Thursday, April 29, 2010

Research Buzzword Cloud

Here is a research buzzword cloud that I constructed using the text from my research synopsis page. Naturally, the non-research words all occur on that page---and usually even for good reason.

I got this idea from Aaron Clauset's blog, and I followed his link to the tool

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Super Mario Brothers crossover

As Kotaku reports, there is a new flash game that allows one to play Super Mario Brothers as not only Mario but also characters from other games (e.g., as Link from Zelda or as Simon Belmont from Castlevania). I approve! (It's hard to control the character, but this is still pretty damn awesome.)

(Tip of the cap to Louis Wang.)

Demotivational Poster of the Day: Retort!

I love the retort even more than I love the original poster. I approve!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mmmm.... Sugar

According to this study, there is a correlation between chocolate consumption and experiencing depression. Well, duh. I'm not exactly shocked by this conclusion.

(And as a remark, I have several times purposely consumed sugar when feeling depressed---but not necessarily chocolate in particular.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm still waiting for quantum music.

In the meantime, there is semiclassical music, a listing that I first encountered in a radio directory in a hotel in Montreal.

Justice Scalia learns about orthogonality.

This excerpt from a recent U.S. Supreme Court deliberations transcript is pretty damn funny.

(Tip of the cap to the 'Found Math' column in MAA Focus. This was in the Feb/March 2010 issue.)

Probability and O.J.

Here is Steve Strogatz's latest column in the New York Times. This one is on probability.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who says baseball players aren't athletes?

As this video shows, baseball players can be extremely athletic. I approve!

(Tip of the cap to Liam Pomponi, one of my Somerville students.)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Apparently, one person's response to a Iranian cleric's asinine assertion that scantily clad women cause earthquakes is to test the theory, and the movement is gaining a lot of steam. Here is the Facebook page for boobquake, and here is the original post (which Somerville's web filter is blocking, by the way) by Purdue senior Jen McCreight.

(Tip of the cap to my Ph.D. student Puck Rombach.)

Update (4/26/10): Today is the day, and it's Richter's birthday. Win!

My Interview with Princeton University Press blog for Mathematics Awareness Month 2010

I was interviewed by e-mail for the Princeton University Press blog in honor of Mathematics Awareness Month 2010 (on "Mathematics and Sports"). You can find that question and answer session on this page.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Airport security people sure do pay attention

Here is a recent exchange with security (TSA) people at Burbank airport:

Security person: "Are you going to Austin, too?"

Me: "No"

Him: "But you look like a musician."

Me: "I do my best." (other security person laughs)

Him: "Enjoy your time in Texas." (Hopefully, that will only be to change planes! Also note that they never bothered to check that I have a second ticket that takes me from Dallas to London.)

Yes, I can assure you that airport security people in the US really are focused on doing their job. The person right before me was going to Austin, and she was having a conversation with the security people. It didn't take much time, but I'd really rather have these people focusing on what they should be focusing on.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Calling London (The Volcano Song)

Calling London (The Volcano Song)

by Mason A. Porter

(University Lecturer, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford)

[sung to the tune of "London Calling" by The Clash]

Calling London, since there's no hope to fly there
The volcano is spewing, and the ash won't come down
Calling London from the underworld
Let's have a bitch session, all you boys and girls
Calling London, we're all just stuck
All of our flights have been grounded by dust
Calling London, see we ain't got no flights
Though apparently airlines give us 'travelers' rights'


The ice age is coming, the ash is blowing in
Engines stop running and the air is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
The volcano is spewing-and Iceland's too near

Calling London through the no-fly zone
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone
Calling London upon the volcano of death
I want my plane to fly-but I won't hold my breath
Calling London-though I just wanna get back
And when we were talking-you cut me no slack
Calling London, since we won't fly that high
Unless we want to say goodbye


Now get this
Calling London, I wasn't there, too
An' you know what I say? At least it's not swine flu!
Calling London at the top of the dial
And I hope soon I'll be traveling miles

I never felt so trapped, so trapped

RIP Jack Hale (1928-2009)

Somehow I managed to miss this, but Jack Hale---one of the pioneers in the theory of dynamical systems---died last December. I didn't know Jack very well, but I met him during my time at Georgia Tech, and he was just a really nice man. He still showed up to the dynamical systems seminar every week. When I visited Georgia Tech in August 2005 (a few months after I left), he showed up on campus an extra day for my physics seminar---basically my talk was the reason he went to campus that day, and he hardly ever walked into the physics building at all. I appreciated his gesture very much.

If you're interested in Hale's mathematics, you can read the obituary and the references therein. I think those articles also mention the fact that Jack, through his leadership as department chair, helped build up Georgia Tech's mathematics department from a service department into a research powerhouse.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ashtastic Magazine

When opportunity knocks...

As Boing Boing reports, there is now a magazine by and for the volcano-stranded.

I might actually try to contribute something.

(Tip of the cap to Justin.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Congratulations to Tim and Christina!

Tim and Christina got hitched on Saturday! Congrats!

Here are some pictures.

'Volcano Anger'

One of my Ph.D. students has coined the term 'volcano anger' to describe my state.

Volcano leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

(Man, I am seriously stressed out over this, and it's been making it hard to get myself to eat at times.)

Or maybe: Volcano leads to stress. Stress leads to anger. Stress also leads to not eating.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mathematical Integration

Steve Strogatz's latest column in the New York Times is on integral calculus.

Cool Baseball Story

Here is a very nice baseball story (which is really a human interest story) about a 58-year-old college baseball player. I highly recommend this article.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Holy War is Brewing

Apparently, another holy war is brewing.

(Tip of the cap to Zifnab.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

U.K. airspace is now closed.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

It looks like I might be in the U.S. just a little bit longer than I intended.

Anyway, we shall see... Hopefully the ash plume from the volcano in Iceland won't alter my travel plans too much.

Also: Why is it always Iceland? (Damn you, Iceland!)

Update (4/17/10): My 4/18 flight is no longer happening, and I am now going to try a 4/25 flight (that's the earliest I could get) and see if I can arrive on 4/26. Wish me luck. And check out how I have decided to rail against the gods.

Best. Spoiler. Ever.

I can't help it---this demotivational poster is just too funny. Does that make me a bad person?

(This, by the way, is blog post number 2000. I produce a lot of text.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Here's the straight line (you provide the joke): "The student council has gotten money allocated to provide free sample sized toothpaste, soap, and deodorant [to combat student body odor] ..."

Also take a look at CNN's video report.

Comment: snicker

(Tip of the cap to Julius Su.)

(Note: This is blog post 1999.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Calculus of Change

Here is Steve Strogatz's latest column in the New York Times. In it, he discusses differential calculus (after he discussed differential geometry... go figure). Integral calculus is supposedly coming next week.

(By the way, this is blog post 1998. Soon we're going to party like it's 1999.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Analogy between Research and The Oregon Trail

I don't actually agree with what I am about to say---in fact, I think that for most researchers it wouldn't be a good idea at all---but at the recent networks conference, a couple of us came up with an analogy between research and The Oregon Trail that I really dig and which has a bit of truth to it: When hunting, we learned that one should ignore the rabbits and go after the buffalo. (Remember that the rabbits provided so little meat that it wasn't worth the time it took to catch them.)

Blackouts and Origins of Team Names

The Biz of Baseball has a nice picture of the retarded and confusing blackout map for Major League Baseball. This shows the regions in the US in which, e.g., I cannot use my subscription to get a given team's games. The picture is cool; the policy is lame.

Mental Floss provides nice synopses of the origins of the team names for all Major League Baseball teams.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Effect of the Count on Umpire Strike Zones

Wow. This is pretty damned cool: The Hardball Times has done some analysis (and produced some very striking figures) that demonstrate that umpires have different strike zones for different counts.

Not that I'm surprised or anything, but it's really nice to see conclusive evidence from the data (so that I can do something other than rely on eyeballing and cynicism).

(Tip of the cap to Rob Neyer.)

Some Movies with Mathematics in Them

Here is a brief compilation of some movies with mathematical references in them. It's far from comprehensive and doesn't include Meet Dave (well, it doesn't have it yet; I wrote to the compiler) and presumably is missing tons of others. However, it's still an interesting list and worth blogging about, and the guy who did the compiling was my Math 2c prof at Caltech back in the day.

(Tip of the cap to the Mathematical Association of America, who posted this link on Facebook and presumably on their web page.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I love the English language.

Jürgen Kurths said something like "We make a network of networks to try to build a 'supermodel'."

I then immediately responded with "There was a movie about that."

(Then a couple of us spent several minutes explaining the pun to him.)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sign of the Day

I love the fact that the folks at the University of Michigan felt the need to post this sign.

Update: This demotivational poster is also amusing.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Play Ball!

The 2010 Major League Baseball season has just started! Go Dodgers!

Rectangling the Circle

In Steve Strogatz's latest article in The New York Times, he discusses limits and presents a nice proof that the area of a circle is π*r^2, where r is the radius of the circle. (The proof that I saw in calculus was with an integral, but this one in Strogatz's article is much more clever and insightful.)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

What happens in College Park stays in College Park

I have a red-eye flight at 12:45 am to Baltimore (via Minneapolis), from which I will take ground transportation to College Park in order to participate in a workshop on dynamics of and on networks. The workshop goes from Monday to Friday, and it takes place on the University of Maryland campus.

I'm really looking forward to this workshop, as it's small, has a lot of interesting people, and has no parallel sessions so everybody will get to see everybody speak (modulo flight schedules and all that).

My talk---on community structure in multislice networks---is the second talk on Monday morning, and I look forward to all of the ensuing discussions that I'll be having over the week. Naturally, I plan to wear my power-law t-shirt on Monday. :)

Mike Leake to Skip Minor Leagues (at least for now)

As Rob Neyer reports in his blog, Mike Leake has been named the Reds 5th starter. He becomes the first pitcher since Darren Dreifort in 1994 and the first starting pitcher since Jim Abbot in 1989 to make his professional debut in the Major Leagues.

The story with Jim Abbot is, of course, especially nice---given that he was born without a right hand. Abbot was amazing to watch play.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Fearless Forecast: 2010 Baseball Season

Here are the predictions for the 2010 baseball season from various folks who work for ESPN. And here are mine:

American League:

AL East champion: New York Yankees
AL Central champion: Minnesota Twins
AL West champion: Texas Rangers
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

Champion: New York Yankees (sigh...)

Most Valuable Player: Joe Mauer, Twins
Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz, Orioles

Time on the rise: Cleveland Indians
Team on the decline: The The Angels Angels of Anaheim

National League:

NL East champion: Atlanta Braves
NL Central champion: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West champion: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

Champion: Atlanta Braves

Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Cy Young Award: Roy Halladay, Phillies
Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, Braves

Time on the rise: Washington Nationals (you heard it here first; jump on the bandwagon while you still can)
Team on the decline: Chicago Cubs

World Series: Braves over Yankees in 7 games

Update (4/03/10): Here is ESPN's collective wisdom about the prospective 2010 award winners in baseball.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Some Baseball-Related April Fools Stories

Rob Neyer has collected them and generally phrased things pretty well on his blog. The reference to Sidd Finch, a fictional baseball player in one of the best April Fools jokes ever, is much appreciated.

Way too many blog entries for me the last couple of days...

Whose idea was this?

As you can see in my latest photoblog entry, I come from a town that has placed a sculpture that is literally a steaming pile of crap in front of city hall. What the fuck?

(This has been there a couple of years, so I am a bit delayed in making this a photoblog entry.)

Tales from the arXiv: April 1st Edition (Part II)

There is at least one more fake arXiv paper.

Title: Orthographic Correlations in Astrophysics

Authors: Joe Zuntz, Thomas G. Zlosnik, Caroline Zunckel, Jonathan T. L. Zwart

Abstract: We analyze correlations between the first letter of the name of an author and the number of citations their papers receive. We look at simple mean counts, numbers of highly-cited papers, and normalized h-indices, by letter. To our surprise, we conclude that orthographically senior authors produce a better body of work than their colleagues, despite some evidence of discrimination against them.

Note: I very much appreciate the author names on this one.

Choice quote from the article: "We also follow usual practice and use a number of different estimators, continuing until we find one that can demonstrate the correct hypothesis to be true."

Another one: "Unlike real doctors, scientists are forgiven their worst work and judged on their best."

(Tip of the cap to Joe Antognini.)

Google is now called "Topeka"

In honor of the city of Topeka, Kansas temporarily naming themselves "Google", Google has decided to rename themselves "Topeka". I approve!

(In other news, is offering animal translation capabilities. Now I wonder if past April Fools pranks by Google have differed in different countries. They must have, but it was only the obviously US-centric version of today's prank on that compelled to think about this and look up what did.)

Update (4/01/10): There is a vowel outage on Gmail, but people writing in Hebrew thankfully aren't affected by it.

Update (4/01/10): Google is expressing its search times in (pseudo)randomly-chosen units for each search.