I'm giving a talk at the Stanford Complexity Group this Thursday afternoon, April 20th. If you're around - like in Silicon Valley - please drop by! It will be in Clark S361 at 4 pm.
Here's the idea. Everyone likes to say that biology is all about information. There's something true about this - just think about DNA. But what does this insight actually do for us? To figure it out, we need to do some work.
Biology is also about things that can make copies of themselves. So it makes sense to figure out how information theory is connected to the 'replicator equation' — a simple model of population dynamics for self-replicating entities.
To see the connection, we need to use relative information: the information of one probability distribution relative to another, also known as the Kullback–Leibler divergence. Then everything pops into sharp focus.
It turns out that free energy — energy in forms that can actually be used, not just waste heat — is a special case of relative information Since the decrease of free energy is what drives chemical reactions, biochemistry is founded on relative information.
But there's a lot more to it than this! Using relative information we can also see evolution as a learning process, fix the problems with Fisher's fundamental theorem of natural selection, and more.
So this what I'll talk about! You can see slides of an old version here:
but my Stanford talk will be videotaped and it'll eventually be here:
You can already see lots of cool talks at this location!
Wondering if there’s a way I can manufacture a reason to head to Northern California this week…
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The legendary editor who founded the Washington Monthly and pioneered explanatory journalism trains his keen, principled eye on the changes that have reshaped American politics and civic life beginning with the New Deal.
“We Do Our Part” was the slogan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration—and it captured the can-do spirit that allowed America to survive the Great Depression and win World War II. Although the intervening decades have seen their share of progress as well, in some ways we have regressed as a nation. Over the course of a sixty-year career as a Washington, D.C., journalist, historian, and challenger of conventional wisdom, Charles Peters has witnessed these drastic changes firsthand. This stirring book explains how we can consolidate the gains we have made while recapturing the generous spirit we have lost.
In a volume spanning the decades, Peters compares the flood of talented, original thinkers who flowed into the nation’s capital to join FDR’s administration with the tide of self-serving government staffers who left to exploit their opportunities on Wall Street and as lobbyists from the 1970s to today. During the same period, the economic divide between rich and poor grew, as we shifted from a culture of generosity to one of personal aggrandizement. With the wisdom of a prophet, Peters connects these two trends by showing how this money-fueled elitism has diminished our trust in one another and our nation—and changed Washington for the worse.
While Peters condemns the crass buckraking that afflicts our capital, and the rampant consumerism that fuels our greed, he refuses to see America’s downward drift as permanent. By reminding us of our vanished civic ideal, We Do Our Part also points the way forward. Peter argues that if we want to revive the ethos of the New Deal era—a time when government attracted the brightest and the most dedicated, and when our laws reflected a spirit of humility and community—we need only demand it of ourselves and our elected officials.
With a new administration in Washington, the time is ripe for a reassessment of our national priorities. We Do Our Part offers a vital road map of where we have been and where we are going, drawn from the invaluable perspective of a man who has seen America’s better days and still believes in the promise that lies ahead.
h/t to reference in PBS Newshour.
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In the early 1840s the American West, though claimed by the United States, was considered by many white Americans to be untamed, wild, and possibly rife with unknown wealth. This was a West that existed largely in the American imagination.
In fact, the area west of the Missouri was home to complex Native societies, was divided into political structures, and was intimately known, if not formally mapped.
These two competing Wests - that imagined by many Americans and that inhabited by Souix, Pawnee, Snake and Nez Pierce tribes - were mapped both geographically and textually by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843. Frémont set out from St. Louis in the summer of 1842, and began to chronicle his journey west, in the wake of "emigrants" who were moving to the Oregon Territory - a route known as the "Oregon Trail." Frémont's first expedition covered the land between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains during the summer and fall of 1842. In the summer of 1843 he set out to write an account of the second half of the Oregon Trail, from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River in Oregon.
The maps contained here are drawn from the Library of Congress's collection "Topographical map of the road from Missouri to Oregon, commencing at the mouth of the Kansas in the Missouri River and ending at the mouth of the Walla-Wallah in the Columbia." They were created using Frémont's journal, and cover his first and second expeditions. I have annotated the maps with accounts of the resting places, flora, fauna, and people Frémont's and his party encountered on their journey west.
You’ve played the game Oregon Trail via DOS (as a child), online, or via app but have you traced the actual trail taken by John C. Frémont between 1842 and 1843? Now you can with this daily interactive map with journal.
Thanks Anelise Shrout!
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Linkrot and the lack of permanence on the web is a recurring theme for this blog. In the final days as App.net was winding down, I wanted to put my money where my mouth was. I spun up a couple new servers and wrote a set of scripts to essentially download every post on App.net. It feels like a fragile archive, put together hastily, but I believe it’s mostly complete. I’ve also downloaded thumbnail versions of some of the public photos hosted on App.net.
Interesting to see that Manton Reece created an impromptu archive of all of App.net before it shut down.
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Some personal thoughts and opinions on what ``good quality mathematics'' is, and whether one should try to define this term rigorously. As a case study, the story of Szemer'edi's theorem is presented.
This looks like a cool little paper.
Some thoughts after reading
And indeed it was. The opening has lovely long (though possibly incomplete) list of aspects of good mathematics toward which mathematicians should strive. The second section contains an interesting example which looks at the history of a theorem and it’s effect on several different areas. To me most of the value is in thinking about the first several pages. I highly recommend this to all young budding mathematicians.
In particular, as a society, we need to be careful of early students in elementary and high school as well as college as the pedagogy of mathematics at these lower levels tends to weed out potential mathematicians of many of these stripes. Students often get discouraged from pursuing mathematics because it’s “too hard” often because they don’t have the right resources or support. These students, may in fact be those who add to the well-roundedness of the subject which help to push it forward.
I believe that this diverse and multifaceted nature of “good mathematics” is very healthy for mathematics as a whole, as it it allows us to pursue many different approaches to the subject, and exploit many different types of mathematical talent, towards our common goal of greater mathematical progress and understanding. While each one of the above attributes is generally accepted to be a desirable trait to have in mathematics, it can become detrimental to a field to pursue only one or two of them at the expense of all the others.
As I look at his list of scenarios, it also reminds me of how areas within the humanities can become quickly stymied. The trouble in some of those areas of study is that they’re not as rigorously underpinned, as systematic, or as brutally clear as mathematics can be, so the fact that they’ve become stuck may not be noticed until a dreadfully much later date. These facts also make it much easier and clearer in some of these fields to notice the true stars.
As a reminder for later, I’ll include these scenarios about research fields:
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- A field which becomes increasingly ornate and baroque, in which individual
results are generalised and refined for their own sake, but the subject as a
whole drifts aimlessly without any definite direction or sense of progress;
- A field which becomes filled with many astounding conjectures, but with no
hope of rigorous progress on any of them;
- A field which now consists primarily of using ad hoc methods to solve a collection
of unrelated problems, which have no unifying theme, connections, or purpose;
- A field which has become overly dry and theoretical, continually recasting and
unifying previous results in increasingly technical formal frameworks, but not
generating any exciting new breakthroughs as a consequence; or
- A field which reveres classical results, and continually presents shorter, simpler,
and more elegant proofs of these results, but which does not generate any truly
original and new results beyond the classical literature.
60dB brings you today's best short-form audio stories – news, sports, entertainment, business and technology, all personalized for you.
I just ran across a recommendation for an audio discovery app via Mathew Ingram at the end of This Week in Google #389.
60db seems like the start of what could be an interesting podcast/audio discovery app/engine. It has the appearance of wanting to be like Nuzzel for the audio space based on their announcement, but isn’t quite there yet based on my quick look through their site. On first blush it doesn’t seem much better than Huffduffer and doesn’t have a follower model of any sort, but perhaps that could change. Folks watching the podcasting and audio discovery space should keep an eye on it though.
Sadly, at least for now, the app appears to focus on short form audio (3-8 minutes in length) from major media content producers who are already syndicating audio in podcast format. I haven’t used the iOS (no Android app yet) app, but the web interface allows one to pick from a list of about 20 broad category options (news, sports, politics, kids, etc.) to “customize” one’s feed.
Hopefully in the future it may build itself out a bit more like Nuzzel by requesting data from one’s Facebook or Twitter feeds to better customize an algorithmic feed for better general audio discovery. Maybe it will allow a follower model based on social graph for improved discovery. One might also like to see custom settings for podcast story length, so one could choose between short hit audio, which they currently have in abundance, and longer form stories for lengthier commute times.
For the moment however, they seem to have recreated a slightly better and more portable version of news radio for the internet/mobile crowd. Perhaps future iterations will reveal more?
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