Monday, August 31, 2015

Evolution of Ankylosaur Tails

Some new research has shed new light on the evolution of ankylosaur tails.

Ankylosaurus has always been my favorite dinosaur. And, really, is it such a surprise that I would be into a creature that was hard to munch and defended itself like that?

As a child, I never did see a plush ankylosaurus to buy, and perhaps the people who worked at the gift shops at the L. A. Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tarpits eventually got annoyed at my asking if they had one. I was, however, very pleased when I first saw a plush dimetrodon. That was an obvious purchase.

14th-Order Differential Equations

The setup of today's SMBC takes a while, but the punchline is worth it --- and, um, way too close to the truth.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vin Scully Will Broadcast Dodger Games in 2016!

Oh, Hell yes! Vin Scully will continue broadcasting Dodger games in 2016. Scully has been year-to-year on his broadcasting plans for several years now, and obviously I am very pleased that Vin will be back in 2016!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Evaluating Fake Lecturers

Clearly, we need to repeat a recently-published set of experiments by inserting fake lecturers into the evaluation forms that we give to students.

Here is a quote from the paper's results blurb: "Without a portrait, 66% (183 of 277) of students evaluated the fictitious lecturer, but fewer students (49%, 140 of 285) did so with a portrait (chi-squared test, p < 0.0001)."

(Tip of the cap to the Improbable Research blog.)

Tenure, She Wrote

Tenure, She Wrote looks like a really useful blog by and about women in academia.

Here is the description on their website: Tenure, She Wrote is a collaborative blog devoted to chronicling the (mis)adventures of women in academia, from undergraduate to Full Professor. We’re a diverse group representing many walks of life, career stages, institutional affiliations, disciplines, and opinions.

(Tip of the cap to Rachel Levy.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quantum Political Science

I love this new article in The Onion.

The headline is "Quantum Political Scientists Hypothesize Country Headed In Both Right And Wrong Directions Simultaneously", and there are also other highly amusing comments in the article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Self-Citations of Men Versus Women

According to a new study, male scientists self-cite more than female scientists. One of the authors of the study is Carl Bergstrom, so naturally I am wondering if the paper includes a citation of a Rosvall–Bergstrom paper on community detection.

(Tip of the cap to Oxford Mathematics Good Practice.)

A Sociological "Study" of Comfort Zones

Here is an article published three years ago in The Onion about a "study" of social comfort zones. I approve!

Choice quote: "Your comfort zone is there for a reason," Gamble said. "It's so you can stay comfortable. If someone breaches that by saying hello to you, that person is the asshole, not you. Remember that."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bumps in a Carpet

Here is my latest post for the Improbable Research blog. You'll notice that I was discussing work by a few of my Oxford colleagues.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oldest Known Message-in-a-Bottle

Recently, the oldest-known message-in-a-bottle resurfaced. It's a really cool story---including the reasons for releasing a bunch of bottles a century ago.

This story necessitates an obvious joke that refers to The Police, and indeed the author of the article to which I linked dutifully included it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dice for Visually-Impaired RPGers

Take a look at this 20-sided die for visually-impaired gamers. This is awesome.

Dice: Choose Your Weapon

Yes, my main dice bag was originally purposed to contain bags of coffee beans — what could possibly be more appropriate for me?

I have lost and gained a few dice over the years, but here is the current collection. The boring lavender set is the first set I bought specifically for RPGs.

The d20s that are meant especially for fire and poison are obvious. There are one or two I can argue for acid. I ought to get one for lightning (and for ice, for that matter).

Some Curse Words: Old-School and New-School

Some of our body-oriented curse words have been around for a very long time.

Seeing these charts makes me think of George Carlin's skit Incomplete List of Impolite Words.

I think I may never think about the word "ultimatum" in the same way again. I don't remember ever seeing that usage of that word before.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pac-Man in the 1850s

Oh, Hell, yes!

"Shovel more coal, Boy! I am pursued by spectres!"

Friday, August 21, 2015

Official Congratulations to Drs. Sofia Piltz and Marta Sarzynska!

My doctoral students Sofia Piltz (co-supervised with Philip Maini), who started a postdoc in ecology at DTU in June 2014, and Marta Sarzynska, who will be working at Bain & Company starting next month, both have gotten the revised versions of their doctoral theses approved in final form. Thus, they are now both officially done! Sofia's thesis is called "Models for Adaptive Feeding and Population Dynamics in Plankton", and some of her thesis work (with a couple more papers on the way) was published in SIADS. Marta's thesis is about "Spatial Community Structure and Epidemics", and you can read about some of it in this paper (whose sequel is on the way).

"I Could Go Without Smugness if I Chose To."

I choose not to.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are Mathematicians "Invading" Physics?

Are mathematicians "invading" physics?

I link (and comment). You decide.

Pictures from Dresden: 2015 Edition

Here are some pictures from my trip to Dresden last month for the multilayer-networks workshop that Alex Arenas and I organized.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Brimstone Angels" Series of Forgotten Realms Novels

This evening I just finished the 4th book in the Brimstone Angels series of Forgotten Realms novels.

I read the 3rd book on the series last fall as part of my read of The Sundering series (which is the main track covering the transition from 4th edition Forgotten Realms to 5th edition), and I bought the first two books to introduce myself to the characters in that book. However, I decided to read the book, The Adversary, to go through the whole Sundering series (though with occasional break to read other books, such as following Drizzt Do'Urden and one or two things from other genres, as some of the books in The Sundering series weren't all that great) before getting back to the first two books.

I found that I enjoyed "The Adversary" a great deal. It was one of the best D & D novels I had read in a long time. It is well-written, and the characters are interesting --- and I also do enjoy Planar beings and politics in my novels. (I really dug the Planescape setting back in the day.) The occasional draconic swearing mixed in with the English also reminds me of Firefly, so that is a nice touch too. To keep this track going, I decided to read the 4th book first and will treat books 1 and 2 as preludes. (Book 4, called Fire in the Blood is also very good.) I'm not sure if I will get through them both before the 5th book comes out in December (and I would like to jump to that to keep the story going), especially as I want to read the next Do'Urden book that comes out next month.

Every time I go on sabbatical and have some more time or it's the summer and I have more time, if I find a good fantasy novel, I am reminded how much I enjoy them --- even though during the school year, it's hard to spend much time at all reading novels. Around the last month or so, I have tried to make it a point to at least read a little bit of a novel on most days. (It would be really nice to keep that up; it makes me happy.) I also really miss playing in a D & D campaign, so between wanting to find a way to play RPGs regularly again and enjoying a really good D & D novel, I have been thinking about D & D a lot lately (including reminiscing about adventures from days gone by, browsing a bit through some 1st edition books, etc.). I used to have so much more time for reading novels and playing D & D, and it would be really nice to recover that. I have become so busy in the last few years.

So, this is my book recommendation for the day. I think it's been quite a while since I blogged about a novel!

Anachronisms, Anatopisms, and "Anamegethisms" (or possibly "Anadiastasisms")

We all know about anachronisms (things that misplaced in time), and I looked up that an analogous word for space (anatopism) indeed exists. However, the word I really want for things like Dungeons and Dragons --- and maybe even for a convenient or possibly snarky use in mathematics --- is to be misplaced in dimension. In the context of Dungeons and Dragons, this would be something that is the wrong plane of existence.

Apparently, there isn't a literal Greek translation of the word "dimension" in the way that we would say that time and space are examples of dimensions. Of the two choices, διάσταση (pronounced "diástasi̱") and μέγεθος (pronounced "mégethos"), the latter has an analogous form as the Greek words for time (χρόνος; khronos) and space (τόπος; place), so I have chosen to use the latter. This leaves me with the word "anamegethism". (However, from my Googling, it seems like "mégethos" would translate more to "greatness", so using a term like "anadiastasism" would probably be a more appropriate way of saying that something is displaced in dimensions, even though the form of the original Greek word is different from those for time and space.)

Context (using an example that really annoyed me from a novel that I read about 25 years ago): "The kender in the Dragonlance novel whispered that their captor obviously had some orc blood, but that is a anamegethism, because orcs do not occur naturally on the world of Krynn. So even if an orc somehow got there at some point --- perhaps via spelljamming --- it still wouldn't have been something that would be construed as obvious (especially from a low-level character).

If anybody who actually knows Greek --- Hell, I'm in Oxford, so I certainly have access to experts --- will let me know if I did this right, that would be great. In fact, I am going to e-mail one now.

Update: I also very much like the notion of "displaced in greatness", even though I wasn't thinking of that when I started down this rabbit hole.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tetris and the Reduction of Cravings

Video games compelling me to skip meals... NEVER! :P

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Old-School Technical Support

Yup, I imagine that old-school technical support worked somewhat like this.

The Gaming Graveyard


(Tip of the cap to some musician who goes by the stage name of Guinevere and to somebody --- I didn't catch whom --- shared Guinevere's post to one of the Dragon*Con groups (I forgot which one) on Facebook. I tried to find a Wikipedia link for the musician Guinevere, and I am amused that Wikipedia's disambiguation page for Guinevere also includes a certain panther from Forgotten Realms.)

Pixels (Long) and Pixels (Short)

I just saw the big-screen movie Pixels (which I previously blogged about). It was fun and nostalgic, though of course very cheesy (no surprise), and it was not the disaster I was worried that it might be. I also just re-watched the short 2010 "film" Pixels (which clocks in at 2 minutes and 34 seconds), which is just as awesome now as it was five years ago. (I also previously blogged about this short film.)

The big-screen Pixels had some very nice bits of nostalgia (and good homages), though its use of a time-capsule of 1982 arcade action has an anachronism with Tetris. It also has some picky points that it got wrong --- for example, a power pellet in Pac-Man lasting way too long for how high a level was being shown. (It is also very conveniently ignored the fact that Donkey Kong has patterns by simply pretending that it doesn't.) The character Q*Bert amused me on a couple of points, such as being there to dodge barrels amidst a level of Donkey Kong. And also the litter at the end.

For some movies that are both awesome and bring out major nostalgia for 1980s video games, I highly recommend The King of Kong and (obviously) Wreck-It Ralph. I previously blogged about The King of Kong, but I couldn't find a blog entry about Wreck-It Ralph, so I assume I didn't do it. (I blog much less often about movies than I used to --- even when they're awesome. Wreck-It Ralph even included a theme song written by Buckner & Garcia! Now that made me feel really nostalgic!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ludicrous Spelljamming

This infographic about the estimated speeds of ships from science fiction makes me want to Spelljam.


Kit Yates has come up with an excellent suggestion: To help combat stereotypes, mathematical scientists should tweet a picture of themselves with the #realfaceofmath hashtag. I approve! (Not that my picture will end up helping to combat the stereotype...)

(Tip of the cap to Oxford Mathematics Good Practice.)

Update: OK, here is my #realfaceofmath tweet.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Ice Screamers!

Yes, really, I have Ice Screamers in my latte!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

Water Phase Diagram: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

Clearly, I need to use XKCD's water phase diagram the next time I am teaching statistical physics.

When my students are too loud, I'll tell them to stop, collaborate, and listen.

Also notice the really great pun at the bottom. I really love that!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Beware: Protein Shakes are Dangerous

This trending Facebook headline is absurd, and it thus amuses me.

Early-Career Research Positions Available at the New Alan Turing Institute for Data Science

The UK has a new "Alan Turing Institute" for data science, and there is a call for expressions of interest from early-career researchers.

One should click on "Research Positions" in the yellow panel on the right for the instructions regarding expressions of interest.

Quoting the website (see the site for more info): Prospective applicants are invited to submit a curriculum vitae and a one-page covering note explaining how their expertise is relevant to data science and the mission of the Institute via email to Full details of the application procedure will be sent in the autumn to those who register their interest.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

New Dungeons & Dragons Film

I have my fingers crossed that the newly announced big-budget D & D movie will work out a bit better than the previous attempts I witnessed. (At some point, I should actually watch the animated film that was based on the first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles. I do own a copy of it, after all.) Supposedly this new film will be based in Forgotten Realms, which is a good sign. Dragonlance would have been even better.

I am cautiously optimistic. I did find some entertainment in the 2000 film, but clearly there needs to be a D & D film that is much better than that. It did have a few good moments, but it had a lot more not-so-good (or even worse) moments.

But past experience compels me to remain cautiously optimistic until further notice.

I never saw the tv show, but I have heard good things about it. Also, I have heard excellent things about The Gamers, which I really need to watch one of these years. I should also watch its sequel.

Awesome Ballpark Promotion: Free Jayson Werth Chia Pets

The Washington Nationals are giving away Jayson Werth Chia Pets at their baseball game tonight. I approve! Note: I don't know how well Chia Pets are known these days, but I remember seeing tons of commercials for them when I was a kid.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Trending Hashtag: #fieldworkfail

The hashtag #fieldworkfail has been trending lately. (However, the ones in the IFLS article aren't particularly funny.)

Because I am a theorist, it is a bit difficult for me to figure out how to contribute to it. I could perhaps discussing my escapades in my lab classes during my Caltech undergraduacy, though I would rather find something interesting from my scientific career. I'm sure I have done something as a theorist that merits this hashtag. I'll let you know if I think of something.

(Tip of the cap to Katie Mack and Jaideep Singh for their recent Facebook discussion, which alerted me to this hashtag before the new IFLS article.)

The Entropy Zoo

I am going through the draft of a chapter that includes a survey of similarity measures (and I'll need to see if an appropriate survey exists, as we should use this material to help write one if it doesn't), and the appearance of information-theoretic measures naturally made me think of the Entropy Zoo, which I saw yesterday on the Quantum Frontiers blog.

(Who's down with en-tro-py?!?)

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Scholarly Journals: Screwing Over Authors for 150 Years and Counting

Hey, look: Scholarly journals were screwing authors over 150 years ago, and scholars were expressing their indignation about it.

Some traditions are alive and well...

(Tip of the cap to Ursula Martin​.)

"Structure of Triadic Relations in Multiplex Networks"

One of my papers, which my collaborators and I first posted on the arXiv and submitted to a journal two years ago, has finally been published in final form. Here are the details.

Title: Structure of Triadic Relations in Multiplex Networks

Authors: Emanuele Cozzo, Mikko Kivelä, Manlio De Domenico, Albert Solé-Ribalta, Alex Arenas, Sergio Gómez, Mason A Porter, and Yamir Moreno

Abstract: Recent advances in the study of networked systems have highlighted that our interconnected world is composed of networks that are coupled to each other through different 'layers' that each represent one of many possible subsystems or types of interactions. Nevertheless, it is traditional to aggregate multilayer networks into a single weighted network in order to take advantage of existing tools. This is admittedly convenient, but it is also extremely problematic, as important information can be lost as a result. It is therefore important to develop multilayer generalizations of network concepts. In this paper, we analyze triadic relations and generalize the idea of transitivity to multiplex networks. By focusing on triadic relations, which yield the simplest type of transitivity, we generalize the concept and computation of clustering coefficients to multiplex networks. We show how the layered structure of such networks introduces a new degree of freedom that has a fundamental effect on transitivity. We compute multiplex clustering coefficients for several real multiplex networks and illustrate why one must take great care when generalizing standard network concepts to multiplex networks. We also derive analytical expressions for our clustering coefficients for ensemble averages of networks in a family of random multiplex networks. Our analysis illustrates that social networks have a strong tendency to promote redundancy by closing triads at every layer and that they thereby have a different type of multiplex transitivity from transportation networks, which do not exhibit such a tendency. These insights are invisible if one only studies aggregated networks.