin Hickerson.)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

You Know What Comes Next: Civilization Edition

I braced myself when I saw this, because I knew what was coming...

Friday, December 06, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

"Mathematical Formulation of Multilayer Networks"

The final version of the our (i.e., the PLEXMATH team's) article on a mathematical formalism for multilayer networks is now available from Physical Review X. You can find a popular summary of this work on their website. Here are some of the main details of the paper.

Title: Mathematical Formulation of Multilayer Networks

Authors: Manlio De Domenico, Albert Solé-Ribalta, Emanuele Cozzo, Mikko Kivelä, Yamir Moreno, Mason A. Porter, Sergio Gómez, and Alex Arenas

Abstract: A network representation is useful for describing the structure of a large variety of complex systems. However, most real and engineered systems have multiple subsystems and layers of connectivity, and the data produced by such systems are very rich. Achieving a deep understanding of such systems necessitates generalizing "traditional" network theory, and the newfound deluge of data now makes it possible to test increasingly general frameworks for the study of networks. In particular, although adjacency matrices are useful to describe traditional single-layer networks, such a representation is insufficient for the analysis and description of multiplex and time-dependent networks. One must therefore develop a more general mathematical framework to cope with the challenges posed by multilayer complex systems. In this paper, we introduce a tensorial framework to study multilayer networks, and we discuss the generalization of several important network descriptors and dynamical processes—including degree centrality, clustering coefficients, eigenvector centrality, modularity, von Neumann entropy, and diffusion—for this framework. We examine the impact of different choices in constructing these generalizations, and we illustrate how to obtain known results for the special cases of single-layer and multiplex networks. Our tensorial approach will be helpful for tackling pressing problems in multilayer complex systems, such as inferring who is influencing whom (and by which media) in multichannel social networks and developing routing techniques for multimodal transportation systems.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

USB Cable Theory of Sexual Education

SMBC Comics presents the USB cable theory of sex ed. Yes, really.

P.S. This turns out to not be today's panels, so perhaps I posted this before? (I'm getting a feeling of deja vu on this one.)

Maybe I have posted this before? I'm getting a feeling of deja vu on this one. :) [Yes, that was a cheap joke.]

What The Reviewers Say

Reviewer #2 concludes in his/her final sentence: "The results here represented a substantial step backward in terms of value and sophistication from the many published analyses that have already been published in ..."

Ouch. Yes, not only does this referee not like our paper, but we have devalued the work that already exists. (To give some context, let me point out that reviews of Tom Lehrer's work have included comments such as "Mr. Lehrer's muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste.", "More desperate than amusing", "He seldom has any point to make except obvious ones", and "Plays the piano acceptably".) We will survive to improve the paper and submit it to another journal.

Well, at least there are also comments that we can use to make our paper better when we submit it somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Dodger Broadcasting Changes

I didn't catch this news when it came out, but the Dodgers have dumped Steve ("Psycho") Lyons and Eric Collins from their broadcasting team. Lyons is an atrocious broadcaster, and we employed him for way too long. Nomaaaaaah Garciaparra is joining our broadcasting crew, and we're trying to recruit Orel Hershiser. I would love for Hershiser to return to the Dodgers as a broadcaster.

In other baseball news, the Nationals fleeced the Tigers in acquiring Doug Fister. Really, what were the Tigers thinking? Meanwhile, the Nationals' starting rotation is rock solid.