Sunday, November 30, 2014

DNA Can Survive Reentry from Space

In a new study published today in PLOS ONE, a team of Swiss and German scientists report that they dotted the exterior grooves of a rocket with fragments of DNA to test the genetic material’s stability in space. Surprisingly, they discovered that some of those building blocks of life remained intact during the hostile conditions of the flight and could pass on genetic information even after exiting and reentering the atmosphere during a roughly 13-minute round trip into space.

The findings suggest that if DNA traveled through space on meteorites, it could have conceivably survived, says lead author Oliver Ullrich of the University of Zurich. Moreover, he says, “DNA attached to a spacecraft has the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by spacecraft.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Sometimes it is the people that no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wisdom Of the Week

Smith notes a number of differences between how we react to grief and joy that is felt by others: There is, however, this difference between grief and joy, that we are generally most disposed to sympathize with small joys and great sorrows.


This asymmetry of joy and sorrow— the ease with which we sympathize with success relative to failure— is Smith’s explanation for why the rich and famous receive more attention and create more happiness than the poor and forgotten. We enjoy the successes of the rich and famous. The poor and forgotten move us briefly and not deeply. For Smith, this explains why rich people flaunt their wealth and poor people hide what they are missing: It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer. Nay, it is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty.


We don’t experience great grief the same way we experience great joy. The joy of others can make us happy, as long as we are not envious. The grief of others has a much more limited effect, even for close friends.

- Excerpts from the excellent book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Russ Roberts

Quote of the Day

In a nation distracted by faction, there are, no doubt, always a few, though commonly but a very few, who preserve their judgment untainted by the general contagion. They seldom amount to more than, here and there, a solitary individual, without any influence, excluded, by his own candour, from the confidence of either party, and who, though he may be one of the wisest, is necessarily, upon that very account, one of the most insignificant men in the society.

- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

First snow - Winter 2014 in NJ !!

Vegetarian food leaves a deep impression on our nature. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind. .

– Albert Einstein

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quote of the Day

It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

– Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quote of the Day

Baidu’s performance at speech recognition has already improved substantially in the past year because of deep learning. About 10% of our web search queries today come in through voice search. Large parts of China are still a developing economy. If you’re illiterate, you can’t type, so enabling users to speak to us is critical for helping them find information. In China, some users are less sophisticated, and you get queries that you just wouldn’t get in the United States. For example, we get queries like, “Hi Baidu, how are you? I ate noodles at a corner store last week and they were delicious. Do you think they’re on sale this weekend?” That’s the query.

- Andrew Ng on Baidu

Monday, November 24, 2014

Quote of the Day

Not responding is a response--we are equally responsible for what we don't do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife handle.

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quote of the Day

Base Commander: Anything I do at this point will only make things worse. Anything! 
Chief of Police: Many people would charge in anyway. 
Base Commander: Oh, the urge to do something during an emergency is very strong. It takes training and discipline to do nothing.

- Freefall by Mark Stanley

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

I'll give you a few examples of what I mean by that. Maybe I'll start with Netflix. The thing about Netflix is that there isn't much on it. There's a paucity of content on it. If you think of any particular movie you might want to see, the chances are it's not available for streaming, that is; that's what I'm talking about. And yet there's this recommendation engine, and the recommendation engine has the effect of serving as a cover to distract you from the fact that there's very little available from it. And yet people accept it as being intelligent, because a lot of what's available is perfectly fine.

The one thing I want to say about this is I'm not blaming Netflix for doing anything bad, because the whole point of Netflix is to deliver theatrical illusions to you, so this is just another layer of theatrical illusion—more power to them. That's them being a good presenter. What's a theater without a barker on the street? That's what it is, and that's fine. But it does contribute, at a macro level, to this overall atmosphere of accepting the algorithms as doing a lot more than they do. In the case of Netflix, the recommendation engine is serving to distract you from the fact that there's not much choice anyway.

There are other cases where the recommendation engine is not serving that function, because there is a lot of choice, and yet there's still no evidence that the recommendations are particularly good. There's no way to compare them to an alternative, so you don't know what might have been. If you want to put the work into it, you can play with that; you can try to erase your history, or have multiple personas on a site to compare them. That's the sort of thing I do, just to get a sense. I've also had a chance to work on the algorithms themselves, on the back side, and they're interesting, but they're vastly, vastly overrated.

I want to get to an even deeper problem, which is that there's no way to tell where the border is between measurement and manipulation in these systems. For instance, if the theory is that you're getting big data by observing a lot of people who make choices, and then you're doing correlations to make suggestions to yet more people, if the preponderance of those people have grown up in the system and are responding to whatever choices it gave them, there's not enough new data coming into it for even the most ideal or intelligent recommendation engine to do anything meaningful.

In other words, the only way for such a system to be legitimate would be for it to have an observatory that could observe in peace, not being sullied by its own recommendations. Otherwise, it simply turns into a system that measures which manipulations work, as opposed to which ones don't work, which is very different from a virginal and empirically careful system that's trying to tell what recommendations would work had it not intervened. That's a pretty clear thing. What's not clear is where the boundary is.


I haven't gone through a whole litany of reasons that the mythology of it AI does damage. There's a whole other problem area that has to do with neuroscience, where if we pretend we understand things before we do, we do damage to science, not just because we raise expectations and then fail to meet them repeatedly, but because we confuse generations of young scientists. Just to be absolutely clear, we don't know how most kinds of thoughts are represented in the brain. We're starting to understand a little bit about some narrow things. That doesn't mean we never will, but we have to be honest about what we understand in the present.

A retort to that caution is that there's some exponential increase in our understanding, so we can predict that we'll understand everything soon. To me, that's crazy, because we don't know what the goal is. We don't know what the scale of achieving the goal would be... So to say, "Well, just because I'm accelerating, I know I'll reach my goal soon," is absurd if you don't know the basic geography which you're traversing. As impressive as your acceleration might be, reality can also be impressive in the obstacles and the challenges it puts up. We just have no idea.

This is something I've called, in the past, "premature mystery reduction," and it's a reflection of poor scientific mental discipline. You have to be able to accept what your ignorances are in order to do good science. To reject your own ignorance just casts you into a silly state where you're a lesser scientist. I don't see that so much in the neuroscience field, but it comes from the computer world so much, and the computer world is so influential because it has so much money and influence that it does start to bleed over into all kinds of other things. A great example is the Human Brain Project in Europe, which is a lot of public money going into science that's very influenced by this point of view, and it has upset some in the neuroscience community for precisely the reason I described.

- Jaron Lanier, The Myth Of AI

Quote of the Day

People often ask, "What is the single most important environmental population problem facing the world today?" A flip answer would be, "The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!

- Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

In fiction, villains start with some great scheme to do something awesome, and that immediately makes them fascinating to the reader. The hero - if you're doing this poorly - sits at home and just waits for the villain to do something awesome so they can respond. This is a problem. The solution is for your heroes to have a great and awesome scheme also, that just isn't evil.

- Brandon Sanderson

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Extreme Wealth Is Bad for Everyone - Especially the Wealthy

Another brilliant piece by Mike Lewis - Read the whole thing here:

Jack Kenney’s assault on teenaged American inequality began at breakfast the first morning. The bell clanged early, and the kids all rolled out of their old stained bunk beds, scratched their fresh mosquito bites, and crawled to the dining hall. On each table were small boxes of cereal, enough for each kid to have one box, but not enough that everyone could have the brand of cereal he wanted. There were Fruit Loops and Cheerios, but also more than a few boxes of the deadly dark bran stuff consumed willingly only by old people suffering from constipation. On the second morning, when the breakfast bell clanged, a mad footrace ensued. Kids sprung from their bunks and shot from cabins in the New Hampshire woods to the dining hall. The winners got the Fruit Loops, the losers a laxative. By the third morning, it was clear that, in the race to the Fruit Loops, some kids had a natural advantage. They were bigger and faster; or their cabins were closer to the dining hall; or they just had that special knack some people have for getting whatever they want. Some kids would always get the Fruit Loops, and others would always get the laxative. Life was now officially unfair.

After that third breakfast, Kenney called an assembly on a hill overlooking a tennis court. He was unkempt and a bit odd; wisps of gray hair crossed his forehead and he looked as if he hadn’t bathed in a week. He was also kind and gentle and funny, and kids instantly sensed that he was worth listening to, and wanted to hear what he had to say. “You all live in important places surrounded by important people,” he’d begin. “When I’m in the big city, I never understand the faces of the people, especially the people who want to be successful. They look so worried! So unsatisfied!” Here his eyes closed shut and his hands became lobster claws, pinching and grasping the air in front of him. “In the city you see people grasping, grasping, grasping. Taking, taking, taking. And it must be so hard! To be always grasping-grasping, and taking-taking. But no matter how much they have, they never have enough. They’re still worried. About what they don’t have. They’re always empty.” Eyes closed, talking as much to himself as to us, he described the life of not-so-quiet desperation until every kid on the hill wondered what this had to do with the two-handed backhand. Then he opened his eyes and finished: “You have a choice. You don’t realize it, but you have a choice. You can be a giver or you can be a taker. You can get filled up or empty. You make that choice every day. You make that choice at breakfast when you rush to grab the cereal you want so others can’t have what they want.” And then he moved on to why no one should ever hit a two-handed backhandwhile every kid on the hill squirmed and reddened and glanced at each other, wondering if everyone else realized what an asshole he’d been.

On the fourth morning, no one ate the Fruit Loops. Kids were thrusting the colorful boxes at each other and leaping on the constipation cereal like war heroes jumping on hand grenades. In a stroke, the texture of life in this tennis camp had changed, from a chapter out of Lord of the Flies to the feeling between the lines of Walden. Even the most fantastically selfish kids did what they could to contribute to the general welfare of the place, and there was not a shred of doubt that everyone felt happier for it. The distinction between haves and have-nots, winners and losers, wasn’t entirely gone, of course. But it became less important than this other distinction, between the givers and the takers.

Quote of the Day

I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.

- Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quote of the Day

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

- Robert Frost

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

- Apple Inc.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

I have a slightly different cut on the Snowden revelations. I think it shows the NSA more as the Keystone Cops than as Big Brother. What is striking to me is how little James Bond-like stuff was going on and how little they did with all this information. That’s why I think, in some ways, the NSA is more in this anti-technological zone where they don’t know what to do with the data they find. So they just hoover up all the data, all over the world. I think it was news to Obama that he was tapping into [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel’s cell phone.

One way to think about this is that if the NSA bureaucracy actually knew what they were doing, they would probably need way less information. What’s shocking about Snowden is how much information they had and how little they did with it.

- Peter Thiel

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Inception is still my favorite Christopher Nolan movie but I enjoyed this one as well. Its refreshing to see an Astrophysics movie sans AI.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas

A Defense of Reason

At this period ... of wreck and ruin, the one power that can save, can heal, can fortify, is clear and intelligent thought,” the editors of The New Republic wrote in 1915, in a promotional letter to its first subscribers “to state again the general purposes of the paper.” The statement is not as banal as it may seem. There are people who prefer ardent thought to clear thought, and loyal thought to strict thought. There are people who mistrust thought altogether and prefer the unarguable authenticities of the heart—the individual heart and the collective heart. There are people who regard thought, at least as the editors of The New Republic conceived it, and as the “public reason” of which philosophers now speak, as an activity of an elite; and there is some sociological truth to their misgiving, though the social provenance of an idea says nothing about its value. (Hardship may make one wise, but it does not make one smart.) Yet the ideal of “clear and intelligent thought,” stripped of its condescension and its indifference to the non-rational dimensions of human life, deserves to be defended. We need not be a nation of intellectuals, but we must not be a nation of idiots.


The Internet is surely the grandest experiment ever conducted in meaningful communication in the mass. But like all revolutions, the digital revolution prefers to ignore its continuities with what came before it. For example: the question of the quality of thinking on the new platforms is no different from the question of the quality of thinking on the old platforms. Lies and errors must still be recognized and refuted, not least because they travel farther now. There is no escape from the toils of individual judgment.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

You were born and with you endless possibilities, very few ever to be realized.  It's okay.  Life was never about what you could do, but what you would do.

- Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

In a 60 Minutes interview with Alabama Football Coach, Nick Saban, he was quoted as saying, “Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.” This simple statement had a big impact on my perspective of people and explains why certain colleagues will never get along.   As a high achiever myself, though my intentions and ethics are sound, the simple fact that I am a high achiever is what turns off those who accept mediocrity or are not overly ambitious.

I’ve learned this the hard way throughout my career.   Regardless of how much you try to genuinely elevate one’s performance and/or have the desire to help them see the value of exceeding performance expectations, if they are not naturally wired to thrive, one’s efforts may be short-lived and unappreciated.

Personality conflicts also can lead to envy. People oftentimes are so shortsighted that they fail to see the opportunity in associating themselves with people that can help them learn and/or become better. Instead, they view this potential opportunity as a threat and default towards feeling bitter about the situation rather than seeing it as a chance to improve themselves.   Unfortunately, many people are still looking for recognition (unsustainable short-term gain) rather than respect (sustainable long-term benefit).

In the end, I believe there are four types of people that we all deal with both in and outside of the workplace: Leaders, Lifters, Loafers and Leeches.

- these simple insights was via here

Quote of the Day

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ambient Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has received lots of attention, but a new term called Ambient Intelligence (AmI) is emerging as a cornerstone of the Internet of Things [KC].

The term is a relatively unknown, but not all that new. AmI dates back 16 years—just a few years after the Internet saw its first widespread commercial adoption—when the concept first emerged as a collection of intelligent electronic environments, responsive and sensitive and to our desires, requirements, and needs. It entails ubiquitous sensors embedded into every nook and cranny of our world, heavily populated by gadgets and systems that are capable of powerful capabilities nano- bio- information and communication technology (NBIC).

AmI got its real start in 1998 at Royal Philips of The Netherlands. A consortium of individuals, including Eli Zelkha and Brian Epstein of Palo Alto Ventures (who, with Simon Birrell, coined the name ‘Ambient Intelligence’), described it as “a world where homes will have a distributed intelligent network of devices that provide us with information, communication and entertainment.”

  • Sensing. The first element that needs to be in place is the sensor—and not just any sensor. With AmI the network must be able to respond to real-world stimulus. Components must integrate agile agents that perceive and respond intelligently, not simply pick from a series of scenarios in a data base full of theoretical algorithms (which wouldn’t be realistic for dust, or micro-type sensors with limited resources anyway).
  • Modeling. One of the features that AmI integrates is the ability to differentiate between general computing algorithms and specific ones that can adapt to or learn about the user. Such “learning” systems do exist and are fairly adept at do this. Even so, the problem with these systems is that, to do it with any amount of efficiency. They require a deep well of hardware and software resources. That works in many cases, and will work to some degree in AmI. Agile systems envisioned in AmI will need to be able to do this, efficiently and accurately in a small form factor, with the ability to refine and adapt itself on the fly.
  • Prediction and recognition. These arguably are the two top elements of reasoning in AmI environments. Prediction is accomplished by attestation, from which comes intelligence, which in turn can be used for recognition and, ultimately, prediction. Theoretically, sufficient reiterations of this cycle will increase the intelligence within the networks to near human capability.
  • Decision Making. Part of the AmI platform is AI and fuzzy logic. Neural networks are a key element in the decision-making process. Temporal reasoning can be implemented in conjunction with rule-based algorithms to perform any number of functions; from identifying safety concerns to analyzing medical data and adjusting medications, to and diet planning based upon wearable sensor data, to environmental comfort settings.
  • Temporal and Spatial Components. The Support Elements. These are crucial elements of AI. There is a wide collection of algorithms that have been developed and honed to deal with the various segments of spatial, temporal, and spatio-temporal reasoning. Such algorithms are another element of the network that allows AmI to understanding of the activities in an AmI application.
- More Here

Quote of the Day

During my few weeks of visits to Second Life, I met many other avatars in all manner of simulated environments and activities. What struck me was how many of these individuals—all in attractive bodies—given the opportunity to be and do anything they might imagine, chose to spend their time in bars and coffee shops and dance halls, chatting in a manner indistinguishable from what you’d expect to hear in those settings. When I asked people about these choices, I took from their answers that they enjoyed the chance in Second Life to be themselves but get it right, to be themselves only better, to have a sense that they were living their lives by choice and without a sense of failure or shame. Perhaps the illusion of control is more exciting than the specifics of the fantasy.

Lie Down on the Couch,  Virtually

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

A busy bastard can’t stop finding things to do. He never rests and as a result, his staff never rests. He’s always making work that expands to fill whatever time is available. The point I make in my book is: Be busy, work hard, but don’t become so busy that you cut out other things in life, like family and recreation and hobbies. And never be so busy that you’re not giving your staff and your followers enough time to do the same thing.

- Colin Powell, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Joan Clarke, Alan Turing & Enigma Code - The Imagination Game

Joan Clarke's ingenious work as a codebreaker during WW2 saved countless lives, and her talents were formidable enough to command the respect of some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, despite the sexism of the time.

But while Bletchley Park hero Alan Turing - who was punished by a post-war society where homosexuality was illegal and died at 41 - has been treated more kindly by history, the same cannot yet be said for Clarke.

The only woman to work in the nerve centre of the quest to crack German Enigma ciphers, Clarke rose to deputy head of Hut 8, and would be its longest-serving member.

She was also Turing's lifelong friend and confidante and, briefly, his fiancée.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Adam Smith was not a big fan of the pursuit of fame and fortune. His view of what we truly want, of what really makes us happy, cuts to the core of things. It takes him only twelve words to get to the heart of the matter: Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.

- Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.

- Nick Saban, Alabama Football Coach

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself. I need not think, if I can only pay - others will easily undertake the irksome work for me.

That the step to competence is held to be very dangerous by the far greater portion of mankind...

- Immanuel Kant, An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quote of the Day

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.

- James Allen

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

He found a major difference between the two species. By the time a baby begins to point, at about nine months of age, she has already made several sophisticated cognitive leaps. When she points at a puppy and looks at you, she knows that her perspective may be different from yours (you haven’t noticed the pup), and she wants to share her information—doggie!—with you.

“We naturally inform people of things that are interesting or useful to them,” Tomasello says. “That’s unusual. Other animals don’t do that.” Pointing is an attempt to change your mental state. It is also a request for a joint experience: She wants you to look at the dog with her.

Chimps, by contrast, do not point things out to each other. Captive chimps will point for humans, but it’s to make a demand rather than to share information: I want that! Open the door! They do not understand informational human pointing, because they do not expect anyone to share information with them. In one of Tomasello’s experiments, food is hidden in one of two buckets. Even if the experimenter points to where it is, the chimp still chooses randomly. “It’s absolutely surprising,” Tomasello says. “They just don’t seem to get it.”

In parallel experiments, children as young as 12 months have no trouble understanding an adult pointing a finger at a hidden reward. To understand pointing, Tomasello posits, you must form a “we intention,” a shared goal that both of you will pay attention to the same thing. Chimps don’t point because they don’t think in terms of “we.” They think in terms of “me.” “Cooperatively informing them of the location of food does not compute,” he says. The chimpanzee world is egocentric: Every chimp for himself.


Basically, we domesticated ourselves. When collaborating to find food became essential because of changes in the climate or changes in the competition, we became less aggressive and more willing to share. Aggressive individuals, unwilling to cooperate, would starve and die out. Now that our temperaments allowed us to put our minds together, we were able to develop communal inventions like language and culture, and sustain these innovations by teaching and imitating one another. The ability to crystallize knowledge in inventions and traditions, Tomasello says, is what turned the ordinary primate mind into an extraordinary human one.


Ultimately, Tomasello’s research on human nature arrives at a paradox: our minds are the product of competitive intelligence and cooperative wisdom, our behavior a blend of brotherly love and hostility toward out-groups. Confronted by this paradox, the ugly side—the fact that humans compete, fight, and kill each other in wars—dismays most people, Tomasello says. And he agrees that our tendency to distrust outsiders—lending itself to prejudice, violence, and hate—should not be discounted or underestimated. But he says he is optimistic. In the end, what stands out more is our exceptional capacity for generosity and mutual trust, those moments in which we act like no species that has ever come before us.

Cooperation Is What Makes Us Human

Quote of the Day

The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject... And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them... Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.

- Seneca, Natural Questions

Friday, November 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …

- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quote of the Day

While there are problems with what I have proposed, they should be compared to the existing alternatives, not to abstract utopias.

- Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quote of the Day

Over the years, I’ve learned that a confident person doesn’t concentrate or focus on their weaknesses – they maximize their strengths.

- Joyce Meyer

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Help 94 Dogs Before This Winter

Mathematics and Climate

Review of the new book Mathematics and Climate by H. Kaper and H. Engler:

This is an ambitious book. Its purpose is to “introduce students to mathematically interesting topics from climate science.” The “target audience” is “advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students in mathematics.” Climate science is a hot subject because of global warming, but the book's interest is broader.

I approached the book with the question, could I use it to teach an undergraduate course? I'll first try to give an idea what is in the book, then come back to this question.

The book has two intertwined tracks: introduce relevant areas of mathematics and statistics, and show how they are used in research papers and practice in climate science. The mathematical and statistical areas presented include:

  • Qualitative theory of ODEs.
  • Bifurcation theory.
  • Linear regression, including analysis of residuals.
  • Fourier analysis, including the fast Fourier transform.
  • Spectral analysis using Legendre polynomials.
  • Equations of hydrodynamics in the presence of the Coriolis effect, and shallow water approximations.
  • Using spectral analysis to reduce a PDE to a system of ODEs.
  • Delay differential equations.
  • Advection-diffusion equations.
  • Statistics of extreme events.
  • Data assimilation, which requires an excursion into multivariate Bayesian statistics.
These topics are presented in chapters or parts of chapters that in some cases amount to mini beginning courses. Whew!

Payoffs from climate science include:

  • Simple conceptual models that use small systems of ODEs to represent (1) the earth's energy budget, and (2) transfer of heat and salt between ocean basins (thermohaline circulation).
  • The Lorenz system.
  • Use of regression to understand the atmospheric carbon dioxide record from Mauna Loa Volcano on the island of Hawaii and to treat times series from changing sources, for example when a temperature gauge is moved.
  • Milankovitch's theory of how changes in the earth's orbital parameters cause ice ages, which can now be tested using spectral analysis of reconstructed historical temperature data from ice cores and long-time numerical integration of a model of the solar system.
  • A model for the Earth's temperature profile by latitude.
  • Two models, using ODEs and delay differential equations respectively, for the El Nino-Southern Oscillation.
  • Determination of the dependence of the fractal dimension of Arctic melt ponds on their area.
  • A PDE model for algal blooms.
  • Use of order statistics and related ideas to determine whether the recent spate of high-temperature years is meaningful or random.

Quote of the Day

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

- William Faulkner

Monday, November 3, 2014

Quote of the Day

The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better.

- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

Tim Cook - This man has great character !!

Halloween - A Story by Google AI

Quote of the Day

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

- Stephen R. Covey