Monday, 27 June 2011

Interactive Mathematics in a Web Browser

Following Mike Croucher's tutorial, here is my first attempt at including an interactive CDF demonstration in my blog.

In the first example, change the value of n using the slider. Have a close look at the coefficients when n=105. You can show/hide the controls by clicking on the top right + sign. If you click on + sign at the end of the slider you can control the running of the CDF:

Here is a more interesting example demonstrating rotations parameterized by the Eulerian angles:

This would be a useful enhancement to static pages such as wikipedia's rotation matrix entry.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Urban Mapping

Urban Mapping's interesting visualization idea—involving multiple layers that fade in and out of view as the map is tilted (as in the Flash simulation in this article)—is obviously useful for map and GIS data. It could equally well be used for multi-dimensional data visualization. I can see how to mock this idea up in Mathematica (using image processing tools), but it would be nice to have a function that automated it.

Monday, 20 June 2011

An Interview Without Words

Shaun Tan answered Spiegel's interview questions by drawing pictures.

Secret Republic

Secret Republic has a number of interesting posts including the real reason why bicycles are the key to better cities.


Kaggle is an interesting collaborative platform for data prediction competitions, founded by (Australian) Anthony Goldbloom. One of the current Kaggle competitions is Mapping Dark Matter.

It would be interesting—and straightforward—to broaden this platform to competitions for more general research problems.

London Underground

As a fan of great design, I have two framed London Underground posters on display at home. Some related links of interest:
This real underground link was originally to here. Reporting this broken link to TfL was a frustrating experience because:
  1. It asked way too many restrictive questions;
  2. It does not address the topic, which is a missing page on their website;
  3. There is no (obvious) way to comment on maps;
  4. If I select advertising/media I get to a page which requires me to fill in the date and time of my "incident" (as well as the Line and Station), which really does not apply here—and since I'm submitting the form electronically, they know the date and time I've filled it in.
One might think that the bureaucrats at TfL are trying to discourage people from contacting them. I'll be interested to see their feedback.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


I have always been skeptical about the chiropractic efficacy, so it was interesting to read Sceptics question alternative claim: More chiropractors are treating more Australians every year. My favourite quote in this article was from Loretta Marron, a science graduate with a business background, who was Australian Skeptic of the Year for 2007:
Pediatric chiropractic is a form of faith healing and it should be in theology, not health science.
Reading this article led me to Chiropractic - A Cure-All or Con?. I agree with Loretta: unproven treatments should not be government-funded in any way. This also applies to medical benefit funds who cover chiropractic and "complementary therapies"—especially homeopathy and naturopathy—passing on the cost to all members.

Zombal and

Zombal, which provides scientific outsourcing, is an idea that appeals to me. And it has already led me to related topic of interest, namely ebooks. The developer of Zombal lives in Perth and is VP R&D of Ebooks corporation, which has its head office in Claremont. The profile on the founder and CEO, Stephen Cole, makes interesting reading. I've used E•B•L quite a bit (through the UWA library), but was not aware that it was a local product.


A posting from John Bonadies (formerly at Wolfram Research) pointed me to Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects. Here are three projects I found interesting:


I am a big fan of typography, both traditional and modern.

I visited the Melbourne Museum of Printing (MMoP) on their open day in 2009 when I was living in Melbourne and bought a limited edition set of prints. The focus of the MMoP is on the retention of traditional printing, both the equipment and the knowledge. Unfortunately, the MMoP webpage is one of the ugliest I've ever seen and is a poor reflection of the design principles embodied in the art of traditional printing, and typography. The design of (and interface to) their webpage should reflect good design principles.

When I get time I will delve more deeply into Knuth's Digital Typography.

LetterMpress: A Virtual Letterpress on Your iPad by John Bonadies (formerly at Wolfram Research Inc.) is an interesting example of marrying technology—old and new—to produce a fantastic typographical iPad app. His project has 1,601 backers and received $39,495 funding (goal was $15,000), showing that there is plenty of interest in such hybrid technology.

Student activism still alive, virtually

Considering the feedback and reaction on Facebook to my post Why I am not a Guild Associate Member I found the last word ... in the latest issue of UWA News, by Tom Antoniazzi, rather ironic. Tom writes:
Today students engage in an increasingly virtual space. We don’t march or rally or sit-in because we don’t need to be in the same place at the same time to achieve our aims. From my office chair I can post my thoughts on the Guild’s Facebook page and instantaneously connect with more than 5,000 student followers. Our education campaigns are conducted almost exclusively online – polls, surveys, petitions and key information all at the click of a mouse. In this sense the technology of today has allowed the Guild to engage with students on a level beyond contemplation in the 60s and 70s. Social media is our virtual soapbox.
which is all true. It is, of course, important that the Guild does engage with students. Responses to my posting indicate that this is not the case. Tom goes on to say:
Instead of confrontation, we now favour consensus-building. Radicalism has been replaced by a moderate and level-headed approach. The guild is a professional organisation still run by passionate students, but focused on the delivery of high-quality advocacy and services for its students.
It is clear that the Guild is not listening; in particular, food services are mediocre. I see that late entries to the the Guild Eat and Drink Survey are being accepted until June 26, implying that the level of student feedback has been underwhelming. I'd be interested to see the response to question 31.
During semester, how much do you spend per week on food and drinks at off campus outlets during your study hours?
Finally, the survey does not ask the obvious question:
Should the Guild permit franchises and external businesses to operate on campus?
Disclosure: the author is an employee of the University, and the views expressed are those of the author and not those of the University.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Information in search of meaning

The article information in search of meaning raised some interesting points. I had already bought Gleick's The Information but will have a look at some of the other books reviewed by Colin Steele. One paragraph was particularly interesting:
Google's chief economist Hal Varian, who will be in Australia in July, and is another contributor to The Next Digital Decade, believes that the transformative potential of cloud computing technology allows even tiny companies, like the 16th-century small cities, to launch globally innovative new applications and services that in turn can serve as building blocks for new sorts of combinatorial innovation in business processes that will offer a huge boost to knowledge worker productivity.
If I recall correctly, I met Hal in 1990 at the first Mathematica conference and that he was an editor of The Mathematica Journal, of which I was the founding technical editor. It would be interesting to meet with Hal when he visits Australia.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hey parents, leave those kids alone

The Weekend Australian Magazine's article Hey parents, leave those kids alone was mostly sensible, though the breathless tone of surprise annoyed me.
You believe, because it is one of the last self-evident, incontrovertible truths, that raising a child is one of the most influential jobs in the world.

And that’s why you will find what comes next so difficult. All those extra bedtime stories read, violins purchased, chess clubs driven to, trips to the museum made, cosy fireside chats delivered; all the arguments over homework and bribes, all the blueberries served, all the guidance offered, all your values instilled, all your world-view shared, all the worry, heartache, effort, blood, sweat and tears of being a responsible parent. All the things you do that make your child special. It’s all for nothing.
Actually, I didn't find this difficult at all. I've always thought that nature (genetics) is the primary factor and that nurture comes a poor second.
The argument of this book is one of the most provocative and counterintuitive for a modern Western adult to absorb. The implications go far deeper than the notion that all your middle-class neurosis has been wasted, towards the idea of genetics as a driver of social class. Both make us squirm. “Tiger parenting is pointless at best,” says Caplan. “Kids literally inherit educational and financial success from their parents. The most influential gift that parents can give their children is not money, connections or help with their homework, but the right stuff.”
No surprises here.
Caplan says his message is ultimately a happy one. He quotes from Mary Poppins. Stop thinking that children, as Mr Banks does, “must be moulded, shaped and taught, that life’s a looming battle to be faced and fought!” And just enjoy.
I cannot agree more.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy, a refutation of much of today’s parenting ‘wisdom’. Skenazy was branded “America’s Worst Mom” after she allowed her nine-year old son to ride the subway alone, then wrote about it in her column in the New York Sun. Again I felt that what she had done was both sensible and empowering. Every time I let my children take responsibility, they do not disappoint me.

The Underwater Project

I like Mark Tipple's photos, especially The Underwater Project.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block

The New York Times has an excellent explorer for browsing data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. An interesting example is the ethnic distribution of Chicago, which shows a very clearly defined structure, delineated by major highways and city blocks.

Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection

As a big fan of Stanley Kubrick I am looking forward to adding his Limited Edition Collection to my Blu-ray library. However, Warner Bros have perversely restricted the shipping to U.S. destinations only.

Seeing the advert for this collection reminded me of the excellent Stanley Kubrick exhibition at acmi in 2005—still my all-time favourite.