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 SzymaƄski 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.