Friday, December 30, 2016

The Surprising Population Counts of Cities: Reality Versus Psychology

The headline and tagline of this article are misleading, but the rankings are interesting. (Surprisingly, the article doesn't bring up metro and urban areas, as opposed to a city proper, which makes a big difference for an example like Miami, though this does not satisfactorily explain many of the examples.)

Would you have guessed that the city of Fresno has a higher population than New Orleans? (In this case, the order does get reversed if you measure metro area, but they are still very similar, so it's not like the whopping case of Miami.)

I remember being surprised a few years ago to find out that Boston is not in the US top 20 if you consider the city proper (based on the 2010 census). I remember querying this in a particular data set (here is the associated readme file, by the way) with street-map networks of the center of the top 20 most populous US cities (and similarly for other continents).

Note (partly so I remember this later): metro population and urban population are two different things.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Women, Mathematics, and the Periodical Tradition in Britain: or a History of Women Rocking Math from the Beginning"

Jacqueline D. Wernimont has written a very cool blog post about The Ladies' Diary.

Here is a quote from her post that describes the publication venue:

"One way to look at it is as a chimeric text with the head of an almanac, the body of a literary-mathematical periodical, with commonplace wings and a tail of recipes. It is fantastic.

Without question, it is the first mathematical periodical in Britain and it was designed explicitly for women and was published as such for more than five generations."

Very cool!

(Tip of the cap to Rachel Levy.)

New SMBC: "Coffee and Theorems"

Check out this new SMBC about coffee and theorems. ;)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

RIP Carrie Fisher (1956–2016)

It's gotten a bit ridiculous how many iconic people (especially 1980s icons and people who are way too young to go) who we've lost this year. (George Michael died just two days ago, for example, and the list was already long before that.) And now we add Carrie Fisher (best known as portraying Princess Leia in the Star Wars films) to the list. She died today after suffering a heart attack on a flight four days ago.

Last week, I arrange plans to (finally) see Rogue One today, and it feels very weird to be seeing it on the day that Princess Leia has died.

Update (12/28/16): And one day later, her mother (actress Debbie Reynolds) died of a stroke. Ugh.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Origin of the Word "Scientist" and Happy Birthday to Mary Somerville!

Mary Soverville was born on this day in 1780, and the word "scientist" (as opposed to "man of science") was coined initially for her. Also see the Facebook post by Physics Today.

(Tip of the hat to John Dudley for retweeting Maria Popova's article about the origin of the word "scientist".)

Update (1/16/17): In terms of the origin of the word "scientist", the claim above is not accurate. I sit corrected. (Tip of the cap to Thony Christie.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Francis Crick and Old-School Snark

I love this!

Honesty in Board-Game Boxes


I don't agree with all of these, but they're damn funny—especially the one for Connect 4.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rent, Don't Buy

Pitcher David Rollins is becoming quite the itinerant worker, as he was just claimed on waivers for the 4th time in just over a month. Here is a nice quote from the article to which I just linked:

"The Texas Rangers picked up the popular David Rollins, a left-handed reliever, on a $20,000 waiver claim for the second time in a month on Wednesday.

Rollins had been designated by assignment by Philadelphia, which acquired him on waivers from the Rangers on Dec. 2. Rollins has been claimed four times since Nov. 18, going from Seattle to the Chicago Cubs, to the Rangers, to Philadelphia and back to the Rangers."

I wonder what the record is for this kind of thing? In any case, Rollins clearly should rent rather than buy (and perhaps wait before even renting).

But at least he wasn't traded for himself.

(Tip of the cap to Buster Olney, though this is starting to look like more of a Jayson Stark kind of thing.)

Update (12/23/16): Rollins has now been claimed for a 5th time, this time by the Cubs. The saga continues.

The Mathematician Version of Happiness

The new SMBC, which concerns a way to humanely euthanize mathematicians, is spectacular. I also love the mouseover: "They die frustrated, which is the mathematician version of happiness."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Why Do Most Office Chairs Have 5 Wheels?"

I have occasionally wondered about this question (with some recent inspiration after constructing such a chair that I bought at Ikea), and thankfully googling quickly picked up a good answer (and a nice physics problem to assign to undergraduates).

Moral of the Story: "Stay Away from Applied Mathematics"

Yeah, we're always getting into trouble. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What Happens in the Bay Area Stays in the Bay Area

I am heading to the Bay Area for a couple of days to visit friends (and also to talk to the peeps at a friend's company).

Friday, December 16, 2016

"The Solution is Trivial"

This SMBC Comics gets at the truth and a particularly obnoxious thing that most of us have seen in lectures at some point (perhaps at many points).

Also, I love the mouse-over: "Oh, woops, I meant to write 'The solution is trivial.'"

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Dodgers are Keeping Free Agents Hill, Jansen, and Turner!

Yay! The Dodgers have now resigned third baseman Justin Turner, so we're keeping all three of our major free agents. We recently resigned Kenley Jansen, and before that we resigned starting pitcher Rich Hill. Excellent!

There are also rumors that we will trade for second baseman Brian Dozier of the Twins. Let's see how things go.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tales from the ArXiv: "Dreidel Fairness Study"

There's a new paper on the arXiv preprint server called Dreidel Fairness Study.

I am amused by the following line from the abstract: "Although an unfair dreidel does not necessarily make the game itself unfair, it is conjectured that hundreds of pounds of chocolate have been distributed during Chanukah under false pretenses."

Also, the abstract mentions a dreidel with the face of Santa Claus on it. I guess they're mixing metaphors?

P.S. Somewhere in my parents' home lie my massive collection of dreidels. I can do a spiffy job of spinning them both in the standard fashion and upside-down.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

2017 SIAM Workshop on Network Science (13–14 July)

Along with Michelle Girvan, I am co-organizing the 2017 SIAM Workshop on Network Science.

It will take place in Pittsburgh, PA, USA on 13–14 July 2017, and it is co-located with the SIAM Annual Meeting.

Abstract submissions (due 27 February) are now open, and the deadline for early-career researchers to apply for travel support is 20 January. Invited speakers will be announced shortly.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

A Useful Blog Entry About Interviewing for Faculty Jobs

This blog entry is a useful resource for people interviewing for faculty jobs (or who have members or alums from their groups interviewing for such jobs).

It is written within a specific context, but it includes points that apply much more generally.

Some of the links therein also look potentially useful.

(Tip of the cap to Meghan Duffy.)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bud Selig and John Schuerholz Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Bud Selig and John Schuerholz were elected to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame by the "Today's Game" branch of the latest version of Baseball's Veterans Committee. Both men deserve this honor. John Schuerholz was named on all 16 ballots, and Selig was named on 15 ballots. Enshrinement required being named on at least 12 ballots. Lou Piniella was next with 7 votes, and nobody else received more than 4 votes.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Interpretations of Famous Songs with Simple Cartoons

Here are some interpretations of famous songs using simple cartoons. As advanced warning (and an understatement), some of them are slightly rude.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Music References on a Map

It will surprise nobody who knows me that I love this map, whose labels consist entirely of music references. I approve!

Some of my favorites are present, of course, though there are others that I wish were included.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

PhD Comics: "Comforting"

The new PhD Comics is about post-election comfort, especially as it applies to tenure. I am amused. :)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

New Improbable Research Blog Entry: "Galam’s Work on Galam Models (Reviewed by Galam)"

Here is my latest post for the Improbable Research blog. It is called "Galam’s Work on Galam Models (Reviewed by Galam)".

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Happens in Canada Stays in Canada

Off to Canada for a few days! First Calgary to give a pair of talks and then Vancouver to visit friends.

(After living overseas for 9 years, I am used to not celebrating Thanksgiving. And this year of all years, I don't have the stomach to celebrate it anyway.)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Facepalm Diplomacy"

Once upon a time, the U.S. had "Ping-pong Diplomacy". I hereby propose the term "Facepalm Diplomacy" for the new regime's strategy.

A Summary of November 2016 Using Ice-"Cube" Trays

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Pessimism: It's Probably Not That Great"

Someone here in the airport is wearing a t-shirt with a logo and associated slogan: "Pessimism: It's probably not that great".

I approve!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Awards

Major League Baseball has announced the 2016 Most Value Players (MVPs) in each league.

Unsurprisingly, Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs won in a landslide in the National League. Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals finished second, just edging out Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers by 5 points. (I am pleasantly surprised that Seager almost finished second.)

In the American League, I was also pleasantly surprised: Mike Trout won, and deservedly so, even though he wasn't on a good team. Mookie Betts, who finished second, is the one I thought would win. José Altuve finished third. This is Trout's second MVP (though he should have four MVP awards already), and he has finished in the top 2 in MVP voting in each of his five Major League seasons. Now that is damn impressive!

This link (which is the same as my first link above) states the next several players in the rankings in the two leagues, though the full ranking and point totals were not available on this page the last time I looked.

Update: You can find the complete American League vote totals and ranking on this page, and you can find the complete National League vote totals on this page.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 Major League Baseball Cy Young Awards

The 2016 Major League Baseball Cy Young Awards have been announced.

Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won in the American League (despite garnering fewer 1st-place voters than Justin Verlander), and Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals won in the National League. Verlander actually had many more 1st-place voters than Porcello (14 to only 8!), but the latter had a ton of 2nd-place voters and edged out Verlander by 5 points (137 to 132). Scherzer is the 6th hurler to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues.

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished 5th in the voting (including two 1st-place voters) despite missing a huge amount of playing time. He was historically dominant when he pitched.

The full vote totals and rankings are available at this website.

Vin Scully to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom!

The legendary Vin Scully will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the United States) in a ceremony next week. Yay!

The other honorees include former NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan.

Update (11/22/16): The ceremony was today. (There were also other notables who received the award, including Tom Hanks, Grace Hopper (posthumously), Bruce Springsteen, Margaret Hamilton, and others.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2016 Major League Baseball Managers of the Year

Major League Baseball has announced its 2016 Managers of the Year. Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers won in the National League (yay!), and Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians won in the American League.

Dungeons & Dragons Enters the National Toy Hall of Fame!

Dungeons & Dragons has entered the National Toy Hall of Fame!

The swing and Little People also entered the Toy Hall of Fame this year. I previously blogged about the 2016 finalists.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Quiz: Do You Live in a Bubble?

This quiz, regarding whether one lives in a bubble with respect to middle America, is very interesting.

I got a 9, which ends up pegging me slightly incorrectly (but only slightly) with the potential labeling that goes with the score ranges. Sensibly, the score ranges with different labels overlap. I think I should get a very low score within the next highest range. (A score of 11 is the minimum to do that.)

Note: I did not count my Oxford get-up as a "uniform", as that's definitely not what they had in mind (even though it technically is a uniform).

Note that this is talking about a bubble with respect to America, which is fair enough. Of course, the phrasing is very USA-centric. I am a citizen of the world (and California), with a good amount of international experience, but I am less experienced with the rest of the USA (especially in recent years).

(Tip of the cap to Oleg Kogan.)

Replying to All: Million-Person Edition

Well, this story puts my dark sense of humor on overdrive.

It's probably not a good idea to reply-all when there are more than one million recipients. At least we know why people are getting slow e-mail responses from NHS employees at the moment.

2016 Major League Baseball Rookies of the Year

Major League Baseball has announced its 2016 Rookies of the Year.

Unsurprisingly, Dodger shortstop Corey Seager was a unanimous selection as National League Rookie of the Year, and Tiger starting pitching Michael Fullmer was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year. Seager is also one of the "finalists" for the National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, which means that he's guaranteed to have finished in the top three for the award. (I am guessing that he'll place third and that Kris Bryant of the Cubs will win the award.)

In the National League, outfielder–infielder Trea Turner (who had an amazing partial season for the Nationals) finished second in the voting, and starting pitcher Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers finished third. For Seager's award, "unanimous" means that he was placed first on all 30 ballots.

In the American League, catcher Gary Sanchez (who was amazing in his partial season for the Yankees) finished second in the voting, and outfielder Tyler Naquin of the Indians finished third. See this page for the complete tabulation of vote totals.

RIP Ben Bushman (1942–2016)

Ben Bushman, long-time principal of Beverly Hills High School (which I attended), has died.

New SMBC: "Why I Could Never Be a Math Teacher"

I am amused. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 U.S. Election Cartograms

Mark Newman has again posted cartograms for the United States election results.

(Mark ought to give those of us who know him a secret link for the sarcastic version.)

Aside from the joy of squishing the continental USA, they also provide a very nice visual way to normalize out by something (population, population density, etc.) to help make maps less misleading.

History-Book Chapter Title Proposal: "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride"

Inspired by Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, I want to advocate "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride" as the chapter title for history books when they discuss our current adventure (assuming there is somebody left around to write history books).

Please place the royalties next to my grave.

Among my lessons this week is that 24 hours is about how long it takes for my snark to get back up to full blast after very bad news. (It came back in fits and bursts well well before then, and my sense of humor is pretty dark anyway.) Actually, I think I knew this before, but I was reminded of it.

Update: And if you don't know The Wind in the Willows, then I strongly suggest you look up the character Mr. Toad. In certain respects, the resemblance is uncanny. ;)

What Happens at MBI Stays at MBI (Once More, With Feeling)

I'm heading to the Mathematical Biosciences Institute yet again. This time, I am presenting a talk in their workshop on population models in the 21st century. I'll mostly be discussing prior centuries.

Update (11/15/16): Sign that I have been to MBI way too often: Some of the hotel staff now recognize me from past visits.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Awesome UK Location Names

When it comes to naming locations, the UK definitely wins big!

Take this "Brokenwind"... (and learn to name again?)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen (1934–2016)

Singer–songwriter (and poet) Leonard Cohen, who was extremely influential, has died.

His music provides appropriate overtones these days. Here is Everybody Knows.

2016 Baseball Players Choice Awards

The Players Choice Awards have been announced. Among other things, José Fernández was a posthumous winner of their National League Comeback Player of the Year award. He deserves the award richly, but it's a shame that he's not around to enjoy it and to build on what could have been a Hall of Fame career.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election

You can read the California government's statement of defiance on this page. Go California!

My home state will be a beacon amidst the darkness.

(It's a brave new world.)

We've Made a Huge Mistake

Thanks to Peter Mucha for passing along this compilation of clips from Arrested Development. It made me laugh, and I really needed that this morning!

The world is still fucked, but it's been a good run.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Making Beds and Falling Dominoes

Anybody who knows me at all knows that of course I am not happy about the result (to say the least). But it is what it is. We made our own beds.

Mainly, right now I'm scared. And I think I am not welcome here, though I know I need to stand in line on that one. (Atheists and scientists/intellectuals and social liberals weren't singled out, as other have been lately, but we probably will be.) Maybe I'll apply to my old job in Oxford, though I'll give myself some time to process things first. Selfishly, it's good news for me that California is in many ways its own world.

What else? I am, emphatically, a 'citizen of the world' before I am an American. (Theresa May, eat your heart out.) And good luck to all of us.

On a positive note, I did see some hope today — e.g., the scene at Susan B. Anthony's grave was incredible, by the way, and the video from my peeps at the Sante Fe Institute was fantastic — and sometimes we have to get through a wake-up call. (It is easy to understand why people are angry. And people didn't pay enough attention.) Despite proverbial echo chambers and majority illusion — what, did you think I wouldn't get network analysis in here somewhere? — I have quite a few friends who hold significantly more conservative views than I do, but they are my friends, they are well-spoken, they are civil, and they often make very good points. We disagree (sometimes very strongly), but it's proper and productive discourse, and I learn from them. And I am very happy to have them as part of my network.

There is a nice quote from Star Wars that I think is relevant now, so I'd like to share it:

"Remember, the Force will be with you always."

We'll (hopefully) all get through this. I am sure it will be rough and it will take time, though. And as long as we don't all nuke each other before we work things out (proverbial falling dominoes, etc.), we'll make it through.

Thank you for listening.

Now does anybody want to talk about math? (Or games or D & D or ... ?)

Update: Not that I need a link to the actual event for this post, but here is one anyway. Clinton has now conceded to Trump. We live in interesting times. Here is what The Guardian had to say about the America's new populism.

2016 Gold Glove Awards

Amidst my somber and fatalistic mood at the moment because of where things currently stand with the election, I just noticed that Major League Baseball's Gold Glove Awards (for fielding excellence) have been awarded. This article lists the winners.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Baseball's Award Finalists

The finalists for Baseball's major awards were announced today.

The Dodgers' Corey Seager (who will win the National League Rookie of the Year award) is in the top 3 of the National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) balloting as well!

Land of Confusion

Here's a thematic song (an awesome song) for the night before. It also has one of the all-time great music videos.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Do Yoga Pants Lead to Eternal Damnation?

All you people who wear yoga pants are fucked.

(And I'm an atheist, so I'll see you at the party!)

Friday, November 04, 2016

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

They Ain't Afraid of No Goat (Cubs Win)

The deciding Game 7 of the 2016 World Series just ended. (I blogged about it yesterday.)

The Chicago Cubs won today's game (and thus the World Series) by a score of 8 to 7 in 10 innings (and a brief rain delay). Wow! The last time the Cubs had won a World Series was 1908(!), and they hadn't even gotten into the World Series since 1945. Their curse is over, and they ain't afraid of no goat. (The Cubs were down 3 games to 1 and game back to win an exciting and historic series. Back to the Future, Part II was off by only one year.)

The Cleveland Indians, the opponents of the Cubs, also have a long drought, having not won a World Series since 1948.

Both teams (and especially the Cubs, who are a juggernaut) have built teams that are going to be great for several years. The Cubs were the favorites before the season even started, and rightly so.


Update: Here is the box score for the game.

Update: Wow, an old Harry Caray commercial for Budweiser just aired. Cool!

Update: Ben Zobrist has been named the World Series MVP.

Update (11/03/16): And take a look at this tweet from 2014. (Tip of the cap to Boing Boing.)

Update (11/04/16): The victory parade was apparently the 7th-largest gathering in human history. Very cool! Choice quote (you provide the joke): "The Cubs celebration crowd even beat out the 3.5 million people who went to Rod Stewart's 1994 concert in Rio." (Tip of the cap to Doug Pearson for his post on Facebook, which I saw through Chris Howland's 'like'.)

"Detection of Core–Periphery Structure in Networks Using Spectral Methods and Geodesic Paths"

The special issue in European Journal of Applied Mathematics on "Network Analysis and Modelling" that I co-edited also includes a research paper that I coauthored. Here are some details about that paper.

Title: Detection of Core–Periphery Structure in Networks Using Spectral Methods and Geodesic Paths

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

Abstract: We introduce several novel and computationally efficient methods for detecting "core–periphery structure" in networks. Core–periphery structure is a type of mesoscale structure that consists of densely connected core vertices and sparsely connected peripheral vertices. Core vertices tend to be well-connected both among themselves and to peripheral vertices, which tend not to be well-connected to other vertices. Our first method, which is based on transportation in networks, aggregates information from many geodesic paths in a network and yields a score for each vertex that reflects the likelihood that that vertex is a core vertex. Our second method is based on a low-rank approximation of a network’s adjacency matrix, which we express as a perturbation of a tensor-product matrix. Our third approach uses the bottom eigenvector of the random-walk Laplacian to infer a coreness score and a classification into core and peripheral vertices. We also design an objective function to (1) help classify vertices into core or peripheral vertices and (2) provide a goodness-of-fit criterion for classifications into core versus peripheral vertices. To examine the performance of our methods, we apply our algorithms to both synthetically generated networks and a variety of networks constructed from real-world data sets.

"Network Analysis and Modelling: Special Issue of European Journal of Applied Mathematics"

I co-edited a special issue of European Journal of Applied Mathematics along with Ginestra Bianconi.

The special issue is on Network Analysis and Modelling. Also take a look at our editorial, which introduces the issue.

As you can see from this screenshot, our editorial involved a very speedy review process (including time travel).

Update (11/06/16): I blogged briefly about our time-traveling experience for the Improbable Research blog.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

It's Going to Game 7!

With Chicago's victory today, tomorrow is going to be Game 7 of the World Series between the Cubs and Indians, two teams who have not won in a very long time. One game to rule them all. Very exciting!

(And Bill Murray's "I Ain't Afraid of No Goat" t-shirt is fantastic!)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Top Major League Relievers for 2016

No surprise here: Zach Britton (Orioles) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) were name Baseball's top relievers for 2016. Britton won in the American League, so he gets the Mariano Rivera Award. Jansen won in the National League, so he gets the Trevor Hoffman Award.

Today's Electoral Map: Make It Stop! (Or Perhaps Existential Dread?)

This electoral map sums up how I feel rather well.

(And I will add: Like living in a Coen Brothers movie and watching a train wreck in slow motion. Just like Brexit.)

(Tip of the cap to Stephanie Vardavas.)

The Best Thing Since Something Other Than Sliced Bread?

A phrase I used to hear many years ago—do people still use this phrase?—was to say that something is "the best thing since sliced bread."

But before there was sliced bread, did people use an expression like this? And what was used in the expression instead of sliced bread?

(I am obviously far from the only person to wonder about something like this. See this page and various other Web pages.)

What is Each Country Number 1 in?

Here is visualization of international #1s, illustrating what each country is "best" at, according to some way of measuring this.

My favorite one (which I have noticed so far) is Sweden, which is the "best" at pop music.

Cue ABBA... (especially playing "Thank You For The Music")

(Tip of the cap to IFLM.)

The Ranker Walker College Football Rankings are Back!

The random walker rankings for American college football are back. Take a look to see which teams the walkers "think" are the best ones.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Brief History of The Witch's House

When I was a kid, The Witch's House was the place to go on Halloween in Beverly Hills. It sounds like it still is.

(Tip of the cap to Kimberly Reiss.)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kickstarter Project: A Robot to Teach Coding

Here is a Kickstarter page for a robot to teach coding. But be careful with off-by-one errors (like in Robot Turtles), because now it's live action.

(Tip of the cap to Todd Gingrich.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The Physics of Spreading Processes in Multilayer Networks"

Our progress article on spreading processes in multilayer networks now has its final coordinates in Nature Physics, so here are the details about the article.

Title: The Physics of Spreading Processes in Multilayer Networks

Authors: Manlio De Domenico, Clara Granell, Mason A. Porter, and Alex Arenas

Abstract: Despite the success of traditional network analysis, standard networks provide a limited representation of complex systems, which often include di erent types of relationships (or 'multiplexity') between their components. Such structural complexity has a significant e ect on both dynamics and function. Throwing away or aggregating available structural information can generate misleading results and be a major obstacle towards attempts to understand complex systems. The recent multilayer approach for modelling networked systems explicitly allows the incorporation of multiplexity and other features of realistic systems. It allows one to couple di erent structural relationships by encoding them in a convenient mathematical object. It also allows one to couple di erent dynamical processes on top of such interconnected structures. The resulting framework plays a crucial role in helping to achieve a thorough, accurate understanding of complex systems. The study of multilayer networks has also revealed new physical phenomena that remain hidden when using ordinary graphs, the traditional network representation. Here we survey progress towards attaining a deeper understanding of spreading processes on multilayer networks, and we highlight some of the physical phenomena related to spreading processes that emerge from multilayer structure.

Advertisement: Faculty Position in Networks and Nonlinear Systems, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford

Oxford has now advertised my old job, which is for an Associate Professorship or Professorship in the Mathematical Institute. The advertisement is for somebody in Networks and Nonlinear Systems.

Go apply for it!

Monday, October 24, 2016

One More Turn (Again): Civilization VI

The Mac version of Civilization VI came out today, three days after the Windows release. I need to get used to the new mechanics.

I am playing as Gorgo (Greece, Spartans). My second city is Rhodes, though when my slinger covered the "RH", it looked like "ODES" rather than "RHODES". I wanted to change the city name to "ODEs", but I couldn't figure out how to do it. (I have also been having some trouble picking up some of the commands for simple things.) Given the set of leaders and civs, clearly there are now going to be multiple leaders within a given civ. Two examples of this were available so far, but given these examples and other descriptions (e.g., of the Americans), there will be more. Given the "Selfie" achievement, one's opponents can also include the same leader.

Thus far, I have picked up the "Escort Service" achievement (unsurprisingly). Two achievements that I want to acquire are "Luftballons" and "Missed That Day in History Class" — the former because it's a gratuitous Nena reference (with an associated nice combination of things to get it) and the latter simply because it's highly amusing. Other cultural references in the achievement list so far include the B-52's song "Roam" and the Lego movie.

I'm not yet sure what I think about the Civ VI way of doing things. Clearly I'll need to play more and find out. (It will probably also be beneficial to do a multiplayer game to accelerate learning, but I don't know if the Mac and Windows are ready to interface with each other yet.) I also need to get work done, and I have a very large backlog of papers to finish and other things with hard deadlines to do. And I have a couple of novels I really want to read, and the World Series starts tomorrow. :)

Update (10/27/16): Also, I really hope that Civ VI is still making fun of Dan Quayle. :) This is having a significant effect on his legacy in history. If not for Civ, many people would never have heard of him and he'd be all but forgotten by many others by now. Civ may actually help give him a more "permanent" legacy!

Update (11/06/16): I won a Culture Victory and achieved the level of Emperor Nero. I can also confirm that Civ is still making fun of Dan Quayle (25 years later...), which is again the lowest level of achievement in the game. Eventually, people playing this series of games will probably wonder if he was ever a real person. :)

RIP Pete Burns (1959–2016)

Pete Burns, lead singer of the band Dead Or Alive, has died of cardiac arrest.

Years from now, if somebody does something that Pete Burns doesn't like, we will say that he would be spinning right 'round in his grave.

(Tip of the cap to Scott Porter.)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wait 'Til Next Year (Again)

Well, it's time to Wait 'Til Next Year (again).

It's been 28 years since we won, so I have developed some patience over the years.

In the NLCS, the Dodgers were outplayed by a substantial margin by a very good team that was the favorite from the beginning for good reason. Good luck to the Cubs in the World Series. Their fans have been waiting a lot longer than I have. (And the fans' reaction I see on tv right now is far more emotional than one typically sees from World-Series-bound teams, and also for good reason.)

The World Series this year is quite an interesting matchup: the Cubs versus the Indians, and it's been a very long time since either of them won it all.

Hopefully it will be our year in 2017.

Update: Javier Baez and Jon Lester were named co-MVPs of the NLCS.

Update 2: Also, for what it's worth (and even though Charlie Sheen is a nutjob), I would actually like to see Wild Thing throw out the first pitch. And then Bob Uecker could announce that first pitch!

Download Speeds and Reviewing NSF Proposals

The NSF has a helpful estimate of the download time for any proposal reviewers who might be connecting to the internet using a 28K modem. :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Visualization of U.S. River Basins

This is really cool!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Optimal Tour of UK Pubs

For my friends who are still in the UK, here is the optimal tour (TSP-style) of UK pubs.

You're welcome.

(Tip of the cap to Marc Abrahams for reminding me of this. Bill Cook showed a version of this plot in a London Mathematical Society meeting in 2015.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Time Pie Chart: Postdoc Versus Faculty

Here is a handy pie chart to illustrate what we mean when faculty say that in these respects (we of course are very much aware that there are certain sources of stress that can counteract idealized feelings), postdoc time is the ideal time in an academic's life. That said, being a professor is a great job!

(Tip of the cap to Gabor Vattay, who retweeted the above tweet from one of today's speakers in the MBI workshop I'm attending.)

Time Machines and Enjoyable, Carefree Childhoods

I am amused. :)

Nominations for 2017 Inductees to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

There are some sweet nominations for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the class of 2017 — including Depeche Mode and The Cars! (And especially including Depeche Mode!)

Update: The above link is to vote. It's on a website that will show different nominees in future years, so here is an article that will still show the 2017 nominees if you are looking at this blog post in the future. This year marks the first time that Depeche Mode has been one of the nominees.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Shot Through the Heart

I was grabbing a small dinner at Five Guys, and "You Give Love a Bad Name" (woo hoo!) started playing. I was the only person there who had already been born when that song came out, but that didn't stop some people in the place from rocking out a bit and singing along to it. It's a simple thing, but that makes me happy. (That's also a sure sign of a classic.)

Several years ago, by the way, there was a cool reference to it in a performance of the play Spamalot that I saw in Oxford. It was in a modified version of a Knights Who Say "Ni!" scene.

Graphing Calculators: The World's Reserve Currency

I don't remember if I have posted this SMBC about graphing calculators before, but it's pretty damn funny.

A Movie About Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace's story (or at least a Hollywood version of it) looks like it's going to make the big screen.

(Tip of the cap to the Mathematical Association of America.)

Ampersand: The 27th Letter

Yes, really: ampersand used to be considered a genuine letter of the alphabet. So cool!

(Tip of the cap to Lior Pachter.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Off to the NLCS!!!!

The Dodgers have beat the Nationals 4-3 in the deciding game 5 of the National League Division Series (NLDS). Dodger closer Kenley Jansen came in to start the 7th inning, and pitched 2 and a third innings (and made the most pitches he had ever thrown in a Major League game).

And with one out and men on first and second, Clayton Kershaw came into the game for his first relief appearance since 2009. I had noticed Kershaw tossing a ball a bit in the dugout in the middle of the game and figured he would be available for something like this.) Kershaw started off by getting last year's nemesis Daniel Murphy to pop up. He then got the third and final out to beat the Nationals and win the NLDS.

And so we're off to the NLCS!!!! (And we're going to be facing a very, very tough Cubs team. The Cubs are a juggernaut, and we are most certainly the underdogs.)

Today was the longest 9-inning postseason game in Major League Baseball history. This series saw a Major League record for number of pitching changes in a Division Series, and it also saw a Major League record number of batters hit in a postseason series. (It was a really tough series. The Nationals are a strong team.)

Regardless of how things turned out, we had to go with our best. (None of this Showalter don't-use-your-best-pitcher nonsense from their do-or-die game against the Blue Jays.)

Go Dodgers!!

An American Under Your Bed

I can't argue with this. :)

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature!

Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in Literature! Very cool!

Here is the press release.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

RIP Maplewood Park

During my entire time (almost 4 years) at Cornell University, I lived in Maplewood Park, which is being demolished this fall.

On any given day, you could walk outside the apartment and see a deer very close by.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Today is International Ada Lovelace Day

Today is International Ada Lovelace Day!

Here are some blurbs about women in mathematics (and more generally in science and technology).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Recommendation: The Bone Season

I am now about 60% through The Bone Season, and I am really enjoying it. Highly recommended!

Especially highly recommend if you like dystopian fantasy (the book scores very high in world building, which tends to be a big win for me), and especially highly recommended if you've spent time in Oxford.

(So far, most of the book takes place in dystopian Oxford—including dystopian High Table, dystopian Magdalen deer park, dystopian tutorial, etc.)

Friday, October 07, 2016

United States Ice 'Cube' Tray: Made in China

I don’t have an ice ‘cube’ tray while I wait for my Screamer ice ‘cube’ tray to be shipped along with the rest of my stuff. I was feeling a bit silly and thought this might also give a geographic conversation-starter with my nieces.

In addition to ignoring Alaska and Hawaii, there was a bit of coarse-graining done with the continental states. Who needs all 50 states anyway?

And the label ‘cube’ (on the front; not pictured) doesn’t quite work either.

Also: “Made in China”

(But at least I can now have some ice while I wait to have access to my Screamer tray again.)

My Snark has Appeared on a Buzzfeed List of Quotes in Scientific Publications

Hey, look! We made a Buzzfeed list (in January 2015)! This may be another Achievement Unlocked, but then again this is a user-created list. So maybe it doesn't constitute one.

This list includes some classics. I am pretty sure that the list was scoured in large part (almost completely?) from the tumblr Easter Eggs in Scientific Papers, and I did point out my entry (#11) on this list to him, and he then posted it on the Easter Eggs tumblr.

And I have many more examples where #11 came from. (Here is the paper in question.)

(Tip of the cap to Andrea Bertozzi.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

A Monstrous, Hungry Coffee Machine

The coffee machine in the UCLA statistics department looks like a monster! And it is hungry.

(In fact, as Piotr Szymański points out, it looks somewhat like the main character of this game. Also, humans are great at seeing faces everywhere ("pareidolia"; that is why googly eyes are wonderful.)

Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Recognition of Molecular Motors and Nanomachines

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded for the creation of molecular motors and nanomachines. Here is the press release.

Fun at the APS Fluid Dynamics Meeting

They're clearly going to have some fun over at the American Physical Society's fluid dynamics meeting this year. There is a session called "Disgust: The Fluid Dynamics of the Gross".

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

What's the Network for "Freebird"?

But what's the network for "Freebird"? Freebird!

My comment had to be made.

2016 Physics Nobel Prize for Topological States of Matter

The 2016 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane, and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter."

So exciting!

(This was a big subject that I remember often being discussed in Caltech's condensed-matter theory group when I was part of it. I am sure that it still is.)

Theoretical condensed-matter physics, statistical mechanics, and topology are the big winners. That's just about a home-team victory this year!

(My preference still would have been chaos being recognized, but I am very happy with this year's result. I also want Michael Berry to get a richly-deserved award for geometric phases.)

Update (10/05/16): Here is an editorial about the (very severe) lack of women who have won the Nobel Prize in Physics. And a couple of weeks ago, a top contender Deborah Jin died way too young, so among other tragedies, now she can't get the Nobel that her work richly merits.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Is A Chicken a Dirac Limit of a Dinosaur?

This paper has a lovely line in its concluding section: "In such a cartoon description, a chicken is a Dirac limit of a tyrannosaur, in which many of its genetic parameters tend to zero."

(Tip of the cap to Lior Pachter.)

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Baseball Goodbyes

We said a lot of goodbyes in Major League Baseball today.

Of course the one I care about the most (by many orders of magnitude) is that today was Dodger great Vin Scully's last broadcast. As I write this, the article to which I linked is very terse, but I watched the game (of course!), and the Giants organization was very classy indeed in the way they honored Vin—including a big deal during the 7th inning stretch, giving the fans goodbye placards for Vin, and putting up a permanent placard in the visiting broadcast booth commemorating his final game. (I'm sure I'll find some links to add later, but in the meantime, here is the box score for the game.) This was a very nice complement to Vin Scully Day at Dodger stadium for his final home game. Vin was typically low key, though of course this wasn't just a normal game. In an earlier blog entry, I compiled a short list of some tributes to (and vignettes about) Vin Scully. Today was in fact 80 years to the day that Vin Scully fell in love with Baseball (in a story that he's been telling for the last couple weeks). Vin has been the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years and is the most beloved Dodger of all.

I am now 40 years old, I have listened to Vin Scully (the best broadcaster of all time!) call baseball games since I was a little kid—maybe the first time when I was 3 years old?—and I fell asleep to his sound on the radio back in the day (and, given my time on the U.S. east coast and of course my 9 years in Oxford), and I listened to Vin's voice sooth me to sleep from my computer in more recent years. Every year, I knew and felt that a new Baseball season started when I first heard Vin's voice announcing that it's time for Dodger baseball and wishing me a very pleasant good evening or afternoon (wherever I may be). That's how Vin signed off today. Thank you for everything!

Meanwhile, in Boston, there was a tribute to David Ortiz (whose number the Red Sox will retire next year, and this marks the first time ever that the Red Sox are doing that for a player who is not yet in the Hall of Fame), though he'll still be playing for them in the upcoming postseason.

The Yankees said goodbye to Mark Teixeira.

We also said goodbye to Turner Field in Atlanta.

Update: Here is an article giving some details about today's very classy tribute to Vin Scully from the Giants.

Update: Here is Vin's final message to Dodger fans. It was special watching today's game.

Update: Ryan Howard played what is likely his final game with the Phillies, although it looks like he's going to try to latch on with another team. (I write "probably" because, if Howard's career persists, I could imagine Philadelphia bringing him back as an inexpensive backup player a couple of years down the line.)

Update (10/04/16): Another very good announcer who retired at the end of the regular season on Sunday is Dick Enberg.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

RIP José Fernández (1992–2016)

Marlins star pitcher José Fernández is gone way too soon: he died in a boating accident this morning.

I found this out through a Facebook post by As you can see from Fernández's stats, he was somebody with Hall-of-Fame potential. What I learned from the post (aside from the tragedy), was that among pitchers with at least 400 innings pitched, Fernández has the best FIP (fielding-independent pitching, which is a quantity like earned run average that is adjusted to incorporate the fielders behind pitchers) in the live-ball era at 2.43. Clayton Kershaw is next at 2.54, and he is followed by Sandy Koufax at 2.69. From another Facebook by, I see that Fernández has the highest strikeout-per-inning rate of any Major League pitcher ever whose has pitched at least 400 innings (although strikeout rates are much higher than they were before, so take this with grains of salt). I was looking forward to following his career for many years.

Update: Jayson Stark has a nice article about "what might have been". Also take a look at Jerry Crasnick's article.

Update: Here is a post from that discusses Fernández's pitching dominance and just how good he's been.

Modern Street Art

Some of these acts of vandalism produced some wonderful modern art. Several of them are fantastic. I have seen a few of these before, but others are new to me.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back on the West Side

Last night, I arrived back on the West Side, my first time living in this part of LA in more than 20 years (when I was living in my parents') house.

A couple of weeks ago, I set up my "boring, professional web page" at UCLA. I might make it more aesthetically more please at some point, though tons of information is there and pretty easy to find, so this isn't exactly a high priority. (But with the current amount of information, that's somewhat less easy than it used to be, and it would be nice to have something nice—so it's very low priority, but not 0 priority. Ask me in a couple of years, and we'll see if I've gotten around to it.)

And more generally I am setting myself up on practical things and simultaneously trying to get some work done.

Some Tributes to Vin Scully

Vin Scully is retiring at the end of the 2016 regular season, his 67th year of broadcasting Dodger games. I have listened to Vin all of my life (ever since I can remember), and that covers only a bit more than half of Vin Scully's career. (He's had the longest career of any broadcaster in any professional sport.) Wow! And Vin is the best of all time.

As Vin's career winds down, I have (especially in the last couple of days) seen various tributes on my Facebook feed, so I am going to put some links to some of these here—partly just so that I can have a few of them in one place. I should have compiled a few I saw over the last couple of weeks, and I'll add some of those when I see those links again.

Here is are stories compiled by Jayson Stark.

Here is a video from Baseball Tonight. has posted a discussion with a statistical trip through Vin Scully's career.

Update (9/23/16): I hadn't caught this before, but Vin has broadcast more than half of the games that the Dodgers have ever played. Wow! (I am listening to the live presentation of the presentation at Dodger stadium honoring Vin Scully.)

Update (9/23/16): Here is a rank-ordered list of the "top 20" Vin Scully calls of all time. As I write this, numbers 1 and 2 haven't yet been listed, but they are not at all surprising: number 2 is the end of Sandy Koufax's perfect game, and number 1 is (obviously) Gibson's home run. The reason I put "top 20" in quotes is that fans were given a list of 20 moments and then voted among the given list of 20. That's a bit cheesy, though some of my favorite moments and a few other obvious ones are among the memorable 20.

Update (9/24/16): Here is an article about the tribute to Scully. Also, I happened to notice that #vinscullyday was trending on Twitter yesterday.

Update (9/26/16, about 1:03 am): The Dodger players have Vin Scully a great tribute during today's game, which we won in the 10th inning on a walk-off homer to win the National League West for the fourth year in a row. I haven't yet gotten my cable tv working in LA, so I listened on the radio, although for most of the game I couldn't hear much because my friends and I were busy building my furniture for my apartment. I'll need to catch some video clips of the game.

Update (10/01/16): Here is an article in the New York Times about the "archive of oddities" that Vin Scully leaves behind.

Update (10/02/16): Vin's final broadcast finished a little while ago. You can see my comments about it in this blog entry, where I also link to a few other goodbyes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Oxford Mathematics Alphabet: "'H' is for Homology"

The latest entry in the Oxford Mathematics Alphabet, 'H' is for Homology, is out today.

It was written by doctoral students Bernadette Stolz (my collaborator and my former masters student, who I cosupervised with Heather Harrington, who is Bernadette's main doctoral supervisor) and Barbara Mahler (my doctoral student, who I am supervising along with Heather Harrington and Ulrike Tilmann).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Things to Do on the Last Night Before Your International Move

Things to do on the last night before your international move:

1. Order a bunch of novels to arrive at your new place.

2. Finally order that 120-sided die (d120) you've been eyeing for months.

3. Get ice cream. (Seriously, how could I not go to G & D's on my last night here?)

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: A View from Park 40

Well, after knowing for more than half a year that I'll be leaving, we've now finally reached the end. It's been fun, and I'll be back early and often to visit. (And I am ever available electronically.)

Tonight is my last full day in Oxford. I fly out to LA tomorrow. I came to Oxford on 1 October 2007, so it's been almost a full 9 years. (And that was almost a full year after getting my job offer after interview escapades, which you can read about here and here. (And as a note to junior scientists, I strongly recommend blogging about your interview before the hiring committee makes its hiring decision. Seriously: This was an excellent idea on my part. :P)

This is a view from my Somerville office (Park 40) from the past 7 years.

I have chosen an angular view so that the main entrance to Penrose is in the picture. (I used that entrance for my first year in Somerville, and after a year I moved into an on-site flat, with its own entrances, that is attached to Penrose.)

And that other thing in the picture? Well, that is my gift to Somerville College, to be passed along over the generations from one tutor to another (preferably one in mathematics) and to be displayed in a prominent place in the College. And maybe in a few decades I'll read a history of Somerville College where the author will wonder where that piece of College lore came from.

(And maybe somebody will eventually find the other Screamer, which staff members somehow managed to lose early on in my time in Somerville when they moved my stuff from one office to another. So, yes, this one was actually purchased by the College to replace the original, and I am sure the second one must be around here somewhere.)

Also, I originally got the idea for a Screamer from Predrag Cvitanović, who has had one in his office at Georgia Tech for many years. I bought one when I got to Caltech as a postdoc, and I took that one with me to Oxford.

I am going to replace the Screamer, but I think it's time to pick a different figure for my UCLA office. I'll need to see who's available. I'll probably check if Poincaré is available, but I'm sure there will be many interesting choices.

Update: You can also see some discussion and a few more photos on the Facebook version of this post.

XKCD: Academic Imposters

This old xkcd comic is amusing. It also includes an (I believe) unintended joke about centrality measures.

(Tip of the cap to Carlos Castillo Chavez.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Most Prolific Scholar Ever

With more than 2.4 million citations and an h-index of 333, this prolific scholar puts even Paul Erdős to shame. :)

(Tip of the cap to Ramis Movassagh.)

Update: Peter Mucha points out that it's worth following the link to this prolific author's homepage. I didn't do that before; Peter is absolutely correct.

What's Lurking in the OCIAM Drawers?

While trying to find an envelope to mail stuff (none in the mail room), I check in the drawers under one set of Mathematical Institute printers, I found reams of paper (of course), a few technical books, a book about what to do if one gets pregnant, and the supply of the old (from more than a decade ago) OCIAM t-shirts.

I couldn't find an envelope large enough to mail the book I want to send, but I wonder if the t-shirt that I bought almost 9 years ago was the last new one anybody acquired.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Headline: North Korea Bans Sarcasm

Damnit. Now I'm going to have to change my travel plans.

(Tip of the cap to Kevin Hickerson.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

RIP Deborah Jin (1968–2016)

I just heard through the Twitterverse that Deborah Jin has died of cancer.

She was a great experimentalist in Bose–Einstein condensates and related topics, and I think she was probably going to get a Nobel Prize at some point in recognition of her work.

(Tip of the cap to Sean Carroll.)

Update (9/19/16): Here is the NIST news release.

Update (9/20/16): Here is the new release from the American Physical Society.

Update (9/24/16): The New York Times also posted an obituary. It's good to see recognition of Jin's importance in "mainstream" media. (Tip of the cap to Cynthia Gong for the link.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 Finalists for Toy Hall of Fame

The 2016 finalist nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame have been announced. Wow, I need to choose between Transformers and Dungeons & Dragons. Those are clearly the best two in my book, and I am definitely going with D & D.

(Tip of the cap to Dungeons and Dragons Memes.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Amazing Film

Wow. Kubo and the Two Strings is an amazing film.

Sometimes, made me think a bit of the game Okami, but that is most likely because of common inspirations.

The credits includes allusions to some famous pictures, such as this one. It also includes a spiffy version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The Mario-Kart System of Economics

Maybe we should try the Mario-Kart system of economics. With Spiny shells, I hope. And well-timed lightning bolts. Not to mention well-placed banana peels.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Art: "The Random Walker Heads Off Into the Sunset"

I couldn’t stop thinking about my idea about an exhausted random walker leaving a network and retiring and heading off into the sunset, and I was able to get my former student Yulian Ng to draw it. Add a bit of text, and here is what we have.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Problem Solving by Country

This snarky "infographic" about the way that problem solving "works" in different countries is highly amusing.

(Tip of the cap to Oleg Kogan.)

Friday, September 09, 2016

I Moved the Sheriff (But I Didn't Move the Depute)

Today I tried the game Colt Express. Gratuitous "I shot the sheriff." jokes are an integral part of this game.

This game is fun. One can induce a bit of Robot Turtles-style 'off by one' screwage of one's opponents. And other screwage.

Although we didn't get to play with it, one of the Thirsty Meeples employees told us about this sweet expansion.

Colt Express is pretty simple to learn and is fun — and appropriate players can add the right type of humor — so it has my recommendation.

My Life as an Initial Condition for a Reaction–Diffusion System

This is what happens when I am used as an initial condition in a reaction–diffusion system.

This animated gif is a very cool "departing gif(t)" from Oxford Mathematical Institute postdoc Thomas Woolley.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Why Nearly Every Film States It's a Work of Fiction

Apparently, this has a connection to Grigori Rasputin and his murder — yet another interesting bit in the mystery of Rasputin.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

RIP Joe Keller (1923–2016)

Joe Keller, one of the greatest applied mathematicians of our time, died today.

By the way, the sentence above doesn't need the word "applied" in it to be accurate, but I retained it to emphasize Keller's perspective on mathematics.

A couple of years ago, when I gave the applied math seminar at Stanford, I was really excited that Joe Keller was in the audience to see it.

(Tip of the cap to Improbable Research for sharing the public Facebook post above.)

Update: And I just remembered that I forgot to include an all-time great quote (which I have been using for many years) by Joe Keller: "Pure mathematics is a branch of applied mathematics."

Update (9/10/16): The Stanford news release has more details about Joe Keller.

MLB Tonight's Tribute to Vin Scully

This season is the last season that Dodger announcer Vin Scully will be broadcasting Dodger games. MLB Tonight has produced a nice tribute video.

I have been listening to Vin announce baseball games for more than 35 years, and that is barely more than half of his career! Vin's voice has been one of the soundtracks of my life, and I sure as Hell am going to miss it.

When it comes to broadcasters, Vin Scully is the Best of All Time.

(Tip of the hat to Chris Howland.)

"The View from Trump Tower"

The View from Trump Tower is a new (and clever) take on the classic cover from The New Yorker.

(Tip of the cap to Tim Harford.)

Live-Action Tetris

Tel Aviv's city hall was transformed into the backdrop of a live-action Tetris game. I approve!

Update (9/17/16): Here is a picture of the game.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Natural Logs: Licorice Edition

A few minutes ago, I encountered Natural Licorice Logs (and principal ones, no less!) at a local chain called Taylor's...

We have a couple of locations of Taylor's across the street from each other on Little Clarendon. They have different things from each other, and I walked into the south one to buy some funky chocolates, and noticed the Natural Logs near the checkout counter. I don't like black licorice, though, so I didn't buy it.

Still, Natural Logs at Taylor's! That makes a lovely math joke.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Awesome Elevator Ride (with Sesame Street 'Yip' Aliens)

I have been enjoying the various Dragon*Con pictures (with great costumes) that I have seen on Facebook, but this video especially makes me wish I could have made it to Dragon*Con this year!

Update (9/04/16): A high-res version has now been posted on YouTube.

Friday, September 02, 2016

America's New STEM Initiative (According to The Onion)

Yup, The Onion wins yet again.

A Victory for Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

This SMBC from a few years ago is a big win. (Today is the first time I saw it.) So much truth!

Also, hooray for chaotic dynamics! ;)

Nature Physics and Joy Division

The journal Nature Physics has included an explicit shout out to Joy Division in the cover of their September issue. I approve!

In a very short blog entry, I linked to an article and video about the astronomical inspiration for Joy Division's iconic album cover.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Mathematical Purity Ring

I strongly approve of today's SMBC! Hell yes!

And, as I mentioned in this post, I also strongly approve of this recent edition of SMBC.

Periodic Table of Network Centrality

Yes, really.

I wonder what new "elements" will be discovered this year? :)

Note: Many centrality measures are missing (unsurprising, given how many there are), and quite a few of them have incorrect citations attached to them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Self-Identification: "Student" Versus "Researcher"

Here is a new comic from PhD Comics. For the punchline, click on the link and scroll to the bottom.

"Notes for a New Faculty Member"

This article is a worthwhile read for young faculty members, other young academics who are teaching some classes, and established faculty members as well.

(Tip of the cap to Association for Women in Mathematics.

"Null Models for Community Detection in Spatially Embedded, Temporal Networks"

Another one of my papers finally got its volume, issue, and page numbers last week. (It came out in advanced access in November 2015.) I finally got my own copy of the document today, so here are some details.

Title: Null Models for Community Detection in Spatially Embedded, Temporal Networks

Authors: Marta Sarzynska, Elizabeth A. Leicht, Gerardo Chowell, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: In the study of networks, it is often insightful to use algorithms to determine mesoscale features such as 'community structure', in which densely connected sets of nodes constitute 'communities' that have sparse connections to other communities. The most popular way of detecting communities algorithmically is to maximize the quality function known as modularity. When maximizing modularity, one compares the actual connections in a (static or time-dependent) network to the connections obtained from a random-graph ensemble that acts as a null model. The communities are then the sets of nodes that are connected to each other densely relative to what is expected from the null model. Clearly, the process of community detection depends fundamentally on the choice of the null model, so it is important to develop and analyse novel null models that take into account appropriate features of the system under study. In this paper, we investigate the effects of using null models that incorporate spatial information, and we propose a novel null model based on the radiation model of population spread. We also develop novel synthetic spatial benchmark networks in which the connections between entities are based on the distance or flux between nodes, and we compare the performance of static and time-dependent versions of the radiation null model to the standard ('Newman–Girvan') null model for modularity optimization and to a recently proposed gravity null model. In our comparisons, we use both the above synthetic benchmarks and time-dependent correlation networks that we construct using countrywide dengue fever incidence data for Peru. Our findings illustrate the need to use appropriate generative models for the development of spatial null models for community detection.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RIP Sloan Annex

As John Preskill has tweeted (see the picture below), Sloan Annex has bitten the dust.

Good riddance. I spent 2.5 years in that rat maze. (Technically, 2 years and 4 months.) It was supposed to be demolished several decades ago.

The condensed-matter physics group was housed in that horrible building for many years. Amusingly, the theory postdocs were split into 'office of people with hair' and 'office of people without hair'. Well, those weren't the labels, but it was an equivalent partitioning.


I want a granita!

(After getting a foot infection at the summer school last year and with my impending international move this month, I wasn't about to schlep over to Malfa this year, even with the promise of granitas. The peaches-and-cream one is named after me.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

RIP Gene Wilder (1933–2016)

Well, we have lost another epic talent: Gene Wilder (who I enjoyed in flicks like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and other movies), has died. He was also in Willie Wonka the Chocolate Factory (which is a bloody creepy film, by the way), many films with Richard Pryor, and a lot more.

I can't write this blog entry without one particular word: FRONKENSTEEN!

(Tip of the cap to Bonnie Harland.)

"Los Angeles Airport Evacuation Sparked by Actor Dressed as Zorro 'Waving Plastic Sword'"

Well, this headline is pretty bizarre: "Los Angeles Airport Evacuation Sparked by Actor Dressed as Zorro 'Waving Plastic Sword'".

(Tip of the cap to John DesJardins‎.)

"What Are Essential Concepts About Networks?"

Our paper describing the process of how we created the networks literacy handbook finally has its volume, issue, and page numbers. (It was otherwise posted in final form late last year.) You can find it here, and here is some information about the paper's specs.

Title: What Are Essential Concepts About Networks?

Authors: Hiroki Sayama, Catherine Cramer, Mason A. Porter, Lori Sheetz, and Stephen Uzzo

Abstract: Networks have become increasingly relevant to everyday life as human society has become increasingly connected. Attaining a basic understanding of networks has thus become a necessary form of literacy for people (and for youths in particular). At the NetSci 2014 conference, we initiated a year-long process to develop an educational resource that concisely summarizes essential concepts about networks that can be used by anyone of school age or older. The process involved several brainstorming sessions on one key question: 'What should every person living in the 21st century know about networks by the time he/she finishes secondary education?' Different sessions reached diverse participants, which included professional researchers in network science, educators and high-school students. The generated ideas were connected by the students to construct a concept network. We examined community structure in the concept network to group ideas into a set of important themes, which we refined through discussion into seven essential concepts. The students played a major role in this development process by providing insights and perspectives that were often unrecognized by researchers and educators. The final result, 'Network Literacy: Essential Concepts and Core Ideas', is now available as a booklet in several different languages from

Note (8/30/16): Clearly, I was tired when I wrote this blog entry, as I wrote the word "comments" instead of "concepts" in the paper title. I have now fixed this.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cursing Sentiments About Programming Languages

In case you are wondering how people really feel (at least on Reddit) about certain programming languages, the picture in the Tweet below shows the frequencies of a few curse words in different programming languages.

You can take a look at more of the sentiment analysis on this page.

Cow Magnetization

Here is a cool video of what I will call cow magnetization. Maybe we should bring out the spin models after all? :)

(Tip of the cap to Erik Bollt.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

XKCD on Linear Correlations

Pretty much.

(Tip of the cap to Piotr Szymański.)

"Awesome" Old Board Games

Here is a list of some "awesome" (and, in many ways, justifiably forgotten) board games. I remember some of them!

Several of these are "awesome", and some of them (like number four...) go directly into the "What were they thinking?" category.

(And as some of you will remember, I saw a used copy of the "Where's the Beef?" game in Columbus a few months ago.)

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cornell Video: Steve Strogatz on Mathematics, the Power of Abstraction, and Outreach

Here is a new press video from Cornell University with Steve Strogatz speaking about mathematics, finding patterns through the power of abstraction, and outreach. This video is short, and it does an excellent job of conveying the power of mathematics (as one would expect from an excellent communicator like Steve).

Tales from the ArXiv: Iterated Agony Edition

The last sentence of this paper is priceless: We analytically characterize the detectability threshold and we show that an iterated version of agony can partly overcome this resolution limit.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mario and the Rio Olympics

Well, Mario came out of a giant pipe and made a stunning appearance at the closing ceremony of this year's Olympics. Naturally, this was to help "announce" the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pictures from Costa Rica

I took some pictures in Costa Rica. (The album also includes some pictures that were taken by other people.)