27 October 2014

halloween edition

Also, in time for Halloween, I give you an alternative to the normal distribution:

I won't let you down

For all the talking I do about how data will change the world-- science, industry, education, even art-- I also feel strongly that we will always rely on human creativity and talent.

OK Go has been amazing me with their music and videos for 12 years, and now they've done it again! Truly awesome. And simply the feat of how many people it took to make that video is one thing that makes it so fabulous.

22 October 2014

messy big data

Shout out to Michael Jordan at Berkeley for saying what everyone needs to hear:

"[If] people use data and inferences they can make with the data without any concern about error bars, about heterogeneity, about noisy data, about the sampling pattern, about all the kinds of things that you have to be serious about if you’re an engineer and a statistician—then you will make lots of predictions, and there’s a good chance that you will occasionally solve some real interesting problems. But you will occasionally have some disastrously bad decisions. And you won’t know the difference a priori."

12 October 2014

The Myth of I'm Bad at Math

Here is an outstanding op-ed about how we should try to improve our math ability in America-- certainly not by teaching less math!

"In response to the lackluster high school math performance, some influential voices in American education policy have suggested simply teaching less math -- ... The subtext, of course, is that large numbers of American kids are simply not born with the ability to solve for x."

Thanks to Betsy Blake for sharing this with me!

01 September 2014

Kuratowski's Theorem

It has been more than a year since I've written in my theorem journal, but last week in Wisconsin I learned a theorem that definitely deserves to compel my return to the practice!

A graph is planar if it can be drawn in a plane (two dimensions, ie on a piece of paper) without graph edges crossing.

A subdivision of a graph G=(V,E) is a graph resulting from taking an edge e in E with endpoints u,v in V, introducing a new vertex w, and replacing e with two new edges, one between u,w and one between w,v.

Kuratowski's Theorem states that a graph with a finite number of vertices V and edges E is planar if and only if it does not contain a subgraph that is a subdivision of (1) the completely connected graph on five vertices or (2) the complete bipartite graph on six vertices, three in each partition.

Completely connected graph on five vertices:

Image from mathworld.

Complete bipartite graph on six vertices with 3 in each partition:

Image from mathworld.

29 July 2014

Priya Haji

Two weeks ago I had some very sad news. Priya Haji, the amazing and inspiring cousin of my best friend Sheila Hall, passed away at age 44. She was the co-founder of Save-up, a website to help people pay down debt. Before that she co-founded World of Good, a retail company that sold goods made by artisans around the world and promoted fair trade. While in college she co-founded a community recovery center in East Palo Alto called Free At Last.

Fast company did a great article on Priya.

Here you can read Priya's obituary on techcrunch.com.

Here you can watch Van Jones give a tribute to Priya at a celebration of her life.

Priya was always so fun to be around; she worked so hard and embraced everything so fully. She will live on in all of us if we try to be just a little less hesitant and jump in feet first to helping the people around us.

15 April 2014

far better

Preparing a lecture on robust estimation for my class on Thursday, I ran across this gem:

"Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise." - John Tukey.