Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quote of the Day

One of my Somerville students was give a presentation (jointly with one of his fellow students) about iteration and have an example with the logistic map and the period-doubling route to chaos. He seemed to be unhappy about the behavior of the map becoming messy and indicated that things become "horrible".

I then made the following comment: Some would call it [chaos] horrible, but others would call it wonderful.

To which he responded: Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ryan Braun Wins Appeal of his 50-Game Suspension

Wow. I wasn't expecting Ryan Braun to actually win his appeal of his 50-game suspension for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. In practice, it seems all but impossible to challenge such things. Hopefully, his reputation won't be sullied even with this victory, but alas I think (cynically) that the accusation itself will already have a massively detrimental effect that he'll feel for many years. I don't expect that details behind arbitrator Shyam Das's decision will come out any time soon, but I'm certainly interested in finding out about them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life Imitates Spaceballs

I'm not sure how I missed this, but apparently the Syrian president, whose (office's) e-mail account was hacked, used the same combination I have on my luggage.

I thought this story was fake, but quick googling suggests that it's actually true. (Maybe deeper googling will revealing that it isn't? Please let me know if that ends up being the case.) It's amazing that I didn't catch this for 2 full weeks.

(Tip of the cap to the Demotivational Poster blog.)


When something like this happens, I think one has to just quote Homer Simpson.

(Tip of the cap to American Physical Society.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Classic

Another classic...

A person thought I had not answered his/her e-mail from a couple of weeks ago and e-mailed to remind me to answer the e-mail. This person seemed to have forgotten that I answered the e-mail on the day that it was sent. This has led to the following exchange.

Other Person: "Please excuse my chasing you up but please would you be kind enough to answer my email."

Me: "I already answered the e-mail below, and you already responded to my answer. Would you like me to forward to you the response you gave to my response?"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Schrödinger's Cat Executive Decision Maker

This particular geek toy is pretty damn awesome.

If the shipping cost to get this to the UK weren't so expensive (it costs about the same as the object itself), I would have purchased it. Se la vie.

(Tip of the cap to Jed Yang.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

One of My Best Quotes Ever?

I just wrote this beauty in an e-mail: I think those are disparate thoughts of mine in very nearby places when projected onto the piece of paper.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

RIP Gary Carter (1954-2012)

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died today.

It remains very weird when somebody who had his heyday during my era is gone.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Scholarpedia Article: "Small-World Network"

My Scholarpedia article on small-world networks is now officially published.

Here is the small summary from the beginning of the article: "A small-world network refers to an ensemble of networks in which the mean geodesic (i.e., shortest-path) distance between nodes increases sufficiently slowly as a function of the number of nodes in the network. The term is often applied to a single network in such a family, and the term "small-world network" is also used frequently to refer specifically to a Watts-Strogatz toy network."

Mad Props to the American Physical Society for the New Wave Music Reference

I have got to give the American Physics Society mad props for using a Gary Numan reference in their title for this article.

Whoever does the Facebook posts for Physics Today was even more explicit about the reference, as they mentioned Numan's song, Are 'Friends' Electric?, explicitly. (They did get the title slightly wrong, however, as the word 'friends' is in quotes in the title, and the question mark is in the title as well. Not to have a Comic Book Guy moment or anything...)

-1% of the Vote

Apparently, it is now possible to get -1% on a poll. Wow. That is kind of "awesome", though.

(Tip of the cap to Jed Yang.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tales from the ArXiv: The Random Walk of Life

There is a new article on the arXiv called Brownian Motion in Dire Straits. I guess you might say that this is the "Random Walk of Life" (rim shot!).

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Physics of Ponytails

Leave it to Ray Goldstein and company to investigate the physics of ponytails. This BBC News article covers research in an article published today in Physical Review Letters. Among other things, the authors of the article define a new dimensionless quantity that they coined the "Rapunzel number". Oh dear...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

An Interesting Picnic

Take a look at this demotivational poster. The fact that one on the far right is extra-strength headache medicine makes this even funnier.

My "Famous" Roadrunner Impersonation

I just posted it online.

(I am trying to avoid writing up exam solutions.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Thermodynamics of Love

This article is apparently about the thermodynamics of love. I have no further comments. :)

OK, I do have one more comment: In a sequel article, perhaps the author will ask whether sex is endothermic or exothermic.

(Tip of the cap to whoever does the Facebook posts for Physics Today.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Clock of the Day

Wow, this clock is both awesome and ornery!

Seminar of the Week

One of the Mathematical Institute's seminars next week is the following:

Monday 13th Feb
*Partial Differential Equations Seminar
17.00 Gibson 1st Floor SR
The problem of wedge entry
Bryce McLeod (OxPDE)

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not so sure how keen I am to hear an old British guy discussing "wedge entry"...

Rockband is About to Get Rickrolled

Seriously. And it's happening on Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

"Critical Truths About Power Laws"

My opinion piece about power laws has just come out in Science. I was interviewed by a reporter writing a BBC article, which is slated to come out tomorrow. As I write this, the .html version of the article seems to have occasionally (and incorrectly) used the symbol for gamma instead of that for lambda. Sigh... The .pdf version of the file has the correct symbols. (We did all of the page-proofing on the .pdf version, so I only just saw the .html version for the first time.)

Anyway, here is a bit more about the article:

Title: Critical Truths About Power Laws

Authors: Michael P. H. Stumpf and Mason A. Porter

Tagline: "Most reported power laws lack statistical support and mechanistic backing."

What should I say? How about kaboom! Anyway, many of you know that I have been ranting about this for years.

Update (2/10/12): The BBC article is delayed until early next week. Apparently there is some actual news to report.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

All Too Familiar

The reason I like this xkcd is because so many discussions at Tech --- especially in Upper or Lower Crotch, for example --- worked like this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Speed Meets Speed

I love this demotivational poster. Sweet!

P.S. If you haven't ever heard my Roadrunner impression, you should definitely ask me about it. :)

"Accuracy of Mean-Field Theory for Dynamics on Real-World Networks"

One of my papers was published in final form today.

Title: Accuracy of Mean-Field Theory for Dynamics on Real-World Networks

Authors: James P. Gleeson, Sergey Melnik, Jonathan A. Ward, Mason A. Porter, and Peter J. Mucha

Abstract: Mean-field analysis is an important tool for understanding dynamics on complex networks. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the question of whether mean-field predictions are accurate, and this is particularly true for real-world networks with clustering and modular structure. In this paper, we compare mean-field predictions to numerical simulation results for dynamical processes running on 21 real-world networks and demonstrate that the accuracy of such theory depends not only on the mean degree of the networks but also
on the mean first-neighbor degree. We show that mean-field theory can give (unexpectedly) accurate results for certain dynamics on disassortative real-world networks even when the mean degree is as low as 4.

P.S. And as a preview, watch for something special starting on Thursday at 7pm. :)

2012 UK Ig Nobel Tour

If you want to see me talk about cow synchronization (for 5 whole minutes) as part of the 2012 UK Ig Nobel Tour, then you want to be at Imperial College on 9 March.

Monday, February 06, 2012

"Take On Me" with Accordions

This accordion version of "Take on Me" makes me geek out.

(Tip of the cap to They Might be Giants.)

Monday Night WASPblogging

The Oxford Learning Institute has an online course on Recruitment that I have been taking. Among the things that are stressed are diversity considerations (as well they should). Accordingly, I wonder if they realize how ironic it is that they are using the acronym WASP for something in the course! (In this case, WASP means Welcome, Ask, Supply, and Part.)


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Quote of the Day: Restaurant Edition

I ordered a steak at Cafe Rouge tonight. The waiter then asked "How do you want to be cooked?" To which I responded (in complete deadpan): "Medium."

Friday, February 03, 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Neuroscience and Suzanne Vega

I always knew that I had voices in my head, and now neuroscientists can apparently see them.

Suzanne Vega seems to have hit the nail on the target with her song Blood Makes Noise:

But blood makes noise
It's a ringing in my ear
Blood makes noise
And I can't really hear you
In the thickening of fear

Here is a video for the song on YouTube.

P.S. You can count on me to connect neuroscience to Suzanne Vega.

(Tip of the hat to Physics Today.)