Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why Science’s Loss is a Gain for Data Science

Until recently there haven’t been any formal training pathways to become a Data Scientist. Most Data Scientists come from backgrounds in statistics or computer science. However, while these other career paths develop some of the skills listed above, they typically don’t cover all of them. Statisticians are very strong on the maths and stats side, but generally have weaker programming skills. Computer scientists are very strong in the programming arena, but typically don’t have as strong a comprehension of statistics. Both have good (yet different) data analysis skill sets but can struggle with creative problem solving, which is arguably the hardest skill to teach.

In the last couple of years a number of post-graduate courses (and even a couple of undergraduate degrees) have popped up around the world. However, it will take a few years before the graduates from these courses trickle out into the work force. How will we meet the projected demand in the meantime? At least part of the solution may come from an unexpected source: astronomy and astrophysics.

Modern day astronomers generally have a really good mix of most (if not all) of the skill sets sought after in a Data Scientist. They have a very good knowledge of maths and statistics, are highly computer literate and proficient with at least one programming language (Python being the current favourite). They have a very wide and diverse range of high-level data analysis skills, and are exceptional creative problem solvers (astronomy research is a bit like sitting in Sydney and trying to solve a murder mystery in London using only a pair of binoculars, so creativity and lateral thinking are a necessity). Many also have experience working with high performance computing and parallel processing.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Many men will meet me who are drunkards, lustful, ungrateful, greedy, and excited by the frenzy of ambition.. He will view all these as benignly as a physician does his patients.

- Seneca, On Anger

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

"We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks," said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience

- NASA Press Release

Quote of the Day

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Monday, September 28, 2015

We’ve Got This Whole Unicorn Thing All Wrong!

Arthur C. Clarke famously said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The corollary to that statement is: “But once that technology has been around long enough, no one thinks it is anything special.”


So what makes a real unicorn of this amazing kind?
  • It seems unbelievable at first.
  • It changes the way the world works.
  • It has enormous economic impact that is not all captured by the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who birthed it.
We’ve talked about the “at first unbelievable” part. What about changing the world? Michael Schrage wrote a fascinating ebook for Harvard Business Review entitled Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? He wrote:

“Successful innovators don’t ask customers and clients to do something different; they ask them to become someone different. Facebook asked its users to become more open and sharing with their personal information, even if they might be less extroverted in real life. Amazon turned shoppers into information-rich consumers who could share real-time data and reviews, cross-check prices, and weigh algorithmic recommendations on their path to online purchase. Who shops now without doing at least some digital comparisons of price and performance? Successful innovators ask users to embrace — or at least tolerate — new values, new skills, new behaviors, new vocabulary, new ideas, new expectations, and new aspirations. They transform their customers.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them.

- Steve Jobs

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Adventures in the Anthropocene

Adventures in the Anthropocene, a study of human plundering of Earth’s resources, makes Gaia Vince first female outright winner of Royal Society Winton prize in award’s 28-year history.

The most prestigious science book prize in Britain has been won by a solo female writer for the first time in its 28-year history.

Gaia Vince, a journalist and broadcaster based in London, was named the winner of the 2015 Royal Society Winton prize for Science Books at a ceremony in London on Thursday evening.

The award puts her name at the top of a long list of previous winners that includes some of the greats of science writing, such as Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond, James Gleick and Bill Bryson.

Vince quit her job as an editor at the journal, Nature, to spend more than two years travelling the world to research her book, Adventures in the Anthropocene: a Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made. The word Anthropocene was coined in the 1980s to describe what some regard as a new epoch in Earth’s geological history: one in which humans replace nature as the most influential force on the planet.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I am in the camp that believes in developing artificial neural nets that work really well and then making them more brain-like when you understand the computational advantages of adding an additional brain-like property.

- Geoff Hinton (from his Reddit AMA)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Dolu was an evangelical Catholic, and Hume was a skeptical Protestant, but they had a lot in common—endless curiosity, a love of science and conversation, and, most of all, a sense of humor. Dolu was intelligent, knowledgeable, gregarious, and witty, and certainly “of some parts and learning.” He was just the sort of man Hume would have liked.

And I discovered something else. Hume had said that Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary was an important influence on the Treatise—particularly the entry on Spinoza. So I looked up that entry in the dictionary, which is a brilliant, encyclopedic, 6 million–word mess of footnotes, footnotes to footnotes, references, and cross-references. One of the footnotes in the Spinoza entry was about “oriental philosophers” who, like Spinoza, denied the existence of God and argued for “emptiness.” And it cross-referenced another entry about the monks of Siam, as described by the Jesuit ambassadors. Hume must have been reading about Buddhism, and Dolu’s journey, in the very building where Dolu lived.


I published an article about Hume, Buddhism, and the Jesuits, long on footnotes and short on romance, in an academic journal. As I was doing my research, many unfailingly helpful historians told me that my quirky personal project reflected a much broader trend. Historians have begun to think about the Enlightenment in a newly global way. Those creaky wooden ships carried ideas across the boundaries of continents, languages, and religions just as the Internet does now (although they were a lot slower and perhaps even more perilous). As part of this new global intellectual history, new bibliographies and biographies and translations of Desideri have started to appear, and new links between Eastern and Western philosophy keep emerging.

It’s easy to think of the Enlightenment as the exclusive invention of a few iconoclastic European philosophers. But in a broader sense, the spirit of the Enlightenment, the spirit that both Hume and the Buddha articulated, pervades the story I’ve been telling. The drive to convert and conquer the “false and peculiar” in the name of some metaphysical absolute was certainly there, in the West and in the East. It still is. But the characters in this story were even more strongly driven by the simple desire to know, and the simple thirst for experience. They wanted to know what had happened before and what would happen next, what was on the other shore of the ocean, the other side of the mountain, the other face of the religious or philosophical—or even sexual—divide.


But I learned that they were all much more complicated, unpredictable, and fluid than they appeared at first, even to themselves. Both Hume and the Buddha would have nodded sagely at that thought. Although Dolu and Desideri went to Siam and Tibet to bring the wisdom of Europe to the Buddhists, they also brought back the wisdom of the Buddhists to Europe. Siam and Tibet changed them more than they changed Siam and Tibet. And his two years at La Fl├Ęche undoubtedly changed David Hume.

Hume and the Jesuits and Siam and Tibet changed me as well. I’d always thought Hume was right about the self. But now, for the first time, I felt that he was right.

How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis by Alison Gopnik

Quote of the Day

From 2009 to 2013, 2.3 billion pounds of seafood on average in the U.S. was wasted annually. That's 208 billion grams of protein a year that no one got to eat.

We Leave Half Of All Our Seafood On The Table (And In The Trash)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why the Future of Machine Learning Is a Master Algorithm

What are currently the most important projects or trends in machine learning research that we should be closely following?

As the decades go by, schools of machine learning are ascending or descending. Right now, the connectionists are in descending, while the fastest progress right now is in deep learning. You always read about new research in deep learning, in things like speech recognition or learning from YouTube videos. We’ll see how far that gets — those doing the research think it will get us all the way, while others are skeptical.

A lot of the high-tech companies working in this field are competing to develop both an algorithm that can learn from all the data you produce, as well as the model of you that comes out of that data using those algorithms. It’s an arms race, and we’re going to be seeing more of that. Apple has Siri, Google has Google Now, Microsoft has Cortana, and Facebook has M. What they’re all trying to do is learn about all the data we produce — every last bit of data we put out. We’re gong to see a lot of results from this as we move forward.

Another thing to keep an eye on centers around the symbolist school in machine learning. Those really believe in learning by accumulating knowledge, like by reading text and web. Google’s Knowledge Graph is probably the most famous example of this, but there are a lot of others in most industry and academia, like Tom Mitchell’s NELL (Never Ending Language Learning) project, which continuously learns by reading the web.

- More Here on the new book The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

Quote of the Day

Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.

- Richard Feynman

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

In science, progress is possible. In fact, if one believes in Bayes' theorem, scientific progress is inevitable as predictions are made and as beliefs are tested and refined.

- Nate Silver

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

One area in which human nature will never change: People will congregate around a single strong personality like planets orbiting a sun.

- Robert Greene

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Quote of the Day

Desire often creates paradoxical effects: The more you want something, the more you chase after it, the more it eludes you.

- Robert Greene

Monday, September 21, 2015

Robert Greene on the Utility of Weirdness, Fear, and Pain

Robert Greene is also working on his new book on... yes , Human Nature!!

Quote of the Day

I have not seen anywhere in the world a more obvious malformed person and miracle than myself. Through use and time we become conditioned to anything strange; but the more I become familiar with and know myself, the more my deformity amazes me and the less I understand myself.

- Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector.  Take a taller Tom Cruise, subtract Scientology, school him, and put him on that floor — how well would he have done?  Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance?  How about a smart talk show host?

Inquiring minds wish to know.

- Tyler Cowen

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Farnam Street's insightful post Meditation:Why Bother? based on the book Mindfulness in Plain English is one of the simple and best "arguments" to meditate I have read in a long time.

The more we understand the more flexible and tolerant we become. The more compassionate we can be.

Meditation is a lot like cultivating a new land. To make a field out of a forest, first you have to clear the trees and pull out the stumps. Then you till the soil and fertilize it, sow your seed, and harvest your crops. To cultivate your mind, first you have to clear out the various irritants that are in the way— pull them right out by the root so that they won’t grow back. Then you fertilize: you pump energy and discipline into the mental soil. Then you sow the seed, and harvest your crops of faith, morality, mindfulness, and wisdom.

Meditation sharpens the mind. 

Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power. Then, piece by piece, your own subconscious motives and mechanics become clear to you. Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases, and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion.

Quote of the Day

Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: Not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity, and always to take full note of fortune's habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do. Whatever you have been expecting for some time comes as less of a shock.

- Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hacking the Random Walk Hypothesis

One the best pieces I have read in quantitative finance -  background information, analysis plus python code included as well -  Hacking the Random Walk Hypothesis:

Relating this distinction back to the random walk hypothesis, we should be able to distinguish between the local and the global random walk hypothesis. The global random walk hypothesis would state that in the long run markets appear to be random whereas the local random walk hypothesis would state that for some minimum period time the market will appear to be random. This view of the world is, at least in my opinion, consistent with the empirical observations of anomalies such as the value, momentum, and mean-reversion factors especially when we acknowledge that these factors tend to exhibit cyclical behaviour. In other words, as with the sequence shown earlier, markets exhibit global randomness but during finite periods of time local randomness breaks down.

Unfortunately I have not seen this distinction made anywhere, it is my own opinion on how the empirical observations of individuals beating the market and the random walk hypothesis could be reconciled. Another distinction made by the algorithmic definition of randomness is that  randomness is relative to information.

In the absence of information many systems may appear random, despite the fact that they are deterministic. In statistics this is known as a confounding variable. A good example of this is a random number generator which only appear random in the absence of the seed being used to produce that random sequence. Another, more interesting example is that market returns might appear to be random on their own, but in the presence of earnings reports and other fundamental indicators, that apparent randomness could break down and become non-random.

These two theories are impossible to prove but they are what I personally believe about the markets (in addition to my belief that they are not random, but rather appear random just like many other complex adaptive systems). The remainder of this article leaves the world of theoretical computer science, information theory, and economics behind and focuses instead on what can realistically be achieved, namely the application of statistical tests for randomness to markets in order to identify potential trading opportunities / attractive markets.

Quote of the Day

It is not hard to make money in the market. What is hard to avoid is the alluring tempattion to throw your money away on short, get-rich-quick speculative binges. It is an obvious lesson, but one frequently ignored.

- Burton G. Malkiel, A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dealing With the Rational Fear About GMOs & Global Catastrophe

Nathanael Johnson makes one brilliant point here against the Taleb's The Precautionary Principle paper.

After you get past that categorical issue, we might still say: OK, even if all biology contains the potential for ruin, we should still compare and contrast and try to figure out which has more risk of causing systemic collapse. Absolutely. But now we are in a different realm: Instead of asking an elegantly simple categorical question, we are asking a down-and-dirty relative-risk question. It has shifted from: Avoid at all costs to let’s figure out if X is significantly riskier than Y.

Taleb and company wade into this a bit. They point out that genetically engineered seed is often globally distributed — it goes big and wide far faster than a species evolving in the wilderness would. I agree that the more we depend on just a few crops, the greater the potential for collapse (causing famine, not extinction). But this is really an argument for diversity and against bigness. We should take those problems on directly, rather than trying to get at them sideways through GMOs. Genetic engineering isn’t the cause of homogeneity or large-scale production. If we did away with GMOs, we’d still have top-down engineered seeds distributed across the globe each year. Modern production agriculture — both conventional and organic — is just a long, long way away from farmers moving in a slow, co-evolutionary relationship with their crops.

Quote of the Day

I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man's pride.

- William James

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Antibiotic Resistance: Myths & Misunderstandings

How does antibiotic resistance spread?

In sum–in a lot of different ways. Resistant bacteria, and/or their resistance genes, can enter our environment–our water, our air, our homes via meat products, our schools via asymptomatic colonization of students and teachers–just about anywhere bacteria can go, resistance genes will tag along. Kalliopi Monoyios created this schematic for the above-mentioned paper I wrote earlier this year on livestock-associated Staphyloccocus aureus and its spread, but it really holds for just about any antibiotic-resistant bacterium out there:

And as I noted above, once it’s out there, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. And it can spread in such a multitude of different ways that it complicates tracking of these organisms, and makes it practically impossible to trace farm-origin bacteria back to their host animals. Instead, we have to rely on studies of meat, farmers, water, soil, air, and people living near farms in order to make connections back to these animals.

And this is where even vegetarians aren’t “safe” from these organisms. What happens to much of the manure generated on industrial farms? It’s used as fertilizer on crops, bringing resistant bacteria and resistance genes along with it, as well as into our air when manure is aerosolized (as it is in some, but not all, crop applications) and into our soil and water–and as noted below, antibiotics themselves can also be used in horticulture as well.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

As a matter of fact, when we learnt “knowledge is power”, we were wrong. It has a cap.

Learning does not. Learning is the real power, whereas learning to learn is a super-power, just to quote some of the mavericks of human excellence and ultimate performance.

Artificial Intelligence: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the Real

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quote of the Day

One of the problems I had with travel in general was the ease and speed with which a person could be transported from the familiar to the strange, the moon shot whereby the New York office worker, say, is insinuated overnight into the middle of Africa to gape at gorillas. That was just a way of feeling foreign. The other way, going slowly, crossing national frontiers, scuttling past razor wire with my bag and my passport, was the best way of being reminded that there was a relationship between Here and There, and that a travel narrative was the story of There and Back.

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux

Monday, September 14, 2015

Weeds are Vital to the Existence of Farmland Species

Dr Darren Evans from the University of Hull and who led the research said: “We understand a lot about farmland birds and mammals, but little about the plants and insects that underpin them. In this study, we discovered not only the importance of weed and non-crop species for many farmland animals but that the vast majority of seed-feeding animals on farms are insects, which are often overlooked by conservationists.”

The team of researchers converted seed counts into mass and energy estimates; they found that shed seeds and berries available on a single organic farm have can produce a staggering 560 gigajoules of energy.

Dr Evans added: “We show that an increase in farm management intensity can lead to a decline of up to 19% in overall seed biomass and energy, which is presumably why agricultural intensification causes many farmland birds to suffer a ‘hunger-gap’ in mid-winter. Non-farmed habitats such as woodlands and hedgerows are important for seed resources, but we also show that some farmed areas are too”.

The team predicted that increased farming intensity can have large cascading effects throughout an entire ecosystem, which can indirectly affect animals associated with the seeds.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

It would be nice to think that you can trust powerful people who are aware that power corrupts. But this turns out not to be the case.

- Jon Schwarz, A Tiny Revolution

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Edible Water Bottle

The new spherical form of packaging, called Ooho and described by its makers as “water you can eat”, is biodegradeable, hygenic and costs 1p per unit to make. It is made chiefly from calcium chloride and a seaweed derivative called sodium alginate.

Ooho designer Pierre Paslier, described the product as like a “man-made fruit”, which uses a double membrane to contain water. To carry larger quantities of water, a number of the capsules can be packed into a larger and thicker skin: much like an orange.

He told the Guardian: “At the end of the day you don’t have to eat it. But the edible part shows how natural it is. People are really enthusiastic about the fact that you can create a material for packaging matter that is so harmless that you can eat it.”

He added: “So many things are wrong about plastic bottles: the time they take to decompose, the amount of energy that goes into making them and the fact we are using more and more.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Jobs also used the meetings to enforce focus. At Robert Friedland's farm, his job had been to prune the apple trees so that they would stay strong, and that became a metaphor for his pruning at Apple. Instead of encouraging each group to let product lines proliferate based on marketing considerations, or permitting a thousand ideas to bloom, Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time. " There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him," Cook said. " That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.

- Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

The History of Development in One City Block  by one of the few economist who understand economics - William Easterly & Laura Freschi.

Economic growth is usually analyzed at the national level.

But when we look through the national lens, certain dynamics cannot reach our scope.

The big picture alone may give us an unbalanced view that understates the role of innovation, creative destruction, and other rapid and surprising changes that occur at the local level. Plans happen at the macro-level, but change often happens at the local level.

We live in city spaces that are constant negotiations between the planned order of things and the spontaneity of living. We benefit from planned streets and a planned water supply — but it is easy for too much prescriptive planning to stifle creative solutions, misallocate resources among individuals, and simply react too slowly to rapid change at the very micro-local level.

What if we included the local level in the history of development?

The scope of this study is 486 feet of Greene Street between Prince and Houston Streets in New York City.

- Check out the Greene Street Project to find out what does the economic history of one block of New York City look like?

Quote of the Day

Viv Richards, a man who put the ire into fire, the ow into power and the fucking fury into fucking fury.

- Daniel Harris, Masterly Batting: 100 Great Test Centuries

Friday, September 11, 2015

Quote of the Day

Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.

- Susan Sontag

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Friends at Work? Not So Much

But we may be underestimating the impact of workplace friendships on our happiness — and our effectiveness. Jobs are more satisfying when they provide opportunities to form friendships. Research shows that groups of friends outperform groups of acquaintances in both decision making and effort tasks.

When friends work together, they’re more trusting and committed to one another’s success. That means they share more information and spend more time helping — and as long as they don’t hold back on constructive criticism out of politeness, they make better choices and get more done.

What will make workplaces less transactional? Research suggests that social events aren’t always effective: People don’t mix much at mixers, and at company parties, they mostly bond with similar colleagues.

Whether we bond at work is a personal decision, but it may involve less effort and vulnerability than we realize. Jane E. Dutton, a professor at the University of Michigan, finds that a high-quality connection doesn’t require “a deep or intimate relationship.” A single interaction marked by respect, trust and mutual engagement is enough to generate energy for both parties. However small they appear, those moments of connection can transform a transaction into a relationship.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Our ideal in crafting an argument is a skeptical but friendly audience, suitable to the context. A skeptical audience is questioning of our observations, not swayed by emotional appeals, but not so skeptical as to be dismissive. The ideal audience is curious; humble, but not stupid. It is an idealized version of ourselves at our best.

- Max Shron, Thinking with Data

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Inspired Aamir to be a Better Being?

There are lots of good men who support women, but there are very few who speak up with courage about women’s lives and issues. One who has is Aamir Khan.

Aamir spoke when he really didn’t need to: he had earned great love and admiration in India as a Bollywood star. And then he launched a talk show called “Satyamev Jayate” (“Truth Alone Prevails”), that goes to the heart of the issues Indian women have to deal with. He was famous and successful, with everything to lose—this definitely isn’t something you do for popularity—so he risked a lot.

Why did he do it? There are probably two main reasons, both from his childhood. The first is that when he was 12 or so he loved tennis: he was good at it and often won. And like most children he would brag about winning, but his mother would always ask him about the boys who lost, and tell him to think about them. Her constant concern and questioning made him realise he needed to be compassionate.

The second reason was his best friend in high school. This friend was the boy that got all the top grades and who everyone said would do great things. When he left school, he went on to study social work. Aamir was surprised and touched that this man, who could have done anything, had followed his heart and worked for charities. They remained close and over the years Aamir’s friend kept him in touch with what was going on in the hidden places in India, the things that people don’t like discussing. So when one day a company contacted Aamir with the offer to do a show, he said yes, it was his time to do some good.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

As a rule, news is a distraction from worthy intellectual pursuits.

- Bryan Caplan

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Quote of the Day

Geoff Hinton doesn't need support vectors. He can support   high-dimensional hyperplanes with his pinky finger. A little-known fact about Geoff Hinton: he frequents   Bayesians with prior convictions (with thanks to David Schwab).

- More Here

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

This Year Change Your Mind - Oliver Sacks wrote this piece on 12/31/2010; his message will be relevant for centuries to come.

Neuroplasticity — the brain’s capacity to create new pathways — is a crucial part of recovery for anyone who loses a sense or a cognitive or motor ability. But it can also be part of everyday life for all of us. While it is often true that learning is easier in childhood, neuroscientists now know that the brain does not stop growing, even in our later years. Every time we practice an old skill or learn a new one, existing neural connections are strengthened and, over time, neurons create more connections to other neurons. Even new nerve cells can be generated.

I have had many reports from ordinary people who take up a new sport or a musical instrument in their 50s or 60s, and not only become quite proficient, but derive great joy from doing so. Eliza Bussey, a journalist in her mid-50s who now studies harp at the Peabody conservatory in Baltimore, could not read a note of music a few years ago. In a letter to me, she wrote about what it was like learning to play Handel’s “Passacaille”: “I have felt, for example, my brain and fingers trying to connect, to form new synapses. ... I know that my brain has dramatically changed.” Ms. Bussey is no doubt right: her brain has changed.

Music is an especially powerful shaping force, for listening to and especially playing it engages many different areas of the brain, all of which must work in tandem: from reading musical notation and coordinating fine muscle movements in the hands, to evaluating and expressing rhythm and pitch, to associating music with memories and emotion.

Whether it is by learning a new language, traveling to a new place, developing a passion for beekeeping or simply thinking about an old problem in a new way, all of us can find ways to stimulate our brains to grow, in the coming year and those to follow. Just as physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy body, challenging one’s brain, keeping it active, engaged, flexible and playful, is not only fun. It is essential to cognitive fitness.

Quote of the Day

Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere. The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself.

- Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Friday, September 4, 2015

Quote of the Day

I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

- Red,
Shawshank Redemption

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Algorithm Can Turn Any Picture into a Picasso ...

An algorithm has been created that can turn any picture into a painting, and can learn the style of artists so that it can replicate them.

While some humans have mastered the ability to make visual experiences into paintings, by taking the content and rendering it in a style, scientists haven’t been able to replicate the same kind of artistic ingenuity using robots. But now a group of researchers have put learning computers to work in a way that can create artistic images.The algorithm uses deep neural networks — computers that use a series of layers to learn like humans do. The same kind of technology
was recently shown off by Google, when it turned its robots on themselves and create trippy photos.  
The new painting algorithm takes pictures, understands their style and then combines the two  creating a version of the photograph as drawn by whoever it has been shown the work of.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

In a multi-tasking world where pure focus is harder and harder to come by, paper’s seclusion from the Web is an emerging strength. There’s nothing like holding a sheaf of beautifully designed pages in your hands. The whole world slows down, and your mind with it.

- William Powers, Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Quote of the Day

The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

- Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Secrets of the Creative Brain

So why do these highly gifted people experience mental illness at a higher-than-average rate? Given that (as a group) their family members have higher rates than those that occur in the general population or in the matched comparison group, we must suspect that nature plays a role—that Francis Galton and others were right about the role of hereditary factors in people’s predisposition to both creativity and mental illness. We can only speculate about what those factors might be, but there are some clues in how these people describe themselves and their lifestyles.

One possible contributory factor is a personality style shared by many of my creative subjects. These subjects are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers. (As a popular saying among scientists goes: “When you work at the cutting edge, you are likely to bleed.”) They have to confront doubt and rejection. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety, or lead people to attempt to reduce their discomfort by turning to pain relievers such as alcohol.

I’ve been struck by how many of these people refer to their most creative ideas as “obvious.” Since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubt and resistance when advocating for them. As one artist told me, “The funny thing about [one’s own] talent is that you are blind to it. You just can’t see what it is when you have it … When you have talent and see things in a particular way, you are amazed that other people can’t see it.” Persisting in the face of doubt or rejection, for artists or for scientists, can be a lonely path—one that may also partially explain why some of these people experience mental illness.

- More Here from Nancy Andereasen

Quote of the Day

I took along my original copy of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, hoping to surprise him with the news that he was responsible for my career in brain science.

As the talk started, the host mentioned that ‘it was likely that many of us became neuroscientists because we read Oliver Sacks when we started out’. To my secret disappointment, about half the lecture hall vigorously nodded in response.

The reality is that Sacks’s role in my career was neither surprising nor particularly special. He inspired a generation of neuroscientists to see brain science as a gateway to our common humanity and humanity as central to the scientific study of the brain.

British clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell on Oliver Sacks