Friday, November 27, 2015

Google + Star Wars

Yup, there is some cool stuff in the Google–Star Wars mash-up.

The Onion Win Again: U.S. Versus U.K. Edition

This new article from The Onion is funny (though also depressing because of how true it seems), and their tagline that compares the current health of the U.S. to the U.K. is positively hilarious: "Residents say that letting the U.S. pass peacefully is better than having to watch it linger on in agony like the United Kingdom."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ranking Scientists According to Sarcasm

"Instead of using citations, I think we should rank scientists from most sarcastic to least."

Naturally, I was accused of using my own CV after I proposed that criterion for measuring quality.

Maybe I should call this metric the "p-index"? We could call it the "s-index", if you prefer, but then I wouldn't be naming it after myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Physics of Chocolate Fountains

Here is a delicious exploration of the fluid mechanics of chocolate fountains.

(Tip of the cap to Aya Khaled Al-Zarka.)

2015 Dance Your Ph.D. Contest

You can see the winning videos in this article, which also includes a link to all 31 entries. (The overall winning entry includes some networks, and the winner in the physics category is from University of Oxford.) Very cool!

(Tip of the cap to Physics Today for this particular link. I saw a post earlier in the day from IFLS.)

RIP Carla Martin (1972–2015)

A bunch of us who went to school with Carla at the Center for Applied Mathematics at Cornell University have written an obituary for her. It appeared online yesterday in SIAM News. Go read it and see how she was an inspiration to students. (I would like not to need to work on another obituary like this for one of my friends for a very long time...) Also look at our coauthored paper on the singular value decomposition.

Carla died tragically last month.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oxford's 2015 Mathematical Bake-Off

Pictures from the Mathematical Institute's 2015 mathematical bake-off are now posted!

The Menger sponge cake, which was the winning entry in the undergraduate-cake category, was created by two of our students (Louise O'Rourke and Sndrew Tweddle) in Somerville. Excellent job!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Don't Drink the Water (and Don't Breathe the Air)

Apparently, the news (rather ambiguously phrased, too) out of the Andrew Wiles Building is "Don't drink the water."

As the most recent e-mail indicates, "there may be a problem with the drinking water supply". And remember how the word "may" gets used in that context in the UK...

So, in honor of the situation, here is an appropriate song.

Tweeting Cats During the Brussels Lockdown

This is spectacular! Well played, Belgium. Very well played.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What Happens in San Francisco Stays in San Francisco

In a few hours, I'll be flying out to San Francisco to go to the wedding of one of my best friends. I'll only be there until Tuesday, so I'll also be wracking my body.

Amusing Book Dedications

The signal:noise on this list of book dedications is a bit suboptimal, but there are a few spectacular ones.

And mathematicians will very much appreciate the appearance of item #6.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Limit-Cycle-Oscillator Models of Bipolar Disorder: Revisited

Years ago, Steve Wirkus and I coauthored (with several undergraduate students) a paper that first introduced the idea of using limit-cycle oscillators to model bipolar patients. Our model was a toy model, but years later several of my colleagues at Oxford have been doing amazing things from a more data-centric perspective. Their latest paper is especially exciting for me. It does what we dreamed about and speculated about 12 years ago in our paper: taking the basic idea of a limit-cycle oscillator and combining it with clinical data in a realistic way. (The authors of this work understandably also incorporate noise into their model.)

Quoting the last few lines of our conclusions: "In this respect, we view our work as a first step in developing mathematical models of the mood swings of bipolar individuals. Our intent is to provide a mathematical framework that ultimately leads to the development of more detailed models of bipolar disorder that incorporate clinical data. With this work, we hope to motivate the collection of time-series data from clinical trials that will lead to refinements of our model that incorporate such data. In our view, dynamical systems theory and mathematical modeling in general can lead to important advancements in the understanding of bipolar disorder."

(Tip of the cap to Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, who shared a popular account of the work on Facebook.)

2016 Most Valuable Player Awards

The expected --- and correct --- players won the Most Valuable Player awards.

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is the 2016 National League MVP. He won unanimously: he was named first on all 30 ballots, which gives him 420 total points. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks finished second in the voting with 234 points, and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds finished third with 175 points.

Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays is the 2016 American League MVP. He garnered 23 first-place votes and 385 votes in total. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim (aka "The The Angels Angels of Anaheim") finished second with 304 votes (he had the other 7 first-place votes). Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals finished third with 225 points.

This page shows the number of votes garnered by a few more players. (For example, Zack Greinke finished 7th in the voting in the NL.)

For the complete tabulation of the votes, see this website. (Clayton Kershaw finished 10th in the balloting.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Twitter User @MrSnuffleupagus Follows Exactly One User: @BigBird

Twitter user @MrSnuffleupagus follows exactly one user: @BigBird.

Now that's a great new-school twist on something old-school!

(Tip of the cap to Gregory Fricke​ for the article that led me to the above factoid.)

Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel Win 2016 Cy Young Awards

Baseball's Cy Young Awards were announced yesterday.

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs won in the National League, and Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros won in the American League.

Arrieta received 17 of the 30 first-place votes and 169 points in total. Zach Greinke of the Dodgers finished second with 147 points (with 10 first-place votes), and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers finished in third with 101 points (with 3 first-place votes). I figured that Arrieta would win, given the storyline and his dominance in the second half of the season, but I think Greinke deserved the award very slightly more than Arrieta.

Keuchel received 22 of 30 first-place votes and 186 points in total. David Price (of the Detroit Tigers and then Toronto Blue Jays) came in second with 143 points (with 8 first-place votes), and Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics finished third with 82 points.

The complete vote tallies are available on this page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Happens in Florence Stays in Florence

Late last night, I made it to Florence, Italy for the COSMOS workshop on complex oscillatory systems, where I was asked to give an introductory talk on networks and dynamics. The talk took place at the Galileo Galilei Institute for Theoretical Physics. (Perhaps it is the queen of theoretical-physics institutes? At minimum, I am sure it is mercurial.)

My hotel is located on Viale Machiavelli, and the GGI is located on Largo Enrico Fermi.

2016 Managers of the Years

Major League Baseball's Manager of the Year awards were announced last night. Joe Madden of the Chicago Cubs won the award in the National League, and Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers won the award in the American League.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kris Bryant and Corlos Correa are the 2016 Baseball Rookies of the Year

Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros have won the 2016 Rookie of the Year awards.

Unsurprisingly, Bryant was the unanimous winner in the National League, as he was named in the first slot on all 30 NL ballots. Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants was the runner-up in the National League, and Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates finished in third place.

Carlos Correa was named first on 17 of the 30 American League ballots to become the AL Rookie of the Year. Correa had 124 total points. Francisco Lindor, with 13 first-place votes and 109 total points, was the runner-up. Miguel Sano finished in third place.

A Universal Law of Happiness

The statistical physicists need to get cracking on this one.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Neuroimaging Study of Neuroscientists' Reactions to Journal Impact Factors

Well, we seem to be getting a bit meta here...

A group of scientists has conducted a neuroimaging study of neuroscientists' reactions to journal impact factors.

Here is a short excerpt from the body of the paper: "Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the brain activity of N = 18 neuroscientists during the anticipation of their own publication."

And here is the paper's abstract:

The incentive structure of a scientist’s life is increasingly mimicking economic principles. While intensely criticized, the journal impact factor (JIF) has taken a role as the new currency for scientists. Successful goal-directed behavior in academia thus requires knowledge about the JIF. Using functional neuroimaging we examined how the JIF, as a powerful incentive in academia, has shaped the behavior of scientists and the reward signal in the striatum. We demonstrate that the reward signal in the nucleus accumbens increases with higher JIF during the anticipation of a publication and found a positive correlation with the personal publication record (pJIF) supporting the notion that scientists have incorporated the predominant reward principle of the scientific community in their reward system. The implications of this behavioral adaptation within the ecological niche of the scientist’s habitat remain unknown, but may also have effects which were not intended by the community.

What Happens in London Stays in London

I just made it to London for a Mathematics and Social Sciences Workshop. When I was first invited to speak at this workshop, it had the tentative name of a "Socio-math Workshop", and Google gave me a nice surprise when I tried to find a website for the workshop.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A New Quasipolynomial Time Algorithm for Graph Isomorphisms

In case you haven't been paying attention, you may be interested in reading Jeremy Kun's post about the seminar covering the announced quasipolynomial algorithm for graph isomorphism. Once the preprint comes out and it is vetted, I hope the result does turn out to be genuine. Exciting times!

Headline: "Councillor who Announced Closure of Public Toilets Fined for Urinating in Street"


(Tip of the cap to Alan Champneys.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Barry Simon Wins 2016 AMS Steele Prize in Lifetime Achievement

Barry Simon has won the 2016 AMS Steele Prize in Lifetime Achievement. This is richly deserved!

Barry Simon's influence on mathematical physics and numerous related topics has been absolutely huge.

(Regarding his teaching: Barry's version of freshman calculus wasn't a hit with the students, to put it kindly, but his teaching at more advanced levels is extremely good. I was one of the inaugural TAs when he took over the introductory freshman class; it was an interesting experience.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Using "The" Before Freeway Numbers

This cool article explains why Southern Californians put "the" before freeway numbers when talking about them.

(Tip of the cap to Kevin Hickerson.)

2015 Baseball Gold Glove Winners

Baseball's 2015 Gold Glove winners were announced last night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Creating a "Urine Black Hole"

One of these years, I ought to go to the APS fluids meeting just to see talks like this.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Headline: "Old Mice Drinking Champagne Three Times A Week Navigate Labyrinths Better"

A new article in IFLS reports that mice taking champaign supplements seem to perform better at navigating a labyrinth. This leads to an obvious follow-up research question: do they also start dancing the magic dance?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Alphaville's "Strange Attractor"

I am going to have a field day with Alphaville's new album, likely called "Strange Attractor", as it opens the door for numerous jokes that combine 80s music with math and physics. At minimum, I'm sure it will be big in Japan.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Baseball's Comeback Players of the Year

Major League Baseball has announced its two Comeback Players of the Year. Prince Fielder won in the American League, and Matt Harvey won in the National League.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Cool Exoplanet Poster

I really like the exoplanet poster in this IFLS article.

Philosophical Heaven and Hell

The punchline of the new SMBC comics is awesome (especially if you know or are a philosopher).

What Happens in Philadelphia Stays in Philadelphia (Again)

I'm heading back to Philadelphia to give a lecture at University of Pennsylvania in the Warren Center for Network & Data Sciences.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Mathematizing the Alphabet

Here in the Mathematical Institute at University of Oxford, we're mathematizing the alphabet, starting with 'A' with Roger Penrose's entry on aperiodic tiles.

Monday, November 02, 2015

"An Emergent Property"

This is how I feel about many claims of "emergence" in scientific articles.