Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A UCLA Math Undergrad's Data-Analysis Blog

UCLA undergraduate student Ritvik Kharkar, who is doing some research with me, is doing some spiffy data analysis on his blog. Go take a look at it!

It includes entries about community detection (in the Harry Potter universe), education issues, and UCLA salaries.

Monday, January 30, 2017

RIP Masaya Nakamura (1925–2017)

Masaya Nakamura, the founder of gaming company Namco and the "father" of Pac-Man, has died.

(Tip of the cap to Greg Hosack.)

I Am Vindicated!

I am vindicated!

My dark sense of humor has been a positive sign from the beginning! ;)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Marty Feldman Performing Tom Lehrer!

Oh, wow! Marty Feldman performed some songs by Tom Lehrer! Here's a video of The Vatican Rag, and apparently the same show included other Feldman performances of Lehrer songs. (Maybe those are online too?) I didn't know this existed!

And if you've never heard of Marty Feldman, you should watch Young Frankenstein, among other movies.

(Tip of the cap to Kent Cordray.)

Update: Here is a video of Feldman performing National Brotherhood Week.

Rogue Government Twitter Accounts

The tweets in the Rogue POTUS Staff Twitter account are very interesting. (At minimum, it is very entertaining, though in the 2017 world of "fake news", one also has to be cautious about whether accounts like these are real ones.) Also take a look at this list of accounts (including several Resistance accounts). And it all started with a National Park Service Twitter account going rogue.

As I mentioned a few days ago on Facebook, "National Park Service Twitter Account Goes Rogue" would make a great event card for the 2K16–2K17 version of Illuminati. (I don't know of any plans for one, but given that the world feels now that way, it simply has to happen.) The dystopian fiction novels and movies also seem to have missed out on that. Well, some probably do have something like that, but truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The Rogue POTUS Staff account is also right out of dystopian fiction (except that now it's dystopian fact, or "dystopian nonfiction", if you prefer).

Indeed, like now feels like an Illuminati, with some aspects of Paranoia involved for good measure.

Update: Here is one version of a meme that has been going around during the last few days.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Happens in East Lansing Stays in East Lansing

I have arrived in East Lansing, where tomorrow I will be giving the Science at the Edge seminar at Michigan State University.

I am being hosted by my Caltech undergrad friend Jaideep Taggert Singh (a fellow Lloydie), who is on the physics faculty at MSU.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"I Have Not Even Begun To Snark"

Yup, that's right.

A Cookie Undergoing Mitosis

This is a rare shot of a cookie undergoing mitosis in the wild.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Physics 11: A Special Caltech Class

I never applied to take Physics 11 at Caltech, though surely I would have loved it. It's certainly a course that I would love to teach, and I like to think that a lot of my research projects and our networks journal club (and study groups with industry and related things that we do) have a lot of this flavor. I certainly want them to.

Here is the lead in Caltech's Facebook post today about the course: "Among the classes a Caltech freshman can take, Physics 11 stands out. Those who make it through its series of intellectual hoops embark on a unique classroom experience with no set curriculum or exams and without strict adherence to any single scientific discipline—despite the course's name."

SMBC: "That's What She Said"

This comic is amusing. (That's what she said.)

A Stiff Fine

This stiff fine will likely be paid by your next of kin. :)

(Tip of the cap to Iain Macmillan.)

PhD Comics and the Youngest-Non-Math-Major Convention

Here is a classic set of panels from PhD Comics.

This is why at Caltech we had the "youngest non-math-major" convention for figuring out how to split a bill for a meal.

As an applied math (AMa) major, I was usually safe — except for the one time when everybody else at my table was majoring in pure mathematics (Ma). D'oh!

Monday, January 23, 2017

"The Netherlands Welcomes Trump in his Own Words"

This video is hilarious.

(Tip of the cap to multiple people.)

Update (1/24/17): Apparently the video isn't just taking lots of words and phrasing The King in Orange likes to use but was parodying his inauguration speech in particular. (I hadn't bothered watching or reading his speech, so I didn't realize that. That makes the video even funnier.)

Congratulations to Dr. Charlie Marshak!

Congratulations to my UCLA Ph.D. student, Charlie Marshak, for successfully passing his thesis defense on Friday the 13th and for making the final changes and submitting his thesis (Applications of Network Science to Criminal Networks, University Education, and Ecology), which we then approved.

I became one of Charlie's supervisors last fall to help out his main official supervisor Andrea Bertozzi. Of course, although she doesn't get official credit for it (because she's a postdoc and isn't in the official listing), Puck Rombach has been Charlie's main supervisor in practice.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Victory for The Onion: Kellyanne Conway Edition

I think The Onion's new article about Kellyanne Conway explains a lot. This article is exceptional (and highly amusing)! Once again, I declare victory for The Onion. It's really funny, and the article title gives you a good idea of where this is going: "You Would Do The Same Thing If An Old Witch Had Your Father’s Soul Trapped In A Lantern"

The following line expands on the title: "But answer me truthfully: Who among you wouldn’t do the same exact thing if an evil 400-year-old witch had trapped your father’s eternal soul inside a cursed iron lantern, flickering faintly each time his agonized moans escaped the murky, otherworldly ether that is his prison?"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"How Irish Falconry Changed Language"

This very cool article describes a transition of several words "from medieval falconry to modern English" (with William Shakespeare as intermediary and interpreter).

Deadpan Reaction to Unhinged Presidency

In it's article about the outlandish statements by the White House's Press Secretary about the size of the Inauguration crowd, CNN.com has unleashed some beautiful deadpan: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," Spicer said, contradicting all available data."

The article title is also great: White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds.

(When I see a story about such ridiculous, flagrant lies (which anybody can see from all available data, including videos, transportation data, and more) posted on Facebook, I need Facebook to add a nuanced 'reaction' that modifies their laughter icon into the type of hysterical laughter that occurs as one is losing one's mind. Their reactions aren't nuanced enough for this. Sure, I'm angry, but I want a 'hysterical laughter' reaction.)

Update (1/24/17): And Spicer's feud against Dippin' Dots ice cream is simply bizarre (and free advertising).

Pictures of Hope

Pictures like the still at the beginning of the video in this article give me hope (which is much needed these days).

Update: Here is a Vox article, which includes among the first of the pictures I saw yesterday. I also saw pictures from friends yesterday who were beginning their treks, and of course it's been great to see many pictures of the well-attended Women's Marches today (especially the one in Washington, D.C.).

Update: Here are a bunch of pictures. When the dust settles as to the numbers in the Marches worldwide, I'll post put a link to an article that hopefully gives a reasonable indication of them. I have read that this may be the largest Presidential Inauguration protest in U.S. history. (Many more people have shown up to the Women's March protest in Washington, D. C. than showed up for the Inauguration.)

Update: The protests have been occurring across the globe, including in Antarctica!

Update: The number of protesters worldwide is estimated to be more than 2.5 million people.

Update: Here are more pictures from around the world. Such a historic event! The world will remember this day.

Update: Here are some estimated numbers.

Update: I would like to make the following comment: "20 January 2017: A day that will live in infamy (though, technically, not as much infamy as 8 November 2016). 21 January 2017: A far more important day, and one of the most important days in United States history."

Update: The Women's March protest is now estimated to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Excellent! I approve!

Update: In solidarity with the Women's March, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics posted a music video of their song Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves. It's hard to think of a better fit for today.

Update: In Washington, D.C., numerous protesters left their signs at Donald Trump's D.C. hotel.

Update: Apparently, there were a grand total of four arrests in the U.S. Protesting peacefully is the way to do it. Very good!

(Tip of the cap to way too many people to mention.)

Update (1/22/17): One of my favorite pictures from yesterday is this one.

Update (1/22/17): Here is yet another great sign. (Tip of the cap to Wendy Ames.)

Update (1/23/17): Fivethirtyeight.com estimates the total number of participants (I didn't check whether this was an estimate for the U.S. or for the world) in the Women's Marches to be about 3.2 million people, though they were concentrated mostly in Blue states.

Update (1/23/17): Here is another excellent sign, although over the years I have seen many pictures of old people at protests with these words (or similar ones) on a sign. I saw this picture on Saturday, but I forgot to include a link then, so I'm glad to see it again.

Update (1/23/17): Here's another nice sign.

Update (1/24/17): Here are a few more signs. I like the Star Wars one.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Song for Today

It's now every day that I get to invoke The Fun Boy Three, but today is one of them. Here is a song for the day.

I also considered others, but they're considerably more rude (and this one is also an optimal fit). These are "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers and a cover of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" by Mike Pence and the Supreme Court Justices. (This last song was probably performed last time at the Inaugural concert.)

Update: REM posted several performances of their song "World Leader Pretend on their Facebook page.

Update: Another appropriate song is "The Dictator Decides" by the Pet Shop Boys. The general weariness and the lines about giving speeches are both rather apt.

Update (1/21/17): A really apt one is the "Imperial March" from Star Wars.

Update (1/22/17): I think that my suggested song for Mike Pence and The Supreme Court Justices would make a great skit for Saturday Night Live, by the way. Also, it now occurs to me that a cover of "Love Child" (also by Diana Ross and The Supremes) would be an even more appropriate song than "You Can't Hurry Love".

Thursday, January 19, 2017

52,560,000 Minutes Late

This contrasts with the advertised tardiness, which was a mere 40 minutes.

Note: I did a quick calculation, in which I assumed 100 full years; this gives an estimate of 52,596,000 minutes. The article didn't indicate even the month in which the book was checked out. In my calculation, I took 100 years, 365.25 days per year, 24 hours per day, and 60 minutes per hour.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Iván Rodríguez are in the Hall of Fame!

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Iván ("Pudge") Rodríguez are heading to Cooperstown!!!!

Rodríguez made it (with 4 votes more than the minimum) on the first ballot, becoming the second catcher (the other was Johnny Bench) to do so. It's about damn time that Bagwell and, especially, Raines made it into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. They both should have been inducted years ago. Trevor Hoffmann (5 votes short) and Vladimir Guerrero (15 votes short) both cracked 70% of the vote (at least 75% is needed) and should make it next year. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds made good progress and finally seem on their way. (If not for their extracurricular issues, they would have of course been inner-circle Hall of Famers and made it with exceptionally large vote percentages on the first ballot.) Mike Mussina gained enough votes to crack 50% of the vote and should gain more next year and hopefully make it soon. Edgar Martínez gained a very large number of votes, and he (along with Mike Mussina) are who we now need to get behind so that they get their richly deserved enshrinements into the Hall. Curt Schilling's vote total went in the wrong direction, seemingly because of his controversial tweets, but he richly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, so hopefully he'll eventually make it as well.

Larry Walker, in his 7th year on the ballot, surpassed 20% of the vote and made some progress, but it looks like he's going to have to wait until some version of the Veterans Committee selects him for the Hall. In my mind, Walker is a Hall of Famer, and a lot of people don't realize just how good he is. Manny Ramírez, who comes with a particularly enormous performance-enhancing-drug (PED) cloud (with two suspensions to his name), cracked 20% of the vote. Voters are clearly softening on this front, as was expected and as I believe is correct, but a rather large difference between Ramírez and players like Bonds and Clemens is that the cloud is much darker for Ramírez, so it will probably take him a long time to get elected. (I suspect he will make it eventually, perhaps from a Veterans Committee.) His statistics on their own obviously merit induction, but Ramírez's relationship with PEDs is very far beyond the border. Jeff Kent, who also belongs in the Hall, continues to get much less support than he deserves. (Fellow middle infielders Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell can commiserate. Whitaker even fell off the ballot, which is ridiculous.)

Former commissioner Bud Selig and executive John Schuerholz were elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this offseason by a Veterans Committee.

You can find more information on the Hall of Fame tracker.

Baseball-reference.com has a page detailing who will (and others will likely) appear on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Hoffman and Guerrero will surely make it next year. I don't think any of the other holdovers will make it next year, but watch for Martínez, Mussina, Clemens, and Bonds to make further progress. Among the newcomers, Chipper Jones will make it easily, Jim Thome will get a lot of votes (but is unlikely to make it in his first year), Scott Rolen will probably get a lot less support than he deserves (though he may be inducted into the Hall of Fame eventually), Omar Vizquel will get a bunch of votes, and perhaps Johnny Damon and Andruw Jones will get enough votes not to get kicked off the ballot. I suspect Thome will make it in his second or third try, and Vizquel will likely make the Hall eventually as well.

Update (1/19/17): I completely forgot to bring up The Crime Dog, Fred McGriff, whose consistent excellence gets overlooked because of the ridiculous numbers from the PED era. It makes it harder to see how great he was, and I think that he should eventually be enshrined as well. He is getting enough votes to stay on the ballot, but his candidacy isn't really going anyway, so he'll probably eventually be selected by a Veterans Committee. Gary Sheffield is another player with enough support to remain on the ballot but who won't make the Hall any time soon. I am not sure whether he should make it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Adventures With Old Caltech Catalogs

The 1974–1975 Caltech catalog was the first one to include the unit requirements for all* options in "modern" form (where "modern" means that's how it was when we arrived as frosh).

And in that catalog, Applied Math and Math required 483 units, and each of the other options required 516 units. (So then at some point that 516 was changed to 486. So Applied Math and Math were the pioneers!)

In prior years, each option (perhaps with some commonality due to influence of Divisions) essentially listed the requirements in their own format (occasionally including the modern format). Some of them listed required unit numbers (e.g., 530), but they were different for different options. Applied Math in 1973–74 required 537 units, but Math didn't list any one number in this format (though one could compute a minimum based on other types of requirements, such core courses, electives, and units per term). So somehow for 74–75, Applied Math and Math decided to be different from everybody else (naturally).

* except for the "Independent Studies Program", which is understandably much less structured in the catalog

Note: See this discussion for further background.

Note 2: I majored in Applied Math at Caltech. I graduated in 1998, and I first enrolled there during the 1994–95 school year.

This was really bugging me. Now I'll get back to what I was supposed to be doing.

Is Reality a Group Project?

Well, is it?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Course Proposal (University of Washington): "Calling Bullshit"

Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West from University of Washington have developed an important and interesting course called Calling Bullshit. It isn't yet part of a course catalog, but they have assembled a great selection of reading, and hopefully it will be an "official" offering soon.

As they write: "We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument."

(Tip of the cap to the Bansal lab.)

Update: I have updated this blog entry (adding and slightly changing some text above) to make it clear that the course isn't literally being offered yet, but its material has been assembled, so go take a look at it!

Update (1/14/17): I wrote a blurb about this course for the Improbable Research blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Alternative Explanation

You never know.

Encounter at the Gates of Hell

Sweating from the profuse heat, at the gates of Hell, you encounter a devil, dressed in a lounge suit and singing "Baby It's Cold Outside."

(I would humbly suggest requesting "I Won't Back Down".)

Monday, January 09, 2017

Headline: "God Banned By Facebook For Wanting Healthcare and Education"

I am highly amused by this article, and especially by this online conversation. That is hilarious!

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Proof that England has Sun

"A Predator–2 Prey Fast–Slow Dynamical System for Rapid Predator Evolution"

One of my papers has now been posted in final form. (A second one appeared online today, but it joins a long list of papers that are still awaiting their coordinates. I will blog about those papers when they have those coordinates.)

Anyway, let's talk about the paper that does have its coordinates. It's about plankton modeling, and here are the details.

Title: A Predator–2 Prey Fast–Slow Dynamical System for Rapid Predator Evolution

Authors: So a H. Piltz, Frits Veerman, Philip K. Maini, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We consider adaptive change of diet of a predator population that switches its feeding between two prey populations. We develop a novel 1 fast–3 slow dynamical system to describe the dynamics of the three populations amidst continuous but rapid evolution of the predator's diet choice. The two extremes at which the predator's diet is composed solely of one prey correspond to two branches of the three-branch critical manifold of the fast–slow system. By calculating the points at which there is a fast transition between these two feeding choices (i.e., branches of the critical manifold), we prove that the system has a two-parameter family of periodic orbits for su ciently large separation of the time scales between the evolutionary and ecological dynamics. Using numerical simulations, we show that these periodic orbits exist, and that their phase di erence and oscillation patterns persist, when ecological and evolutionary interactions occur on comparable time scales. Our model also exhibits periodic orbits that agree qualitatively with oscillation patterns observed in experimental studies of
the coupling between rapid evolution and ecological interactions.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Treants Love Baseball

I really like the new SMBC!

Maybe I was a treant in a past life? :) (Or "ent", if you prefer earlier terminology.)

"Mathematics for Human Flourishing"

I just read Francis Su's address from the 2017 Joint Mathematics Meetings as the conclusion of his tenure as Mathematical Association of America (MAA) president. This is an important read for those of us teaching mathematics at universities (and for many others).

(Tip of the cap to Susan Holmes.)

Saturday, January 07, 2017

"I'm From the Physics Department, and I'm Here to Help"

I am amused. :)

(Tip of the cap to Bruno Gonçalves.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Country Tourism Slogans: Bring on the Mockery

The tourism slogans of most countries merit mockery (and some really merit mockery). For example, under the circumstances, I think the US may seriously want to change its slogan (of which I was not previously aware) of "All within your reach"...

I think my "favorites" are ones like "Tourism for Everybody" (Algeria) — though perhaps this one isn't quite so bad before it's translated? — and ones that rely on pure geographical location, such as Portugal's "Europe's West Coast". Also, Spain deserves special mockery for including a hashtag, and Uzbekhistan just missed a chance to contact the estate of Robert Palmer for some serious endorsement opportunities.

Also, I am seriously into maps with such ripe opportunities for snark.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Demons of Dictionnaire Infernal

Wow, these classics are great demonic pictures! This is one of the original Monster Manuals. :)

You'll notice several familiar names from Dungeons & Dragons, Ultima V, etc.

(Tip of the cap to Jennifer Ouellette.)