Solving Conference Realignment Mathematically

June 14, 2010

When I read this article at, I immediately thought of this site.

So, how y’all been?

When Zombies Attack!

August 15, 2009

Mathematicians at Carlton University (which a Canadian friend of mine has described as the country’s “last chance” school) have studied the way a zombie outbreak would occur, and what human strategies would work in stemming the tide. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good for us. The entire paper is amusing, but I especially enjoy the introduction that establishes the difference between zombie folklore and “Hollywood” zombies.

What happened to John?

June 24, 2008

Hi everyone. I’m still alive and life has been interesting. Ann and I bought a house that we’ll move into in August, but in the mean time we’re packing up and heading to an apartment in Chapel Hill. The lease on our rental house is up at the end of the month and the crummy owners wanted to get it on the market so as not to miss out on those oh-so-common July renters rather than give us an extension of less than a year.

In addition to that fun, I’ve been to both Huntsville and Jacksonville briefly and watched one of my EPA mentors head off for industry.

Finally, on Sunday night, as we were driving into RTP to get some paperwork for the next morning’s mortgage signing, we got caught in a freak rain storm that caused puddles to form on Martin Luther King Parkway (a newly built, divided four lane road). The first puddle was fine (I was going less than 20 MPH so we didn’t even hydroplane) but the second one was two to three feet deep and as we plunged in my engine cut out and still hasn’t restarted. The water was most of the way up the passenger door and we were stuck for a good fifteen minutes or so before the water drained and we could push the car off the road (with the welcome help of some samaritans).

Fortunately, Andy’s googling and Mary’s dashing rescue allowed us to get out of the lightning and retrieve the needed papers in time for the morning.  Unfortunately, I may have totaled my relatively new, unpaid-off car. Oh, why couldn’t we have hydroplaned over that puddle? (Feel free to discuss the physics of that, or lack thereof, in the comments section.) In the meantime I am driving a rental pick-up truck — you should have seen the rental agent’s draw drop when I asked for one — in order to help with moving. For some reason everyone wants a compact right now. All I know is I’ve already ordered my “W – The President” bumper sticker.

In the meantime, I have a great story on how two ball boys saved Michigan’s undefeated season in 1997 as well as a nominee for the blog roll:

It’s like crack for anyone who likes graphs, statistics or politics (a triple-whammy for me). Also in the intersection of cool graphs and politics is Presidential Watch 08, which has great tools for plotting the political blogosphere as well as trends. Without these very impressive analyses, would we have ever been able to tell that Fox news leans Republican?

Finally, if you can show that playing Minesweeper is NP-complete, you can win a million dollars

The Physics Arxiv Blog

April 6, 2008

Force chains in a granular silo... In the physics community it is common practice to submit “finished,” but not yet peer-reviewed, research papers to a preprint server so that they become time-stamped (useful for establishing credit) and freely available to the public. Often, once a paper is revised in response to peer-review and published, a “preprint” copy of the final version is placed on the server so that copies can easily be obtained without tracking down whatever journal it was published in (something that has gotten vastly easier thanks to Google Scholar). The arXiv preprint server started in 1991 at Los Alamos (where it had the dubious-sounding address of since the Web was not yet especially World-Wide) and now hosts papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and quantitative biology. Anyone who wants may subscribe to have a listing of all the new and updated papers on a given topic regularly sent via e-mail. For me, at least, scanning through the daily cond-mat listing is one of the main ways I try to stay current in my field.

The newest addition to our blogroll is a very cool idea — The Physics Arxiv blog. The author combs through the daily update emails and writes about the interesting papers they see and you’ll never guess how I stumbled across it. Sometimes papers on arXiv are kinda crazy and take a long time to get published (if ever). Sometimes research is happening so quickly that entire research groups dictate what they do in response to the latest preprint (right Joe?). No matter what it’s a neat blog and a good way to stay current in physics.

The Accelerating Nature of the Web

January 25, 2008

Columbia Journalism ReviewWe all know that the internet is nearly instantaneous, yet the rate at which information is disseminated still shocks me. The Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting blurb about how the unexpected death of Heath Ledger spread throughout the internet, specifically blogs, and how the mainstream media (MSM) caught up. There’s also a story about Fred Thompson’s recently-ended Presidential campaign and the media.

On a tangent, I found myself very much saddened by Ledger’s passing. As a numbers and facts guy, I’d made a connection to him through the fact that we were born only a day apart, and I found him to be a great actor who starred in many films I loved. I find the fact that we’ll never be able to enjoy any of his gift after “The Dark Knight” to be a great loss.

Six Degrees of Steroids Nation

December 23, 2007

Steroids NetworkBecause I don’t want my RSS feed to be all “Bunton’s Summer CD” stories, especially now that it’s winter, I thought I’d link to a very cool idea that happens to fit in very well with our interests. Those clever kids over at Slate have taken the recent Mitchell Report, the investigation Major League Baseball commissioned to investigate the use of steroids among its players, and graphically represented the network of connections here.

Obviously, the most provocative segment of the graph is at the 1:00 position, with names like Clemens and Pettitte. These were linked through Braves hero (but personal pariah) David Justice during his time with the Yankees in 2000-2001. But perhaps even more remarkable is the large list of average players. For example, former top prospect Nook Logan is listed, but his potential was never realized, despite the apparent use of performance-enhancing drugs.

It is also quite important to note that this view, meaning the Mitchell Report, is from a singular perspective. Kirk Radomski, the report’s original source, was based in New York, and had very specific connections to Baltimore and Los Angeles. Obviously, if the source had been based in, say, Chicago, the graph would look much, much different. Maybe someday we’ll have enough information to create an SD-6-like network.

World’s Smallest Trophy

November 14, 2007

If ever there were a task that this blog was suited to, I think that winning the world’s smallest trophy is it.  The APS and Physics Central are sponsoring a Nano Bowl to promote interest in physics via a football-related video.  The winners get $1000 and a “nanoscale trophy” made of “silcon and metal.” 

They seem to be suggesting some sort of mechanical demonstration, but I think that a statistical/non-linear analysis might be much more interesting.  I remember reading about the physics of the “Mexican waveRead the rest of this entry »