Posting a hodgepodge of links after a rather wonderful time hiking and camping, solving puzzles, and the semester starting all together too soon for my taste.

[Trigger warning] More details on Walter Lewin’s actions.

The unbearable maleness of Wikipedia.

Hanna Wallach’s talk at the NIPS Workshop on fairness.

Reframing Science’s Diversity Challenge by trying to move beyond the pipeline metaphor.

An essay by Daniel Solove on privacy (I’d recommend reading his books too but this is shorter). He takes on the “nothing to hide” argument against privacy.

I don’t like IPAs that much, but this lawsuit about lettering seems like a big deal for the craft beer movement.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of Humans of New York, but never was sure why. I think this critique has something to it. Not sure I fully agree but it does capture some of my discomfort.

Judith Butler gave a nice interview where she talks a bit about why “All Lives Matter,” while true, is not an appropriate rhetorical strategy: “If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, ‘all lives matter,’ then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives.’ That said, it is true that all lives matter (we can then debate about when life begins or ends). But to make that universal formulation concrete, to make that into a living formulation, one that truly extends to all people, we have to foreground those lives that are not mattering now, to mark that exclusion, and militate against it.”

A nice essay on morality and progress with respect to Silicon Valley. Techno-utopianism running amok leads to bad results: “Silicon Valley’s amorality problem arises from the implicit and explicit narrative of progress companies use for marketing and that people use to find meaning in their work. By accepting this narrative of progress uncritically, imagining that technological change equals historic human betterment, many in Silicon Valley excuse themselves from moral reflection.”


A map of racial segregation in the US.

Vi Hart explains serial music (h/t Jim CaJacob).

More adventures in trolling scam journals with bogus papers (h/t my father).

Brighten does some number crunching on his research notebook.

Jerry takes “disruptive innovation” to task.

Vladimir Horowitz plays a concert at the Carter White House. Also Jim Lehrer looks very young. The program (as cribbed from YouTube)

  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • Chopin: Sonata in B-flat minor, opus 35, n°2
  • Chopin: Waltz in a minor, opus 34, n°2
  • Chopin: Waltz in C-sharp minor, opus 64, n° 2
  • Chopin: Polonaise in A-flat major, opus 53 ,Héroïque
  • Schumann: Träumerei, Kinderszene n°7
  • Rachmaninoff: Polka de W.R
  • Horowitz: Variations on a theme from Bizet’s Carmen

The Simons Institute is going strong at Berkeley now. Moritz Hardt has some opinions about what CS theory should say about “big data,” and how it might be require some adjustments to ways of thinking. Suresh responds in part by pointing out some of the successes of the past.

John Holbo is reading Appiah and makes me want to read Appiah. My book queue is already a bit long though…

An important thing to realize about performance art that makes a splash is that it can be often exploitative.

Mimosa shows us what she sees.

Mo’ math, mo’ solutions

I was in New York on Sunday afternoon and on the suggestion of Steve Severinghaus we took a trip to the brand-new Museum of Mathematics, which is a short walk from the Flatiron building.

The Museum of Mathematics

The Museum of Mathematics

It’s a great little place to take kids — there are quite a few exhibits which illustrate all sorts of mathematics from recreational math and Martin Gardner-esque pastimes like tessellations to an interactive video-floor which draws minimum distance spanning trees between the people standing on it. It apparently does Voronoi tessellations too but it wasn’t in that mode when I was there. There’s also a video wall which makes your body into a tree fractal, games, and a car-racing game based on the brachistochrone problem. The kids were all over that so I just got to watch.

One of the nice things was that there was a touch-screen explanation of each exhibit from which you could get three different “levels” of explanation depending on how much detail you wanted, and also additional information and references in case you wanted to learn more. That’s good because I think it will let parents learn enough to help explain the exhibit to their kids at a level that the parents feel comfortable. That makes it a museum for everyone and not just a museum for math-y parents who want to indoctrinate their children. On the downside, a lot of the exhibits were broken or under repair or under construction, so we really only got to see about 2/3 of the things.

Apparently it’s also a good place to go on a first date, as evidenced by some surreptitious people-watching. So if you’re in New York and want a romantic or educational time (aren’t they the same thing?), go check it out!


Via Amber, a collection of grassroots feminist political posters from India.

Via John, some fun investigations on how 355/113 is an amazingly good approximation to \pi. Also related are the Stern-Brocot trees, which can give continued fraction expansions.

I had missed this speech by a 10 year old on gay marriage when it happened (I was in India), but it’s pretty heartwarming. For more background on how the principal originally deemed the story “inappropriate.”

What is a Bayesian?

Unrelatedly, ML Hipster — tight bounds and tight jeans.


The ITA Workshop is here! Blogging will happen, I hope, but probably not as extensively as before.

An important look at 6th Street in San Francisco (h/t Celeste).

You got that right, Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Werner Herzog is sometimes off-puttingly weird, but this critique (until around 3 min) is on-point (h/t B.K.).

The Death of the Cyberflâneur (h/t Mimosa). I am looking forward to being a flâneur in Chicago. The mild winter has helped, but I am rather looking forward to the spring for it. For now I suppose I am more of a cyberflâneur… Also, I hate the prefix “cyber.”

Linkage (and a puzzle)

I saw Scott’s talk today on some complexity results related to his and Alex Arkhpov’s work on linear optics. I missed the main seminar but I saw the theory talk, which was on how hard it is to approximate the permanent of a matrix X whose entries (X_{ij}) are drawn iid complex circularly-symmetric Gaussian \mathcal{CN}(0,1). In the course of computing the expected value of the 4th moment of the permanent, he gave the following cute result as a puzzle. Given a permutation \sigma of length n, let c(\sigma) be the number of cycles in \sigma. Suppose \sigma is drawn uniformly from the set of all permutations. Show that

\mathbb{E}[ 2^{c(\sigma)}] = n + 1.

At least I think that’s the statement.

In other news…

  • Ken Ono has announced (with others) an algebraic formula for partition numbers. Very exciting!
  • Cosma thinks that New Yorker article is risible, but after talking to a number of people about it, I realized that the writing is pretty risible (and that I had, at first pass, skimmed to the part which I thought was good to report in the popular (or elitist) press, namely the bias towards positive results. Andrew Gelman points out that he has written about this before, but I think the venue was the more interesting part here. What was risible about the writing is that it starts out in this “ZOMG OUR SCIENCE POWERZ ARE FAAAAAAADINNNNNNGGGGGGG,” and then goes on to say slightly more reasonable things. It’s worthy of the worst of Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Tofu is complicated.
  • The 90-second Newbery contest.


Apparently I spend half my time reading Crooked Timber.

Žižek gets a lashing for his lazy contrarianism.

A great piece by Michael Bérubé on the Sokal hoax and its aftermath.

Scott Aaronson thinks people should vote to cut funding for quantum computing via YouCut. Why? Because “seeing my own favorite research topics attacked on the floor of the House” would be hilarious (and it would too!).

Marc Lelarge has a new paper up on diffusion and cascade effects in random networks. Fun reading for the break, assuming I can get time.

Some new ways of measuring impact factors.