Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Celebrating 25 Years of Linux !

  • Fact #6: While Linus was serving as in the Finnish military — doing ballistics calculations — he bought a copy of Andrew Tanenbaum’s Operating Systems: Design and Implementation. This book described Minix — a simplified educational version of Unix — and opened Linus’s eyes to the Unix philosophy.
  • Fact #12: 97% of the world’s supercomputers run on Linux — including clusters used by NASA.
  • Fact #13: SpaceX uses a special fault-tolerant design of Linux in each of its Merlin rocket engines. Through this, Linux has helped complete 32 space missions.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

"What happens when you read some doc and either it doesn't answer your question or is demonstrably wrong? In Linux, you say "Linux sucks" and go read the code. In Windows/Oracle/etc you say "Windows sucks" and start banging your head against the wall."

-  Denis Vlasenko on lkml

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quote of the Day

Remember the exercises in critical reading you did in school, where you had to look at a piece of writing and step back and ask whether the author was telling the whole truth? If you really want to be a critical reader, it turns out you have to step back one step further, and ask not just whether the author is telling the truth, but why he's writing about this subject at all.

- Paul Graham

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

That's what happens when you're thirty-seven years old: you do the things you always did but the result is somehow different.

- Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Sunday, August 28, 2016

How DNA Left at Crime Scenes Could Help 'Recreate' Faces of Criminals

The discovery of the genes that determine human face shapes could provide valuable information about a person's appearance using just DNA left behind at the scene of a crime.

The face shapes are based on a DNA analysis of 20 facial characteristics measured from 3D images of 3,118 healthy volunteers of European ancestry and almost a million mutations, or SNPs (single base pair) variations.

Dr John Shaffer, of the University of Pittsburgh, said: "There is a great deal of evidence genes influence facial appearance.

"This is perhaps most apparent when we look at our own families, since we are more likely to share facial features in common with our close relatives than with unrelated individuals.

"Nevertheless, little is known about how variation in specific regions of the genome relates to the kinds of distinguishing facial characteristics that give us our unique identities, e.g. the size and shape of our nose or how far apart our eyes are spaced.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

- Voltaire

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

The eye is also tough. Within the eye’s spherical refuge, the immune system restrains itself in a way that makes the eye “immune privileged,” tolerant of invaders that might cause troublesome inflammation in other organs. This means you can more safely try a remedy in the eye, such as gene therapy, that might wreak havoc elsewhere.

Neuroscientists love the eye because “it’s the only place you see the brain without drilling a hole,” as one put it to me. The retina, visible through the pupil, is basically a bowl of neurons tied to the brain by the optic nerve; the eye as a whole is an “outpouching of the brain,” formed during fetal development by stretching away from it. Like the eye, the brain enjoys immune privilege, so treatments that work in the eye may readily transfer to the brain or spinal cord.

These advantages take on extra importance because experimental strategies now focused on the eye may drive future treatments for the whole human organism. Gene therapy offers the promise of fixing faulty genes that cause illnesses of all kinds. Stem cells offer the promise of replacing entire tissue structures; bionic implants may replace failing organs. The eye is becoming a window not just to the soul, but also to the possibilities—and limits—of therapeutic approaches on which medicine is betting its future.

- Why There’s New Hope About Ending Blindness

Quote of the Day

The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.

- John Tukey

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

Before we can argue that something we currently appreciate deserves inclusion in the world of tomorrow, we must build that future world within our mind. This is not easy (even with drugs). But it's not even the hardest part. The hardest part is accepting that we're building something with parts that don't yet exist.

- Chuck Klosterman, But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

Call it the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Error: we can be wrong, or we can know it, but we can't do both at the same time.

- Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, 'whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,' and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

- John Adams, The Portable John Adams

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chaos Monkeys - How One Assole Can Turn & Turned The Political Discourse To Nonsense

For generations, politicians have been viewed on a left-right spectrum, according to their policy positions. Now, however, they’re placed on a different spectrum entirely. At one end you find the sanguine technocrats of the old elite; at the other, the angry revolutionaries with no time for constitutional niceties.
Call this second group the “chaos monkeys,” the political outsiders who have no interest in mainstream policy debates. They tend to be deeply attractive to a huge and disillusioned “lol nothing matters” crowd, and often their egomania drives them to thirst for ever-greater power.

Vladimir Putin is a chaos monkey. So is Rodrigo Duterte, the newly elected president of the Philippines. And then there are the comedians – people like Beppe Grillo, in Italy, or Boris Johnson, in the UK, who catapult themselves into politics by force of little more than name recognition and an outsider attitude.

Chaos monkeys thrive in a world of social media, where messages aren’t intermediated by media elites and where a struggling middle class, which has seen little in the way of real economic gains in decades, has never found it easier to vent its frustrations.

Trump is the platonic ideal of the chaos monkey form: he has an enviable ability to capture the inchoate frustration of the 99% and turn it into something which can dominate the national political discourse, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else.

And that’s a huge problem. When a chaos monkey is in the race, he tends to render invisible severe and important policy distinctions. Trump is a very different beast from conventional politicians, but in order to see the difference, you need to look at him from a very different angle—an angle which renders everybody else more or less indistinguishable.


t has always been difficult for politicians to campaign on policies, as opposed to personalities and the power of inchoate narratives. But now it is harder than ever. This year, the effect is likely to be felt strongly in down-ticket races, where Democratic and Republican candidates are finding it incredibly hard to cut through the noise of the presidential race and to have substantive debates at least at the state level, or within Congressional districts.

And in future years, would-be presidential candidates are going to want to harness anger, rather than simply propose policies which will make the country a better place. Similarly, Trump voters are not easily going to revert to voting for some mild-mannered technocrat, whatever her place on the left-right spectrum. Trump has shaken up not only the Republican party but the entire American political system. And it’s hard to imagine that his brand of fiery invective will leave the stage when he does.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.

- Bertrand Russell

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

Beginning to reason is like stepping onto an escalator that leads upward and out of sight. Once we take the first step, the distance to be traveled is independent of our will and we cannot know in advance where we shall end.

- Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

After reading this fascinating piece, The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority by Taleb , one can be either more pessimistic or more optimistic and neither is wrong.

An insight as to how the mechanisms of religion and transmission of morals obey the same renormalization dynamics as dietary laws –and how we can show that morality is more likely to be something enforced by a minority. We saw earlier in the chapter the asymmetry between obeying and breaking rules: a law-abiding (or rule abiding) fellow always follows the rules, but a felon or someone with looser sets of principles will not always break the rules. Likewise we discussed the strong asymmetric effects of the halal dietary laws. Let us merge the two. It turns out that, in classical Arabic, the term halal has one opposite: haram. Violating legal and moral rules –any rule — is called haram. It is the exact same interdict that governs food intake and all other human behaviors, like sleeping with the wife of the neighbor, lending with interest (without partaking of downside of the borrower) or killing one’s landlord for pleasure. Haram is haram and is asymmetric.

From that we can see that once a moral rule is established, it would suffice to have a small intransigent minority of geographically distributed followers to dictate the norm in society. The sad news, as we will see in the next chapter, is that one person looking at mankind as an aggregate may mistakenly believe that humans are spontaneously becoming more moral, better, more gentle, have better breath, when it applies to only a small proportion of mankind.

I wrote about people with logical flaws asking me if one should be “skeptical about skepticism”; I used a similar answer as Popper when was asked if “ one could falsify falsification”.
We can answer these points using the minority rule. Yes, an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, as we saw, it will eventually destroy our world.
So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. It is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.

This large payoff from stubborn courage is not just in the military. The entire growth of society, whether economic or moral, comes from a small number of people. So we close this chapter with a remark about the role of skin in the game in the condition of society. Society doesn’t evolve by consensus, voting, majority, committees, verbose meeting, academic conferences, and polling; only a few people suffice to disproportionately move the needle. All one needs is an asymmetric rule somewhere. And asymmetry is present in about everything.

Quote of the Day

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

The great source of misery...seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.

- Adam Smith

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why Do Humpback Whales Protect Other Species From Attack?

Pitman and his colleagues think there might be more social cohesion among humpbacks than we previously thought, and kin selection and/or reciprocal altruism could be playing a part. Individual humpback whales return to the same region to breed. This means that there is a good possibility that humpbacks are related to their immediate neighbours. Pitman suggests this means it may be worth a humpback helping other humpbacks to protect their calves from killer whale attacks.

However, it is trickier to explain apparent altruism directed towards other species. Pitman and his colleagues explain that for the humpback whale, this intervention on behalf of other species is a “spillover” behaviour. They suggest it is an extension of the humpback whales’ “drive” to protect their own calves.

Humpbacks may have learned to respond to vocalisations of attacking killer whales, which trigger them to drive the killer whales away, regardless of the species being attacked.

If this tendency to drive away killer whales whenever they are attacking has helped humpbacks to protect their own calves, then the genes that promote it could be maintained in the population, even if other species benefit at times. This interspecies altruistic behaviour may be “inadvertent” altruism – it can be altruism in the individual case but it is ultimately driven by self-interest.

- More Here but in other words "We don't have a damn clue!!"

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Went Wrong With AI? - David Eagleman

Failing to ask the most important question - "What and How Mother Nature did it?"

Quote of the Day

Do anything to break up your normal train of thinking and your sense that you already know the truth.

- Robert Greene

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Data Mining Reveals How Conspiracy Theories Emerge on Facebook

Quattrociocchi and co then studied how the people who engage in these debates also engage in debates on posts that are known to be untrue, like the one about the fictitious law. And they found that some people are more likely to engage with false content than others.

In particular, people who engage with debates on alternative news posts are much more likely to engage in the debate about false news posted by trolls. “We find that a dominant fraction of the users interacting with the troll memes is the one composed of users preeminently interacting with alternative information sources–and thus more exposed to unsubstantiated claims,” they say.

That’s an interesting result. Quattrociocchi and co point out that many people are attracted to alternative news media because of a distrust of conventional news sources, which, in Italy, are strongly influenced by politicians of one persuasion or another.

But this search for other sources of news seems to be fraught with danger. “Surprisingly, consumers of alternative news, which are the users trying to avoid the mainstream media ‘mass-manipulation’, are the most responsive to the injection of false claims,” they conclude.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

You fight to win; you argue to achieve agreement.

-  Jay Heinrichs, Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, And Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

I have been reading Nick Lane's fascinating book The Vital Question; each page is power packed with so much new (to me) information that I am reading it very slowly.

Without a high flux of carbon and energy that is physically channelled over inorganic catalysts, there is no possibility of evolving cells. I would rate this as a necessity anywhere in the universe: given the requirement for carbon chemistry that we discussed in the last chapter, thermodynamics dictates a continuous flow of carbon and energy over natural catalysts. Discounting special pleading, that rules out almost all environments that have been touted as possible settings for the origin of life: warm ponds (sadly Darwin was wrong on that), primordial soup, microporous pumice stones, beaches, panspermia, you name it. But it does not rule out hydrothermal vents; on the contrary, it rules them in. Hydrothermal vents are exactly the kind of dissipative structures that we seek – continuous flow, far-from-equilibrium electrochemical reactors.


We have established on thermodynamic grounds that to make a cell from scratch requires a continuous flow of reactive carbon and chemical energy across rudimentary catalysts in a constrained through-flow system. Only hydrothermal vents provide the requisite conditions, and only a subset of vents – alkaline hydrothermal vents – match all the conditions needed. But alkaline vents come with both a serious problem and a beautiful answer to the problem. The serious problem is that these vents are rich in hydrogen gas, but hydrogen will not react with CO2 to form organics. The beautiful answer is that the physical structure of alkaline vents – natural proton gradients across thin semiconducting walls – will (theoretically) drive the formation of organics. And then concentrate them. To my mind, at least, all this makes a great deal of sense. Add to this the fact that all life on earth uses (still uses!) proton gradients across membranes to drive both carbon and energy metabolism, and I’m tempted to cry, with the physicist John Archibald Wheeler, ‘Oh, how could it have been otherwise! How could we all have been so blind for so long!

Quote of the Day

Energy and life go hand in hand. If you stop breathing, you will not be able to generate the energy you need for staying alive and you’ll be dead in a few minutes. Keep breathing. Now the oxygen in your breath is being transported to virtually every one of the 15 trillion cells in your body, where it is used to burn glucose in cellular respiration. You are a fantastically energetic machine. Gram per gram, even when sitting comfortably, you are converting 10,000 times more energy than the sun every second.

- Nick Lane, The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life

Friday, August 12, 2016

What I've Been Reading

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz. I listen to the audio book... each chapter examines some examined and some unexamined self's of ourselves. It's disturbing in someways and it's enlightening in other.

At one time or another, most of us have felt trapped by things we find ourselves thinking or doing, caught by our own impulses or foolish choices; ensnared in some unhappiness or fear; imprisoned by our own history. We feel unable to go forward and yet we believe that there must be a way.

Deep Feature Synthesis - Towards Automating Data Science Endeavors


In this paper, we develop the Data Science Ma- chine, which is able to derive predictive models from raw data automatically. To achieve this automation, we first propose and develop the Deep Feature Synthesis algorithm for automatically generating features for relational datasets. The algorithm follows relationships in the data to a base field, and then sequentially applies mathematical functions along that path to create the final feature. Second, we implement a generalizable machine learning pipeline and tune it using a novel Gaussian Copula process based approach. We entered the Data Science Machine in 3 data science competitions that featured 906 other data science teams. Our approach beats 615 teams in these data science competitions. In 2 of the 3 competitions we beat a majority of competitors, and in the third, we achieved 94% of the best competitor’s score. In the best case, with an ongoing competition, we beat 85.6% of the teams and achieved 95.7% of the top submissions score.

- Full Paper Here

Quote of the Day

Rational, it can be shown, is what makes things that are supposed to survive, survive.

- Nassim Taleb

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Design Better Data Tables

Not all numbers were created equal. I’m not talking about π and ∞ (though I often do, at parties); I’m talking about numbers that are either tabular or oldstyle, either lining or proportional.

Here’s a quick illustration of the difference between oldstyle and lining figures.

Oldstyle figures look nice in sentences, where they better match the size and spacing of lower-case letters; lining figures are more uniform, and reinforce the grid-like structure of the table.

The difference between proportional and tabular figures is not quite so obvious:

Proportional figures are designed to match the color — that is, the general sizing and spacing — of the typeface. Tabularfigures, on the other hand, are all identically-sized, so that columns of numbers line up properly. While the difference may not seem great on the scale of one or two lines, using lining figures makes scanning large tables significantly easier and less error-prone.

- More Here

Why Complaining Rewires Your Brain To Be Negative

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behaviour, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus, an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.

While it’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

- David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Quote of the Day

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Imagine If - OMSCS from Georgia Tech

I am learned a lot and still learning - A life changing experience!!

Quote of the Day

Beginning to reason is like stepping onto an escalator that leads upward and out of sight. Once we take the first step, the distance to be traveled is independent of our will and we cannot know in advance where we shall end.

- Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Unified Theory of Randomness

Sheffield and Miller have already posted the first two papers in their proof of the equivalence between LQG and the Brownian map on the scientific preprint site; they intend to post the third and final paper later this summer. The work turned on the ability to reason across different random shapes and processes — to see how random noncrossing curves, random growth, and random two-dimensional surfaces relate to one another. It’s an example of the increasingly sophisticated results that are possible in the study of random geometry.

“It’s like you’re in a mountain with three different caves. One has iron, one has gold, one has copper — suddenly you find a way to link all three of these caves together,” said Sheffield. “Now you have all these different elements you can build things with and can combine them to produce all sorts of things you couldn’t build before.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The American woods have been unnerving people for 300 years. The inestimably priggish and tiresome Henry David Thoreau thought nature was splendid, splendid indeed, so long as he could stroll to town for cakes and barley wine, but when he experienced real wilderness, on a vist to Katahdin in 1846, he was unnerved to the cored. This wasn't the tame world of overgrown orchards and sun-dappled paths that passed for wilderness in suburban Concord, Massachusetts, but a forbiggind, oppressive, primeval country that was "grim and wild . . .savage and dreary," fit only for "men nearer of kin to the rocks and wild animals than we." The experience left him, in the words of one biographer, "near hysterical.

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Post-Swim Session!!

Quote of the Day

A data scientist is someone who can obtain, scrub, explore, model and interpret data, blending hacking, statistics and machine learning. Data scientists not only are adept at working with data, but appreciate data itself as a first-class product.

- Hillary Mason

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Now as to yourself. All you have to do is to live up to your reputation: but beware of three things:

  1. Don't look for another than self-approval.
  2. Don't base happiness on anything but virtue
  3. Don't, as fools to their physicians, conceal a moral sore because the world call you sound. 

- Epistles of Horace via Nassim Taleb

Traveling Salesman (P = NP)

I loved this movie - the pace of the movie picks up slowly but all the actors have done a brilliant job.

Quote of the Day

We humans, as a species, are interested in communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. Would not a good beginning be improved communication with terrestrial intelligence... with those intelligent masters of the deep, the great whales?

- Carl Sagan

Friday, August 5, 2016

On Mutant Mosquitoes In Florida - They're More Afraid Of The Hero Than The Monster

For one thing, he knows the mosquito is the deadliest creature on earth, the No. 1 killer of humans. Every year sharks kill 10 people. Mosquitoes kill 725,000. The second-biggest killer is other humans, and still, they claim only 500,000 lives.


So much misinformation is out there. He doesn't know what to do anymore, except keep telling people: Male mosquitoes don't bite. If female mosquitoes are modified and bite you, they can't transfer their DNA. Your children won't become sterile. There is no way for the mosquitoes to mutate. This is unnatural, but it is safe. So many natural things can kill you. The bubonic plague. AIDS. If only he could shake them awake to Zika.


"There's a lot of information out there — some misinformation — and I want to cover a number of things." This is Michael Doyle, opening the June 22 meeting of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District board of commissioners.

The board typically meets in Marathon, but on this evening, given the topic, it's in the old city hall building in downtown Key West. When the doors open, you can hear the laughter from the bar on the corner, an old haunt of Ernest Hemingway's called Sloppy Joe's.

There is a full crowd, and Doyle plans to take advantage. He starts by reminding the people how deadly the mosquito is and how easy local transmission of Zika would be.

Doyle reminds his audience that DNA is not spread through a mosquito bite. When they eat hamburgers, they are exposed to billions of pieces of cow DNA. They do not become cows. Humans have been bitten by mosquitoes for all of history without taking on their genetic code.

He reminds them that he has a 12-year-old daughter. And that the trial isn't an experiment on humans. "It's how well can this mosquito crash the Aedes aegypti population," he says, reminding them that the FDA, CDC and EPA have found nothing dangerous to humans or the environment.

Then he turns the microphone over to the people.

"Arrogance," says Howard Hubbard.

"There hasn't been enough information," says Mike Tinnell.

"I just wish everybody would slow down a little bit," says Bill Spottswood.

"Experiments are done in a lab," says Gilda Niles.

"We need more boots on the ground," says Oliver Kofoid, and several other people, too.

"Zika is being used as a cover story and a smoke screen," says Diana Bolton.

"My childhood sweetheart didn't die in a war for us to be treated like this" says Jan Isherwood.

On and on and on. From their seats, Lorraine Phelps and her husband applaud.

The commissioners end up voting to let the people of Key West have their say on whether to proceed with Oxitec's technology in a referendum in November's election, the first time a matter of public health will be handed over to popular opinion.

Though the referendum is nonbinding, three of the five commissioners — the three up for election — have pledged to vote according to the people's will.

Derric Nimmo rises from his seat after the four-hour meeting, looking ahead to so much more work to do. Today his public relations mission was about goodwill. For the next four months, he will need to convince these people to keep Oxitec's trial alive.

And if he has learned anything in his time in the Keys, it's that misinformation spreads as easily as the disease.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.

- Paxton Hood

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had? … I haven’t done so enough before—and now I'm too old; too old at any rate for what I see. … What one loses one loses; make no mistake about that. … Still, we have the illusion of freedom; therefore don't be, like me, without the memory of that illusion. I was either, at the right time, too stupid or too intelligent to have it; I don’t quite know which. Of course at present I'm a case of reaction against the mistake. … Do what you like so long as you don't make my mistake. For it was a mistake. Live!

- Henry James, The Ambassadors

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Quote of the Day

I find I am much prouder of the victory I obtain over myself, when, in the very ardor of dispute, I make myself submit to my adversary’s force of reason, than I am pleased with the victory I obtain over him through his weakness.

- Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What Caused The Demise of Mammoth?

It wasn’t humans: The first people on Saint Paul were Russian whalers who landed there in 1787, well after the last mammoth had gone. It wasn’t polar bears: They also came later. It wasn’t volcanoes: There were no traces of volcanic sediments in the lake during the extinction window. It wasn’t a lack of space: Although Saint Paul had certainly shrunk since its isolation from the mainland, it had reached its minimum size at least 3,000 years before the mammoths disappeared. And it wasn’t a lack of food: Pollen and plant remains in the lake sediments revealed that vegetation on the island was stable when the mammoths were declining.

Instead, the final killer was probably thirst, brought about by changing climate. Saint Paul never had rivers or springs. The only sources of freshwater were shallow lakes—and these were slowly disappearing. When sea levels rise around an island, the salt water also seeps beneath it, creating a wedge that intrudes into lakes, aquifers, and other sources of freshwater. On Saint Paul, this happened between 7,850 and 5,600 years ago, as Graham’s team discovered by analyzing microbes and chemical isotopes in their sediment cores.

This, combined with a drying climate, meant that Saint Paul’s water supplies were getting smaller, shallower, and saltier. That was disastrous for the mammoths. Modern elephants need to drink between 70 and 200 liters of water every day, and mammoths probably needed more to keep cool. An elephant can get rid of heat by sweating, relying on the evaporating moisture to cool its skin. But a mammoth’s dense, waterproof fur would have wicked sweat away from the skin before it could evaporate. To compensate, they must have sweated a lot more, which in turn gave them a truly mammoth thirst.

Ironically, the mammoths probably made things worse for themselves. As they were forced into a dwindling number of waterholes, they would have destroyed the surrounding vegetation, eroded the banks, stirred up the sediments, and slowly filled up the lakes. “They sort of hastened their own demise,” says Graham.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Monday, August 1, 2016

ICML 2016 Tutorial - Causal Inference for Observational Studies

The goal of this tutorial is to bring machine learning practitioners closer to the vast field of causal inference as practiced by statisticians, epidemiologists and economists. We believe that machine learning has much to contribute in helping answer such questions, especially given the massive growth in the available data and its complexity. We also believe the machine learning community could and should be highly interested in engaging with such problems, considering the great impact they have on society in general.

We hope that participants in the tutorial will: 

a) learn the basic language of causal inference as exemplified by the two most dominant paradigms today: the potential outcomes framework, and causal graphs; 
b) understand the similarities and the differences between problems machine learning practitioners usually face and problems of causal inference; 
c) become familiar with the basic tools employed by practicing scientists performing causal inference, and 
d) be informed about the latest research efforts in bringing machine learning techniques to address problems of causal inference.

- Tutorial Here

Quote of the Day

Every moment instructs and every object: for wisdom is infused into every form. It has been poured into us as blood; it convulsed us as pain; it slid into as pleasure; it enveloped us in dull, melancholy days, or in days of cheerful labor; we did not guess its essence, until after a long time.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson