Sunday, January 31, 2016

Psychology of Learning

Description of Learning

Learning is a psychological concept that cuts across psychology and education. It occupies a very important place in our lives. Most of what we do or do not do is influenced by what we learn and how we have learnt it.

To the layman, ‘learning’ is, getting to know something he does not know. Just like Oxiedien (1968:5) puts it, that ‘we learn what we are taught (that is from a layman’s view). Let us look at the term learning from this scenario. While a child is approaching a burning match stick, he/she gets burnt and withdraws. The next the when he/she faces a burning match stick, he/she wastes no time in withdrawing him/herself away. He /she learns to avoid not only the burning match stick but also all burning things.. When this happens, we say that the child has learnt that if one touches a flame, one gets burnt. In this way, we say that direct or indirect experience brings a change in the behaviour of an individual which the term learning is all about. Learning broadly speaking stands for all the changes and modifications in the behaviour of the individual which he/she undergoes from birth till death.

Here we will look at some other descriptions of the concept of learning. You will probably have come across the word ‘learning’ before, and you may have your own idea of what learning is all about. There are a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings as to what learning is exactly, and for this reason we will consider why this is so and then examine some additional descriptions of this subject area.


The need for study of psychology of learning include the following:

  • To understand Individual differences: There is the need to understand the individual differences in learning among learners so that the teaching methods selected by the teacher can care take
  • care of the individual differences existing among the learners.
  • To master the concept of motivation: There is the need for the teacher to master the concept of motivation developed by various theorists of learning in order to understand the needs and motives of the learners at different age levels and be able to organize those activities which create interest and motivation in them.
  • To understand the process of remembering and forgetting: The teacher needs to understand the process of remembering and forgetting so that he can utilize efficient methods to minimize the percentage of forgetfulness.
  • To help the learner to transfer skills: With the knowledge gained from the study of psychology of learning, the teacher can help the learners to transfer skills and information acquired in classroom to life situations outside the school.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.

- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

During the seventies and eighties, he remained “hunched over a sort of periscope, peering down a little green tube,” as he wrote in an unpublished memoir, trying to answer his own question: How does a neuron’s axon find its way to its appropriate target? Neurons are only a portion of what is cumulatively called a “nerve bundle”; they carry the electric impulses that govern muscle contraction or register sensation. But neurons are surrounded by various kinds of ancillary cell, grouped under the name of glia (modern Latin for “glue”). Glial cells vastly outnumber nerve cells. When Raisman began investigating paralysis, no one knew what the glial cells did, though there were hints that their role was significant. “Einstein’s brain had an unusually high proportion of glial cells,” he points out. “Could it be a coincidence? We’d have to kill a lot of geniuses to find out.”
At the time, glial cells were considered the brain’s equivalent of junk DNA, and most neuroanatomists were not interested in them. They seemed to hold little promise in spinal-cord repair; in fact, they appeared to play a contrary role. After an injury, a chain of responses takes place in the spine: broken blood vessels swell, killing off neurons that end up squeezed within the cage of the vertebrae. Other neurons, sensing that the central nervous system has been breached, commit suicide; still others sprout new axons that struggle to re√ęstablish severed connections. Glial cells appear to hinder this regeneration process: they rush to create a physical barrier, sealing the spinal cord with scar tissue that neurons cannot penetrate. According to many researchers, the glial cells that form the scar are toxic to growing nerves.
But Raisman realized that there is one part of the central nervous system where glial cells encourage regeneration: in the nerves that connect the nose to the brain. The nerves of the nasal cavity regrow when they are damaged or cut, and this healing is directed by special glial cells, which usher neurons along the path from the nose membrane to the brain. When nerves in the nose die, after three months or so, new ones spring forth, allowing people to maintain the ability to smell. In the nineteen-nineties, Raisman damaged the spines of rats with a tiny needle heated at the tip, and then inserted the special glial cells—olfactory ensheathing cells—at the site of the wound, to see what would happen.
As I sat in his corridor, he showed me a short movie that he had made some years ago. It features footage of an unnamed white rat crosscut with video of his granddaughter Amy when she was about a year old. (He noted that his daughter, Ruth, wasn’t thrilled about the juxtaposition.) “Off you go, Amy,” Raisman said to the screen, clicking the play button with excitement. In the video, the toddler crawls up the stairs of her house. But it is not Amy whose crawling you are meant to be excited about; it is the rat that is climbing in subsequent images. Raisman had severed the nerve in its spine that controlled its front left paw, then introduced olfactory ensheathing cells to heal the wound. The movie shows the rat before and after the procedure. In the first shot, the rat, favoring its left paw, is unable to grasp the bars of its cage as it tries to climb out. In the second shot, the rat scampers up the side of the cage “with aplomb,” as Raisman put it to me. He then recalled the story of the day he had noticed the animal’s striking recovery. One evening at midnight, he had gone to visit the lab’s rat enclosure—“Rats are more active in the night,” he explained—and held out a bit of crushed Chinese egg noodles. “It put its paw right out and took the food, and realized it could do it, and I realized we had done it,” he says. “To the best of my knowledge, it was the first evidence ever that you could get spinal reconnection.” The pleasure of that moment hadn’t dimmed in almost twenty years. “That rat convinced me,” he says. “That was the eureka moment, I would say, of my existence.”


In April, 2012, Tabakow, with his medical team, opened up Fidyka’s skull and removed part of his olfactory bulb. The human sense of smell is not very acute, so the olfactory bulb is relatively small—about the size of a sunflower seed. (A goat’s is larger.) Tabakow and his associates next sliced the extracted tissue into two-millimetre sections, isolated the olfactory ensheathing cells, and then gave them almost two weeks to subdivide, in order to have enough cells—half a million—for the operation. Then he opened Fidyka’s spine around the T9 vertebra and made almost a hundred microinjections to situate the cells above and below the wound. He placed more of the cells onto a strip of nerve tissue that he’d extracted from Fidyka’s lower leg and inserted in his spine, in order to help span the gap in his cord. Tabakow closed the incision, and within a few weeks his patient was beginning his real rehabilitation.

A paraplegic undergoes pioneering surgery

Quote of the Day

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, January 29, 2016

How The Artificial Intelligence Revolution Was Born In A Vancouver Hotel

Mel Silverman walked over to a whiteboard and picked up a marker, listing all the academic disciplines that the band of renegade scientists asking him for money represented.

Assembled there 12 years ago at Vancouver’s Metropolitan Hotel was a group of about 15 people, ranging from computer scientists to biologists to experimental engineers. What united them was their interest in a concept that was, at the time, generally perceived as the domain of the lunatic fringe.

They believed it was possible to teach a machine to learn the same way a child does, through artificial neural networks that mimic the function of the human brain. In the process of teaching a machine to learn like a human, they figured there was likely a lot to discover about how humans learn as well.

The consensus among most computer scientists at the time was that this was nuts. The way to get a computer to do something was to program it to do it, not ask it to learn the task itself. If he had been a computer scientist, Silverman probably would have thanked them for their time and moved on.

But Silverman, who was in charge of recommending what programs to green light at the not-for-profit, mostly publicly funded Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), was a physician by training — a profession he says has a tendency to question authority. He had noticed how the group went quiet and listened reverently when Geoffrey Hinton, a University of Toronto researcher lured to Canada by CIFAR decades earlier, spoke. He liked the ambitious scope of the problem they were trying to tackle and the persistence of the group willing to risk professional ostracism to tackle it.


“He said, ‘Well, we’re kind of weird,’” Silverman recalled. “If CIFAR is looking for a high-risk, adventurous kind of group that’s willing to step out of its usual areas of comfort, this is the group.’ I said, ‘OK. That sounds cool.’”

Silverman convinced CIFAR to give that band of self-identified weirdoes about $10 million over 10 years, making it pretty much the only organization at the time to back the research of artificial neural networks.

Today, it’s clear they were anything but nuts.

The world’s biggest tech companies are currently spending billions of dollars exploring the technology, which researchers have used to train computers to recognize handwritten characters, understand speech and even identify cats in YouTube videos.

Neural networks are being used to help doctors interpret medical images and give better treatment advice. They’re making machines employers can teach to do factory work. Just about any industry that wants to make the best possible use of vast amounts of data could potentially benefit from artificial intelligence.

As a research project, CIFAR’s mostly taxpayer-funder 2004 program has clearly been a winner.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.

- Leo Szilard

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quote of the Day

As it seems to me, in Perl you have to be an expert to correctly make a nested data structure like, say, a list of hashes of instances. In Python, you have to be an idiot not to be able to do it, because you just write it down.

- Peter Norvig

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Rise of the Artificially Intelligent Hedge Fund

The system allows the company to adjust certain risk settings, says chief science officer Babak Hodjat, who was part of the team that built Siri before the digital assistant was acquired by Apple. But otherwise, it operates without human help. “It automatically authors a strategy, and it gives us commands,” Hodjat says. “It says: ‘Buy this much now, with this instrument, using this particular order type.’ It also tells us when to exit, reduce exposure, and that kind of stuff.”

According to Hodjat, the system grabs unused computer power from “millions” of computer processors inside data centers, Internet cafes, and computer gaming centers operated by various companies in Asia and elsewhere. Its software engine, meanwhile, is based on evolutionary computation—the same genetics-inspired technique that plays into Aidyia’s system.

In the simplest terms, this means it creates a large and random collection of digital stock traders and tests their performance on historical stock data. After picking the best performers, it then uses their “genes” to create a new set of superior traders. And the process repeats. Eventually, the system homes in on a digital trader that can successfully operate on its own. “Over thousands of generations, trillions and trillions of ‘beings’ compete and thrive or die,” Blondeau says, “and eventually, you get a population of smart traders you can actually deploy.”


Whatever methods are used, some question whether AI can really succeed on Wall Street. Even if one fund achieves success with AI, the risk is that others will duplicate the system and thus undermine its success. If a large portion of the market behaves in the same way, it changes the market. “I’m a bit skeptical that AI can truly figure this out,” Carlson says. “If someone finds a trick that works, not only will other funds latch on to it but other investors will pour money into. It’s really hard to envision a situation where it doesn’t just get arbitraged away.”

Goertzel sees this risk. That’s why Aidyia is using not just evolutionary computation but a wide range of technologies. And if others imitate the company’s methods, it will embrace other types of machine learning. The whole idea is to do something no other human—and no other machine—is doing. “Finance is a domain where you benefit not just from being smart,” Goertzel says, “but from being smart in a different way from others.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.' Easier said than done for the vast majority of stock traders. ... On every stock trade there is someone who wants to sell and someone who wants to buy, at least at a particular price. ...the person who is selling thinks that she is getting out just in time while the person buying thinks that he is about to make good money.

... The truth is that the market doesn't really reflect some magical perfect valuation of a stock under the efficient market hypothesis. It reflects the mass consensus of how actual individual investors value the stock. It is the sum total of everyone's hopes and fears...

- M.E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Bye Marvin Minsky

“Marvin was one of the very few people in computing whose visions and perspectives liberated the computer from being a glorified adding machine to start to realize its destiny as one of the most powerful amplifiers for human endeavors in history,” said Alan Kay, a computer scientist and a friend and colleague of Professor Minsky’s.

Fascinated since his undergraduate days at Harvard by the mysteries of human intelligence and thinking, Professor Minsky saw no difference between the thinking processes of humans and those of machines. Beginning in the early 1950s, he worked on computational ideas to characterize human psychological processes and produced theories on how to endow machines with intelligence.

Professor Minsky, in 1959, co-founded the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Project (later the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) with his colleague John McCarthy, who is credited with coining the term “artificial intelligence.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The men on the trading floor may not have been to school, but they have Ph.D.’s in man’s ignorance.

- Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker

Monday, January 25, 2016

What I've Been Reading

The Simple Man's Burden by Vergil Den. Ever since I read the review on Farnam Street, I have been waiting to read this book. A brilliant consolation and voice of sanity for all of us working inside the "complex". To top it off, Vergil is a big fan of Taleb.

Chapter 6 is the most hilarious don't miss it plus as a bonus, Vergil recommends book at the end of each chapter.
  • First, ESs are not stupid individuals (incompetent and ignorant in certain matters but not wholly stupid). They can be in fact exceedingly intelligent. This can be book smart and/or people smart. But it is this very intelligence that is the facade. The paradox is that intelligent people can be exceedingly blind to their own limits of knowledge. So in other words, we are all biased in what we think we know and what we think we do not know. ESs raise the bar – they significantly overestimate what they think they know and significantly underestimate what they think they do not know.
  • Second, ESs are able to verbally articulate their thoughts well. That is not to say the thoughts themselves are logical or harmonious. Rather, they have an uncanny ability to convey their thoughts verbally in a convincing manner – usually by story telling. These narrative fallacies are convincing because the true complexities are hidden, and the message is delivered in a way to connect to the individual. Some may argue that this is the sign of a skilled presenter; however, I think it is the mark of a snake oil salesman. By oversimplifying the problem and the solution, a false premise is created. This is the angst of many project teams who need to deliver on a salesman’s promise. I suspect this is the cause of many project failures.
  • Finally, ESs always have an answer, even when they do not know the correct one. They will never answer that they do not know and will construct elaborate responses to guise this fact. Depending on the situation and the audience, they will either overgeneralize (typically when talking with clients or bosses) or verbally attack with insults (typically when talking with peers and subordinates).

Quote of the Day

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Paradox of Human Warfare Explained

Over the last couple decades, the field of cultural evolution has developed a game-changing idea—the theory of cultural group selection. Posited originally by Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd 1, and honed further by Joseph Henrich, the theory reveals that the cultural capacity of humans creates conditions for group selection to occur. Not genetic group selection, but selection among culturally distinct groups. Peter Turchin has applied this theory to answer questions of human history such as why empires rise and fall, and how cooperative states emerged. My work on Turkana warfare provides empirical support for cultural group selection in a non-state society. Together with Matthew Zefferman I’ve posited that cultural group selection can subsume existing evolutionary theories of warfare and account for many of the bizarre features of human warfare.

There is more to be done to evaluate the theory of cultural group selection…but as of now the theory tells us that the moral sphere of humans readily extends to include culturally similar people. This is useful because it implies that we could possibly expand the moral sphere by creating perceptions of cultural similarity. Finding the common thread that connects disparate cultures may not be just a clich√©, but an evolutionarily backed-up path to peace.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Here are a few of Abbott's reasons for why mathematics is reasonably ineffective, which are largely based on the non-Platonist viewpoint that math is a human invention:
  • Mathematics appears to be successful because we cherry-pick the problems for which we have found a way to apply mathematics. There have likely been millions of failed mathematical models, but nobody pays attention to them. ("A genius," Abbott writes, "is merely one who has a great idea, but has the common sense to keep quiet about his other thousand insane thoughts.")
  • Our application of mathematics changes at different scales. For example, in the 1970s when transistor lengths were on the order of micrometers, engineers could describe transistor behavior using elegant equations. Today's submicrometer transistors involve complicated effects that the earlier models neglected, so engineers have turned to computer simulation software to model smaller transistors. A more effective formula would describe transistors at all scales, but such a compact formula does not exist.
  • Although our models appear to apply to all timescales, we perhaps create descriptions biased by the length of our human lifespans. For example, we see the Sun as an energy source for our planet, but if the human lifespan were as long as the universe, perhaps the Sun would appear to be a short-lived fluctuation that rapidly brings our planet into thermal equilibrium with itself as it "blasts" into a red giant. From this perspective, the Earth is not extracting useful net energy from the Sun.
  • Even counting has its limits. When counting bananas, for example, at some point the number of bananas will be so large that the gravitational pull of all the bananas draws them into a black hole. At some point, we can no longer rely on numbers to count.
  • And what about the concept of integers in the first place? That is, where does one banana end and the next begin? While we think we know visually, we do not have a formal mathematical definition. To take this to its logical extreme, if humans were not solid but gaseous and lived in the clouds, counting discrete objects would not be so obvious. Thus axioms based on the notion of simple counting are not innate to our universe, but are a human construct. There is then no guarantee that the mathematical descriptions we create will be universally applicable.
For Abbott, these points and many others that he makes in his paper show that mathematics is not a miraculous discovery that fits reality with incomprehensible regularity. In the end, mathematics is a human invention that is useful, limited, and works about as well as expected.

For those who seek something more practical out of such a discussion, Abbott explains that this understanding can allow for greater freedom of thought. One example is an improvement of vector operations. The current method involves dot and cross products, "a rather clunky" tool that does not generalize to higher dimensions. Lately there has been a renewed interest in an alternative approach called geometric algebra, which overcomes many of the limitations of dot and cross products and can be extended to higher dimensions.

- Is mathematics an effective way to describe the world?

Quote of the Day

“… there’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special, even though you know you’re not.”

- Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Friday, January 22, 2016

Python TrumpScript !

Sam Shadwell and Chris Brown are junior computer science majors at Rice University. Last weekend, they participated in HackRice, a hackathon. Sam and Chris, together with Dan Korn and Cannon Lewis, spent the first day brainstorming, their first evening drunk-brainstorming, and then coded for a total of 20 hours.

The end result? TrumpScript, a version of the programming language Python, that is designed to act like Donald Trump. And, of course, to “Make Python Great Again.”

- More Here and checkout the code @ github

Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World

Sebastian Thrun in this new movie Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World

Quote of the Day

To attempt to increase the wealth of any country, either by introducing or by detaining in it an unnecessary quantity of gold and silver, is as absurd as it would be to attempt to increase the good cheer of private families by obliging them to keep an unnecessary number of kitchen utensils.

- Adam Smith

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PETA Pumps Millions Into Scientific Research to Spare Animals

PETA has paid an outside lab to work on the complicated, and expensive, process of validating that MatTek’s lab-grown skin performs as well as animal models in biomedical research. That validation is needed to secure regulatory approval for drug companies to use the MatTek tissue in preclinical trials.
“We can’t produce an endless stream of tissue for a validation study without getting compensation for it,” said Mitch Klausner, MatTek’s vice president of scientific affairs.

PETA says it’s doing this work not just to save animals, but also to help humans. Mice and rabbits don’t react to chemicals and drugs the way we do, so it’s important to find alternative ways of testing these substances, said Jessica Sandler, director of the PETA International Science Consortium.

“PETA is known for caring about the animals,” she said. “But this is also an issue of good science.”

The statement has some backing within the scientific community.

“Ninety-five percent
of drugs fail when they get into human trials, either because they were toxic and it wasn’t predicted in the animal tests, or they have no efficacy despite the fact that the animal test said it worked,” said Dr. Thomas Hartung, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

If elephants didn't exist, you couldn't invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense.

- Lyall Watson

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Research Backs Human Role in Extinction of Mammoths, Other Mammals

"The heavy ecological footprint of human societies throughout prehistory is becoming increasingly apparent through a variety of environmental (indicators) independent of the archeological record," the researchers wrote. "Past human societies have disrupted ecological communities in dramatic ways for many tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of years."

The study involved compiling radiocarbon dates from fossils of now-extinct animals from North and South America, and looking at how those dates correspond with initial evidence of human colonization. The researchers found that, as Martin predicted, decline and extinction of the large mammals began between 13,300-15,000 years ago in Alaska and areas near the Bering Strait; between 12,900-13,200 years ago in the contiguous United States; and between 12,600-13,900 years ago in South America.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Some information is classified legitimately; as with military hardware, secrecy sometimes really is in the national interest. Further, military, political, and intelligence communities tend to value secrecy for its own sake. It's a way of silencing critics and evading responsibility - for incompetence or worse. It generates an elite, a band of brothers in whom the national confidence can be reliably vested, unlike the great mass of citizenry on whose behalf the information is presumably made secret in the first place. With a few exceptions, secrecy is deeply incompatible with democracy and with science.

- Carl Sagan

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.

- John Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

Monday, January 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.

- Rachel Carson

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Paradox Of Unanimity - Why Too Much Evidence Can Be A Bad Thing

Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time had noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is yet to be discovered. They intuitively reasoned that when something seems too good to be true, most likely a mistake was made.

In a new paper to be published in The Proceedings of The Royal Society A, a team of researchers, Lachlan J. Gunn, et al., from Australia and France has further investigated this idea, which they call the "paradox of unanimity."

"If many independent witnesses unanimously testify to the identity of a suspect of a crime, we assume they cannot all be wrong," coauthor Derek Abbott, a physicist and electronic engineer at The University of Adelaide, Australia, told "Unanimity is often assumed to be reliable. However, it turns out that the probability of a large number of people all agreeing is small, so our confidence in unanimity is ill-founded. This 'paradox of unanimity' shows that often we are far less certain than we think."


In police line-ups, the systemic error may be any kind of bias, such as how the line-up is presented to the witnesses or a personal bias held by the witnesses themselves. Importantly, the researchers showed that even a tiny bit of bias can have a very large impact on the results overall. Specifically, they show that when only 1% of the line-ups exhibit a bias toward a particular suspect, the probability that the witnesses are correct begins to decrease after only three unanimous identifications. Counterintuitively, if one of the many witnesses were to identify a different suspect, then the probability that the other witnesses were correct would substantially increase.

The mathematical reason for why this happens is found using Bayesian analysis, which can be understood in a simplistic way by looking at a biased coin. If a biased coin is designed to land on heads 55% of the time, then you would be able to tell after recording enough coin tosses that heads comes up more often than tails. The results would not indicate that the laws of probability for a binary system have changed, but that this particular system has failed. In a similar way, getting a large group of unanimous witnesses is so unlikely, according to the laws of probability, that it's more likely that the system is unreliable.

-More Here

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

But with so many question marks hovering over the identity of Ebola’s reservoirs, some scientists say that it is time to eschew virus hunting in specific creatures and instead pursue more-holistic approaches that examine ecological and anthropological factors common to spillovers.

Tony Goldberg, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is one such advocate. He no longer subscribes to the view that “we have to blanket the continent of Africa with field-deployable DNA sequencers and sample everything that crawls, flies or swims and eventually we’ll come across it. I used to think that way,” he says, “but I’m cooling off to that approach.”

His team is studying how bush-meat hunters interact with wild ecosystems to identify factors that might be linked to the spillover of zoonotic infections such as Ebola.

In a similar effort, a team led by Pigott and his colleague epidemiologist Simon Hay is looking at past outbreaks for common ecological factors, such as vegetation, elevation and the presence of suspected reservoir species such as fruit bats and carriers such as apes. By modelling these data, the team has created a map of areas at risk of Ebola spillovers.

And Barbara Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, is using machine-learning techniques to predict which bat species are likely to harbour Ebola and related viruses because they share ecological factors common to suspected reservoir species.

Research on Ebola therapies and vaccines saw an infusion of public and private funding during the epidemic, and scientists hunting the virus in the wild hope to capture the same sense of urgency and financial support. But they know that the job won’t be easy. “It has lit a fire under people’s butts, mine included,” says Goldberg. “The problem is, we’re not sure what to do with the fire.”

- More Here

Can Economics Change Your Mind?

Another example comes from Amy Finkelstein, one of the top health economists in the country. When she set out to study what caused big differences in healthcare costs, she expected that her results would show that it was hard to change behaviors. Instead, her analysis showed that people changed behavior and used less healthcare when they moved from geographies where people on average spend a lot on healthcare to places with low spending. According to Finkelstein, this is just how empirical research works, telling an interviewer:
“This is what I love about empirical research: I go into it with an idea—a question and an idea about the answer. But if I knew the answer, it wouldn’t be fun to do it. And it certainly wouldn’t be important if all we ever did was confirm our hypotheses. I have to have some idea to start, of course, but I often find myself radically rethinking it because it turns out just not to be right.”
That is probably as it should be. In other cases, even high profile economists find that they cannot cling to a long-held viewpoint in the face of convincing evidence, and hit reverse very publicly. Narayana Kocherlakota spent three years at the head of the Minneapolis Fed criticizing monetary policy as risking out-of-control inflation and unlikely to help the economy. Then in 2012, he made an about face, telling the New York Times that "a wave of research gradually convinced him that he was wrong." As a result he became one of the most strident proponents of more monetary stimulus.

- More Here and Tyler Cowen's changed mind here

Quote of the Day

The best programs are written so that computing machines can perform them quickly and so that human beings can understand them clearly. A programmer is ideally an essayist who works with traditional aesthetic and literary forms as well as mathematical concepts, to communicate the way that an algorithm works and to convince a reader that the results will be correct.

- Donald Ervin Knuth, Selected Papers on Computer Science

Friday, January 15, 2016

Quote of the Day

“It is a mistake,” he said, “to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort.”

- Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Yahoo Releases the Largest-ever Machine Learning Dataset for Researchers

Research scientists at Yahoo Labs have long enjoyed working on large-scale machine learning problems inspired by consumer-facing products. This has enabled us to advance the thinking in areas such as search ranking, computational advertising, information retrieval, and core machine learning. A key aspect of interest to the external research community has been the application of new algorithms and methodologies to production traffic and to large-scale datasets gathered from real products.

Today, we are proud to announce the public release of the largest-ever machine learning dataset to the research community. The dataset stands at a massive ~110B events (13.5TB uncompressed) of anonymized user-news item interaction data, collected by recording the user-news item interactions of about 20M users from February 2015 to May 2015.

The Yahoo News Feed dataset is a collection based on a sample of anonymized user interactions on the news feeds of several Yahoo properties, including the Yahoo homepage, Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Movies, and Yahoo Real Estate.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Still, if history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology. Acceptance of the supernatural conveyed a great advantage throughout prehistory when the brain was evolving. Thus it is in sharp contrast to biology, which was developed as a product of the modern age and is not underwritten by genetic algorithms. The uncomfortable truth is that the two beliefs are not factually compatible. As a result those who hunger for both intellectual and religious truth will never acquire both in full measure.

Edward O. Wilson

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Science of Herbs and Spices

One way that plants recognize an attack by insects or by mold is by detecting the presence of chitin, which is an unusual cellulose-like molecule found in the cell walls of molds and in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans. Chitosan, a modified version of crustacean chitin, is a versatile material and commonly available at health food stores. And as it turns out, if you expose a plant to chitosan, the plant will respond as if it were under attack, and rev up its production of chemical defenses.In one experiment, basil plants that were given chitosan-infused water accumulated 20 percent more essential oil in two to three days than unexposed plants. Similar effects have been observed in broccoli and soy sprouts. Chitosan is essentially plant stress in a bottle—the alarm without the damage.

What does all of this mean for the cook? For one thing, you should think twice before you discard slightly buggy or moth-eaten produce. It may not be presentable as is, but it may have more flavor and nutrition than a perfect leaf. And if you grow plants of your own—even pots of herbs in the window or on the rooftop—you may get more flavor by lacing their drinking water with chitosan.

How you handle herbs can also affect their flavor. The defensive chemicals responsible for plant flavors are usually concentrated in fine, hairlike glands on the leaf surfaces (the mint family, including basil, oregano, sage, shiso, and thyme) or in special canals within the leaves (most other herbs). If you leave the herbs pretty much intact, what you get is mainly the characteristic flavor of that herb. But if you crush the herb, or cut it very finely, you damage a lot of cells and cause the release of the green, grassy, vegetal defensive chemicals. These can come to dominate the herb’s own particular flavor.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Warren Buffett is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles which outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you.

- Lucas Remmerswaal

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What I've Been Reading

100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson.

I know, I know - a different read :-) and might come in handy, if and when shit hits the fan.

to many of the skills in this book, there is much the average civilian can learn from an operative’s mindset. First and foremost, that mindset is defined by preparedness and awareness. Whether in home territory or under deepest cover, operatives are continually scanning the general landscape for threats even when they’re not on the clock. Civilians, too, can train their minds toward habits such as scouting exit routes in crowded restaurants or building spur-of-the-moment escape plans. This kind of vigilance allows an operative confronted with sudden danger to take

Quote of the Day

Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep.

- A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire: An Autobiography

Monday, January 11, 2016

You’re Probably Not Mostly Microbes

We are, supposedly, outnumbered in our own bodies. We play host to an extraordinary menagerie of bacteria and other microbes—the microbiome—and it’s frequently said that these teeming cells outnumber our own by ten to one. This 10:1 ratio crops up everywhere. It appears in scientific papers, blog posts, magazine stories, TED talks, and popular science books—sometimes, even in the very title. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous statistics about the micro biome.

And it’s probably wrong.

It’s the result of a back-of-the-envelope calculation that became enshrined as hard fact based on little more than its catchy nature and its sounds-about-right-ness.

According to a new review by Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the correct ratio is more like 1:1. That is, in terms of cell counts, we and our microbes are equal shareholders. We’re not outnumbered after all. Indeed, as Milo so wonderfully writes, “the numbers are similar enough that each defecation event may flip the ratio to favor human cells over bacteria.” You gain temporary dominance over your own body with every flush.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Erudition without bullshit, intellect without cowardice, courage without imprudence, mathematics without nerdiness, scholarship without academia, intelligence without shrewdness, religiosity without intolerance, elegance without softness, sociality without dependence, enjoyment without addiction, religion without tolerance, and, above all, nothing without skin in the game.

Nassim Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January Is a Cloudy Crystal Ball

Given the vast number of variables that might be used to predict stock prices, it’s possible that even a high degree of accuracy of the January barometer is a purely random outcome.

“If you have a truly random variable, and there are, say, 60 million possibilities, it’s impossible not to find some pattern somewhere,” said Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professor of risk engineering at New York University, author of “The Black Swan” and a former derivatives trader on Wall Street. “You might well find a correlation between changes in your grandmother’s blood pressure and stock prices. But that’s a spurious correlation.”

He added, “It’s surprising we don’t have more weird correlations, given the vast number of possible variables and the large number of markets we have.”

Professor Goldin said that if you flipped enough coins every year, you would most likely find one that predicted stock prices with 100 percent accuracy. “You could call that a magic coin,” she said. “It has an impressive correlation looking backward. The problem is, it wouldn’t give you any sense of how well it’s going to do going forward.”

That seems to have been an issue lately with the January barometer, whose accuracy in recent years has been slipping. Over the last 10 years, it gave false negative indications in 2014, 2010, 2009 and 2005, and a false positive in 2011.


Professor Taleb said that despite this week’s decline in share prices, he would not be buying United States stocks now because of high valuations, rising interest rates and the continuing plunge in commodity prices. And while that decision has nothing to do with a bearish forecast from the January barometer, he doesn’t entirely dismiss such market maxims.

“One thing you learn as a trader is, don’t bet against the folk wisdom,” he said. “The odds are this is a purely random outcome, but sometimes there’s a kernel of truth in these sayings.”

- More Here

Steve Jobs

Expecting it to be bad, I had postponed watching this movie forever; but I was wrong. It's worth a watch just for splendid screenplay.

Andy Hertzfeld: We're not a pit crew at Daytona. This can't be fixed in seconds.

Steve Jobs: You didn't have seconds, you had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time.

Andy Hertzfeld: Well, someday you'll have to tell us how you did it.

Quote of the Day

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

- Marcel Proust

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

 I'm all for shutting down the crooked ways to get rich. But that won't eliminate great variations in wealth, because as long as you leave open the option of getting rich by creating wealth, people who want to get rich will do that instead.

Most people who get rich tend to be fairly driven. Whatever their other flaws, laziness is usually not one of them. Suppose new policies make it hard to make a fortune in finance. Does it seem plausible that the people who currently go into finance to make their fortunes will continue to do so but be content to work for ordinary salaries? The reason they go into finance is not because they love finance but because they want to get rich. If the only way left to get rich is to start startups, they'll start startups. They'll do well at it too, because determination is the main factor in the success of a startup. [3] And while it would probably be a good thing for the world if people who wanted to get rich switched from playing zero-sum games to creating wealth, that would not only not eliminate great variations in wealth, but might even exacerbate them. In a zero-sum game there is at least a limit to the upside. Plus a lot of the new startups would create new technology that further accelerated variation in productivity.

Variation in productivity is far from the only source of economic inequality, but it is the irreducible core of it, in the sense that you'll have that left when you eliminate all other sources. And if you do, that core will be big, because it will have expanded to include the efforts of all the refugees. Plus it will have a large Baumol penumbra around it: anyone who could get rich by creating wealth on their own account will have to be paid enough to prevent them from doing it.

You can't prevent great variations in wealth without preventing people from getting rich, and you can't do that without preventing them from starting startups.

- Economic Inequality by Paul Graham

Quote of the Day

It’s a safe guess, though, that most of the people targeted by gratitude exhortations actually have something to be grateful for, such as Janice Kaplan, the author of the memoir “The Gratitude Diaries,” who spent a year appreciating her high-earning husband and successful grown children. And it is here that the pro-social promise of gratitude begins to dim. True, saying “thank you” is widely encouraged, but much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind.


The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or, say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions. But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse — and this is, to use the old-fashioned term, “solidarity” — which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.

-The Selfish Side of Gratitude

Friday, January 8, 2016

Profile of Robert Trivers

Trivers’ first paper, on the evolution of reciprocal altruism, described a theoretical model showing how altruism among strangers could naturally develop—people cooperate with the expectation of similar treatment from others. This model explained a wide variety of feelings and behaviors, from friendship to moralistic aggression. The emotion of gratitude, for instance, evolved to motivate us to return favors, encouraging cooperation. Guilt motivates us to repair relationships we’ve harmed. Anger makes us avoid or punish those who have harmed us. And gossip makes us mindful of our reputations. Trivers suggested that complex strategies of cheating, detecting cheating, and the false accusation of cheating (itself a form of cheating) pushed the development of intelligence and helped increase the size of the human brain.

Next, in Trivers’ second paper, he hypothesized that a single factor drives sex differences across all species. He argued that differences in parental investment—the energy and resources invested in an offspring—lead the sex that invests more (females, in most species) to focus on mate quality and the sex that invests less (males) to seek quantity. So in humans we expect choosiness in females and aggression between males as they vie for females. The theory has tremendous explanatory power, from justifying the brightly colored feathers of male birds to illuminating why sexual jealousy is a leading (and, until recently, legally defensible) cause of homicide—men prize their mate’s fidelity above all.

In another paper, Trivers conceptualized offspring not as passive recipients of parental investment, but as independent actors, generating the theory of parent-offspring conflict. A child wants disproportionate attention and resources for him- or herself, but a parent wants to spread the goods equally between all offspring. And so we have kids who bawl until they get what they want, siblings who maintain lifelong rivalries, and parents who try to instill equality no matter how selfish the kids’ tendencies. It was for these three papers, plus another two, on insect colonies and on parents’ ability to vary the sex ratio of their offspring, that he won the Crafoord.

In each paper, he found a simple, clear idea, and took it as far as it would go, wrapping diverse and widespread phenomena together in one neat package. You might not have made the connections before, but once you see them, they’re quite clear. “Trivers has answered some of the most profound questions about the human condition,” Pinker  told me. “Namely, why are our relationships with other people such complicated mixtures of cooperation and conflict? He did so with a simple, though nonobvious, analysis of the patterns of overlap and nonoverlap of our long-term genetic interests.” According to David Haig, a geneticist at Harvard and a longtime friend and collaborator of Trivers, “Bob has a great ability to see questions as simple and not be distracted by details.” Richard Dawkins praises him for applying economic ideas to biology “with greater clarity of mind than any biologist since R. A. Fisher,” the knighted geneticist.

- More Here and his second memoir Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist is out.

Quote of the Day

Wisdom is one of the few things that looks bigger the further away it is.

- Terry Pratchett

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

There's a sort of Gresham's Law of conversations. If a conversation reaches a certain level of incivility, the more thoughtful people start to leave.

- Paul Graham

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

I conceive that pleasures are to be avoided if greater pains be the consequence, and pains to be coveted that will terminate in greater pleasures.

- Michel de Montaigne

Monday, January 4, 2016

What I've Been Reading

Mastery by Robert Greene. As usual like all his writings, this book is nothing short of spectacular. Robert Greene has done a huge favor for this (and future) generation by turning into a writer. Thank you Robert.

The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don't simply absorb information-we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use. We look for connections between various elements we are learning, hidden laws that we perceive in the apprenticeship phase. If we experience any failures or setbacks, we do not quickly forget them because they offend our self-esteem. Instead we reflect on them deeply, trying to figure out what went wrong and discern whether there are any patterns in our mistakes. As we progress, we start to question some of the assumptions and conventions we have learned along the way. Soon, we begin to experiment and become increasingly active. At all points in the various moments leading to mastery, we attack with intensity. Every moment, every experience contains deep lessons for us. We are continuously awake, never merely going through the motions. 

Quote of the Day

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What I've Been Reading

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks. I couldn't think of a better book to start 2016 off... I am grateful for not only my life happened but it also happened with Max in my life.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved, I have given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and though and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.


And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the super-natural or spiritual but on what is meat by living a good and worthwhile life - achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one's life as well, when one can feel that one's work is done, and one may, in good conscience rest.

Quote of the Day

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the super-natural or spiritual but on what is meat by living a good and worthwhile life - achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one's life as well, when one can feel that one's work is done, and one may, in good conscience rest.

- Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

Quote of the Day

When you beat up someone physically, you get excercise and stress relief; when you assault him verbally on the Internet, you just harm yourself.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Friday, January 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

After closing about 200,000 option transactions (that is separate option tickets) over 12 years and studying about 70,000 risk management reports, I felt that I needed to sit down and reflect on the thousands of mishedges I had committed.

I clambered up to my attic where, during 6 entire months, I spent 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, immersed in probability theory, numerical analysis, and mathematical statistics (at a Ph.D. level)

- Nassim Taleb, Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options