Saturday, November 19, 2016

I think I need a red ink pad and stamp with "AlgebraRules.com" on it.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

No torque, no spill (in the accelerated reference frame).

Friday, September 09, 2016

An excellent two-minute time-lapse video of two weeks of evolution of antibiotic resistance.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Struggles with the Continuum, the most enjoyable survey paper I've read in a long time. It concerns singularities in mathematical physics.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How much damage would a space probe take flying through the interstellar medium at v=0.2c? (See also this.)

Bottom line: I am seriously entertaining the possibility that I will live to see digital images transmitted from another planetary system.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

If Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, why is the US taking sides?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

At this date, I think it good to revisit my earlier comparison between a million and one. Large numbers are sometimes difficult to reason about, so perhaps using a log scale would help. Let's see... Yep, six strictly exceeds zero.

I am reminded of Peter Thiel's 2009 counsel to escape politics (though he clearly hasn't escaped yet). He sees technology as liberty's only hope. I wish the techno-libertarians well. Why do I say that, when I have become much less individualist over the years? I am simply concerned for the freedoms of my religious community. The Democratic presidential nominee promises nothing but setbacks on that front, and the Republican nominee's promises on that front are worthless because (1) he is incompetent and foolish in a million ways and (2) his harshness invites a huge backlash to come after him. I have reservations about the libertarian nominee, but I have yet to think of a better protest vote.

Update: See also this and this.

At this date, I think it good to revisit my earlier comparison between a million and one. Large numbers are sometimes difficult to reason about, so perhaps using a log scale would help. Let's see... Yep, six strictly exceeds zero.

I am reminded of Peter Thiel's 2009 counsel to escape politics (though he clearly hasn't escaped yet). He sees technology as liberty's only hope. I wish the techno-libertarians well. Why do I say that, when I have become much less individualist over the years? I am simply concerned for the freedoms of my religious community. The Democratic presidential nominee promises nothing but setbacks on that front, and the Republican nominee's promises on that front are worthless because (1) he is incompetent and foolish in a million ways and (2) his harshness invites a huge backlash to come after him. I have reservations about the libertarian nominee, but I have yet to think of a better protest vote.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Don't carry much cash on a road trip, and now don't carry prepaid debit cards either. The bandits have new technology.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

This is the easiest yet still significant mathematics paper I've read in a long time. (See also Quanta Magazine's coverage.)

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Given my apparent choices in November, I can think of a million reasons not to vote for him who shall not be named, and one reason to vote for him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

An 8-dimensional and then a 24-dimensional analog of Kepler's sphere-packing conjecture, widely believed to be true (and actually used for error-correcting codes), were proven true last month, with the major breakthrough due to Maryna Viazovska. (Hales proved the original conjecture in the 1990s.) I noticed that the paper on dimension 24 has Abhinav Kumar as a coauthor. On my dorm floor way back when, Abhinav was a "greater math god" and I was a "lesser math god."

P.S. Why does that paper talk of "+1 eigenfunctions"? What's wrong with "fixed point"?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

In the asymptotically safe gravity proposal, quantum gravity is weaker at high energies. In this proposal, gravity is both weaker and less quantum (meaning the effective Planck length (but not the Planck mass) is smaller) at high energies.

Imagine that "everybody wins" mathematically, i.e., it is proven there are elegant mathematical models consistent with observation and unifying all of fundamental physics, including an asymptotically safe gravity model, a string theory model, loop quantum gravity model, maybe other models I don't want to take the time to mention, and maybe even an "unquantizing" model like in the link. Which theory will win the parsimony contest? Since parsimony is not the same as mathematical elegance or beauty, I'm not confident that the most parsimonious theory will also become most popular.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Positive question: was Rubio the Condorcet winner of the Republican Presidential primary? I don't have the data to say, but it seems at least plausible.

Normative question: Should not the Condorcet winner (if one exists) be the actual winner? (This isn't special pleading; I didn't vote for Rubio in Texas.) Why not let voters somehow rank candidates on their ballots?

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Regulation for thee, but not for me." Democrats usually favor and Republicans usually oppose government regulation of business. What about government regulation of government? What about regulation of organizations receiving government funding? Many critiques of regulating business apply equally well to regulating governments and those they fund: bottlenecks caused by slow approval processes, uniform rules that don't make sense for every organization, and high compliance costs (e.g., man-hours spent learning the regulations and documenting compliance) that overly burden (and in some cases even prevent or destroy) small organizations and their innovative initiatives. "Small organizations" includes small departments with larger organizations.

I see these problems all too often in my job. I also recently saw how even the student organizations at my university are over-regulated. This blog post was provoked by Section 51.9361 of Subchapter Z of Chapter 51 of Subtitle A of Title 3 of the Texas Education Code.

For another anecdote, I've done a bit of mentoring of future middle-school and high-school math teachers. Once they start their training at the local public schools, they are unanimously dismayed by the emphasis they see given to preparing the students for state-mandated exams. (Home schooling in Texas, on the other hand, is hardly regulated at all. I highly recommend it.)

I have an abstract, general desire for smaller governments, but I expect defense, law enforcement, infrastructure, education, and research to be extensively funded by governments (but perhaps not directly provided by governments) from now until the end of the world. Therefore, quoting Robin Hanson,

This view suggests that being pro- or anti-regulation isn’t the same as being pro- or anti-government, and it suggests a possible left-right deal: reduce regulation in both private and public sectors. Have more trust in private competition to deal with the problems we leave to the private sphere, and in smart well-trained civil servants to deal with the problems we leave to the public sphere. And have less trust in lawyers, judges and rule-specialists of all sorts to fix our problems with more rules.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In defense of the cosmological constant.

On the other hand, cosmic inflation I still consider quite mysterious.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sunday, February 07, 2016

An ancient Cappadocian church, frescoes included, has recently been uncovered. I've read conflicting reports about how ancient.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Laredo is just barely south enough for the very variable Eta Carinae to peak above the horizon. Also, the temperature reached 300K (80F) today (Dec. 9) and the NOAA forecasts we will reach 305K (89F) tomorrow.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Do I dare hope there exists a market monetarist presidential candidate?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The space doctor's big idea, a New Yorker article by Randall Munroe.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I find this hilarious. I wonder what jokes spelunkers particularly enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2015