Friday, April 28, 2017

Lego Grad Student

I just found out about Lego Grad Student from a Facebook post by Shanti Rao.

I had never heard of Lego Grad Student before, but this brilliantly fills a gap in the online world. I'll include one of LGS's tweets in this blog entry.

"Persistent Homology of Time-Dependent Functional Networks Constructed from Coupled Time Series"

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

Title: Persistent Homology of Time-Dependent Functional Networks Constructed from Coupled Time Series

Authors: Bernadette J. Stolz, Heather A. Harrington, and Mason A. Porter

Abstract: We use topological data analysis to study "functional networks" that we construct from time-series data from both experimental and synthetic sources. We use persistent homology with a weight rank clique filtration to gain insights into these functional networks, and we use persistence landscapes to interpret our results. Our first example uses time-series output from networks of coupled Kuramoto oscillators. Our second example consists of biological data in the form of functional magnetic resonance imaging data that were acquired from human subjects during a simple motor-learning task in which subjects were monitored for three days during a five-day period. With these examples, we demonstrate that (1) using persistent homology to study functional networks provides fascinating insights into their properties and (2) the position of the features in a filtration can sometimes play a more vital role than persistence in the interpretation of topological features, even though conventionally the latter is used to distinguish between signal and noise. We find that persistent homology can detect differences in synchronization patterns in our data sets over time, giving insight both on changes in community structure in the networks and on increased synchronization between brain regions that form loops in a functional network during motor learning. For the motor-learning data, persistence landscapes also reveal that on average the majority of changes in the network loops take place on the second of the three days of the learning process.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stunning Drawings of Seaweed

Margaret Gatty drew some gorgeous pictures of seaweed as part of her book on the topic. These pictures are awesome!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Epic "Slide"

This "slide" by the Toronto Blue Jays' Chris Coghlan is absolutely epic.

(The link goes to a public Facebook post from Major League Baseball.)

Perceptions of the Probability of Ambiguous Statements

You can completely mess up this chart in the UK simply by using the word "quite". That will do quite an ambiguous number on the perceived probabilities.

(More seriously, I really like this visualization.)

Conway's Game of Life In Real Life (on an Ocellated Lizard)

Wow! This is amazing!

Here is the blurb on the Facebook post that goes with the Physics Today article (though I added the hyperlink): The ocellated lizard develops an intricate, ever-changing pattern of black and green spots when it matures. Now researchers have determined that the patterns on the animals' backs update according to a well-defined algorithm: Over a period of a month or so, a given scale will change color—from green to black or black to green—with a probability that depends on the colors of the scales around it. In essence, the reptile is the embodiment of a cellular automaton, a type of discretized model made popular by John Conway’s Game of Life and used to simulate the spread of wildfires, the firing of neurons, and other phenomena.

Physics Today's article is about a recent article in Nature called "A living mesoscopic cellular automaton made of skin scales".

Monday, April 24, 2017

What Happens in Berkeley Stays in Berkeley

I am taking a quick trip to Berkeley (with about 20 hours on the ground) to give a talk (on granular crystals) to the condensed-matter theory folks at UC Berkeley.

As one of my friends pointed out on Facebook, I should perhaps be careful about using the terms "quick trip" and "Berkeley" in the same sentence. :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Bit More on Our Mathematics Booth at the March for Science Los Angeles

I think our math booth ended up being one of the most popular of all of the booths at the LA March for Science.

We gave away tons of AMS Mathematical Moments, in particular. We brought English, Spanish, and Korean versions of the Mathematical Moments. We also gave away a bunch of SIAM's Math Matters, Apply It!. We also had copies of our networks literacy handbook in each of the 19 languages in which it is available, and we brought copies of our networks outreach materials for school students and talked to a lot of teachers about it. We mostly discussed the outreach efforts themselves, but we also brought copies of the teaching materials with us.

I wonder how much mathematics ending up photobombing the pictures from the LA March?

Also, several people came and took pictures of a differential equation that I wrote down on a flip chart to explain to someone the difference between linear and nonlinear equations.

At different times, our booth also had a comedian and a Fields Medalist show up.

I was really exhausted after the event. An almost-8-hour teaching marathon in the heat is very tiring. (Having a tent and some shade was very helpful, though. Paying for a booth was a very good idea.)

An amusing incident: Yesterday morning, the first person who came to our booth asked us about buying our tangerine juice. Math, damnit! Not tangerine juice. That's for us!

Another amusing incident: One person I know recognized my handwriting on our flip chart before he saw me at our booth.

And some pictures of the action at our booth: one, another one, setting up, and setting up (and a view of one of our neighboring booths)

Update (4/25/17): And here are some pictures from the LA March from Los Angeles Magazine.

Spotting Fake Peer Reviews

This article has a rather juicy line: “When a lot of the fake peer reviews first came up, one of the reasons the editors spotted them was that the reviewers responded on time,” Wager told Ars.


(Tip of the cap to Craig Montuori.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Some Signs from the March for Science

Here are some really cool signs from the March for Science

I'll try to post some more links later. I have been seeing fantastic signs on the March for Science Facebook page for the past several weeks (and I saw some great signs in LA today).

(Tip of the cap to Maria Satterwhite.)

P.S. Some Thomas Dolby got played at the LA March, of course. :) This was the first song blasted as the gathering started on their march after a series of short speeches. Allusions to Thomas Dolby also showed up yesterday on signs, of course.

Update (4/23/17): Here are some more signs. (Tip of the cap to Peter Mucha.)

Update (4/23/17): Naturally, and as expected, people nerded out quite a bit yesterday (just like we people do in venues like Dragon*Con). In some ways, it was also like Coachella for scientists and friends. You can see some more signs in this Motherboard article and this Vox article. (The so-called "Laplace equation" in one of the pictures actually shows a Laplace transform.) Spock, Data, Beaker, and other scientifically-themed fictional characters were also very well represented.

Update (4/23/17): According to this Washington post article, the March for Science was unprecedented. (Tip of the cap to Karen Daniels.)

Update (4/23/17): Here are some signs from the New York march. I am partial to the Oregon Trail one, of course. (I have seen variants of it posted on the Facebook page for March for Science.)

Update (4/25/17): Here are some pictures from the LA March.

Update (4/26/17): Linda Hall Library is developing a digital archive of the March for Science. Very cool! (Tip of the cap to Laci Gerhart-Barley.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Blinding People with Network Science (at the March for Science Los Angeles)

Puck Rombach and I will be at the March for Science Los Angeles tomorrow to teach people about the science of networks.

We'll be drawing from materials here (and hence here) and will also have booklets on essential concepts and core ideas about networks.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Graph Alignment: A Major Open Problem

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Wild Thing": Now Pitching for the Rockies

Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis likes to use the nickname "Wild Thing" for Rockies' relief pitcher Carlos Estévez (for obvious reasons). I love it!

In case you don't remember and don't want to follow a chain of links on Wikipedia, go to this page.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Article of Interest: "What Happens When We Do Not Defend Academic Freedom"

Here is the article, which I suggest reading in its entirety.

(Tip of the cap to David Hu and Michael Szell.)

SMBC: Lifetimes

I think this SMBC came out before I was reading it regularly. It is amazing!

It talks about reinventing yourself, and it expresses the idea in a particularly nice way.

Spectacular Ironic Pictures

Many of these (most of them are ironic) are spectacular! Number 4 is my favorite!

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Old Disney Creation/Merchandising Network


Eighteenth-Century Rotating Table: I Want One!

Not that this is the most practical and efficient 21st-century method to address this issue... but I want one!

(Tip of the cap to Gabrielle Birkman.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"New Textbooks for the New Mathematics"

Here is an article, called "New Textbooks for the New Mathematics", by Richard Feynman that appeared in Caltech's publication Engineering and Science in March 1965.

The article includes a reprint of a cartoon from The New Yorker that reminds me of this song. (The song is relevant to the whole article, actually.)

(Tip of the cap to Ben Rogers.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Awesome Infographics and Maps of the 1800s

These maps and infographics from the 1800s are spectacular!

(Tip of the cap to Jessica Flack.)

Triple García Outfield

Tonight, the Chicago White Sox are starting an all-García outfield (i.e., in which all three outfielders have the last name "García)".

This is the first time in Major League Baseball history that a team started an outfield where all three outfielders have the same last name. Nice! (The Alous were in an outfield together, but they didn't all start a game together.)

My favorite starting outfield, however, is when the Cincinnati Reds started an outfield of Young, Frank, and Stynes. (It consisted of Dmitri Young in left field, Mike Frank in center field, and Chris Stynes in right field.)

Also see this recent blog entry.

Long Live Preprint Servers

(Tip of the cap to Sam Scarpino.O

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Physics of Shoelaces Becoming Undone

Here is a physics-based explanation of why shoelaces become untied so often: A "mix of inertia and pavement pounding loosens knots, sends ends flying".

I gave up on shoelaces very early in life (important life hack!). Of course, I never could tie the damn things in the first place, and I still can't.

The authors of this research may well have Ig Nobel prizes in their future (perhaps awarded jointly in physics and in fashion).

Bringing Mathematics to the Traumatized and the Perplexed

As many of you know, Steve Strogatz is one of my mathematical heroes. One of the reasons is that he's a master teacher and expositor. (Whenever I get his seal of approval for one of my articles or other efforts, I always feel like I did a good job on it.) Take a look at this new article.

Quoting Steve from this article: "So many of the things that we do in math education—and maybe more generally in education—are giving students answers to questions that they would never think of asking. By definition, that's what it is to be boring."

Conversely, this also speaks to why so many students find networks exciting from the start. They're already asking many of these questions! They just need the words and concepts to make the questions more precise to be able to answer them in a better way.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Life is Like a Video Game

This video, which explains life casually in terms of a video game (in particular, an MMO game), is a very good implementation of this analogy.

(I got this from a post on the Dragon*Con Facebook page.)

Most Popular Purchases Online in Each State

Some of these popular online purchases are spectacular, by which I mean "awesome". Wow.

(Tip of the cap to George Takei.)

Friday, April 07, 2017

What's a Rouge Wave?

I managed to sneak one of the all-time best lines from Buffy/Angel into the tweet below.

At first, I accidentally, introduced the typo "rouge", but I managed to change the tweet before anybody could reply with "What's a rouge wave?" Naturally, this inspired the title of this post.

Synesthetic Artist Paints Songs

Artist Melissa McCracken has synesthesia and paints what songs look like to her. This is really cool!

I have an important question, though: What does "The Ride of the Valkyries" look like?

(Tip of the cap to Chris Gong.)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Essay in Physics Today: "Commentary: In Defense of Crazy Ideas"

This essay by David Stevenson does a very good job of making an excellent point.

(And, apropos, I received an e-mail called "What is Reality?", from a group of people working on a crazy idea, while I was reading this article.)

P.S. David Stevenson is a great classroom lecturer. I had him for half of AMa 95 at Caltech.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Grammar Vigilante

Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. In Bristol (U.K.), they have The Grammar Vigilante. I approve!

(Tip of the cap to Mark Newgarden.)

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Story Behind the U.S. Constitution's 27th Amendment

The story behind the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is really cool!

I wasn't aware of the historical path. I can't wait to see what results from some of the grades I give! Also, never underestimate the power of being bloody-minded...

(Tip of the cap to Nicholas Christakis and others.)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Life Imitates Harry Chapin

All those thirty thousand pounds of bananas...

P.S. In case you're wondering, here the song tells a story based on a real incident.

(Tip of the cap to Jeffrey Porter.)

A Pop-Up Solid Geometry Book from the 1700s

Oh, wow. This is cool.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Live Performance of "The Condensed Matter Song" (Lyrics by Me)

Several years ago, I wrote a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Matter-Patter Trio" called The Condensed Matter Song. This year, it was performed at the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting as part of the
Rock 'n' Roll Physics Sing-Along
. Thanks to Walter Smith for contacting me about doing this after he found my blog entry with my lyrics. Take a look at his physics-song webpage.

Bluegrass Cover of "Gangnam Style"

Yes, really.