📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: July 25, 2017 – Rola Hallam

The Daily Show: July 25, 2017 - Rola Hallam, S2 E135 by Trevor Noah from Comedy Central
The Senate votes to begin a debate on health care, Democrats unveil a new slogan aimed at working-class voters, and Rola Hallam explains how her company CanDo is aiding Syria.

Not as solid as most episodes. The interview with Dr. Rola Hallam on Syria was the solid piece of work here.

The Daily Show S2 E135

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📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: July 24, 2017 – French Montana

The Daily Show: July 24, 2017 - French Montana, S2 E134 by Trevor Noah from Comedy Central
Anthony Scaramucci joins the Trump administration, Trevor bids farewell to former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and French Montana discusses "Jungle Rules."

Loved the Profiles in Tremendousness! Sad that I’m so far behind on episodes that when I’m watching the episode introducing “The Mooch” is the same day that he’s fired from The Apprentice: White House Edition.

The Daily Show S2, E 134

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📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: July 26, 2017 – Charlize Theron

The Daily Show: July 26, 2017 - Charlize Theron, S2 E136 by Trevor Noah from Comedy Central
The GOP makes another push to repeal Obamacare, trans veterans react to President Trump's ban on trans people in the military, and Charlize Theron discusses "Atomic Blonde."

The segment on trans people in the military was phenomenal and truly humanizing.

The Daily Show S2 E136

🔖 Self-Organized Resonance during Search of a Diverse Chemical Space

Self-Organized Resonance during Search of a Diverse Chemical Space by Tal Kachman, Jeremy A. Owen, and Jeremy L. England (Physical Review Letters)
ABSTRACT Recent studies of active matter have stimulated interest in the driven self-assembly of complex structures. Phenomenological modeling of particular examples has yielded insight, but general thermodynamic principles unifying the rich diversity of behaviors observed have been elusive. Here, we study the stochastic search of a toy chemical space by a collection of reacting Brownian particles subject to periodic forcing. We observe the emergence of an adaptive resonance in the system matched to the drive frequency, and show that the increased work absorption by these resonant structures is key to their stabilization. Our findings are consistent with a recently proposed thermodynamic mechanism for far-from-equilibrium self-organization.

Suggested by First Support for a Physics Theory of Life in Quanta Magazine.

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🔖 Spontaneous fine-tuning to environment in many-species chemical reaction networks | PNAS

Spontaneous fine-tuning to environment in many-species chemical reaction networks by Jordan M. Horowitz and Jeremy L. England (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
Significance A qualitatively more diverse range of possible behaviors emerge in many-particle systems once external drives are allowed to push the system far from equilibrium; nonetheless, general thermodynamic principles governing nonequilibrium pattern formation and self-assembly have remained elusive, despite intense interest from researchers across disciplines. Here, we use the example of a randomly wired driven chemical reaction network to identify a key thermodynamic feature of a complex, driven system that characterizes the “specialness” of its dynamical attractor behavior. We show that the network’s fixed points are biased toward the extremization of external forcing, causing them to become kinetically stabilized in rare corners of chemical space that are either atypically weakly or strongly coupled to external environmental drives. Abstract A chemical mixture that continually absorbs work from its environment may exhibit steady-state chemical concentrations that deviate from their equilibrium values. Such behavior is particularly interesting in a scenario where the environmental work sources are relatively difficult to access, so that only the proper orchestration of many distinct catalytic actors can power the dissipative flux required to maintain a stable, far-from-equilibrium steady state. In this article, we study the dynamics of an in silico chemical network with random connectivity in an environment that makes strong thermodynamic forcing available only to rare combinations of chemical concentrations. We find that the long-time dynamics of such systems are biased toward states that exhibit a fine-tuned extremization of environmental forcing.

Suggested by First Support for a Physics Theory of Life in Quanta Magazine.

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An Introduction to the IndieWeb | AltPlatform

An Introduction to the IndieWeb by Chris Aldrich (AltPlatform)
Whether you're starting a blog, building your personal brand, posting a resume, promoting a hobby, writing a personal journal, creating an online commonplace book, sharing photos or content with friends, family, or colleagues, writing reviews, sharing recipes, podcasting, or any one of the thousand other things people do online it all starts with having a presence and an identity online.

I remember some of the difficulties I had in understanding, comprehending, and coming to grasp with the overall concept of the IndieWeb. Then I contended with strategies for navigating my way through the wiki and deciding in what order to do things and finding my way into the rich and diverse community of help and additional resources.

I’ve written an introduction–aimed at beginners (and non-developers)–on AltPlatform.org that I hope might help out others who are thinking about or starting their own journey.

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👓 Big names in statistics want to shake up much-maligned P value | Nature

Big names in statistics want to shake up much-maligned P value by Dalmeet Singh Chawla (Nature)
One of scientists’ favourite statistics — the P value — should face tougher standards, say leading researchers.

The related articles listed at the bottom, many of which I’d previously read, also give some great additional background.

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👓 EXCLUSIVE: First human embryos edited in U.S., using CRISPR | MIT Technology Review

EXCLUSIVE: First human embryos edited in U.S., using CRISPR by Steve Connor (MIT Technology Review)
Researchers have demonstrated they can efficiently improve the DNA of human embryos.
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Your mom is killing your chances of going viral on Facebook | The Next Web

Your mom is killing your chances of going viral on Facebook by Anouk Vleugels (The Next Web)
Unconditional love means unconditional likes. At least, that’s how it works with Chris Aldrich’s mom, who “auto-likes” everything he posts to Facebook. Family pictures? Like! A blog post titled “A New Low in Quantum Mechanics?” Like!

The Next Web has a piece on my Facebook Mom Algorithm Problem article from a few weeks back.

Continue reading “Your mom is killing your chances of going viral on Facebook | The Next Web”

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👓 First Support for a Physics Theory of Life | Quanta Magazine

First Support for a Physics Theory of Life by Natalie Wolchover (Quanta Magazine)
Take chemistry, add energy, get life. The first tests of Jeremy England’s provocative origin-of-life hypothesis are in, and they appear to show how order can arise from nothing.

Interesting article with some great references I’ll need to delve into and read.

The situation changed in the late 1990s, when the physicists Gavin Crooks and Chris Jarzynski derived “fluctuation theorems” that can be used to quantify how much more often certain physical processes happen than reverse processes. These theorems allow researchers to study how systems evolve — even far from equilibrium.

I want to take a look at these papers as well as several about which the article is directly about.

Any claims that it has to do with biology or the origins of life, he added, are “pure and shameless speculations.”

Some truly harsh words from his former supervisor? Wow!

maybe there’s more that you can get for free

Most of what’s here in this article (and likely in the underlying papers) sounds to me to have been heavily influenced by the writings of W. Loewenstein and S. Kauffman. They’ve laid out some models/ideas that need more rigorous testing and work, and this seems like a reasonable start to the process. The “get for free” phrase itself is very S. Kauffman in my mind. I’m curious how many times it appears in his work?

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Reply to Introducing Speed of Light Discussions by Jason Brennan

Introducing Speed of Light Discussions by Jason Brennan (Near the Speed of Light)
Today I’m happy to announce I’ve added a discussions section to the website, directly below each article. Here you’ll be able to directly respond to what you’ve just read, share your thoughts, and have a discussion with other readers of my site. Today’s post is going to take a bit of a look inside why I’m doing this and how discussions work.

Jason your blogpost does a great job of laying out the values (and distractions) of comments on blogs and why someone would want to have them. I particularly like your choice to call this area of his personal site a “Discussion” area instead of the traditional “Comments” moniker most would give it.

Some of your early discussion reminded me of articles by Audrey Watters in which she delineated pieces of why she’s turned off comments on her site and why she also turned off annotations recently. It’s definitely important to have control and agency over one’s own domain, which she also writes about rather eloquently in A Domain of One’s Own in a Post-Ownership Society.

While you use the oft-quoted statement (usually said in a dismissive tone in my experience):

If you want to respond, do so on your own website and tell me.

in the section espousing not allowing comments, I realize that this long-held concept of writing on your own website not only has significant value, but that the Indieweb way of replying and utilizing Webmentions (with moderation enabled if one prefers) for the notifications portion adds even more tremendous value.

Far too often, either in a blog’s comments section or even within social media, it’s all too easy to post an ill-conceived or hurtful drive-by response. It takes little time and thought to say “me too”, “I hate you”, “insert slur here”, or even click an innocuous “like” button many which do nothing for the conversation or discussion being proffered by the site owner. Worse, a very small portion of the world will see that a reader took these actions because they don’t really reflect heavily, if at all, within the reader’s own online presence–who searches for comments others have made online? How would you easily? It’s usually in these interactions that only the writer who spent some significant time trying to communicate can be crushed by overwhelming negativity rather than being showered with the intelligence, logic, or forethought they deserve for putting themselves out there, much less receiving praise for their work. It’s no wonder that people prefer to turn off comments.

Earlier this evening as I was reviewing the online discussion from the San Francisco Homebrew Website Club, I saw a comment from bdesham captured by Tantek Çelik, “I heard not having comments on Tumblr was a deliberate design, to avoid abuse, so to comment you have to reblog?” I recall having an HWC at Yahoo’s LA headquarters and hearing from someone within Yahoo that indeed this was exactly the reason that drove this piece of UX/UI. If you wanted to comment on Tumblr, you had to repost the content to your own front page along with the comment. This meant that you had to take true ownership of your words as they appeared front and center on your own site there. Who wants to publicly mark themselves with a proverbial Scarlet Letter just to be mean? (Some will, but increasingly many won’t because it redounds directly to their reputation.) Perhaps this is why some of the most marginalized people on the internet heavily use Tumblr and feel safe within their communities there?

As some will know, for the past few years I’ve been using the W3C’s recommended Webmention specification, a sort of cross-website universal @mention or @reply, which I’ve implemented on WordPress with the Webmention plugin and a few others, to accept replies/comments and other associated interactions on my blog in addition to the traditional comments box. While the traditional comment box has largely been unused on my site–making it often feel in the early days like I was “spewing words out into the void” as Jason describes–the Webmention piece seems to have made a far larger difference to me.

The majority of the interaction my site receives comes via Webmentions from Brid.gy in the form of short one-offs or simple “likes” which are backfed from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. However a growing number of interactions are actually interesting and more substantive discussions. It’s these more “traditional” replies via Webmention that have the most value to me. They are better thought out replies and helpful commentary, which almost always appear front and center on the commenter’s own site (much the way Tumblr designed theirs) before they ever appear on my site  as a comment. As Jason astutely points out, having comments that are longer than 140 characters can be very valuable as well; since my commenters are posting on their own sites where they have ultimate freedom, most of them aren’t constrained in any way except perhaps for the amount of time they wish to take.

So here you are Jason, I’ve commented by posting on my own site first and notifying you by manually copying it to your discussion section where others can participate as well. (If you supported receiving Webmentions, the interaction would be automatic and nearly seamless.) I’m curious if you’d consider implementing the Webmention spec (both sending and receiving) on your website and if you think it would have the same intended effect you mean when you enabled “Discussions” on yours?–I know it feels like it has on mine.

If you care to reply back, feel free to reply on your own site, include a permalink to my original and use the manual Webmention form (below the traditional comment box) and click “Ping Me!” Of course, if you’re old school, feel free to dust off the old comment box and give that a whirl too!

Some additional miscellaneous thoughts, highlights, and short comments on Jason’s post:

Comments sections often become shouting matches or spam-riddled.

They can also become filled with “me too” type of commentary which more than often doesn’t add anything substantive to the conversation.

One of my all-time favorite comment moderation notes comes from the FAQ section of Peter Woit’s blog under “Why Did you Delete my comment?” He writes:

I delete a lot of the comments submitted here. For some postings, the majority of submitted comments get deleted. I don’t delete comments because the commenter disagrees with me, actually comments agreeing with me are deleted far more often than ones that disagree with me. The overall goal is to try and maintain a comment section worth reading, so comments should ideally be well-informed and tell us something true that we didn’t already know. The most common reason for deleting a comment is that it’s off-topic. Often people are inspired by something in a posting to start discussing something else that interests them and that they feel is likely to interest others here. Unfortunately I have neither the time nor inclination to take on the thankless job of running a general discussion forum here.

I hope my thoughts pass the Woit-comment-test for Jason.


For a website the size and popularity of Daring Fireball, it’d probably be madness to foster any kind of coherent conversation.

Certainly to do it without a staff would be difficult… Again here, Audrey Watter’s post about turning off comments indicates to some extent that even though she views her site as her personal blog, it’s audience, like that of Daring Fireball, has gotten so large that it’s not just friends, family, and community, but something beyond “community” (beyond the pale) that changes the dynamic of accepting comments.


I never felt like I was talking with anyone or anyone’s website, but more like I was spewing words out into the void.

I often feel this way, but supporting Webmentions and backfeed has largely negated these feelings for me in the last few years. I can now communicate directly with websites (and their authors) that support these open protocols.


It has the added benefit of making one-word smart-ass posts impossible.

I do remember the days of old, when people would comment “First!”, but beyond that #OneWordSmartAss is usually overrated unless you’re a professional comedian like Jon Stewart.

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Introduction to Algebraic Geometry | UCLA Extension in Fall 2017

MATH X 451.42 Introduction to Algebraic Geometry by Dr. Michael Miller (UCLA Extension)
Algebraic geometry is the study, using algebraic tools, of geometric objects defined as the solution sets to systems of polynomial equations in several variables. This introductory course, the first in a two-quarter sequence, develops the basic theory of the subject, beginning with seminal theorems—the Hilbert Basis Theorem and Hilbert’s Nullstellensatz—that establish the dual relationship between so-called varieties—both affine and projective—and certain ideals of the polynomial ring in some number of variables. Topics covered in this first quarter include: algebraic sets, projective spaces, Zariski topology, coordinate rings, the Grassmannian, irreducibility and dimension, morphisms, sheaves, and prevarieties. The theoretical discussion will be supported by a large number of examples and exercises. The course should appeal to those with an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the mathematical interplay among algebra, geometry, and topology. Prerequisites: Some exposure to advanced mathematical methods, particularly those pertaining to ring theory, fields extensions, and point-set topology.

Dr. Michael Miller has announced the topic for his Fall math class at UCLA Extension: Algebraic Geometry!!

Yes math fans, as previously hinted at in prior conversations, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the overlap of algebra and geometry. Be sure to line up expeditiously as registration for the class won’t happen until July 31, 2017.

While it’s not yet confirmed, some sources have indicated that this may be the first part of a two quarter sequence on the topic. As soon as we have more details, we’ll post them here first. As of this writing, there is no officially announced textbook for the course, but we’ve got some initial guesses and the best are as follows (roughly in decreasing order):

  1. Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms: An Introduction to Computational Algebraic Geometry and Commutative Algebra (Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics) 4th ed. by David A. Cox, John Little, and Donal O’Shea
  2. Algebraic Geometry: An Introduction (Universitext) by Daniel Perrin
  3. An Invitation to Algebraic Geometry (Universitext) by Karen E. Smith, Lauri Kahanpää, Pekka Kekäläinen, William Traves
  4. Algebraic Geometry (Dover Books on Mathematics) by Solomon Lefschetz (Less likely based on level and age, but Dr. Miller does love inexpensive Dover editions)

For those who are new to Dr. Miller’s awesome lectures, I’ve written some hints and tips on what to expect.

Most of his classes range from about 20-30 people, many of them lifelong regulars. (Yes, there are dozens of people like me who will take almost everything he teaches–he’s that good. This class, my 22nd, will be the start of my second decade of math with him.)

Mathematical Sciences Building, 520 Portola Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095

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📅 WordPress Pasadena General July N Fly Meetup Edition

Attending WordPress Pasadena General July N Fly Meetup Edition
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM; Cross Campus, 85 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA (map) Howdy everyone! Welcome to our July general WordPress user group! We discuss all the things WordPress here. If any of you would like to do a presentation post your idea in the comments. Bring your curiosity, your questions, your swell attitude and lots of potatoes. J/k, just bring your smiling faces.

Interested in using WordPress to create an online presence? Got questions? Come join us tonight in learning together.

Cross Campus, Pasadena, California, United States of America

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