We don’t yet know quite what a physics of biology will consist of. But we won’t understand life without it.
Solomon W. Golomb (May 30, 1932 – May 1, 2016)
Shannon Award winner and long-time ITSOC member Solomon W. Golomb passed away on May 1, 2016.
Solomon W. Golomb was the Andrew Viterbi Chair in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) and was at USC since 1963, rising to the rank of University and Distinguished Professor. He was a member of the National Academies of Engineering and Science, and was awarded the National Medal of Science, the Shannon Award, the Hamming Medal, and numerous other accolades. As USC Dean Yiannis C. Yortsos wrote, “With unparalleled scholarly contributions and distinction to the field of engineering and mathematics, Sol’s impact has been extraordinary, transformative and impossible to measure. His academic and scholarly work on the theory of communications built the pillars upon which our modern technological life rests.”
In addition to his many contributions to coding and information theory, Professor Golomb was one of the great innovators in recreational mathematics, contributing many articles to Scientific American and other publications. More recent Information Theory Society members may be most familiar with his mathematics puzzles that appeared in the Society Newsletter, which will publish a full remembrance later.
A quick search a moment later revealed this sad confirmation along with some great photos from an award Sol received just a week ago:
— Yannis C. Yortsos (@DeanYortsos) May 2, 2016
— Yannis C. Yortsos (@DeanYortsos) April 22, 2016
— Yannis C. Yortsos (@DeanYortsos) April 21, 2016
As is common in academia, I’m sure it will take a few days for the news to drip out, but the world has certainly lost one of its greatest thinkers, and many of us have lost a dear friend, colleague, and mentor.
I’ll try touch base with his family and pass along what information sniff I can. I’ll post forthcoming obituaries as I see them, and will surely post some additional thoughts and reminiscences of my own in the coming days.
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Tom M. Apostol, professor of mathematics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology passed away on May 8, 2016. He was 92.
As many know, for over a decade, I’ve been studying a variety of areas of advanced abstract mathematics with Michael Miller. Mike Miller received his Ph.D. in 1974 (UCLA) under the supervision of Basil Gordon who in turn received his Ph.D. in 1956 (CalTech) under the supervision of Tom M. Apostol.
Incidentally going back directly three generations is Markov and before that Chebyshev and two generations before that Lobachevsky.
Sadly, I never got to have Tom as a teacher directly myself, though I did get to meet him several times in (what mathematicians might call) social situations. I did have the advantage of delving into his two volumes of Calculus as well as referring to his book on Analytic Number Theory. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at calculus, I highly recommend an evening or two by the fire with a glass of wine while you revel in Calculus, Vol 1 or Calculus, Vol 2.
It’s useful to take a moment to remember our intellectual antecedents, so in honor of Tom’s passing, I recommend the bookmarked very short obituary (I’m sure more will follow), this obituary of Basil, and this issue of the Notices of the AMS celebrating Basil as well. I also came across a copy of Fascinating Mathematical People which has a great section on Tom and incidentally includes some rare younger photos of Sol Golomb who suddenly passed away last Sunday. (It’s obviously been a tough week for me and math in Southern California this week.)
...I rejoice that a major new database was launched today. It’s not in my area, so I won’t be using it, but I am nevertheless very excited that it exists. It is called the L-functions and modular forms database. The thinking behind the site is that lots of number theorists have privately done lots of difficult calculations concerning L-functions, modular forms, and related objects. Presumably up to now there has been a great deal of duplication, because by no means all these calculations make it into papers, and even if they do it may be hard to find the right paper. But now there is a big database of these objects, with a large amount of information about each one, as well as a great big graph of connections between them. I will be very curious to know whether it speeds up research in number theory: I hope it will become a completely standard tool in the area and inspire people in other areas to create databases of their own.
…I rejoice that a major new database was launched today. It’s not in my area, so I won’t be using it, but I am nevertheless very excited that it exists. It is called the L-functions and modular forms database. The thinking behind the site is that lots of number theorists have privately done lots of difficult calculations concerning L-functions, modular forms, and related objects. Presumably up to now there has been a great deal of duplication, because by no means all these calculations make it into papers, and even if they do it may be hard to find the right paper. But now there is a big database of these objects, with a large amount of information about each one, as well as a great big graph of connections between them. I will be very curious to know whether it speeds up research in number theory: I hope it will become a completely standard tool in the area and inspire people in other areas to create databases of their own.
In his 2010 book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Nick Lane, a biochemist at University College London, explores with eloquence and clarity the big questions of life: how it began, why we age and die, and why we have sex. Lane been steadily constructing an alternative view of evolution to the one in which genes explain it all. He argues that some of the major events during evolutionary history, including the origin of life itself, are best understood by considering where the energy comes from and how it is used. Lane describes these ideas in his 2015 book, The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is?. Recently Bill Gates called it “an amazing inquiry into the origins of life,” adding, Lane “is one of those original thinkers who make you say: More people should know about this guy’s work.” Nautilus caught up with Lane in his laboratory in London and asked him about his ideas on aging, sex, and death.
Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?
- Second Law of Thermodynamics with Discrete Quantum Feedback Control by Takahiro Sagawa and Masahito Ueda; Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 080403 – Published 26 February 2008
- Work and information processing in a solvable model of Maxwell’s demon by Dibyendu Mandal and Christopher Jarzynski; PNAS vol. 109 no. 29, July 17, 2012
- Thermodynamic Costs of Information Processing in Sensory Adaptation by Pablo Sartori, Léo Granger, Chiu Fan Lee, and Jordan M. Horowitz; PLOS December 11, 2014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003974
- Intermittent transcription dynamics for the rapid production of long transcripts of high fidelity by Depken M1, Parrondo JM, Grill SW; Cell Rep. 2013 Oct 31;5(2):521-30. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2013.09.007
- The stepping motor protein as a feedback control ratchet by Martin Bier; BioSystems 88 (2007) 301–307
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Photo taken at: Macy’s