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Biweekly links for 07/24/2009

by Michael Nielsen on July 24, 2009
  • The Perfect Storm, but wait… What’s that? – YouTube
    • My hat is off to the unknown surfer.
  • Traders Profit With Computers Set at High Speed – NYTimes.com
    • Highly recommended. Big data and Wall Street.
  • Charter Cities: Blog
    • Paul Romer’s new blog – Romer is an economist who developed endogeneous growth theory. The blog is apparently going to mostly be about cities.
  • Selberg’s limit theorem for the Riemann zeta function on the critical line « What’s new
    • A beautiful sketch of Selberg’s limit theorem.
  • Sequencing a Genome a Week – O’Reilly Radar
    • Very interesting (albeit highly personal) discussion of the current state of genomics.
  • citizen engineer – HD video, comic book/zine & kit
  • David Byrne Journal: 06.28.09: The King Is Gone
    • David Byrne on Michael Jackson: “A life in the pill bottle tied Michael to Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and too many more. The surreal chemical universe these stars create for themselves is hard for me to fathom — when I have some success (at least recently), I’m very happy about it. Of course, my success is nowhere near what theirs was — I can live a normal life and buy toilet paper and OJ at the corner deli. In a way it seems a retreat to origins, to the womb of poor beginnings in Gary, Indiana or Tupelo, Mississippi — where, in a kind of weird link between distant galaxies, poor folks also pop painkillers like OxyContin if and when they can.”
  • Official Google Research Blog: Predicting Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits
    • “We applied the methodology outlined in our earlier paper [i.e., using Google trends data to predict real world events], building a model to forecast initial claims using the past values of the time series, and then added the Google Trends variables to see how much they improved the forecast. We found a 15.74% reduction in mean absolute error for one-week ahead out, of sample forecasts. Most economists would consider this to be a significant boost. “
  • The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » The Long Book
    • What types of things are easy to do over 50 years that are are hard to do over 2 or over 10? “Good things can be done over long times. Oxford University, with its multi-century history and perspective, is one of the few institutions to support very long-term projects. Oxford University Press will this year release a book that has taken almost 45 years to finish. It’s the world’s largest thesaurus — and includes almost the entire vocabulary of English. The project was begun in 1965. “
  • Geeking with Greg: Time effects in recommendations
    • Yehuda Koren: “Collaborative Filtering with Temporal Dynamics”: little benefit comes from discounting aged data on user preferences; no day-of-the-week effect. A commented jumps in to say that Netflix does show a day of the week effect (and seasonal variation); presumably they controlled for different variables.
  • Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor — PNAS
    • Correlation doesn’t imply causation [*], but still very interesting: “Little is known about the role of the endocrine system in financial risk taking… We found that a trader’s morning testosterone level predicts his day’s profitability. We also found that a trader’s cortisol rises with both the variance of his trading results and the volatility of the market. Our results suggest that higher testosterone may contribute to economic return, whereas cortisol is increased by risk. Our results point to a further possibility: testosterone and cortisol are known to have cognitive and behavioral effects, so if the acutely elevated steroids we observed were to persist or increase as volatility rises, they may shift risk preferences and even affect a trader’s ability to engage in rational choice. ” [*] I always think it amusing that this leaves unsaid what does imply causation…
  • 650 Million Years In 1:20 Min.
  • PhysMath Central Blog : Why machine-readable data should matter to you
    • “One of the things we do here at PhysMath Central (and our sister companies BioMed and Chemistry Central) which not all publishers do is format our full-text articles in freely-available XML and MathML. From a production point of view it makes sense as we can generate html and pdf versions of the article from the same source, but beyond that there are a plethora of possibilities that anyone could exploit due to their machine-readability. “
  • Therac-25 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • Sad story about a software bug in a radiation therapy machine that killed multiple people. It’s difficult to draw firm conclusions (and I won’t try in a delicious.com note!), but one wonders about the use of more open code vetting procedures to help prevent this kind of thing.
  • The Machine is (Changing) Us: YouTube and the Politics of Authenticity
    • A new talk from Michael Wesch, at the Personal Democracy Forum.
  • The Long Now Blog » Ancient Cities in 3-D
  • IMO 2009 Q6 mini-polymath project: impressions, reflections, analysis « What’s new
    • Thread for reflections on Terry Tao’s recent mini-polymath project.
  • FiveThirtyEight: A Challenge to Climate Change Skeptics
    • Cute. The exact details are a bit of a stunt, but the general idea – getting people to put their money where their mouth is – is a good one.
  • The Polynomial Hirsch Conjecture: A proposal for Polymath3 « Combinatorics and more
    • Gil Kalai’s thinking about running a Polymath Project around the Hirsch Conjecture.
  • More polymath projects « Algorithmic Game Theory
    • Noam Nisan on the possibility of a polymath project in algorithmic game theory.
  • Marginal Revolution: Inequality and consistency
    • A typical stimulating Tyler Cowen post: “Today many an upper middle class person is plausibly happier than many a billionaire. Yet most self-made billionaires work very hard to get to that position, which creates a possible tension between cardinal and “observed choice” or “ordinal” metrics of welfare. Why work so hard for so little? Presumably many of these billionaires really want to “be there,” even if they are only marginally better off or in some cases worse off.”
  • Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule
  • IMO 2009 Q6 as a mini-polymath project « What’s new
    • Terry Tao has just run a mini-polymath project.
  • Official Google Research Blog: Predicting the Present with Google Trends
  • Clowns Kicked KKK Asses – Neatorama
    • ““White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

      “White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

      “White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

      … One last time they screamed “White Power!”

      The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!””

  • The Project for Non-Academic Science : Uncertain Principles
    • Great idea, and the first few interviews are now up: “I plan to post a series of short interviews with people who have science degrees, but are not working in academia. The idea here is to provide information on career options for scientists and science majors beyond the “go to grad school, do a post-doc, get a faculty position” track that is too often assumed to be the default. Accordingly, I’ve sent each of the volunteers ten questions about their careers, and I’ll be posting their answers to those questions over the next several days.”
  • Edge: THE UNIVERSAL LIBRARY By George Dyson
    • I like this line: “Even in the Age of Search, we still need authors to find the meaningful books! “
  • Open and Shut?: Open Access: Rethinking Harvard
    • Some thoughts on what the Harvard open access policy means in practice.
  • Luis von Blog: Hollywood-Style Lectures
  • …My heart’s in Accra » Tim O’Reilly on Government 2.0
    • Interesting to ponder the truth of this: “Complex systems built from scratch never work. You need to build a simple system and let it grow… Complex problems paradoxically require simple answers.” To the extent this is true, it’s largely a consequence of Shirky’s Law – for a network service to extract maximal value from the network, all users must have a shared mental model, which usually means a simple mental model.
  • …My heart’s in Accra » John Hagel on serendipity
    • How to increase serendipity in discovery; moving organizations to a focus on knowledge flow, rather than knowledge; cities as centers of serendipity creation – frequent serendipity is essentially a form of wealth; the art of making serendipitous connections in online communities. Jon Udell’s notion of manufactured serendipity may be as relevant to urban planners and policy folks as it is to the designers of online communities.
  • …My heart’s in Accra » Jason Clay and measuring the environmental impact of agriculture
    • Notes on a superb talk from Jason Clay.
  • LICRA v. Yahoo! – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • Fascinating case about who has jurisdiction online: “LICRA complained that Yahoo! were allowing their online auction service to be used for the sale of memorabilia from the Nazi period, contrary to Article R645-1 of the French Criminal Code (Code pénal). These facts were not contended during the case.

      The defense rested on the fact that these auctions were conducted under the jurisdiction of the United States. It was claimed that there were no technical means to prevent French residents from participating in these auctions, at least without placing the company in financial difficulty and compromising the existence of the Internet.

      The defendants noted

      1. that their servers were located on US territory,
      2. that their services were primarily aimed at US residents,
      3. that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression…

      As such, they contended that the French court was incompetent to hear the case.”

  • …My heart’s in Accra » Accra, fifteen years later
    • “I’m too late to drag those I know and love to Accra to see the place I fell in love with in 1993. It’s a happy coicidence that I find the Accra of 2009 inspiring, challenging, welcoming and beautiful, or this would have been an alienating two days, instead of inspiring ones.”
  • Andrew Jaffe: Leaves on the Line
    • Andrew Jaffe’s astrophysics-oriented blog.
  • Targeted Development of Registries of Biological Parts
    • Analysis of patterns of part reuse in the (open source) MIT Registry of Biological Parts.

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3 Comments
  1. Given the comments in the Youtube surfing video, I’m not sure if it’s real.

    But it looks fantastic!

  2. Simplicio permalink

    Naw, the surfer isn’t real, it’s from an old powerade commercial, I remember looking into it when the commercial first aired.

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  1. Algorithmic Game Theory — of possible interest for “Ways of Contributing”? « i am a learning scientist

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