Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Welcome" Back

I haven't even been back in this country for 3 full hours yet, and already multiple people have been really unkind to me. Now I already want to leave.

People were so nice to me while I was in Korea (e.g. on several occasions, random people helping me of their own accord without my asking when I was in the metro and looking confused), and here I am dragging a heavy suitcase home --- it needs to be replaced, as the additional damage is too much for it --- and having a lot of trouble with it and some bitch sticks her head out of a car window just so she can laugh at me. Welcome back, I guess.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Anticipated Matchup

Vin Scully, a few minutes: "Sunday's game, in case you happen to be in Seoul, will be on the air at 10 am."

Thanks, Vin!

I probably ought to figure out where this game is going to be broadcast in public. This is the game that has the long-anticipated matchup between Hyun Jin Ryu and Shin Soo Choo.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Unexpected Ass-Kicking (Food Spiciness Department)

Today at lunch I finally got my ass kicked by spicy food. Because I am in Korea, I've been ultra careful about this, and I did well until today.

One of the cool things is that Korea has several US chains that the UK doesn't have, and this gives me the chance to have some favorites (like ice blended drinks at Coffee Bean and ice cream at Baskin Robins) that I don't normally get the chance to have. (I still haven't gotten any smoothies from the one Jamba Juice I saw, and I hope to do that at some point too.)

I noticed a couple of days ago that there is a Popeye's on the Seoil National University campus, which is where my conference is located. I really like Popeye's fried chicken, and we don't have Popeye's in the UK, and today was my chance to go there. And, of all things, it was the spiciness of Popeye's fried chicken that completely kicked my ass. Apparently, they lace the chicken with some stuff here that makes it much spicier than usual, and I was completely unprepared. Ouch!


The Birth of Emoticons?

Here is the most commonly accepted explanation for the origin of the first emoticon. :) (It occurs to me, by the way, that an emoticon really ought to be a special type of Decepticon.)

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

Pictures From Korea: 2013 Edition

I have now posted my first batch of pictures from this trip to Korea. And if Gangnam Style was ever going to break out at any physics conference, then surely it had to be this one!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Happens in Seoul Stays in Seoul

I am at the airport and in an hour I will be boarding my flight to Seoul for a big conference on statistical physics. I am then going to stay for about another week, so in total I'll be spending 11 days in Seoul so that I can explore it a bit. I'm stoked about this trip! During there, I will be staying in a hotel in Gangnam (and I am now listening to a certain song in preparation). And, of course, I am planning to go to a baseball game while I am there!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Sharing the Beauty of Networks"

University of Oxford has just released its promotional video about my lab's outreach efforts to teach school students about networks! Pass it on. :)

Dinosaur Chrome

Check out this chrome skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that was installed by the Seine River in Paris. Absolutely gorgeous!

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Length of Doctoral Dissertations

One person compiled some statistics about the mean length of doctoral dissertations in various fields.

Just to give some context, let me point out the following: Version 1 of my PhD thesis was over 400 pages. Version 2 was about 178 pages. (Also, Version 2 was much better than Version 1.)

And, to better appreciate this length (which I would prefer to call "volume"), take a look at where mathematics lands on the chart at the other end of the link.

(Tip of the cap to Ernie Barreto.)

XKCDifying Plots in MATLAB

In case you were wondering (and I know you were), there is a script to "xkcdify" plots in MATLAB. Enjoy!

(Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Best. Demotivational Poster. Ever.

OK, it's not actually the best one ever, but it is pretty damn good! This is for all of my friends who have children. I encourage all of you to make your own version of this picture.

Frozen Snickers

I often froze Snickers as a child.

Snickers are much better frozen than consumed any other way. Plus, they get exceptionally hard when they are frozen. (I think that freezing Snickers bars was probably also my first true introduction to elastic moduli.)

Fun Fact: Frozen Snickers also make excellent ammunition to discourage people from applying shaving cream or toilet paper to one's front yard. (As a child, I always kept a stash around Halloween in case I needed them. Then I ate them on the days that followed.)

By the way, the reason I thought about this is that I put my Dutch waffles in the fridge to cool them down because it's been hot and humid here lately. The caramel was hardening in a way that reminded me a bit of frozen Snickers, though it wasn't as extreme today because I put them in the refrigerator rather than the freezer.

P.S. Get off my lawn!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Coffeehouses: The Social Media of the 1600s

Here is a very interesting article about coffeehouses and how, upon their arrival, they were analogs of modern social media.

(Tip of the cap to Predrag Cvitanovic.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Density Tower

This home-brew experiment looks awesome! And I mean that literally: click on the link and take a look at what it looks like.

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

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

"Noise-Induced Synchronization, Desynchronization, and Clustering in Globally Coupled Nonidentical Oscillators"

One of my papers came out in final form today. Here are the details.

Title: Noise-Induced Synchronization, Desynchronization, and Clustering in Globally Coupled Nonidentical Oscillators

Authors: Yi Ming Lai and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We study ensembles of globally coupled, nonidentical phase oscillators subject to correlated noise, and we identify several important factors that cause noise and coupling to synchronize or desynchronize a system. By introducing noise in various ways, we find an estimate for the onset of synchrony of a system in terms of the coupling strength, noise strength, and width of the frequency distribution of its natural oscillations. We also demonstrate that noise alone can be sufficient to synchronize nonidentical oscillators. However, this synchrony depends on the first Fourier mode of a phase sensitivity function, through which we introduce common noise into the system. We show that higher Fourier modes can cause desynchronization due to clustering effects, and that this can reinforce clustering caused by different forms of coupling. Finally, we discuss the effects of noise on an ensemble in which antiferromagnetic coupling causes oscillators to form two clusters in the absence of noise.

Spirograph for MATLAB

Wow. This Spirograph GUI for MATLAB brings back some memories from my childhood. According to the Wikipedia entry, it is still in production. And of course I am sure that you are all shocked --- shocked, I say! --- that I liked drawing with this toy when I was a child.

(Tip of the cap to whoever posts for MATLAB on Facebook.)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Health Insurance and 'Grilled Cheese Happiness'

And, sometimes, two advertisements are placed near each other in such a way that it completely messes up the parsing.

This is how an advertisement pertaining to health insurance (Blue Shield) gets associated with 'grilled cheese happiness'. Yeah, it's all happiness until you have a coronary... (More money for the insurance company!)

"New Prius Helps Environment by Killing its Owner"

Really, it is only a matter of time before this car becomes available. (I kid Prius owners because I love them. Residents of the Research Triangle, beware!)

(And for those of you who did not realize this, every single resident of the Research Triangle --- including children --- drives a Prius. It is a legal requirement --- kind of like the law that dictates that all indie movies must include Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

"The Pointer Sisters" in an Alternate Universe

It just occurred to me that "The Pointer Sisters" would be an awesome name for a team in a programming contest!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We Call It "Tenure"

As far as I can tell, "tenure" is the academic version of sainthood.

They have miracles; we have publications. Same difference.

(OK, so they have to deal with a pretty tough journal!)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Tales From the ArXiv: "The BS Model"

I have decided that naming a model after yourself is slightly forgivable if your initials and author order mean that it will called "the BS model", which is what happened in this paper. :)