Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Male Spiders Can Detect Female Promiscuity"

This article, about how certain male spiders can detect female "promiscuity", is really neat.

I Think They Found Her

In news from Iceland, a woman accidentally joined a search party who was looking for her.

(Tip of the cap to Very Demotivational.)

Life Imitates Spaceballs: "Mowing the Ocean"

The first thing that "mowing the ocean" made me think of was "combing the desert". Life imitates Spaceballs.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Party Meets Up at the Storm Crow Tavern

I met up with the rest of my party at the Storm Crow Tavern. We started out as classless, but we eventually got some class and one person got up to 10th level.

Nobody decided to roll a d20 for a random shot from the bar, because a critical failure could be deadly.

And, despite the temptation, nobody ordered the Mac and Cheese of Cthulhu with the non-Euclidean chicken chunks (which online appear to be called Eldritch chicken chunks, but they were non-Euclidean in the hard copy). And that was even with the giant Cthulhu starting down at us from above our table.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Onion Wins. Again.

Tomorrow and Monday I am giving talks about cascades and social influence on networks, and (thanks to The Onion) I just picked up a new slide for the introduction. Sweet!

What Happens in Vancouver Stays in Vancouver (2014 Edition)

I am at the Providence way too early in the morning to start my trek to Vancouver. I'll be staying with and hanging out with friends. While there, I'll also giving talks at Simon Fraser University (Friday) and University of British Columbia (Monday).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Haircut is the One That Should be Required!

Well, here is a nice foil.

Now I want to be in charge of a country just so I can force people to get my haircut!

"Let The Mystery Be"

One of the songs I have been enjoying the past few months is this absolutely lovely live cover of "Let the Mystery Be" by 10000 Maniacs and David Byrne. (I heard this cover version first. The original is good too --- I just bought it today --- but this cover is fantastic.)

Yakov Sinai Wins Abel Prize

We've got a win for the home team (aka: dynamical systems) today: Yakov ("Yasha") Sinai has won the Abel Prize!

This is richly deserved. And if you look at this last page and know my academic interests, you'll see many subjects that are near and dear to my heart --- like dynamical systems, billiards, chaos, etc.

A few years ago, I tried to get Yasha interested in the two-particle billiards on which I have worked a bit with Bunimovich and a couple of students. He brought up some very good ideas, obviously, but he didn't seem super interested in the problem.

Also, as far as mathematical lineage goes, this one is a big win for the home team in a very large sense (well beyond dynamical systems). Besides having worked on billiard problems, there is pretty direct lineage: my official postdoc mentor at Georgia Tech was Leonid ("Lyonia") Bunimovich, who was a PhD student of Sinai.

Update: Here is the blurb in Nature News.

Update (4/10/14): There is now an article about Sinai's Abel Prize in The Daily Princetonian. I love Lyonia's quote in the article (because it's typical Lyonia): "I was waiting for this event already for some years."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Baseball Tonight Dream Team

Well, it looks like Ozzie Guillen is joining the Baseball Tonight crew. Now I'm going to need to find out when Ozzie is on just for comic relief.

Man, it's really too bad that Rob Dibble no longer works for ESPN. (I know, he hasn't worked for them for a decade.)

I want to see a Steiner-Ozzie-Dibble broadcast.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Urbane Maps

Wow, the website Map Urbane is really cool. It crowdsources what people are writing about places and uses that to label places on maps instead of the names on places.

It was created by a recent Cornell alum, who posted his take on the Cornell campus today. I love the line "It's all about using the right formula" near the T & AM building. (May the T & AM department rest in peace.) I think that is one of Andy Ruina's lines!

There's some really cool stuff in here. The map for Los Angeles is meh, but the urbane map for Seoul is really damn funny when the words are translated into English. Boston has some amusing stuff, and I am sure that many of the others do as well.

(Tip of the cap to Cornell Alumni Association.)

The Continuum-Mechanical Properties of Styrofoam and Peking Duck

Well, I evidently have not yet been domesticated.

I think the most "impressive" part of my masterpiece is that some of the styrofoam actually managed to fuse to the metal grating and harden rather significantly. (And I left all of my peeps who are continuum-mechanics experts back in Oxford... I have a problem for you to study!) I was warming up some Peking duck and brown rice in this toaster oven (or whatever it is called), and the oil and fat from the duck seems to be what helped fuse the bits of styrofoam to the metal grating.

The only word for this is "awesome".

Matlab Does Super Mario (Again)

If you are a reader of my blog, you might have noticed previous posts about listening to a theme song from Super Mario Brothers, playing Risk, and playing Tetris on Matlab.

Well, you can also try your hand at playing a short demo of World 1-1 (sort of) of Super Mario Brothers on Matlab. Sweet!

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

The Mathematical Rainbow Connection

Kermit the Frog should be very proud of graph theorists.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rock Tribute String Quartet

The Tribute String Quartet plays some very familiar songs, such as this one (hint: best. music video. ever.) I approve!

(Tip of the cap to whoever posts for A-Ha on Facebook.)

"Density-based and Transport-based Core-Periphery Structures in Networks"

One of my papers came out in final form today. Here is the key information about it.

Title: Density-based and Transport-based Core-Periphery Structures in Networks

Authors: Sang Hoon Lee, Mihai Cucuringu, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: Networks often possess mesoscale structures, and studying them can yield insights into both structure and function. It is most common to study community structure, but numerous other types of mesoscale structures also exist. In this paper, we examine core-periphery structures based on both density and transport. In such structures, core network components are well-connected both among themselves and to peripheral components, which are not well-connected to anything. We examine core-periphery structures in a wide range of examples of transportation, social, and financial networks—including road networks in large urban areas, a rabbit warren, a dolphin social network, a European interbank network, and a migration network between counties in the United States. We illustrate that a recently developed transport-based notion of node coreness is very useful for characterizing transportation networks. We also generalize this notion to examine core versus peripheral edges, and we show that the resulting diagnostic is also useful for transportation networks. To examine the properties of transportation networks further, we develop a family of generative models of roadlike networks. We illustrate the effect of the dimensionality of the embedding space on transportation networks, and we demonstrate that the correlations between different measures of coreness can be very different for different types of networks.

P.S. Check out the rabbit-warren network!

What's the Difference, Anyway?

Well that explains why the song on I was listening to "on my computer" (so my head thought) wasn't changing when I pressed the advanced button --- it turns out that the song was coming from my iPod.

Similarly, my "debit card" that wasn't working properly for specific things a few days ago turned out to be a credit card instead. My head just wasn't screwed on straight.

I think I need sleep. :)

Spring is Here

Well, spring is here. I think I will head over to the park...

Philosophers Define Boredom

Well, it's 2014, and philosophers have finally managed to define "boredom". I think this might be worth an Ig Nobel. It certainly has the quality of first making me laugh and then making me think.

(Tip of the cap to Thomas Kroedel.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"You Don't Want to Go There."

Overheard in the elevator: "You don't want to go there." --- referring to floor 11 (where the mathematicians are) and filled with much fear and trepidation, and also a bit of disdain.

The two of us in the elevator destined for floor 11 stayed quiet. Sometimes it's not even worth starting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

University "Burger Joint" Conversations

Here's some very old-school humor...

Spending a couple days near Brown has made me think of the old college stereotype bit in this link (because I now have a better understanding of where Brown's came from).

I last read this when I was still an undergraduate student at Caltech in the mid-late 1990s (and when such things were still typically passed around by e-mail).

And the Caltech one is also spot-on. :)

Gotta' Catch 'Em All!

Somehow, the Pokémon theme song --- among other Easter Eggs --- has shown up among the mathematics subjects that our students are studying.

I guess one (or more?) of our students wanted to see how long it would take for us to notice. I was on College leave this past term, so I know I hadn't checked that website in a while... These Easter Eggs could have been here for months, for all I know.

Not that I would ever be involved in a prank involving Pokémon... (Tip of the cap to Quentin Miller.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Don't Need Counseling

No Really. Despite what some searches using Google Maps in Oxford might indicate.

My neurogenetics doctoral student sent that picture to me a few days ago. She wrote the following: When I search for 'mason alexander porter oxford’ on google maps they direct me to counselling in Oxford. See attached screenshot. You don’t need to pay for counselling. You know I’m a psychologist.

I love my students. They're awesome sometimes!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ig Nobel Show from Friday

Stevyn Colgan has written a wrap up of the Ig Nobel show two days ago. I was one of the performers. Alas, despite the description, I have not actually won an Ig Nobel prize. :(

If a video shows up later, I'll post it. In the meantime, go to 39:00 in this video of the entire 2012 Ig Nobel show at Imperial College if you want to see me give my 5-minute comedic presentation on cow synchronization.

Words of Wisdom

My words of wisdom for the day: "You don't need to be in love with a problem, but you should at least be willing to have a one-night stand."

(I said this in the context of somebody working on a PhD.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Happens in Providence Stays in Providence

I'm on my way to the airport to go to Providence, where I will be in residence at ICERM for most of the next month (though I'll be out of town for a week) as a Research Fellow in their semester program on Network Science and Graph Algorithms.

This is Improbable Too

I didn't realize this before last night's Ig Nobel show (in which I performed), but our work on cow synchrony made not only the new Improbable Research book but also its cover.

Now all I need is an actual Ig Nobel Prize to go with it...

Additionally, here is a video of an Ig Nobel show in which I performed in 2012. I am introduced and start discussing cow synchronization at about 39:00 in the video.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Congratulations to Dr. Martin Gould!

My Ph.D. student Martin Gould passed his dissertation defense (aka "viva") today, and it looks like he might not have to make any corrections at all. Thus far, Martin and I have coauthored a review article on limit order books, and several additional papers are in preparation. Martin's thesis was about limit order books. The Examiners were Doyne Farmer (internal) and Rama Cont (external).


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another New Journal on Network Science

I am on the inaugural editorial board of IEEE Transactions of Network Science and Engineering, which is a new network-science journal on the engineering side.

Indeed, I am part of what seems like a small army of current and former Caltech CDS, EE, and AMa/ACM/CMS people on the editorial board.

It's really cool that the engineers seem to like the work that I am doing! This journal is very much more on the side of 'it is important to be domain-specific' rather than trying to be too universal. As many of you know, this philosophy resonates very strongly with my approach.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hyperbolic Crocheting

It is very likely I have posted about this before (or about similar things such as the crocheted approximation to the Lorenz attractor), but Daina Taimina show pictures of her hyperbolic crocheting (in the mathematical sense, of course) on her blog.

(Tip of the cap to Wojciech Bazant.)

Twenty Jokes for Intellectuals

I have seen many of these geeky jokes before, but some of them are new to me. My favorite one is number 5.

(Tip of the cap to Meredith Alden.)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Onion Presents: 10 Worst Bar Mitzvahs

The Onion brings us the 10 worst Bar Mitzvahs of all time.

My favorite is number 6: Mar. 25, 1995, Stamford, CT: Aaron Wechsler fucked up the V’ahavta big time, and couldn’t pull it together for the Avot and Gevurot.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Mathematics in the Snow

These mathematical snow patterns are really awesome!

(Tip of the cap to Alan Champneys.)

Switching the Order of Sums and Integrals

I forgot to report one of my quotes from earlier this term: "... where I have switched the order of summation and integration without justifying it because I am an applied mathematician and we sometimes just do that sort of thing."

Friday, March 07, 2014

Buckaroo Banzai and the Art of Writing Papers

I'm especially proud of the following advice that I gave to one of my undergraduate students this afternoon: "You don't want to write a paper that's like the movie Buckaroo Banzai --- which ends before the punchline occurs."

Then I had to explain the movie.

P.S. Don't watch this movie. (It does have one or two amusing lines, but it's best to just get those and not see the whole movie.)

Clarification: Technically, I only did a short-short version of an explanation of the movie --- I mostly just explained that it was bad and hinted that it was a cult classic --- because there's no way to understand it anyway.

RIP Frank Jobe (1925–2014)

Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered "Tommy John surgery" and thereby saved the careers of hundreds of baseball players (especially pitchers, and starting with Tommy John himself), has died at the age of 88. He revolutionized baseball.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Photos from the Past

Here are 40 photographs from the past. Many of them are very interesting. My favorite picture by far of this selection is number 11.

(Tip of the cap to John Meacham. As he points out, some of these pictures were originally in color.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ground Quidditch

The first person interviewed in this BBC story about real-life quidditch is our very own Somerville undergrad mathematician Brigitte Stenhouse.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Pattern-Forming Pufferfish

OK, pattern-formation-ophiles: Here is an "underwater crop circle" that was created by a single pufferfish. [What? Were you thinking about the pattern on the surface of its body or something when I brought this up? :)] An example of such a geometric structure was studied in this paper, so I hope some of the pattern-formation experts find it enticing.

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

Reducing the P-value One Submission to Nature at a Time

I really dig this doodle from Twisted Doodles.

Curiously, this is suspiciously close to my policy on submitting my papers to Nature. I'm just trying to reduce the p-value. Isn't that what all the good scientists do?

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