Saturday, April 18, 2015

Random Curiosities - I

There are always a lot of things that I encounter which make me think that I should write them on the blog but had no time to do so... In order to deal with it and keep some kind of an 'interesting reading list' for myself and for interested other, I decided to share these 'random curiosities' in a bulk manner. So here are this week's:

- The most significant and interesting thing that I've learnt this week was the so-called 'Benford's Law'. It is an unintuitive law that concerns the frequency distributions of the first digits of random-data. I will definitely elaborate on this one in one of my future post but there are a lot of great references where you can dive deep into it! For instance this article from Plus Maths really nails it down really nicely! If you have only 10 minutes, this video from Numberphile would work too..

- Moving on with statistics and there is this really curious article in Quanta Magazine called 'For Persi Diaconis’ Next Magic Trick'. It is about shuffling a deck of cards in order to make them 'random'. But the method proposed is not ordinary shuffling, which they have already proven that only seven shuffle is enough to achieve it, but 'smooshing' which is basically spreading the cards out on a table, swishing them around with your hands, and then gathering them up. Standford mathematician Persi Diaconis's proposal involves one of the fundamental ideas of statistical physics namely mixing. Quite an inspiring read...

- One of my past-time activities, especially in the busy traffic of Istanbul is to listen to interesting podcasts on the way and one of my favourite is ABC's 'Future Tense'. It is some kind of a 'futuristic' program but all the ideas have grounds on the present, it is not a sci-fi kind of future in a sense. One of the last week's program was themed 'Crowds and Motion' which deals with interesting problems and proposed solutions to urban planning and modeling the crowds as particles and simulations related with it. There was two interesting models, one with pedestrians walking in open space avoiding collisions and other one, namely "Steffen Method" of Airplane Boarding.. Further details and recorded audio is on the website.

- Web's first-class online science magazine Nautilus's this months theme is 'Dominoes' and their first week's installment includes a fascinating article called 'The Amazing, Autotuning Sandpile'. It is one of those 'simple to state but having jaw-dropping consequences' kind of problems of statistical physics. Simple mathematical model of a sand pile creating a very complex and dynamical patterns and behaviour, namely avalanches. The article is accompanied by nice pictures and simulations..

- Biology related, another Quanta Mag. article released this week was 'How Structure Arose in the Primordial Soup', telling the story of the search of the origins of fundamental transitions like formation of the cell, creation of the genetic code and making up the energy supplying metabolism functions way before the last common ancestor. The main ideas resonates with a Maynard Smith's wonderful book that I've been reading recently, The Origins of Life, and also an interesting method is proposed involving tracing the amino-acid code in the Tree of Life. An inspiring read...

- Academic tips and tricks side, I've read a very well-written compact blog post related to 'A few steps toward cleaner, better-organized code' which I desperately need more and more.

- And also a seemingly a trivia but one of the most complex thing that I've seen lately, solving a 17 X 17 Rubick's Cube. It is just beyond explanation...

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