Sunday, May 31, 2015

What Happens in Pittsburgh Stays in Pittsburgh (2015 Edition)

I am slightly late with this post, given that I just returned to Oxford this morning on a red-eye flight. But I was just at Carnegie Mellon University for a workshop on groups and interactions in data, networks, and biology. This workshop was on the mathematical side of things.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Brief Explanation of Nonlinear and Complex Systems for Non-Scientists

I was asked on Quora to give a brief explanation of "nonlinear systems" and "complex systems" to non-scientists. Here is my answer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using Statistical Mechanics to Capture a Skittish Lamb

I wrote a blurb on the Improbable Research blog on a recent paper on the arXiv for how to use ideas from statistical mechanics to capture a skittish lamb.

Awesome Symmetric Plants

These symmetric plants are awesome!

Notes: The web page advertises 25 plants, but they appear to only include 24 of them. Also, the symmetries aren't literally "perfect", though many of them are really damn good. However, while the hyperbole of the title is a bit grating, the plants themselves really are awesome. Naturally, many of the different plants are also have different symmetries. (Tip of the cap to Vinko Zlatic.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RIP John Nash (1928–2015)

Mathematician John Nash and his wife were killed yesterday in a taxi accident.

Nash won the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for the work in his 27-page PhD thesis that invented the theory of non-cooperative games. Not bad. (As Joe Jewell pointed out, Nash's thesis also only has 2 references.)

Nash had recently accepted his Abel Prize (the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize) for entirely different work.

Sylvia Nasar's 1994 article about John Nash, which is based on her book, is a fascinating read. Nasar's book formed the basis for the movie A Beautiful Mind.

Nash is also one of the people who invented the game Hex.

If you want to read more about Nash, go to FAQ maintained by Princeton University.

(Tip of the cap to numerous people, and thanks to Carlos Castillo Chávez for posting the article by Sylvia Nasar.)

Update (5/26/15): As I suspected, this was the final leg of their journey home after Nash was in Norway to receive his Abel Prize.

Update (5/29/15): Here is an article in the popular press about Nash's work on isometric embeddings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Awesome Story: 102-Year-Old Women Sets Record for Oldest Ever Doctoral Recipient

This story is a great one: 102-year-old Ingeborg Rapoport has become the oldest ever recipient of a PhD after an old Nazi injustice is righted.

Of course, the reason behind the story is very unfortunate to say the least, but I love the story's ending. This is really awesome.

(Technically, she will be given the doctorate in a ceremony on 9 June. She has already successfully defended it.)

(Tip of the cap to A Mighty Girl.)

Update (6/10/15): Ingeborg Rapoport now officially has her doctorate.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plot of Ego Versus Number of Academics to Determine What to Call Yourself

Notice where MIT shows up on this plot in the new panel from PhD Comics. ;) I approve!

23 Unusual Ways to Die (Organized by US State)

This IFLS article shows a lovely plot that indicates 23 unusual ways to die, as organized by state in the US. Each state is colored by the most frequent of these unusual ways to die that occurs in that state. Several of the ones at the bottom of the list are particularly fantastic.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Artist's Recreation of Childhood Drawings

This is really cool: an artist recreated his own childhood drawings in a very realistic way. So cool!

(Tip of the cap to Oleg Kogan.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Happens in Snowbird Stays in Snowbird (2015 Edition)

I am at Gatwick Airport amidst my journey to the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah for the 2015 SIAM "Snowbird Meeting" on applied dynamical systems. I'll be giving a minitutorial talk on network dynamics.

SIAM's third annual workshop on network science is co-located with the dynamical systems meeting, although I am not bothering to go to it. (Among other things, I'll be working on my talk.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hell for Different Personality Types

Here is a terse attempt at a summary of the Hells for different (Myers-Briggs) personality types.

Of the descriptions on that page, the one that I would find most Hellish is INTP: "You are eternally condemned to researching an extremely vapid topic using wildly inaccurate methods, mostly involving interviewing people who have no idea what they’re talking about."

Actually, when I take these tests, I get INTP about half of the time and INTJ the other half. INTJ's Hell is "Every time you open your mouth to say something intelligent, something entirely idiotic comes out instead." I think the INTP Hell would bother me more, though.

(Tip of the cap to Anna Iwaniec Hickerson and one or two other people.)

An Application of Network Control

Now this is what control theory on networks has the potential to accomplish. :)

(And only one species was killed off in this compensatory perturbation.)

Calling People Out: The All-Male Panel "Congratulations" Tumblr

I approve of this all-male panel tumblr that offers sarcastic congratulations. (And I am very much in favor of calling people out to try to encourage improving the situation on such matters.)

The David Hasselhoff picture is an added bonus.

(Tip of the cap to NetSci Backstage.)

"Zigzag Hochschild Complex": Mathematical Object or Psychological Disorder?

The Zigzag Hochschild Complex certainly sounds like it could be a psychological disorder, but it is actually a mathematical object.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cleanliness or Dirtiness?

This post at the Improbable Research blog offers an interesting perspective. Let me quote an author of the studies that the post discusses:

In two studies we investigated the association between physical cleansing and moral and immoral behavior in real- life situations. In Study 1, after a workout at the gym, participants cheated more after taking a shower than before taking one. In the second study participants donated more money to charity before rather than after they bathed for religious purification.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

A Drone's Eye View of Oxford's Mathematical Institute

The drone's tour of our building would have been much more realistic if it had gotten stuck inside an elevator.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Extraterrestrial Signal or Microwave Oven?

As described today in an article in The Telegraph, an odd "extraterrestrial" signal---which was "detected only during business hours"---that baffled astrophysicists for 17 years has turned out to be due to the facility's microwave oven being opened while it was in use.

Perhaps the astrophysicists' recent paper on the arXiv preprint server said it best: "Subsequent tests revealed that a peryton can be generated at 1.4 GHz when a microwave oven door is opened prematurely and the telescope is at an appropriate relative angle."

Thankfully, there is also good news: now that this mystery has been solved, it turns out that the facility may well also be detecting some genuinely extraterrestrial signals.

Last month, this story was covered in the Improbable Research blog.

(Tip of the cap to Physics Today.)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

A "Legal" Definition of "Order Parameter"

Sometimes aggregators are wonderful, like when an online law dictionary includes a definition for order parameter.

Also apparently of interest to people who visit this definition:

1. What Happens If A Person Breaks A Restraining Order?

7. How To File Forms For Temporary Child Custody

10. How To Request Voluntary Deportation

(I skipped a few, of course.)

I suppose power law might be there as well, but I didn't check.