inclusionPhysicsTechnology

Mothers of invention, a parting nod from Stephen Hawking

We learned of Stephen Hawking’s passing today. I learned that one of the technologists behind the assistive technology that amplified the continuous flow of so many of his ground breaking insights is Lama Nachman.

Her story and the implications for better assistive technology is fascinating.

We are both mourning the passing of Stephen Hawking and celebrating Women’s History Month in the US (wait, so that mean’s the other 49% get the rest of the year?). It reminds me of the legions of Joan Feynmans (her brother got the spotlight), Vera Sóss (other Erdös-1’s seem to get the spotlight — wait can we get an Anna Erdös number? ), Katherine Johnsons (took a while to get that spotlight), Maryam Mirzakhanis that are working away, far from the spotlight, building and unfolding the universe.

MathematicsTravel

The geometrical beauty of Doha

As we passed through Doha on the way to Gaborone, I was amazed by the architectural beauty of so many Islamic inspired structures. It was truly a feast for the eyes and mind.

Though we did not have time to visit many of the older architectural treasures, I discovered that a lot of the buildings have received prestigious architectural awards over the last decade. The investment of Qatar in its country is amazing, and Al Jazeera is a gift to humanity.

There is even wonder in the Qatar airways “air sickness” bags!

IMG_3963

TravelVisualization

Making the subway more readable

Heading back from New York City last weekend I was amazed to see an updated station stop display (graph) on the E train to JFK. I don’t have a video, but you can see the how it updates the destinations (I didn’t notice eta) below — a list of next stops shifts to the right:

But wait, something is off!

My colleague Boris Gorelik had posted a piece entitled How to make a graph less readable? Rotate the text labels arguing that rotation of the axis labels imposes a processing cost on the reader. Keep the text aligned. Wouldn’t moving the destination labels up and down as Boris suggests save the jostled E train rider precious milliseconds?

Travel

The fractal beauty of Maun

We visited Maun with our family in December. Located near the eastern edge of the Okavango delta, it possesses a still, quiet beauty.

We took a short plane ride over the delta. As I look again at the images taken that day, I  am struck by the fractal quality of the images.

How do you assess the “fractalness” of an image? I suppose that it has to do with the degree to which the image can be described by a self-similar patterns, hints of the same regularity as you zoom closer in. It looks like natural landscapes exhibit fractal qualities only over limited scales — perhaps 2 or 3 dimensions at most.

Maybe the echo of patterns at different scales hints at complex interactions of life in the delta.

Does it matter? The beauty is simply indescribable.

Mathematics

The Wolf prize mathematicians outside my nook

Yesterday  I came across a photo of two gentlemen sitting outside of my old grad-school student lounge. They are Sasha Beilinson and Vladimir Drinfeld, two mathematicians from my alma mater who were awarded this year’s Wolf Prize in Mathematics.

The CS department at the University of Chicago shared space with Mathematics and Statistics in my day, so it was not unusual to encounter mathematicians while having lunch (or a nap) in the lounge. There have been many useful collaborations and intersections between these departments.

I have no idea what Sasha or Vladimir do. I tried to understand. I glanced at their ground breaking work, a book called Chiral algebras. They state in the introduction “Chiral algebras have their origin in mathematical physics;” and “Chiral algebras are “quantum” objects.” Ok.

Drinfeld and Beilinson still run the Geometric Langlands Seminar that of course captures the essence of what they care about most. As best I can figure, Langlands, himself a 1996 Wolf prize recipient, is a mathematician who envisioned building links between algebra and modern physics. Drinfeld and Beilinson have extended that work. Maybe the best explanation of this undertaking is provided by Edward Frenkel.

He seems to be a celebrity in his own right. I enjoyed how he connects Solaris to universals of number theory!

If Frenkel is still too abstract for you, then Mitya Boyarchenko suggests that this poem that I include below might be of use in understanding the Langlands talks

 

A man called Pakhomych, shaking as he rode on the carriage footboards,

Carried a bunch of forget-me-nots.

He got corn on his heels,

And treated them at home with camphor.

Reader! Having discarded the fable’s forget-me-nots,

Which were put here as a joke,

You can arrive at only a single conclusion:

If you get corns

And you want to rid yourself of the pain,

You, like our friend Pakhomych,

Should treat them with camphor.

 

AtlantaData ScienceVisualization

Call (and email and chat) early and often!

If you’re in sales, it pays to call (and email, and chat) early and often. This intuitive insight comes from a recent study, “Research on 200 Million Sales Interactions Cracks the Code on Cadences” published by Atlanta startup SalesLoft. This data was shared with me by Butler Raines, SalesLoft’s Head of Product — a dear friend, beautiful human being, and a new-school bitter southerner.

I found the piece illuminating, not only for the nicely presented graphs of customer/sales interactions, but also for the exposition on sales terminology (I learned what a cadence is).

 

Does SalesLoft have other insights they’d like to share? Many data scientists would like to know!

MathematicsPoliticsSocial Justice

Mathematicians, rock the vote!

Can the resistance inspire a new generation of mathematicians?

Samuel Hansen thinks so. In his recent post on The Aperiodical, he describes how the recent avalanche of math-informed court decisions on gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are putting mathematics in the spotlight.

It is really heartening that discrete geometry and other branches of advanced mathematics can be use to preserve democracy — much in the spirit of the 1964 voting rights act (being signed in the featured image).

Tufts University mathematician Moon Duchin has done a lot of work in this area, leading the effort to train mathematicians to be expert witnesses in gerrymandering cases. Duchin’s Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group page has a lot of useful resources.

Consider registering for one of the gerrymandering trainings if you’re a mathematician, statistician, or data scientist based in the Bay Area!