Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Internet of Stuff

In honor of George Carlin, the Internet of Things really ought be called the "Internet of Shit" (or possibly the "Internet of Stuff").

The Silent Majority Will Rise Up on Election Day

Yes, yes it will. :)

And from looking at the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin mentioned by SMBC does indeed appear to be accurate.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Wow, this press release from Cornell University has made me realize that there is another meaning of the term "redshirt" besides the one that comes from Star Trek.

Given the meaning that originated in Star Trek, the press release's title amused me considerably.

Testing the Green-Cheese Origin Theory of the Moon

As I write in my latest post for the Improbable Research blog, the green-cheese origin theory of the Moon has been tested before. Well, sort of: a 1970 paper in Science includes sound-speed measurements of lunar rooks, terrestrial rocks, and terrestrial cheeses.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Speeches

Yesterday, the new Baseball Hall of Famers (Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martínez) gave their acceptance speeches. Pedro Martínez stole the show and(unsurprisingly) was particularly charismatic, although he did take a brief shot against the Dodgers.

You can watch all of the induction speeches on this website.

I love the pictures of the four new Hall of Famers side-by-side, because Randy Johnson is just about a head or more taller than the other three guys.

The Facebook page posted a picture from this weekend with Pedro Martínez and Tommy Lasorda together. Martínez is smiling broadly, and Lasorda has a look on his face that seems to say, "I can't believe we traded Martínez for Delino DeShields!" (I tried to find that picture on a public page, but I wasn't able to find it with a search on Google Images.)

Is Sarcasm the Highest Form of Intelligence?

According to a new study in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, it may well be.

The study, called "The highest form of intelligence: Sarcasm increases creativity for both expressers and recipients", was published by Li Huang, Francesca Gino, and Adam Galinksy.

As with all other recent papers in journals by world-renowned publisher Elsevier, the study has five self-reported highlights:

(1) Sarcasm is an instigator of conflict but also a catalyst for creativity.

(2) General forms of sarcasm promote creativity through abstract thinking for both expressers and recipients.

(3) Expressing sarcasm to or receiving sarcasm from trusted others increases creativity without elevating conflict.

(4) We manipulated sarcasm via a simulated conversation task and a recall task.

(5) We employed three different creativity measures and a well-established measure of abstract thinking.

I feel like this study has justified the last 39 years of my existence.

Note: Absolutely no sarcasm was employed in the writing of this blog entry.

(Tip of the cap to Taha Yasseri.)

Update: A modified version of this post is now on the Improbable Research blog.

Update: Hmmm... I have pondered a bit, and I am now wondering if there are Elsevier journals --- such as ones that publish review articles? --- in which the five self-reported highlights are not required? It is possible that it should technically be "most other" or "almost all other" rather than "all other". I will leave an exhaustive check, or a search for a counterexample, as an exercise for the diligent reader. (My best guess is that it is policy for all research article, but I am not sure if it is also true for review articles, so "all research articles" is another potentially viable tweak to the phrasing.)

Update: Here is a blurb about the research in The Harvard Gazette. (I found this link via Francesca Gino's Twitter account.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Iceland Repeals Anti-Blasphemy Laws

Fuck yeah!

Also: Yarrrrrrrrr!

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Headline: Michigan School District's Air Conditioning Controlled by Amiga Computer for 28 Years

Yup, that's right: a Commodore Amiga has controlled the air conditioning in a Michigan school district since it was installed in the 1980s. That's pretty spectacular (and also "awesome").

(Tip of the cap to Myah Evers.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pixar: Another Big Win

On extremely rare occasions, I see a movie (or read a book or play a game...) that shows me a new perspective on things and fuels my imagination (and my Abstract Thought). Pixar's Inside Out is one of those movies. Wow, just wow.

I had heard excellent things about Inside Out and was really looking forward to it after watching a trailer after seeing a colleague gush about the movie on Facebook, and I have to say that I am amazed. I wouldn't say that movies amaze me very often, but this one did. I'll have to think about whether it has surpassed The Incredibles as my favorite Pixar movie of all time --- I haven't decided yet, but it's possible --- and "best Pixar film ever" is very high praise indeed. (The short film before the main feature could have been much better, however.)

Anyway, if you haven't seen Inside Out yet, I suggest that you go see it. Perhaps even stop what you're doing and go see it? It's that good.

And now, as usual, it's time for me to spend some more time in Abstract Thought and Imagination Land (two of my favorite places). :)

Exoplanet Names

XKCD has revisited their suggestions for Exoplanet names.

For the newly discovered planet, I am in favor of "Emergency Backup Earth". Or possibly "Pluto". :P

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Model of Motion Sickness

In my latest blog entry for the Improbable Research blog, I report on a model for motion sickness. (This, of course, is an example of a Rotating Hell.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Layout Fail on

That's quite a layout fail,

One of the things we learn about in journalism concerns the relative placement of different articles---including if one headline might be confused as the tagline for the other., I think that one of your employees probably needs to brush up on this lesson.

Bring Your Pet to School Day: Caltech Edition

I don't remember ever hearing about the young lioness that got to hear a freshman physics lecture at Caltech, although it's possible that I simply forgot about this story (with picture proof from a very familiar lecture hall). Wow!

Fake Customer Service Trolling on Facebook

Some of the fake customer service trolling on Facebook is really funny. I especially like the answer in the Starbucks complaint.

(Tip of the cap to Iain Macmillan.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Topological Data Analysis of Contagion Maps for Examining Spreading Processes on Networks"

Our Nature Communications paper just came out today! Here are the details.

Title: Topological Data Analysis of Contagion Maps for Examining Spreading Processes on Networks

Authors: Dane Taylor, Florian Klimm, Heather A. Harrington, Miroslav Kramár, Konstantin Mischaikow, Mason A. Porter, and Peter J. Mucha

Abstract: Social and biological contagions are influenced by the spatial embeddedness of networks. Historically, many epidemics spread as a wave across part of the Earth’s surface; however, in modern contagions long-range edges––for example, due to airline transportation or communication media––allow clusters of a contagion to appear in distant locations. Here we study the spread of contagions on networks through a methodology grounded in topological data analysis and nonlinear dimension reduction. We construct 'contagion maps' that use multiple contagions on a network to map the nodes as a point cloud. By analysing the topology, geometry and dimensionality of manifold structure in such point clouds, we reveal insights to aid in the modelling, forecast and control of spreading processes. Our approach highlights contagion maps also as a viable tool for inferring low-dimensional structure in networks.

Instead of trying to explain our work in layperson's terms here, I'll point you to the press release from University of Oxford.

You can also download our data and our code.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What is the Most Exciting New Research in Mathematics?

About three weeks ago, I wrote an answer to the question "What is the Most Exciting New Research in Mathematics?" on Quora.

Take a look at what I wrote, and pipe in with your own thoughts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Humans as Random-Number Generators

I could really use a good random-number generator. :)

Custom Baseball Gloves

I need to find a way to play some softball so that I have an excuse to buy myself a custom glove!

One can put some really garish colors on the gloves. :)

(Tip of the cap to Rob Neyer.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Reaction of Different Fields of Scholarship to Babies

The latest "issue" of SMBC comics is priceless, and the punchline is absolutely fantastic! (This time, the philosophers are the brunt of the joke.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Overly Honest Slogans For University Majors

These overly honest slogans for university majors are bloody awesome!

It's tough to pick a favorite, but right now I think the one for communications is perhaps the funniest. We'll have to make our own for mathematics, which didn't make the cut for this article.

I know I've seen a bunch of these before, so I also wonder if I have seen (or even posted on my blog?) this exact list before?

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

What Happens in Dresden Stays in Dresden (2015 Edition)

Today I am flying to Dresden, Germany for the MAPCOM15 workshop (on the Mathematics and Physics of Multilayer Complex Networks) that I am co-organizing with Alex Arenas.

A certain highly coveted Karate Trophy will also be there, so let's see if it will be passed along to the next recipient.

Friday, July 03, 2015

"What is the Most Exciting New Research in Mathematics?"

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an answer on Quora to the question "What is the Most Exciting New Research in Mathematics?"

Take a look at what I wrote, and please add your thoughts on what areas you think are exciting!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Fastest Tongue in the West

Yup, the tongue of a chameleon is pretty damn fast. Just ask Rango.

"SMUG": Generating Music and Lyrics from Academic Papers

Yes, that's right. Using a new tool called "SMUG: Scientific Music Generator", one can now generate music and lyrics from academic papers. I love the acronym. :)

I also decided to try SMUG. I generated this work of art from my review article on multilayer networks.

Update: The paper's bibliography includes a citation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I am amused. :)