Some old links I meant to post a while back but still may be of interest to some…

I prefer my okra less slimy, but to each their own.

Via Erin, A tour of the old homes of the Mission.

Also via Erin, Women and Crosswords and Autofill.

A statistician rails against computer science’s intellectual practices.

Nobel Laureate Randy Schekman is boycotting Nature, Science, and Cell. Retraction Watch is skeptical.


I occasionally enjoy Thai cooking, so I appreciated some of the comments made by Andy Ricker.

I recently learned about India’s Clean Currency Policy which went into effect this year. I still have some money (in an unpacked box, probably) from my trip this last fall, and I wonder if any of it will be still usable when I go to SPCOM 2014 this year. That sounded a bit crazy to me though, further investigation indicates that an internal circular leaked and it sounds like a more sensible multi-year plan to phase in more robust banknotes. My large-ish pile of Rs. 1 coins remains useless, however.

An Astounding Result — some may have seen this before, but it’s getting some press now. It’s part of the Numberphile series. Terry Tao (as usual) has a pretty definitive post on it.

Avi Wigderson is giving a talk at Rutgers tomorrow, so I thought about this nice lecture of his on Randomness (and pseudorandomness).

There’s been a lot of blogging about the MIT Mystery Hunt (if I wasn’t so hosed starting up here at Rutgers I’d probably blog about it earlier) but if you want the story and philosophy behind this year’s Hunt, look no further than the writeup of Erin Rhode, who was the Director of the whole shebang.

Last year I did a lot of flying, and as a result had many encounters with the TSA. This insider account should be interesting to anyone who flies regularly.

33rd Annual Conference on Maturing Young Scientific Theories: Emerging Resolutions for Yielding Heuristic Unphysics using Noncomputation Techniques

I’m on the organizing committee for this pretty cool conference at MIT this week. Any readers of the blog who are in Cambridge on Friday might want to attend the plenary lecture. I hear it’s going to resolve a fundamental enigma that has been puzzling scientists for decades.


I’m in the process of moving to New Jersey for my new gig at Rutgers. Before I start teaching I have to go help run the the Mystery Hunt, so I am a little frazzled and unable to write “real” blog posts. Maybe later. In the meantime, here are some links.

The folks at Puzzazz have put out a bevy of links for the 200th anniversary of the crossword puzzle.

The UK has issued a pardon to Alan Turing, for, you know, more or less killing him. It’s a pretty weasely piece of writing though.

An important essay on women’s work: “…women are not devalued in the job market because women’s work is seen to have little value. Women’s work is devalued in the job market because women are seen to have little value.”. (h/t AW)

Of late we seem to be learning quite a bit about early hominins and hominids (I had no idea that hominini was a thing, nor that chimps are in the panini tribe, nor that “tribe” is between subfamily and genus). For example,
they have sequenced some old bones in Spain. Extracting sequenceable mitochondrial DNA is pretty tough — I am sure there are some interesting statistical questions in terms of detection and contamination. We’ve also learned that some neanderthals were pretty inbred.

Kenji searches for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

MIT Mystery Hunt Registration Now Open

Hi there, puzzle hunters!

We’re pleased to announce the 2014 Mystery Hunt! This year’s Hunt will begin at 12pm on Friday, January 17, 2014 in Kresge Auditorium.

Registration for this year’s Hunt is now open. Please have one member of your team register at

Instructions for unattached hunters can be found at

Just like in past years, we’ve obtained a number of rooms from the Schedules Office and will be assigning them to teams who need to use classroom space for their HQ. If you need classroom space for your HQ during Hunt, please indicate so on your registration form in the Base Reservation System section. Please do not contact the Schedules Office directly for space during Mystery Hunt, as we’ve already worked with them to reserve rooms. A list of this year’s rooms is available at

The registration deadline for teams requesting classroom space for their HQ is December 18. We ask that all teams try to register as soon as possible. We’d prefer teams to be registered by January 6, although registration will stay open right up until the beginning of the Hunt. We’d much rather receive a partially filled out registration form now with final details emailed to us in a few weeks than a fully completed registration form submitted right before the deadline.

More details about this year’s Hunt can be found at We’ll email out any major updates, but up-to-date news can also be found there.

If you have any questions, you can always reach us at

See you in January!
-the team formerly known as [the entire text of Atlas Shrugged]


Quicksort as a dance. Via James Fallows.

I have a subscription to Harper’s and try to solve the cryptic crossword each month in the vain hope that I will win a free year’s subscription. The puzzles back to 1976 have been posted online.

Tesla and the lone inventor myth.

My friend (and ex-fellow actor) Stephen Larson‘s project OpenWorm was written up in Wired UK.

Max has an important reminder about stochastic kernels and conditional probabilities.

Civil War Diary Code

Some readers of this blog may be interested in a project by Alison Weiss, a history grad student at UC Berkeley, who is working on breaking a code used in a Civil-War era diary:

I’m writing on behalf of Professors Carla Hesse and Mark Peterson in U.C Berkeley’s History Department, where I am a PhD candidate. We recently got hold of a Civil War Diary that has multiple sections written in code. No one in the Department has any idea how to decipher it…

The code appears to have been broken by Qingchun Ren. Kudos!


It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I am going to try to post more regularly now, but as usual, things start out slowly, so here are some links. I’ve been working on massaging the schedule for the 2012 ITA Workshop (registration is open!) as well as some submissions for KDD (a first for me) and ISIT (since I skipped last year), so things are a bit hectic.

Chicago Restaurant Week listings are out, for the small number of you readers who are in Chicago. Some history on the Chicago activities of CORE in the 40s.

Via Andrew Gelman, a new statistics blog.

A paper on something called Avoidance Coupling, which I want to read sometime when I have time again.

Our team, Too Big To Fail, finished second in the 2012 MIT Mystery Hunt. There were some great puzzles in there. In particular, Picture An Acorn was awesome (though I barely looked at it), and Slash Fiction was a lot of fun (and nostalgia-inducing. Ah, Paris!). Erin has a much more exhaustive rundown.