Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Literacy" Test

The test that is discussed in this article is one of the "literary" tests that was used by Louisiana to disenfranchise black voters in the 1960s. Apparently, one is supposed to get 100% of these questions correct in 10 minutes, and many of them are worded in ridiculously convoluted manners (and I am pretty sure that a couple of them are technically --- one might say "literally" --- impossible if one takes the phrasing literally). Ouch!

(Tip of the cap to Andrew Waugh.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ballparks and Iconography

Rob Neyer has written an interesting and thoughtful article on the display of iconography (in a couple of different contexts) at ballparks.

My own feelings on the subject are both strong and mixed. Right now, I mainly want to point to the above article as something that I think is worth reading.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Bitchy Resting Face"

The video embedded into this article about the 'medical condition' now unofficially known as "Bitchy Resting Face" is hilarious.

And, as some of you know, my murder eyes come out very prominently when I am thinking deeply. :)

(Tip of the cap to Andrew Waugh.)

Sunlight in Britain

I have the sudden urge to measure the amount of sunlight in this country based on how long it has taken the covers of my books to fade as a function of where they are on my office shelf. (Neither my windows nor my blinds have ever worked particularly well.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bo Knows...

I am very happy that Rob Neyer linked to this "Bo Knows" commercial in this article. This commercial is one of the greatest --- and perhaps the greatest --- commercial in one of the greatest ad campaigns of all time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Access Denied"

Apparently, the Mathematical Institute has updated its 'Access Denied' web page.

However, I am unable to tell the difference between the new version of the page and the old version. :) Maybe the font got changed?

(I think I set the picture above for public viewing. Let me know if I messed that up.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

"You come in here with a skull full of mush... and you leave thinking like a [Mathematician]."

We need to make a parody of the trailer for the movie The Paper Chase in time to show it to the new freshers in mathematics who will be joining us in the fall.

(There is also the matter of having a Scavenger Hunt. Some of you from Beverly Hills High School who are familiar with a certain chemistry teacher might find this vaguely familiar.)

And one of these years I will finally watch this movie. I have been meaning to do so for a long time.

"Well, This is Awkward."

Fun Fact: When somebody in Oxford starts a point that he/she wants to make with "Well, this is awkward.", you can tell that all Hell is going to break loose. Seriously: Wow.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Going Batty

And, sometimes, you just want to listen to the Batman theme produced by actual bats. Come on: click on the link. You know you want to!

Fractions and Percentages

Alright, this really irks me: When your quantity or label is clearly a fraction, don't bloody call the thing a "percentage". So many people make this mistake. There is a multiplicative factor of 100 that specifically makes these objects different, and this is taught explicitly from an early age. Grrr....

Update: As it turns out, the example that reminded me of this particular one of my pet peeves turned out to correctly be a percentage. Go figure. Anyway, I am obviously fallible. (This is a common mistake, though, and it's annoying.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Pace of "Modern" Life

The new xkcd is wonderful. Check out the years in which the blurbs contained therein were written.

(And, of course, I had to tweet about this just for irony.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Annoy Experts in Machine Learning

Fun fact: If you want to annoy a machine-learning expert, refer to what he/she studies as "data mining". Most of them hate that, and their reactions to it are often pretty damn funny. :P

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How to Solve a Physics Problem

Here is Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's recipe for how to solve a physics problem. This is so, so true. (It applies to mathematics problems, too. I know this feeling very well --- and so do my students.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Somerville Graduates in Mathematics (and Allied Fields)!

Congratulations to Somerville's 2013 graduates in Mathematics (and our allied fields: M&S, M&CS, and CS)!!!

To steal some words from Sandra Tsing Loh: "So by the time [they] graduated, [they] had [an Oxford] diploma entirely made of. . . partial credit, yes-- [Their] degree was glued together, faintly pulsing with. . . radioactivity, graded less on a curve than on a kind of wild hyperbola asymptotically approaching. . . some imaginary. . . actual answer. . ."

And as I told our freshers in today's tutorials in time-honored advice from teacher to student, "Partial credit is your friend."

"Bottledump Roundabout"

On the way home yesterday from the Woolly Owl competition with Cambridge applied math, we passed by "Bottledump Roundabout". Sometimes I love the Brits...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chocolate Oscillations and the Square-Plate Approximation

At dinner, I was estimating the wavenumber of the chocolate oscillations on my dessert plate.

The next step is to estimate the amount of chocolate as a function of wavenumber and to figure out the accuracy of the square-plate approximation.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"No Boundary Rd"

Near JFK Airport, I saw a sign for "No Boundary Rd".

I assume that compact cars are not allowed on it.

And my reaction upon seeing this sign was to think that "No Boundary" was a strange name for a road rather than to think that "No" meant "North". Math makes the world fun!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Quote of the Day (or Maybe Year?): Genius Edition

Today's quote comes from Aldous Huxley: The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.

I wholeheartedly approve! I never saw this quote before, but I couldn't agree with it more. I live my life by this quote. (And this is why the reason to do research on something is because you think it's interesting --- who cares if it's useful, "hot", etc.)

And the reference to Trivial Pursuit (and the common nomenclature misconception) is on purpose. :)

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science.)

Visualization of Bike-Sharing Data

Here are some bike-share 'maps' (i.e., visualizations) for several cities. These are cool, and the data is something that would be cool to use as a follow-up to this paper.

(Tip of the cap to Puck Rombach.)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Box Score of the Day

Today's game between the Marlins and Mets was pretty awesome. Check out the box score.

The game last 20 innings and the Mets went 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position. But what you should particularly note are the pitching lines. Both teams had two pitchers that went starting-pitcher distance, as the Marlins had a reliever go 7 innings and the Mets had a reliever go 8 innings. Wow!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

What Happens in (NY)^2 Stays in (NY)^2

Today I am flying to New York City --- aka, (NY)^2 --- and will be there for the first time since July 2011. I am traveling there because one of my cousins is getting married.

Update: When I was in line to drop my bags, the security person was pretty thorough. I needed to show him my card that lets me live in the UK, he checked my passport for several minutes, etc.

He asked me if I had any weapons, and of course I said know. He then asked me if I had anything that could be used as a weapon, so I explained that my laptop could be used to bash someone over the head but that I didn't want to do that because it's my computer. Maybe this wasn't the best answer to give?

He also said I shouldn't take accept any items from anybody, so hopefully getting a certain karate trophy from Aaron won't be an issue.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sprinkles Revisited!

OK, not really. But here are some cool heat maps that show how Americans in different parts of the country use different terms from each other. Examples like "soda" versus "pop" are there, but "sprinkles" versus "jimmies" is strangely missing.

P.S. The correct word is "sprinkles"!

(Tip of the cap to Jaideep Singh.)

Texting and Driving

Don't text while driving! Text "SAFETY" to the number listed on the billboard to find out why. :)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

What Happens in Copenhagen Stays in Copenhagen (2013 Edition)

This morning, I will be flying to Copenhagen to give a plenary talk at NetSci 2013 and also in an associated satellite meeting on Temporal and Dynamic Networks. On the morning of the last day of NetSci, I'll be flying off to New York City for a cousin's wedding.

+3 Vorpal Red Pen

My weapon of choice is a +3 Vorpal Red Pen (+5 against power laws).

It was forged in the hellfire pits of Caltech, frozen in Cornell, thawed in Georgia Tech, and refined in Caltech, and Oxford.