Next big news

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, as you have seen – from time to time, I blog about NASA‘s and CERN‘s big press conferences – when they manage to get their place in the news. Now I decided to change it a bit and say something before it hits the press – pretty soon we’ll have a claim that Higgs boson has been observed. Contrary to the superluminal neutrino claim, this one will come as a relief, since it confirms the Standard Model.

P. S. dmr (Dennis Ritchie) died. Whole world talked about Steve for days after he passed away, but no one talks about the creator of UNIX. I’m not surprised, though.

Categories: Uncategorized

News from the Opera

September 22, 2011 1 comment

Yes, classical music and opera are a nice topic for blogging… but this time I’m talking about the news which have hit the press in past few hours – as Tommaso Dorigo already announced few days ago, the Opera experiment (see here) gave some unexpected results, which will be reported tomorrow – seems like some neutrinos traveled too fast – superluminal speed. Webcast from CERN will be here at 1600 h local time.

It reminds me a bit of the frenzy concerning the NASA conference I also blogged about here – I guess that’s the price of the internet era, science penetrates the news and always sounds sensational when put on the headlines (recently New Scientist had a story about Michael Aschbacher receiving a prize for his completion of the gigantic proof of Classification theorem for finite groups. One news-portal made that news sound like the theorem has been proved yesterday, and not 7 years ago, emphasizing the size of the proof and making it sound like a miracle)

Update: The Opera team has put their paper on arXiv here. Luboš Motl is covering the subject on his blog ever since Dorigo made the first leak, so you can get the latest info there.

Update no. 2: The conference is over and it seems that an extensive search for flaws in the experiment begins. Seems like Leonard Hofstadter is no longer in a relationship with Albert Einstein. We’ll see how long is that relationship crisis going to last.

Categories: Uncategorized


September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Who is this?

I used to avoid conferences. It was simply something I was not interested in, especially because I wasn’t in position to visit conferences specializing in my area of research. Still, I decided to go to one and present my paper.

As a former participant in international mathematical competitions, it is quite natural for me to compare the conference atmosphere with one on IMO. There are some similarities – certain number of people one would call ‘geeks’ gathering in one place plus their teachers who can’t take the title geek due to their age, international company, exchange of ideas – but still, there is something missing. I’m not sure what it is.

Oh, before I forget – there’s one nice anecdote I have to share. Helmut Bölcskei was the first speaker at the conference and he gave an interesting lecture – which was made even more interesting when he warned the audience that he had made an error in his presentation – and that the audience will have to report what the error is when the lecture is over. Only hint he provided was – it is in one of the pictures.

Once the lecture was over, audience remained quiet. Professor Bölcskei returned to a slide with photos of three scientists and revealed that two photos were correctly captioned, but the one shown in this post wasn’t. He just said – it is one great Croatian mathematician, but you probably don’t even know he’s Croatian! (remark: this conference took place in Zadar, Croatia).

Then I realized who it is – I jumped off my chair in the back row and shouted: Vilim Feller! That was the correct answer… and I felt good – an amateur historian of mathematics found a way to show his modest knowledge at an Electrical Engineering conference!

Lost in Google Translation

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I got used to all sorts of weird translations provided by Google Translate, but today I found out the strangest so far – it translates my name. OK, I wouldn’t be surprised if it translated my surname literally, as it is a common noun in my native language – but no: it translated my name and surname with a name and surname of another man!

I clicked on the translated name to see other suggestions – and there were two more people as possible translations. Little bit of googling has shown the connection between the four of us – we are all on a same list published on scribd. Still – there are thousands of names on that list – why did he match me with those three people? Furthermore, it translates my name from my native language to all other languages in same manner – but not from other languages.

I tried few other names from that list – people I know – and one also gave this type of translation (although it offered just one translation, compared to three given in case of my name) – but others showed no trace of abnormality. Again, native language -> any other language gives the translation, any other language -> any other language doesn’t.

P.S. Don’t think I’m weird because I google translate my own name – I was translating an abstract of my paper and found out that someone else apparently wrote it, judging by the translation…

Sending out an SOS

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

SOS Morse code

I know that no one reads this blog, but I feel obligated to inform all who might help, at least by signing the petition, that the situation at VU University Amsterdam’s Mathematical department isn’t very bright, as one can read in Tilman Bauer’s post on MathOverflow – Geometry section is about to be closed.

I haven’t signed the petition – I would feel too uncomfortable having my name and laughable title next to all the professors listed there.

I am sure many applied mathematicians share my opinion – both applied and pure mathematics have their place in the spectrum. Cutting the budget for pure mathematics (I can already hear the arguments: they are not productive, useful, blahblahblah) means shortsightedness.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Dr. Strangelove

Title of this post is the subtitle of Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick’s 1964 movie) and it has a twofold symbolical meaning related to the theme of my post (only the one of those meanings will be revealed in the post, though).

Recently I got an idea (during a stroll) for my next year’s Mobile Robotics class project. One thing led to another – and I got an idea for my master’s thesis. It was a bit strange – I always thought my thesis will be something theoretical and closely related to mathematics, like the bachelor’s thesis I wrote. It looked to me like I finally learned to stop worrying (about my love for mathematics) and love the bomb (bomb being engineering in this metaphor).

Few days after, I’m still up for that project – but I don’t want it to be my thesis in the end – it’s a matter of principles, I guess – I want mathematics.

Counting the piano tuners – the hard way.

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Enrico Fermi

No, Enrico Fermi and his questions weren’t my inspiration for this post – it was Stan Ulam’s quote I read few days ago:

Knowing what is big and what is small is more important than being able to solve partial differential equations.

That is exactly what an engineering student (or an applied mathematics student) needs: sense of reality. One needs to know what parameters of dynamic systems are normal, natural, what is the magnitude of results, what is negligible in calculations. Making fast estimates, estimating the accuracy of such estimates – knowing what accuracy is needed for certain calculations: it saves money, nerves, trees and shows intelligence. One could start with that in a calculus course, where problems concerning integral estimates (using MVT or some known inequalities for instance) could be given. After that – let the student take a course like the one on MIT called Street-fighting matematics. Without that, you can’t expect your students to make an estimate of the number of piano tuners in Chicago – they’ll do a brute-force search through the phonebook.

But hey, no one in charge of making the curricula will ever think of something like this – they managed to squeeze out probability theory, statistics, stochastic processes, numerical methods out of control theory students’ curriculum – enough said.

Still – Mark Twain was right:

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.