Solving Conference Realignment Mathematically

June 14, 2010

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

So, how y’all been?

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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.


Is grad school a cult?

April 12, 2009

I recently stumbled across an interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which “Thomas Benton” (a pen name) makes the case that graduate school is something like a cult. He’s driven to this conclusion largely by his sense that most graduate students, especially in the humanities, would be better served outside academia. He quotes the following rules of thumb for identifying a cult, taken from the anti-cult Freedom of Mind Center webpage:

  • Behavior control: “major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals”; “need to ask permission for major decisions”; “need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors.”
  • Information control: “access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged (keep members so busy they don’t have time to think)” and “extensive use of cult-generated information (newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.).”
  • Thought control: “need to internalize the group’s doctrine as ‘Truth’ (black and white thinking; good vs. evil; us vs. them, inside vs. outside)” and “no critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.”
  • Emotional control: “excessive use of guilt (identity guilt: not living up to your potential; social guilt; historical guilt)”; “phobia indoctrination (irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority; cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group; shunning of leave takers; never a legitimate reason to leave”; and “from the group’s perspective, people who leave are ‘weak,’ ‘undisciplined.'”

Of course, there are plenty of points to pick at — it may speak more to the “definition” given above than it does to grad school — but I think it’s an interesting observation.


Right Red Said What?

March 6, 2009

Red Right Turn ArrowMy well-known hatred of the modern implementation of traffic lights (for which I am sure future generations will mock us) notwithstanding, a recurrent question at lunches past involved the meaning of the red right turn arrow in North Carolina, especially the one located at the I-40 exit to RDU Airport (#295b).

The basic question is this: If a red right-turn arrow means the same thing as a typical, circular red light — for which you are allowed to make a turn after coming to a stop — then why would they have the red arrow?  Certainly most drivers treat it as typical stop sign, but sometimes someone will, in my opinion quite reasonably refuse to turn despite blaring horns from the ever-growing queue behind them of drivers trying to get the airport.

As with many things in this great nation, this law varies randomly depending upon state:

Map showing right turn on red arrow is legal in North Carolina and some other states

Fortunately for RDU drivers, North Carolina is one of the states that allows right turns on red arrows. Unfortunately for anal-retentive physicists, this means that red right turn arrows are nearly degenerate with the only possible additional information being that they indicate that a lane is turn only when red.  At least we’re not the only ones who get confused, the News and Observer blog post I linked to above follows a history of similar posts.

Unlike the behavior of the typical, dangerously unaware, vigilante drivers you sometimes find in Durham (thanks in part to the idiotic “Pace Car” program whose Google Page Rank I will now tag with the word “douchey“) confusion in this case would seem rest at the feet of the NC DOT who feels the need for redundant signage.  So I won’t honk at someone as they make me late for a flight, but I certainly wish they’d phase out the red right turn arrow.


The Annual Thrill-Ride

November 30, 2008

bcstitle09The end of the college football regular season means one thing: time to sell bowl tickets. This year is special, since we have four tickets to the BCS National Championship game. For the past couple of years, we’ve taken huge losses on Orange Bowl tickets due to surprisingly successful teams. But I’ve been insisted that we’d make it back and more with the sale of the NC tickets. In any case, you can follow the action here.


Grand Unified Weekly

November 19, 2008

Hit-n-run: The brand new Grand Unified Weekly site/blog/podcast. (Is there a difference anymore?) Blogroll’d.


Two is a trend

November 14, 2008

Congrats to John for ending the drought!

I thought I’d share a link that touches on a number of Lunchtime! themes, however inspiring or sad that might be. Namely: sports, lists, Duke, spelling/grammar mistakes, and poor judgment.

On an unrelated note, I recently saw Mulholland Drive for the first time. Let me toss out this conversation starter: WTF?!?

Finally, as one of the few Americans at the institute, I’ve been congratulated on our recent elections more times than I can count. Since I’m sure this is disproportionate to whatever amount of credit I actually deserve (first time voting in a swing state!), let me at least pass along the sentiment.