Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Dodger announcers on Andruw Jones

The Dodger announcers had a bit of a discussion about Andruw Jones during today's spring training game:

Charlie Steiner: "Let's see. Andruw Jones this spring is 1 for 7 with an infield single and 6 strikeouts."

Rick Monday: "He's in midseason form."

Comment: Ouch!

(The discussion then continued for a little while, but its start was just priceless.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The only thing missing was a player to be named later

In a decision of amazing perspicuity, a women traded two children for a bird. $175 also changed hands, but the CNN article to which I link didn't indicate which direction the money went. All that was missing was a player to be named later.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Unintended Memes

Courtesy Kohl Gill, here is a component of a conservative Christian advertising campaign that is apparently about to backfire very badly. I approve!

I love unintentional awesomeness (and "awesomeness").

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A social network possibly worth analyzing

My collaborators and I should totally mine the data from this website and go to town on it.

If one can study the social network of superheroes in the Marvel Universe (I'm pretty sure there's a published version of this, but I can't find it at the moment) or the rap star collaboration network, then I think this is fair game. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Drug Culture of Sports

As several sportswriters have now pointed out (I saw this recently in blog entries by Peter Gammons and Rob Neyer), the drug culture in sports isn't exactly new. Will the people crying bloody murder stop pretending that they didn't know anything? Take a look at this article, which appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1969!

Manny's economic crisis is finally over.

Apparently, Scott Boras has successfully negotiated with the government to secure $20 million for Manny Ramirez. (Tip of the hat to Rob Neyer, who linked to this story on his blog.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2nd Annual Oxford University SIAM Student Chapter Conference

The Oxford University SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) Student Chapter had its second annual conference on February 3rd. Despite some hurdles as the date approached---that's an inevitable thing with anything like this---everything went smoothly and it worked our superbly. The one unfortunate thing was that I had forgotten the day of it when I bought my Arlo Guthrie tickets, so I needed to forgo seeing Guthrie live and I didn't know who might want the ticket, so that was a bit of a wasted 20 or so pounds. Se la vie.

You can find out more about it on the link or read about our first annual conference in 2008 in the November 2008 issue of SIAM News.

I highly recommend starting up a student chapter at your own universities. Those of us in the Oxford chapter will of course be happy to tell you the things we did wrong so that you don't repeat our mistakes. :) (We did a few things correctly too.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dodgers sign Orlando Hudson

It's not quite official yet, but apparently the Dodgers are about to sign second baseman Orlando Hudson to a one-year contract. It's apparently going to cost about $4 million + incentives, so we're really taking advantage of the depressed free agent market. This is quite a good acquisition for the price.

911 Call of the Day

I'm pretty sure this is fake, but it's still pretty damn funny. Here is the 911 Call of the Day. (I found this via a link on Rob Neyer's blog.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Caption of the Day

Today's caption occurred in this CNN article on some results that aren't particularly surprising.

The caption reads as follows: Images of women in bikinis prompted brain responses in men associated with using tools.

Also, here is the article's money sentence: New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

I suppose I would be less amused if the term 'handling tools' weren't the one that was chosen by the author of the article, but I also suppose that that particular pun was too hard to keep inside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

Courtesy Rob Neyer's blog, Larry Bowa has provided today's quote: "Put that on the [expletive] dot com."

Of course, Bowa has quite a way to go before he catches up to Lee Elia or Tommy Lasorda. (Just don't ask Tommy to give his opinion about what I just wrote.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RIP George Zaslavsky (1935-2008)

In November, the field of quantum chaos lost another of its pioneers.

In this case, it was George Zaslavsky of NYU.

I haven't found an extensive obituary online, but here is a very brief biography.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spring (Training) is here, so it's time to start insulting Juan Pierre again

Guess who has perhaps the worst contract in the National League? That's right, it's our old friend Juan Pierre.

(Tip of the hat to Rob Neyer's blog.)

How to get high impact factors

I'm a little bit late to the game of finding out about this one, but it's pretty "awesome" and it's in my home discipline, so I'll report it now.

There is a nonlinear dynamics journal called Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals which is (shall we say) craptacular that for some reason seems to have abnormally high impact factors when compared to the other, significantly better, journals in the field. If I consider specialized journals only (so I'm throwing out anything like Nature or even PRL), there are easily half a dozen and most likely more than a dozen such journals in this area to which I would submit my stuff before I would send it to CSF. It's not even on my radar as somewhere I would bother to send it, so I always found it strange that its impact factor was so high. Everybody in the field knew it was crap, so who was citing its articles?

While of course this could have been discovered earlier (which begs the question: Why wasn't it?), it turns out that the excessive impact factor comes from a metric fuck ton of self-citations by the Editor-in-Chief, who was using this journal as a venue to publish more than 300 single-authored papers during the last 15 years. Now the Editor-in-Chief is being forced to retire. There are apparently also significant questions about his academic credentials. D'oh!

The wheels of justice may turn excruciating slowly, but they often turn nonetheless...

Finally, whoever is policing this stuff might also want to check out a few other journals that come to mind...

(Tip of the hat to Radek Erban.)

Quick Update: Here is a an entire blog that devotes itself to compiling some of the self-promotion coming from the "retiring" Editor-in-Chief. At a glance it looks pretty comical, so now I'm going to read it a bit more closely...

Mathematical Models of Bipolar Disorder

I've blogged about this paper multiple times before---including discussions of a very snarky letter-to-the-editor that my colleague and I wrote.

The paper itself has now been assigned its official journal volume, number, and page numbers. You can find the article here.

Title: Mathematical Models of Bipolar Disorder

Authors: Darryl Daugherty, Tairi Roque-Urrea, John Urrea-Roque, Jessica Troyer, Stephen Wirkus, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We use limit cycle oscillators to model bipolar II disorder, which is characterized by alternating hypomanic and depressive episodes and afflicts about 1% of the United States adult population. We consider two non-linear oscillator models of a single bipolar patient. In both frameworks, we begin with an untreated individual and examine the mathematical
effects and resulting biological consequences of treatment. We also briefly consider the dynamics of interacting bipolar II individuals using weakly-coupled, weakly-damped harmonic oscillators. We discuss how the proposed models can be used as a framework for refined models that incorporate additional biological data. We conclude with a discussion of possible generalizations of our work, as there are several biologically-motivated extensions that can be readily incorporated into the series of models presented here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Submitting abstracts versus papers to speak at conferences

There is going to be a complex systems conference at Warwick in September.

Instead of just submitting an abstract, one has to submit an entire paper in order to give a talk. The paper is up to 6 pages long if one is trying for a 20-minute talk, and it is up to 15 pages if one is trying a 40-minute talk. (One can submit only an abstract if one is trying for a poster.) This resembles CS (and presumably other engineering) conferences more than what I usually attend, where the longest required document I have seen are 2-page extended abstracts that are only marginally annoying. Although I am very interested in attending this conference, given that (1) I can present my work at equally or more prominent conferences that don't have such stringent (and, more important, time-consuming!) submission requirements and (2) conference proceedings and the like count next to nothing in mathematics, there is really no incentive at all for me to do this. (Note that if I weren't so self-motivated about writing things up anyway or if I wanted to push myself to write something up in a timetable that happened to correspond roughly to the submission deadline, then I would consider doing something like this for that reason.) It would be a waste of my time, and that's before I consider the fact that the conference may well conflict with my Examination duties at Oxford. I considered e-mailing the relevant organizer to mention this, but it's not worth it. (I have e-mailed someone involved with the conference whom I know essentially just to remark that I think it's a very bad policy if one wants to optimize the quality of a conference.) I think that part of the reason for the submission requirement is as a self-selection procedure for people who are willing to go through the major hassle, but frankly I would find it pretty surprising if lots of people aren't turned off by that whole thing. I also expect that this will lead to heavy biases in the backgrounds of the people attending in favor of people from subjects where conferences are usually like this.

If the conference doesn't conflict with Examination duties, I may show up for a bit without giving a presentation (depending, of course, on who is speaking). It's in Warwick, which is an easy train ride away.

Deviating from the Norm: Valentine's Day Edition

I'm one day late on this, but Arcane Gazebo's post reminded me of a thought I've had occasionally over the last few years and this is an appropriate time to share it:

I'm just wondering, but am I the only one who thinks it's easier to tell a Nobel Laureate that he (or she) should have shared his (or her) Nobel Prize with someone else than it is to ask someone else on a date?

Very expensive coffee

First off, I am a moron.

I somehow managed to lose 50 pounds from my wallet while getting coffee this morning. I think it fell out while I was paying, but I don't know for sure. I found out when I took out my wallet to pay for something this afternoon and noticed that the bills I needed to use weren't there. I find that pretty embarrassing, though that feeling was dominated by my feeling annoyance---especially because the same thing happened last Sunday night. I had thought that the money from my wallet was absconded when my jacket was in the cloak room of University College, but now it seems like it was instead earlier that day at the same coffee place. Of course, I don't know for sure whether the money (and a couple of frequent-customer cards and similar things) fell out while I was being stupid and was taken, but I'm really annoyed that this has now happened on consecutive weekends. Grrrr.... I need to be more careful.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

National Science Foundation report on Complex Systems

As reported on SIAM's website, the National Science Foundation has just released a report called Foundations for Complex Systems Research in
the Physical Sciences and Engineering

I glanced through it very briefly and provide a link to it here as a service to my fellow scientists studying complex systems.

I didn't look at the report closely enough to make too many comments other than to mention that some of the example focal problems reflect biases of the authors of the report (no surprise there) with which I don't entirely agree.

Friday the 13th is made for birthday parties

I have a history of success celebrating my birthday on Friday 13th during years in which it is feasible, and so it was yesterday.

Even though the celebration was in Oxford, we actually had 4 Lloydies (and a 5th needed to cancel at the last minute), with class years ranging from 1996 to 2008. My non-Techer friends very kindly put up the our occasional conversation devolvement, and of course it's always interesting when my present meets up with some of my past.

We didn't do anything special. We basically just hung out, but that's all I wanted anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Brief Comment about Somerville's Website Blocking

Unfortunately, Somerville College in Oxford blocks certain websites. That's really annoying as a matter of principle, but I am especially annoyed by what I just found out: That websites are blocked if they are classified as "tasteless." WTF? That's not for them to decide!

(For what it's worth, what I wanted to take a look at was a webcomic that looked like it would be interesting. It wasn't my personal website that was blocked or anything, so I'll continue to happily make my snarky remarks.)

I was planning not to blog on another steroids scandal, but...

I told myself that I wouldn't blog about the whole A-Roid thing (sorry, but I can't help snickering about the new nickname), but former Major Leaguer Doug Glanville has made an excellent point in his New York Times opinion piece, and I think that is worth bringing up. Namely, the 2003 tests---i.e., the one that A-Rod failed---were agreed legally by the players as a litmus test to try to gauge just how rampant performance-enchancing-drug abuse was in the sport. It was the massive failure (over 100 players) on those tests that led to the testing system currently in place. One of the conditions for those tests was that all results were supposed to be anonymous and without that stipulation that testing would not have taken place. So, while A-Rod gets skewered for being caught (and don't think for a second that he's the last big name who will get similarly skewered---one shouldn't be surprised to see any name!), let's also remember that basic privacy rights associated with anonymous testing are also being breached here. Why is this issue getting lost?

(Tip of the Cap: I found out about Doug Glanville's article from Rob Neyer's blog.)

Tales from the ArXiv: Superballs!

Here is a intriguing new paper that just got posted on the arXiv preprint server.

Title: Optimal Packings of Superballs

Authors: Yang Jiao, Frank Stillinger, Sal Torquato

Abstract: Dense hard-particle packings are intimately related to the structure of low-temperature phases of matter and are useful models of heterogeneous materials and granular media. Most studies of the densest packings in three dimensions have considered spherical shapes, and it is only more recently that nonspherical shapes (e.g., ellipsoids) have been investigated. Superballs (whose shapes are defined by |x1|^2p + |x2|^2p + |x3|^2p <= 1) provide a versatile family of convex particles (p >= 0.5) with both cubic- and octahedral-like shapes as well as concave particles (0 < p < 0.5) with octahedral-like shapes. In this paper, we provide analytical constructions for the densest known superball packings for all convex and concave cases. The candidate maximally dense packings are certain families of Bravais lattice packings. The maximal packing density as a function of p is nonanalytic at the sphere-point (p = 1) and increases dramatically as p moves away from unity. The packing characteristics determined by the broken rotational symmetry of superballs are similar to but richer than their two-dimensional "superdisk" counterparts, and are distinctly different from that of ellipsoid packings. Our candidate optimal superball packings provide a starting point to quantify the equilibrium phase behavior of superball systems, which should deepen our understanding of the statistical thermodynamics of nonspherical-particle systems.

Comment: But if they want to do something really cool, they'll climb to the top of the tallest building on campus and drop all of the superballs from there. (Not that I got this idea from anything I've seen before or anything...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

How Precioussssssss....

Thomas Woolley has pointed me to a link called The Kh(aX)n Machine that has generalized the Kh(aX)n construction for any letter one might want repeated in a google search.

For example, here are the results for Preciou(sX).

Here is my previous post.

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Fun with Non-Newtonian Fluids

I've posted about non-Newtonian fluids at least once before (but not for quite a while, I think).

Here is a really awesome video of a non-Newtonian fluid on a speaker cone at (Tip of the hat to Jing Xu for pointing out this link.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Herbert Simon is awesome.

Really, that's about all I want to say, although it's worth point out that he studied preferential attachment long before it was "discovered" (as some scientists might suggest) in the 1990s and he published a paper with amazingly modern views on complex systems and hierarchical organization in 1962. (Tip of the cap to Renaud Lambiotte for pointing this paper out to me.) Here is his wikipedia page.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Can we please just sign Adam Dunn?

Why in Hell are we bothering with Manny Ramirez's posturing?

As I wrote when we first signed him, I was very pleased when the Dodgers traded for Manny but I felt that we should let him walk away as a free agent because of course he'd eventually become a distraction. I wouldn't mind having him back for 1 or 2 years, but anything more than that would be stupid.

Additionally, we can just get Bobby Abreu or (especially) Adam Dunn for half the price (per year) that we've already offered Manny, and either one of them (especially Dunn!) would give us a good bat and relegate Juan Pierre to the bench. Manny and his agent (Scott Boras, who we have previously established is evil) are trying to get us to bid against ourselves. Boras certainly has done that successfully several times before (see: Andruw Jones), but thankfully it looks like it won't be happening this time. Let's just sign Dunn and a pitcher and save some money for mid-season pick-ups.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Is Jenny at home?

I just can't resist this story, which has an extremely cool twist in it.

First of all, I simply love the idea of somebody named Jenny giving out the number 867-5309 at bars to guys she doesn't like. However, it's pretty awesome that she eventually called the number to see who was at the other end of the line and then the two of them ended up dating for a while. I am not usually into human interest stories, but that's pretty damn cool!

This number has become a timeless source for jokes. (For example, it was used rather successfully at Pax in 2007.)

Web Form Submission Amusement

I think that sometimes I am easily amused or that my mind spends occasional moments in the gutter.

I just submitted a very sweet poster for the Nonlinear Science Gallery at the 2009 APS March Meeting, and the code letter sequence to make sure that I am a human was "poopu". [[Giggle]]

On the subject of the Nonlinear Science Gallery, there is one particularly interesting rule change that occurred either for 2008 or 2009. (I'm pretty sure it was for 2008, but I didn't submit anything last year, so I can't say for sure.) Namely, all videos are now required to be silent, which means that my 2007 entry that had The Ride playing (on infinite repeat for 3 days while the exhibitor hall was open) won't be able to be duplicated. I can, however, proudly say that the published version of that video (to which I've linked in the past), which is also available on YouTube, includes the soundtrack.

Citizens demand more snow!

Apparently, the UK is having its heaviest snowfall in 18 years.

However, I went to grad school at Cornell, and this is nothing compared to what I saw repeatedly every winter over there. It's nice to have snow in my backyard and, amazingly, I am actually have fond nostalgic feelings for Ithaca. That tends to happen when I see snow, because I'd like to be in some real snow for a couple of days every so often just so I can play around in it. I've seen some people work hard to gather up snow for snowball fights, but it still takes some effort to get that going. Our plenary speaker for tomorrow's SIAM Student Chapter Conference may have to cancel, though I hope he'll be able to make it.

Anyway, I've now witnessed the biggest UK snowfall in 18 years and the highest-magnitude UK earthquake in about 25 years, and they are both quite small with respect to my respective experiences in Ithaca and Los Angeles.

Citizens demand more snow! (Note that it has already correctly been pointed out that I'm not a citizen.)

P.S. Yes, it is true that I am itching for a snowball fight. Come get some!