👓 ‘A Sort of Everyday Struggle’ | The Harvard Crimson

'A Sort of Everyday Struggle' by Hannah Natanson
Women in Harvard's math department report a bevy of inequalities—from a discouraging absence of female faculty to a culture of "math bro" condescension.

A story about math that sadly doesn’t feature equality.

Oddly not featured in the story was any reference to the Lawrence H. Summers incident of 2005. Naturally, one can’t pin the issue on him as this lack of diversity has spanned the life of the university, but apparently the math department didn’t get the memo when the university president left.

I’ve often heard that the fish stinks from the head, but apparently it’s the whole fish here.

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👓 Filing errors knock rent control in Glendale out of consideration — for now | Glendale News-Press

Filing errors knock rent control in Glendale out of consideration — for now by Jeff Landa (Glendale News-Press)
The petition hit an administrative setback.
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👓 Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through | Washington Post

Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through by Dan Lamothe, Lindsey Bever and Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post)
‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ Trump told the late soldier’s father.

It kills me that he’s so unfeeling, unkind, and generally has no empathy. The fact that he hasn’t caught on that people are going to fact check him and make him continually look like an even bigger looser is even more painful. The disrespect to our troops just becomes the icing on the cake. His actions really just hurt my brain because they just make no sense within the framework of humanity.

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📅 The Calculus of Comedy: Math in The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory at UCLA’s IPAM on 10/25

The Calculus of Comedy: Math in The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory (IPAM (Special Events and Conferences))
When: Wednesday, October 25, 2017, from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM PDT Where: UCLA California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), 570 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095 While there is no mathematical formula for writing television comedy, for the writers of The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory, mathematical formulas (along with classic equations and cutting-edge theorems) can sometimes be an integral part of those shows. In a lively and nerdy discussion, five of these writers (who have advanced degrees in math, physics, and computer science) will share their love of numbers and talent for producing laughter. Mathematician Sarah Greenwald, who teaches and writes about math in popular culture, will moderate the panel. The event will begin with a lecture by bestselling author Simon Singh (The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets), who will examine some of the mathematical nuggets hidden in The Simpsons (from Euler’s identity to Mersenne primes) and discuss how Futurama has also managed to include obscure number theory and complex ideas about geometry. Tickets: Tickets are $15 each and seating is limited, so reserve your seat soon. Tickets can be purchased here via Eventbrite (ticket required for entry to the event). A limited number of free tickets will be reserved for UCLA students. We ask that students come to IPAM between 9:00am and 3:00pm on Friday, October 20, to present your BruinCard and pick up your ticket (one ticket per BruinCard, nontransferable). If any tickets remain, we will continue distributing free tickets to students on Monday, Oct. 23, starting at 9:00am until we run out. Both your ticket and BruinCard must be presented at the door for entry. Doors open at 4:00. Please plan to arrive early to check in and find a seat. We expect a large audience.

Okay math nerds, this looks like an interesting lecture if you’re in Los Angeles next Wednesday. I remember reading and mostly liking Singh’s book The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets a few years back.

The hard core math crowd may be disappointed in the level, but it could be an interesting group to get out and be social with.

My review of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets from Goodreads:

I’m both a math junkie and fan of the Simpsons. Singh’s book is generally excellent and well written and covers a broad range of mathematical areas. I’m a major fan of his book Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, but find myself wanting much more from this effort. Much of my problem stems from my very deep knowledge of math and its history as well as having read most of the vignettes covered here in other general popular texts multiple times. Fortunately most readers won’t suffer from this and will hopefully find some interesting tidbits both about the Simpsons and math here to whet their appetites.

There were several spots at which I felt that Singh stretched a bit too far in attempting to tie the Simpsons to “mathematics” and possibly worse, several spots where he took deliberate detours into tangential subjects that had absolutely no relation to the Simpsons, but these are ultimately good for the broader public reading what may be the only math-related book they pick up this decade.

This could be considered a modern-day version of E.T. Bell‘s Men of Mathematics but with an overly healthy dose of side-entertainment via the Simpsons and Futurama to help the medicine go down.

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👓 Here’s a hack so you can tweet with 280 characters right now | The Verge

How to tweet with 280 characters right now by Tom Warren (The Verge)
Twitter doubled the character limit of tweets to 280 in a surprise move yesterday, but not every Twitter user will be able to use the new limit just yet. Twitter is rolling out the long tweets feature to select accounts as a test, but Twitter user Prof9 has discovered a workaround to get longer tweets a little early. Here’s how to tweet with 280 characters instead of 140: Download Tampermonkey for your browser of choice (Chrome webstore link) Visit this Github repository, click the “raw” button, then tell tampermonkey to “install” the script (or copy and paste the code into a new script in Tampermonkey) Now visit twitter.com, make sure the script in running in Tampermonkey, then tweet away It’s a simple workaround that will work automatically on Twitter.com every time you use the web client to tweet. Tampermonkey is a widely used userscript manager, and the javascript is a harmless workaround that simply bypasses the tweet button limit. Twitter is slowly testing its 280 character tweet limits with a variety of accounts, so if you don’t want to install Tampermonkey then you might get randomly selected for the test in the coming weeks or months.

Sadly Twitter has figured out the work around and disabled it so it doesn’t work anymore. Fortunately I can always write on my own site without character limits.

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👓 Another USC medical school dean resigns | Washington Post

Another USC medical school dean resigns by Susan Svrluga (Washington Post)
The University of Southern California announced Thursday that Rohit Varma has resigned as dean of the Keck School of Medicine. He had replaced a dean who was banned from campus after allegations of drug use and partying.

I’ve been so busy in the last month, I had to do a double-take at the word ANOTHER!

The statement USC released seems highly disingenuous and inconsistent to me.

“As you may have heard, today Dr. Rohit Varma resigned as dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC,” the school’s provost, Michael Quick, wrote in a message to the community.

“I understand how upsetting this situation is to all of us, but we felt it was in the best interest of the faculty, staff, and students for all of us to move in this direction. Today we learned previously undisclosed information that caused us to lose confidence in Dr. Varma’s ability to lead the school. Our leaders must be held to the highest standards. Dr. Varma understands this, and chose to step down.”

First they say Varma resigned as dean which makes it seem as if he’s stepping aside of his own accord when the next paragraph indicates that the University leadership has lost confidence in him and forced him out. So which is it? He resigned or was fired?

Secondly they mentioned “undisclosed information”. This is painful because the so-called undisclosed information was something that USC was not only aware of, but actually paid off a person involved to the tune of more than $100,000!

USC paid her more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty, according to the records and interviews.

“The behavior you exhibited is inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace, reflects poor judgment, is contrary to the University’s standards of conduct, and will not be tolerated at the University of Southern California,” a USC official wrote in a 2003 letter of reprimand.”

Even the LA Times reports: “The sexual harassment allegation is well known in the upper echelons of the university, but not among many of the students and staff.” How exactly was this “undisclosed?!”

So, somehow, a person who was formally reprimanded years ago (and whose reprimands were later greatly lessened by the way) was somehow accidentally promoted to dean of an already embattled division of the university?? I’m not really sure how he even maintained his position after the original incident much less subsequently promoted and allowed to continue on to eventually be appointed dean years later. Most shocking, there was no mention of his other positions at USC. I take this to mean that he’s still on the faculty, he’s still on staff at the hospital, and he’s still got all the rights and benefits of his previous positions at the University? I sincerely hope that he learned his lesson in 2003, but suspect that he didn’t, and if this is the case and others come forward, he will be summarily dispatched. For the University’s sake, I further hope they’re looking into it internally with a fine-toothed comb before they’re outed again by the Los Angeles Times reporting staff who seem to have a far higher level of morality than the USC leadership over the past several years.

During a month which has seen an inordinate amount of sexual harassment backlash, I’m shocked that USC has done so very little and has only acted (far too long after-the-fact) to sweep this all under the rug.

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👓 Going Indie. Step 2: Reclaiming Content | Matthias Ott

Going Indie. Step 2: Reclaiming Content by Matthias Ott (Matthias Ott | User Experience Designer)
We have lost control over our content. To change this, we need to reconsider the way we create and consume content online. We need to create a new set of tools that enable an independent, open web for everyone.

A nice narrative for the IndieWeb movement by Matthias.

Some of my favorite quotes from the piece:

Having your own website surely is a wonderful thing, but to be relevant, useful, and satisfactory, it needs to be connected to other sites and services. Because ultimately, human interactions are what fuels social life online and most of your friends will still be on social networks, for now.

…what the IndieWeb movement is about: Creating tools that enable a decentralized, people-focused alternative to the corporate web, putting you back in control, and building an active community around this idea of independence.

Tim Kadlec reminded us of the underlying promise of the web:

The web is for everyone.

Wilson Miner put it in his 2011 Build conference talk:
“The things that we choose to surround ourselves will shape what we become. We’re actually in the process of building an environment, where we’ll spend most of our time, for the rest of our lives.”

 

This also reminds me that I ought to swing by room 3420 in Boelter Hall on my way to math class this week. I forget that I’m always taking classes just a few floors away from the room that housed the birth of the internet.

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👓 Towards a more democratic Web | Tara Vancil

Towards a more democratic Web by Tara Vancil (Tara Vancil)
Many people who have suffered harassment on Twitter (largely women), are understandably fed up with Twitter’s practices, and have staged a boycott of Twitter today October 13, 2017. Presumably the goal is to highlight the flaws in Twitter’s moderation policies, and to push the company to make meaningful changes in their policies, but I’d like to argue that we shouldn’t expect Twitter’s policies to change.

I think I believe Tara when she says about Twitter:

It’s not going to get better.

I think there are a lot of people, including myself, who also think like she does here:

I want online media to work much more like a democracy, where users are empowered to decide what their experience is like.

The difference for her is that she’s actively building something to attempt to make things better not only for herself, but for others. This is tremendously laudable.

I’d heard of her project Beaker and Mastodon before, but hadn’t heard anything before about Patchwork, which sounds rather interesting.

h/t Richard Eriksson for highlighting this article on Reading.am though I would have come across it tomorrow morning likely in my own feed reader.

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👓 Twitter CEO promises to crack down on hate, violence and harassment with “more aggressive” rules | Tech Crunch

Twitter CEO promises to crack down on hate, violence and harassment with “more aggressive” rules by Matthew Panzarino (Tech Crunch)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to…Twitter today to promise a “more aggressive” stance in its rules and how it enforces them. The tweet storm was based in a response to the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest, as well as work that Dorsey says Twitter has been working ‘intensely’ on over the past few months. Dorsey says that critical decisions were made today in how to go about preventing the rampant and vicious harassment many women, minorities and other users undergo daily on the platform. “We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” Dorsey says. “New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence. These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week.”

I don’t have very high hopes for the climate changing on this issue though I did participate in the Twitter boycott today.

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👓 Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found | New Scientist

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found by Leah Crane (New Scientist)
About half the normal matter in our universe had never been observed – until now. Two teams have finally seen it by combining millions of faint images into one

Model of universe structureDiscoveries seem to back up many of our ideas about how the universe got its large-scale structure

Andrey Kravtsov (The University of Chicago) and Anatoly Klypin (New Mexico State University). Visualisation by Andrey Kravtsov

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.
Continue reading “👓 Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found | New Scientist”

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👓 Vladimir Voevodsky, 1966 – 2017 | John Carlos Baez

Vladimir Voevodsky, 1966 - 2017 by John Carlos Baez (Google+)
This mathematician died last week. He won the Fields Medal in 2002 for proving the Milnor conjecture in a branch of algebra known as algebraic K-theory. He continued to work on this subject until he helped prove the more general Bloch-Kato conjecture in 2010. Proving these results — which are too technical to easily describe to nonmathematicians! — required him to develop a dream of Grothendieck: the theory of motives. Very roughly, this is a way of taking the space of solutions of a collection of polynomial equations and chopping it apart into building blocks. But the process of 'chopping up', and also these building blocks, called 'motives', are very abstract — nothing simple or obvious.

There’s some interesting personality and history in this short post of John’s.

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👓 The Next Platform | Pierre Levy

The Next Platform by Pierre Levy (Pierre Levy's Blog)
One percent of the human population was connected to the Internet at the end of the 20th century. In 2017, more than 50% is. Most of the users interact in social media, search information, buy products and services online. But despite the ongoing success of digital communication, there is a growing dissatisfaction about the big tech companies (the “Silicon Valley”) who dominate the new communication environment. The big techs are the most valued companies in the world and the massive amount of data that they possess is considered the most precious good of our time. The Silicon Valley owns the big computers: the network of physical centers where our personal and business data are stored and processed. Their income comes from their economic exploitation of our data for marketing purpose and from their sales of hardware, software or services. But they also derive considerable power from the knowledge of markets and public opinions that stems from their information control.

Transparency is the very basis of trust and the precondition of authentic dialogue. Data and people (including the administrators of a platform), should be traceable and audit-able. Transparency should be reciprocal, without distinction between rulers and ruled. Such transparency will ultimately be the basis of reflexive collective intelligence, allowing teams and communities of any size to observe and compare their cognitive activity.

The trouble with some of this is the post-truth political climate in which basic “facts” are under debate. What will the battle between these two groups look like and how can actual facts win out in the end? Will the future Eloi and Morlocks be the descendants of them? I would have presumed that generally logical, intelligent, and educated people would generally come to a broadly general philosophical meeting of the minds as to how to best maximize life, but this seems to obviously not be the case as the result of the poorly educated who will seemingly believe almost anything. And this problem is generally separate from the terrifically selfish people who have differing philosophical stances on how to proceed. How will these differences evolve over time?

This article is sure to be interesting philosophy among some in the IndieWeb movement, but there are some complexities in the system which are sure to muddy the waters. I suspect that many in the Big History school of thought may enjoy the underpinnings of this as well.

I’m going to follow Pierre Levy’s blog to come back and read a bit more about his interesting research programme. There’s certainly a lot to unpack here.

 

Annotations

The Next Platform

Commonality means that people will not have to pay to get access to the new public sphere: all will be free and public property. Commonality means also transversality: de-silo and cross-pollination.


Openness is on the rise because it maximizes the improvement of goods and services, foster trust and support collaborative engagement.


We need a new kind of public sphere: a platform in the cloud where data and metadata would be our common good, dedicated to the recording and collaborative exploitation of our memory in the service of collective intelligence. According to the current zeitgeist, the core values orienting the construction of this new public sphere should be: openness, transparency and commonality


The practice of writing in ancient palace-temples gave birth to government as a separate entity. Alphabet and paper allowed the emergence of merchant city-states and the expansion of literate empires. The printing press, industrial economy, motorized transportation and electronic media sustained nation-states.


The digital revolution will foster new forms of government. We discuss political problems in a global public space taking advantage of the web and social media. The majority of humans live in interconnected cities and metropoles. Each urban node wants to be an accelerator of collective intelligence, a smart city.

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👓 A 2017 Nobel laureate says he left science because he ran out of money and was fed up with academia | QZ

A 2017 Nobel laureate left science because he ran out of money (Quartz)
Jeffrey Hall, a retired professor at Brandeis University, shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries elucidating how our internal body clock works. He was honored along with Michael Young and his close collaborator Michael Roshbash. Hall said in an interview from his home in rural Maine that he collaborated with Roshbash because they shared...

This is an all-too-often heard story. The difference is that now a Nobel Prize winner is telling it about himself!

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👓 Tillerson was summoned to the White House amid presidential fury | NBC News

Tillerson was summoned to the White House amid presidential fury by Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube, and Andrea Mitchell (NBC News)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was called to the White House after a furious President Trump reacted to reports of a growing rift between the two men.
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👓 NRA support for restricting ‘bump stocks’ reflects impact of Las Vegas massacre | Washington Post

NRA support for restricting ‘bump stocks’ reflects impact of Las Vegas massacre by Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post)
Less clear is whether the move signals an opening for further action on gun control.
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