Friday, April 29, 2016

Headline: "Weasel Apparently Shuts Down World's Most Powerful Particle Collider"

Here's a headline you don't see every day.

Choice quote: "There have been previous incidents, including one in 2009, when a bird is believed to have dropped a baguette onto critical electrical systems."

(Tip of the cap to Graeme Smith.)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Curry's Paradoxical Combinator": A 3rd Level Computer Scientist Spell

"Curry's paradoxical combinator" (see this page) is something that occurs in lambda calculus.

It sounds more like a spell, like Mordenkainen's Disjunction (or perhaps even Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter).

Curry's paradoxical combinator is a 3rd level Computer Scientist spell. It requires an intelligence score of at least 13.

The fact that the last name is "Curry" (think Tim Curry) also adds to the effect.

(Tip of the cap to Quentin Miller.)

30 of the Most Bizarre Research Papers of All Time

Yes, yes they are.

(Tip of the cap to the Improbable Research blog.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Visualization of Stores in Cities

Take a look at these visualizations of cities with every store mapped. Very cool!

Somebody should do some network analysis of this stuff. :)

(Tip of the cap to Stacy Kerkela.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Teaching Complex Systems: Building Evacuation Edition

Today I gave my first lecture for my course on complex systems. After about the first hour (of the 2 hours), the fire alarm rang, and we had to evacuate the building.

So I did what any self-respecting person in complex systems would do: briefly as we walked outside and much more once outside and as we watched others leaving the building through the door, while we were outside being drizzled on, I gave a brief description of the work of people like Dirk Helbing on that exact problem.

(And then after we got back inside, I showed them the video of sheep moving through a bottleneck.)

Tales from the ArXiv: "Other Naive Models"

This paper's abstract has the following final sentence: "Furthermore our transition probability model is up to 20% more accurate than other naive models."

Notice the phrasing "other naive models", which contrasts rather sharply with the phrasing "other, naive models".

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Comic-Book Characters Reimagined as Dragons

These dragon adaptations of comic-book characters are way cool!

(Tip of the cap to Bryan Thompson.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Vin Scully Reading a Shopping List

On several baseball broadcasts over the years, I have heard the comment that Vin Scully would sound amazing even if he were reading a shopping list.

Apparently, about four decades ago, somebody recorded Vin doing it. This recording was played on the ESPN broadcast last night, and it does sound amazing. Vin's voice is just so soothing.

Vin Scully is the best announcer ever, and 2016 will be his last year broadcasting baseball. It's been awesome to listen to him broadcast Dodger games for well over three decades.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Back a Study on Gender Representation on the Editorial Boards of Journals in the Mathematical Sciences

Chad Topaz and Shilad Sen of Macalester College are trying to raise funds for a study on gender representation on the editorial boards of journals in the mathematical sciences. I want to see what the data look like (and ideally that will help the mathematical and scientific communities act to improve the situation), so please join me in backing this study. It's important to collect and analyze these data.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tweeting from Freezers

Yes, really.

I quickly figured out how to tweet from the MBI freezer (it has a Twitter account, for some reason), but I couldn't figure out how to successfully get it to dispense ice (except for a lone 'cube'). ‪#‎technologyfail‬

But at least my creative juices are now flowing for some pranks (which may well make the whole thing worth it in the end). Now I just need the password.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Comic: "I'm Afraid She's a Physicist"

I really like the new SMBC today.

Tales from the ArXiv: ¡No Mas!

The algorithm proposed in this paper has the acronym "NoMas".

I am amused. Usually the "¡No Mas!" algorithm is what you apply when you're desperate. (The associated computational problem is NP-hard, of course.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Integrating License Plates

Yup, occasionally people actually do that. :)

The Trouble with Misinterpreted Emoji

Here is an Improbable Research blurb on a new paper about the modern-day trouble of misinterpreted emoji.

(And thanks to Dan Larremore for pointing me to the original paper.)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Pac-Man Suit

If you truly want to show that you have Pac-Man fever, then try this suit and tie on for size.

This is clearly a must-wear for formal hall in Somerville. (Possibly along with my belt inspired by Legend of Zelda, which I have previously worn to formal hall.)

(Tip of the cap to Mike Gettle.)

Friday, April 08, 2016


I want d120 dice!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

New Insights on the Origins of Baseball

An 1857 document (called "Laws of Base Ball") shed important new light on the history of baseball. Among other things, it was definitely not invented in 1960 by Alexander Cartwright. Of course, baseball has an even early U.K. history, and I am not talking about cricket or rounders.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

"Dynamical Systems on Networks: A Tutorial"

My book, coauthored with James Gleeson, is now officially out. It is called Dynamical Systems on Networks: A Tutorial, and it does just what the title says.

Our book is part of the series Frontiers in Applied Dynamical Systems: Reviews and Tutorials, which at some level makes our monograph somewhere in between a book and an article. Springer is marketing it as a book, so I guess it's a book. You can even find it on and on

Older versions are available on the arXiv.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Tales from the ArXiv: "Wrapped Microlocal Sheaves on Pairs of Pants"

Basically, I just like the title of this paper.

(I am also amused by the mathematizations of "higher-dimensional pairs of pants" and "tailored pairs of pants".)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Kickin' it Old School: "Where's the Beef?" Board Game

I was at a store with random old geek and gaming stuff, and one of their display cases contained a used copy of the Where's the Beef? board game (which I forgot existed).

There were also things like wax packs of Topps Three's Company collectible cards. (I had seen those before.)

Friday, April 01, 2016

All About Balls

After reading this IFLS article, I will never again think about avocados or orchids in the same way.