Saturday, May 31, 2014
Today's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has the following choice line: What's the scientific way to say "We fucked up?" "Effect diminished under empirical scrutiny." Yup!
Friday, May 30, 2014
Fivethirtyeight.com has some very cool infographics that summarizes some basic features of distributions of names for people based on age. Very cool stuff! One of the plotted examples is "Joseph", which has a median age of 37. The median "Mason" is age 6. I am around that age mentally, so I guess it fits. (Or maybe I'm just ahead of my time?) One thing I noticed is that the female names with old medians include many that I definitely associate with older people (but I don't feel the same association for the male names with old medians), though that might well be a function of things like The Golden Girls --- which was brought up in the article --- and panels from The Far Side. (Tip of the cap to Anna Iwaniec Hickerson.)
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
YouTube goes nonlinear! Yup, that's right: Steve Strogatz has posted videos of his lectures from his course on an introduction to nonlinear science on YouTube. If you want to get an introduction to nonlinear science from one of the master expositors, now is your chance. Even if you don't have much of a math background, you'll get a lot out of watch this. So nerd groupies are encouraged to watch. :) (Tip of the cap to Steve for passing along the link --- and, especially, for posting the videos!)
Monday, May 26, 2014
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Josh Beckett of the Dodgers has pitched a no-hitter! This was the first no-hitter of 2014 and, more importantly, it was the first no-hitter by a Dodger pitcher (i.e., it was "our" first no-hitter) since Hideo Nomo threw one in Coors Field in 1996. And because today's game was a day game, I got to watch it even with the 5-hour time difference between the UK and Eastern time. Yay! Josh Beckett was running on fumes for the last couple of batters in the 9th inning. Beckett used to be a much more dominating hurler than he is now. He must have had a couple of low-hit games before (though this is his first no-hitter).
Friday, May 23, 2014
Steve Strogatz just e-mailed me to let me know that Richard Liboff, my PhD supervisor, has died. The obituary only came out yesterday, but Richard died on 9 March. The comment, which is recalled in the Cornell obituary, that Richard made about his book in the Spiderman movie was quintessentially him. (I remember that incident when Cornell first had a press release about it.) Richard seemed pretty crazy at times (though, to be honest, I bet that my students would say the same thing about me!), and we ultimately had a falling out (and I couldn't get him to respond to e-mails after fall 2003 or early 2004), but I do have a soft spot for him --- and I have some of my own stories to tell, of course. Richard was quite a character, and Cornell's obituary conveys it very well. In some ways, this is like the closing of a final bit of my graduate-school chapter, although I still have strong contacts with many of the Cornell faculty. Here is a link to Richard's wikipedia page. He is best known for his quantum mechanics book, of course. (Given how well-known his book is, I'm rather surprised that his obituary hasn't circulated much more widely. It certainly deserves to be. Through his textbooks, Richard made extremely important expository contributions to generations of young physicists and other scientists.) I published my first science paper jointly with Richard. It is nowhere near my best paper, but it will always be my first one. Update (5/25/14): I noticed that this blog entry was getting several hits, so I tried to figure out the mechanism via Google (no luck yet). In the process, though, I found something really interesting that I never knew: Richard self-published a novel! (Given the details of the Amazon page, I am assuming that it was self-published.)
One popular thing to study in complex systems these days is the so-called science of success. One of these days, I hope to have a suitable project within studies of citation networks or other things related to 'success' so that I can use the title "The Science of Failure" for some of my presentations. Update (6/06/14): As Mikko Kivelä pointed out to me when I first wrote this post, "The Science of Mediocrity" would also be an excellent title of a talk to give in this area.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Damn you, English, for not having a non-awkward singular personal pronoun of indeterminate gender. Apparently, the singular 'they' --- which I like to use informally, but which I have ingrained in me from my education as being technically incorrect --- used to be considered correct until a 19th century backlash. (Also see a discussion on Wikipedia of various alternatives to a generic 'he'. Bah, I think we've gone backwards. Update: I didn't state this explicitly, but I have third-person in mind. Update 2: Travis Hime reminds me of an issue of Dinosaur Comics about this issue (though 'they' was used historically in the singular to achieve gender neutrality until the backlash).
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
It went under my radar, but Martin Gutzwiller (a pioneer in quantum chaos and other fields of physics) died on 3 March 2014. I was looking him up because I am sitting in a small library (and, seemingly, game room) in MPIPKS and I noticed a collection that was donated by a former Martin Gutzwiller Fellow, which I didn't realize they had here. Here is Gutzwiller's MPIPKS page.
I strongly approve of Nature Publishing Group's new journal that focuses on data sharing. This will do a lot of good! Sometimes, one has a nice data but suboptimal ways of sharing it, and a short paper that introduces the data set is a nice alternative to a mega-analysis with that data when one really wants to focus on the data itself for its own sake just to see what other people do with it. The barrier to have to see what one finds with the data shouldn't automatically have to be a barrier for publishing the data itself in a manner that is convenient for sharing and getting credit for hard work in assembling it. (Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)
Sunday, May 18, 2014
I am taking the train from Berlin to Dresden, where I will be visiting the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems. I'll give a seminar while I am there, of course. Here is some thematic music for the occasion.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Some words of wisdom that I gave to some of my freshers today: "Discontinuity" is a better word for this than "jump"... though admittedly it wouldn't have sounded as good if the Pointer Sisters had sang "discontinuity for my love".
This evening, I'll be flying to Berlin to visit one of my high school friends for a couple of days. I'll be there until Sunday afternoon, when I will hop on a train to Dresden. Here is some thematic music for the first leg of my trip. This is my first trip to Germany, which marks my second new country for 2014.
Monday, May 05, 2014
Friday, May 02, 2014
At lunch today, there was some confusion on whether one of my colleagues was a physician or a physicist (he's the latter). My contribution went along the following lines: 'Both medicine and physics include operations, but many more of them are reversible in physics.' [The gist and important specific words are accurate; this is not the exact sentence construction.]
Hmmm.... I should start including fortunate-cookie fortunes (as easter eggs) with the mounds of receipts that go with my expense-claim forms. Maybe something like "Confucius says switching to per diem will bring good luck."
Is this video the one that brought down UGCS when I was a frosh at Caltech? This website has a rather comprehensive account of the exploding whale, anniversaries of the event, and information about some of the key players in the event (or at least in its broadcast).
Thursday, May 01, 2014
Here is a terse summary of my philosophy on the projects that I supervise: Question on assessment form: "Did the student complete the agreed upon work by the end of Hilary Term?" My answer: "I don’t understand this question. Sorry. Projects end when you run out of time." When it comes to publishing papers, this is qualified with things like "or you get bored or we decide it's time to work on something else", etc. But projects don't end. You run out of time, run out of money, get bored, decide to move on, need to get a job, etc. But there is always something else that one could do.