Sunday, March 29, 2020

RIP Philip Anderson (1923–2020)

The extraordinary condensed-matter physicist Philip Anderson died today.

I can't yet find an obituary to include as a hyperlink.

Update (3/30/20): The New York Times has published an obituary.

Update (3/30/20): Here is an obituary from Princeton University.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

RIP Nate 'n Al Delicatessen (1945–2020)

It looks like Nate 'n Al Delicatessen (i.e., "Nate 'n Al's") is going to be closing its doors for good tomorrow. The article left a small opening, but it looks bleak.

I have been getting food from there for more than 40 years, and it has my favorite corned-beef sandwiches.

Well, I guess I ordered my last two corned beef sandwiches from them last night. :( I got it delivered. (I'll nuke the second one for dinner today or tomorrow.)

I was going to eat dinner there with some of my students on 14 March, but I necessarily cancelled that dinner. Some of them have tried it before, and I have now informed the one who mentioned last night that she might try it that today is the day for her if it's ever going to happen.

I'll share a different one of my childhood restaurants with my students. (The Apple Pan is a difficult choice when things get back to normal, though, given the way that seating works there.)

Update (3/29/20): Nate 'n Al's isn't quite dead yet. Hopefully, they'll make it through this crisis and come back around when we get past it.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Cooking: Yet Another Sign of the Apocalypse

I remember telling people that it would probably take an apocalypse for me to start cooking...

And, well, here we are.

(The picture above is the first in a sequence of five pictures. I ate those noodles out of sheer stubbornness.)

Another Sign of the Apocalypse: Oxford has Cancelled its Conventional Exams

And we are definitely in the end of times: University of Oxford has cancelled its conventional exams this year and is replacing them with alternative forms of assessment.

Thankfully, Coffee is an Essential Service.

Even with the 'stay at home' executive order, Peet's is still open for takeout. Thankfully, coffee is considered an essential service.

Time has no Meaning.

Time has no meaning.

Also, space has no meaning.

Also, spacetime has no meaning.

(In addition to the fact that now I end up using the same technology to talk to somebody who is 1 mile away as somebody who is on the other side of the world, and that I can be anywhere in the world when I teach my courses online — which is inspiring these "delightful" thoughts — I naturally thought of a line from this sketch. One of my friends has subsequently reminded me of the quote "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.")

My mood is also captured by this video.

It's (Probably Not) the End of the World as we Know it (and I Feel Fine)

According to this article, "This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world". What a relief!

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Real-World Devilish Wish

What this feels like is that I made a deal with a devil for people to actually be actively encouraged to be like me (avoid other people, wear sweatpants and t-shirts, etc.) instead of being made fun of for it, and of course when the devil granted my wish, it created a pandemic to accomplish my wish.

It is very strange to wake up in that kind of world. Most people are trying their best to do more extreme forms of many of the things that I try to do anyway in my normal life.

This is the type of thing that I would do as a Dungeon Master to a wish-maker who didn't phrase their wish very carefully.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Way Ahead of My Time

I hear people talking about just wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt all the time and not properly getting dressed to go out, and I'm like: I have already been doing this for decades.

I was way ahead of my time.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Song for Today's Era of Social Distancing

First: How did I not think of Don't Stand So Close To Me (by The Police) as a snarky thing to pass along in today's efforts at social distancing?

Second: I am proud that one of my PhD students brought up this song in his e-mail just now. Between that and the fact that another of my PhD students has The Princess Bride as one of her favorite movies.

(In case you needed even more evidence that I have awesome students...)

Preparing to Teach Classes in Cyberspace

Friday, March 13, 2020

Behind-the-Scenes Pictures of Professors Suddenly Transitioning to Online Teaching

Played to the tune of "March of the Toreadors" or the theme to "The Benny Hill Show", surely?

A Sign of the End of Days

I saw in an e-mail that Oxford has given blanket approval for vivas (i.e., thesis defenses) by video conference.

Now we know that we've reached the end of days.

(That said, they were faster than UCLA for blanket approval.)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Major League Baseball Season is Delayed

Major League Baseball has suspended Spring Training and delayed the start of the season by at least 2 weeks. And I am sure that it's going to be a lot more than 2 weeks.

This is perhaps the first time in my life that I have ever been strongly in favor of baseball being cancelled. Simply, it's the right thing to do.

Baseball is one of my coping mechanisms, but I will find others.

Glora Gayner Demonstrating Thorough Hand-Washing by Singing "I Will Survive"

This video is pretty fantastic because it's wonderfully meta.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My Personalized Pandemic Card

In case you're interested, you can find templates on this website.

Friday, March 06, 2020

"Dominance, Sharing, and Assessment in an Iterated Hawk–Dove Game"

A new paper of mine — mercifully — came out in final form today after a nightmarish experience with the typesetting.

(I write this even though they pulled the trigger without showing us the final version — despite our explicit request — and a couple of minor glitches with the references reflect this. Following instructions was consistently very difficult for these typesetters.)

Anyway, I really like this paper, and I think there are some very cool avenues to pursue with it as a starting point. Our public code will hopefully help encourage such efforts. Here are some details.

Title: Dominance, Sharing, and Assessment in an Iterated Hawk–Dove Game

Authors: Cameron L. Hall, Mason A. Porter, and Marian S. Dawkins

Abstract: Animals use a wide variety of strategies to reduce or avoid aggression in conflicts over resources. These strategies range from sharing resources without outward signs of conflict to the development of dominance hierarchies, in which initial fighting is followed by the submission of subordinates. Although models have been developed to analyse specific strategies for resolving conflicts over resources, little work has focused on trying to understand why particular strategies are more likely to arise in certain situations. In this paper, we use a model based on an iterated Hawk–Dove game to analyse how resource holding potentials (RHPs) and other factors affect whether sharing, dominance relationships, or other behaviours are evolutionarily stable. We find through extensive numerical simulations that sharing is stable only when the cost of fighting is low and the animals in a contest have similar RHPs, whereas dominance relationships are stable in most other situations. We also explore what happens when animals are unable to assess each other’s RHPs without fighting, and we compare a range of strategies for contestants using simulations. We find (1) that the most successful strategies involve a limited period of assessment followed by a stable relationship in which fights are avoided and (2) that the duration of assessment depends both on the costliness of fighting and on the difference between the animals’ RHPs. Along with our direct work on modelling and simulations, we develop extensive software to facilitate further testing. It is available at

A Physical Hand-Washing Mnemonic

My favorite is "grant offering"! ;)

(Tip of the cap to Eva Miranda.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

A Great 'Team' Page

The 'team' page at the Institute for Disease Modeling is spectacular!

Take a look at it for the short video clips!

(Tip of the cap to Carl Bergstrom.)

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Attention, Reuters: Proper Use of Colons is Important

(Tip of the cap to Calling Bullshit.)

Update: Well, from the link (below) that Gregg Schneider just sent me, it appears that Reuters may have a writer who does not understand how to use colons properly.