Math

Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe 157

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-you-can-see-forever dept.
StartsWithABang writes You're used to real numbers: that is, numbers that can be expressed as a decimal, even if it's an arbitrarily long, non-repeating decimal. There are also complex numbers, which are numbers that have a real part and also an imaginary part. The imaginary part is just like the real part, but is also multiplied by i, or the square root of -1. It's a simple definition: the Mandelbrot set consists of every possible complex number, n, where the sequence n, n^2 + n, (n^2 + n)^2 + n, etc.—where each new term is the prior term, squared, plus n—does not go to either positive or negative infinity. The scale of zoom visualizations now goes well past the limits of the observable Universe, with no signs of loss of complexity at all.
Transportation

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 96

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."
Math

Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon? 385

Posted by timothy
from the how-can-I-still-go-on? dept.
HughPickens.com writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average." According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).
Education

LAUSD OKs Girls-Only STEM School, Plans Boys-Only English Language Arts School 599

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-a-balanced-education dept.
theodp writes: Citing statistics that showed a whopping 46 more boys than girls passed the AP Computer Science Exam in 2011-12, the 640,000+ student Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday approved a waiver to enable the District to operate a single-gender, all-girls STEM School called the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA). Students in GALA will follow a six year sequence of computer courses starting in middle school that will culminate in AP Computer Science Principles. "Fewer females take AP courses in math, science, or computer science, and they are not as successful as males in receiving passing scores of 3, 4 or 5," argued the General Waiver Request (PDF, 700+ pages). "An all girls environment is reasonably necessary for the school to improve the self-confidence of girls in their academic abilities, especially in STEM areas where an achievement gap currently exists. GALA's admissions shall also comply with AB 1266 to ensure male students who identify as female are admitted to the school." The school's CS-related Partners include the UCLA Exploring Computer Science Program, as well as Google-bankrolled Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT. One of the reasons the all-girls STEM school reportedly got the green light is that its backers satisfied federal regulations requiring a "substantially equal school" for excluded male students by submitting a plan for a companion all-boys school that would emphasize English Language Arts, where they often fall short of girls' test scores, rather than GALA's focus on STEM. One suspects the no-fan-of-gender-restricted-public-schools ACLU may call BS on this maneuver.
Math

Magician Turned Professor Talks About the Math Behind Shuffling Cards 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-up-my-sleeve dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about magician and professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University Persi Diaconis. "Now a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University, Diaconis has employed his intuition about cards, which he calls 'the poetry of magic,' in a wide range of settings. Once, for example, he helped decode messages passed between inmates at a California state prison by using small random 'shuffles' to gradually improve a decryption key. He has also analyzed Bose-Einstein condensation — in which a collection of ultra-cold atoms coalesces into a single 'superatom' — by envisioning the atoms as rows of cards moving around. This makes them 'friendly,' said Diaconis, whose speech still carries the inflections of his native New York City. 'We all have our own basic images that we translate things into, and for me cards were where I started.' In 1992, Diaconis famously proved — along with the mathematician Dave Bayer of Columbia University — that it takes about seven ordinary riffle shuffles to randomize a deck. Over the years, Diaconis and his students and colleagues have successfully analyzed the effectiveness of almost every type of shuffle people use in ordinary life."
Education

Cornell Study: For STEM Tenure Track, Women Twice As Likely To Be Hired As Men 517

Posted by timothy
from the whose-bias-is-called-bias dept.
_Sharp'r_ writes In the first "empirical study of sexism in faculty hiring using actual faculty members", Cornell University researchers found that when using identical qualifications, but changing the sex of the applicant, "women candidates are favored 2 to 1 over men for tenure-track positions in the science, technology, engineering and math fields." An anonymous reader links to the study itself.
Education

Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the killing-your-buzz dept.
Bruce66423 writes: A large scale European study shows that students who were unable to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass their University courses. Below-average students with no legal access to pot were 7.6% more likely to pass their courses, and the effect was five times more pronounced when dealing with courses involving math. One of the study's authors said, "We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalization and prohibition decision-making. In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behavior is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before. ... Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka."
Government

FTC Creates Office Dedicated To "Algorithmic Transparency" 75

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-government-and-here-to-help dept.
jfruh writes When Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm filters a meme you posted out of your friends' feed, you might find that annoying. When your bank's algorithm denies you a mortgage, that has a serious effect on your life. But both kinds of algorithms are generally opaque to customers and regulators, and the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection has set up an office dedicated to figuring out these algorithms affect our lives and intersect with the law. Perhaps they can start with how the IRS selects people to audit, and whether constantly shifting TSA policies make sense.
Wikipedia

If You Thought Studying History Was Bad, This Math Professor Is Making It Harder 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-reference-books-become-religion dept.
Raven writes: New research out of Streeling University aims to make planning for the future much easier. The work, led by professor Seldon, tries to set probabilistic values on future events, and then weigh those probabilities against each other to figure out what combination of events is most likely to happen. Describing it under the unlikely moniker "psychohistory," Seldon seems to think planning even 10,000 years into the future might be possible. (Seldon also seems to be a bit of a doomsayer, so this is likely exaggerated.) Nevertheless, it'll be another tool for government planners to consider when developing new colonies.
Encryption

NSA Worried About Recruitment, Post-Snowden 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-of-that-before-being-jerks dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NSA employs tens of thousands of people, and they're constantly recruiting more. They're looking for 1,600 new workers this year alone. Now that their reputation has taken a major hit with the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, they aren't sure they'll be able to meet that goal. Not only that, but the NSA has to compete with other companies, and they Snowden leaks made many of them more competitive: "Ever since the Snowden leaks, cybersecurity has been hot in Silicon Valley. In part that's because the industry no longer trusts the government as much as it once did. Companies want to develop their own security, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get the same people the NSA is trying to recruit." If academia's relationship with the NSA continues to cool, the agency could find itself struggling within a few years.
Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 397

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
United States

Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education 149

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-some-money-at-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that President Obama is expected to announce more that $240 million in pledges to boost STEM educations at the White House Science Fair today. "President Barack Obama is highlighting private-sector efforts to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and math. At the White House Science Fair on Monday, Obama will announce more than $240 million in pledges to boost the study of those fields, known as STEM. This year's fair is focused on diversity. Obama will say the new commitments have brought total financial and material support for these programs to $1 billion. The pledges the president is announcing include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls."
Education

Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding 211

Posted by timothy
from the unexpected-locale dept.
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.
Math

Pi Day Extraordinaire 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the pecan-apple-or-cherry? dept.
First time accepted submitter DrTJ writes Today is Pi day. This year is a bit more extraordinary as it is 3/14/15 (in American date format). To celebrate, USA Today has posted a number of videos of kids reciting Pi, one of them to 8,784 digits. The Washington Post highlights the story of a couple who decided to make it their special day. "Donahue, 33, a Legal Aid attorney, fell for Karmel’s geeky side as soon as they met. On a beach vacation with her friends in 2012, a psychic told her, 'You are about to meet your soulmate.' Three days later, she walked into Kostume Karaoke night at Solly’s Tavern along the U Street corridor and saw a man onstage croaking out the Backstreet Boys’s 'I Want It That Way.' By the end of the night, he would be serenading her with Cake’s 'The Distance' — the song the DJ will play when they cut the pie."
Space

Strange Stars Pulse To the Golden Mean 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the math-is-beautiful dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from an article at Quanta Magazine: What struck John Learned about the blinking of KIC 5520878, a bluish-white star 16,000 light-years away, was how artificial it seemed. Learned, a neutrino physicist at the University of Hawaii, Mnoa, has a pet theory that super-advanced alien civilizations might send messages by tickling stars with neutrino beams, eliciting Morse code-like pulses. "It's the sort of thing tenured senior professors can get away with," he said. The pulsations of KIC 5520878, recorded recently by NASA's Kepler telescope, suggested that the star might be so employed.

A "variable" star, KIC 5520878 brightens and dims in a six-hour cycle, seesawing between cool-and-clear and hot-and-opaque. Overlaying this rhythm is a second, subtler variation of unknown origin; this frequency interplays with the first to make some of the star's pulses brighter than others. In the fluctuations, Learned had identified interesting and, he thought, possibly intelligent sequences, such as prime numbers (which have been floated as a conceivable basis of extraterrestrial communication). He then found hints that the star's pulses were chaotic. But when Learned mentioned his investigations to a colleague, William Ditto, last summer, Ditto was struck by the ratio of the two frequencies driving the star's pulsations. "I said, 'Wait a minute, that's the golden mean.'"
Math

Number of Legal 18x18 Go Positions Computed; 19x19 On the Horizon 186

Posted by timothy
from the now-we'll-call-it-gone dept.
johntromp writes It took about 50,000 CPU hours and 4PB of disk IO, but now we know the exact number of legal 18x18 Go positions. Seeking computing power for the ultimate 19x19 count. And it's not a heat-death-of-the-universe kind of question, either, they say: "Thanks to the Chinese Remainder Theorem, the work of computing L(19,19) can be split up into 9 jobs that each compute 64 bits of the 566-bit result. Allowing for some redundancy, we need from 10 to 13 servers, each with at least 8 cores, 512GB RAM, and ample disk space (10-15TB), running for about 5-9 months."
Math

Statistical Mechanics Finds Best Places To Hide During Zombie Apocalypse 247

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-we-wanna-do-is-eat-your-brains dept.
HughPickens.com writes Eric Mack reports at Cnet that a team of researchers at Cornell University, inspired by the book "World War Z" by Max Brooks, have used statistical-mechanics to model how an actual zombie outbreak might unfold and determined the best long-term strategy for surviving the walking dead: Head for the hills. Specifically, you should probably get familiar now with the general location of Glacier National Park so that when it all goes down, you can start heading in that direction. The project started with differential equations to model a fully connected population, then moved on to lattice-based models, and ended with a full US-scale simulation of an outbreak across the continental US. "At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in--human," says Alex Alemi, "infected, zombie, or dead zombie--with approximately 300 million people."

Alemi believes cities would succumb to the zombie scourge quickly, but the infection rate would slow down significantly in more sparsely populated areas and could take months to reach places like the Northern Rockies and Glacier National Park. "Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down--there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," Alemi says. Once you hit Montana and Idaho, you might as well keep heading farther north into the Canadian Rockies and all the way up to Alaska where data analysis shows you're most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. The state with the lowest survival rate? — New Jersey. Unfortunately a full scale simulation of an outbreak in the United States shows that for `realistic' parameters, we are largely doomed.
Music

Genetic Data Analysis Tools Reveal How US Pop Music Evolved 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the anatomy-of-a-train-wreck dept.
KentuckyFC writes: The history of pop music is rich in anecdotes, folklore and controversy. But despite the keen interest, there is little in the form of hard evidence to back up most claims about the evolution of music. Now a group of researchers have used data analysis tools developed for genomic number crunching to study the evolution of U.S. pop music. The team studied 30-second segments of more than 17,000 songs that appeared on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 between 1960 and 2010. Their tools categorized the songs according to harmonic features such as chord changes as well as the quality of timbre such as whether guitar-based, piano-based orchestra-based and so on. They then used a standard algorithm for discovering clusters within networks of data to group the songs into 13 different types, which turned out to correspond with well known genres such as rap, rock, country and so on. Finally, they plotted the change in popularity of these musical types over time.

The results show a clear decline in the popularity of jazz and blues since 1960. During the same period, rock-related music has ebbed and flowed in popularity. By contrast, rap was rare before 1980 before becoming the dominant musical style for 30 years until declining in the late 2000s. The work answers several important question about the evolution of pop music, such as whether music industry practices have led to a decline in the cultural variety of new music, and whether British bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones triggered the 1964 American music revolution [spoiler: no in both cases].
Math

Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the using-the-same-template dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news of a study that shows similarities in how cities are built throughout time. "A study of archeological data from ancient Mexican settlements reveals remarkable similarities between pre-Colombian cities and modern ones, lending support to the idea that urban spaces are shaped by universal social behaviors. Sure, each city has its own local quirks, architecture, language and cuisine. But recently, some theoretical scientists have started to find there are universal laws that shape all urban spaces. And a new study suggests the same mathematical rules might apply to ancient settlements, too. Using archaeological data from the ruins of Tenochtitlan and thousands of other sites around it in Mexico, researchers found that private houses and public monuments were built in predictable ways."