29 September, 2010

Chicken chicken

Doug Zongker from the university of Washington published a paper using only "chicken" as a word. Later he was invited to give a talk about it at the AAAS meeting, check it out:

I especially enjoyed the way he'd answered questions. That's probably how experimentalists feel attending some of theory talks.

Thanks to Peter Kupser for sending me the link.

Take care,


23 September, 2010

Benford's law

In 1881 the American astronomer Simon Newcomb noticed that in books of logarithm tables first pages (logarithms of numbers starting with 1) are much more worn than others. This means that  people look up numbers starting with 1 more often than higher ones, which is a pretty weird result.

This effect was rediscovered in 1938 by Frank Benford, who checked it for different real data sets, and it's called Benford's law since then.

The thing is that such a distribution of numbers arises if their logarithms are distributed uniformly, like it's equally probable to find a value between 10 and 100 and between 100 and 1000. This is the case for most of real world statistics, such as distributions of salaries or building heights.

Well, I'm writing about all that because in 1972 the law was proposed to detect fraud in statistics, because people who make up their data tend to distribute numbers pretty much uniformly. For instance, Benford's law was used as an evidence of falsifications in the 2009 Iranian elections.

Be careful if you're making up your experimental data :-)


11 September, 2010

It tears me apart

Some people have problems with choosing between two men or women, two job offers and things like that. They say “it tears me apart”, which always reminds me a story from my childhood.

We’ve been little kids, about 10-11 years old, waiting for our English teacher in the classroom. For some reason our teacher was late, we’ve been very noisy and the director asked one of the security guards to come by to watch us and keep us quiet. The guy was a resigned soldier, and, as many of those, he took part in the first Chechen war (I’m talking about mid-90’s). All of us, especially boys, have been asking him what war is about.

He told us a story. Once they captured a girl, a Chechenian sniper, who had eleven ticks on the butt of her rifle, which means she killed eleven Russian soldiers. They didn’t think a lot, they just tied her to two tanks and teared her apart for real. I still remember a relaxed, casual face he had talking about that.

Little everyday things don’t tear you apart. It could be worse.

Take care,


10 September, 2010

...and papers citing it

Nowadays we have around such science databases as Web of Knowledge and Scopus, monitoring all the citations a published paper gets.

I think it would be nice to use "see ref. [x] and papers citing it" along with familiar "see ref. [x] and references therein" while writing articles.

It may come in handy if you refer to a field when a good up-to-date review is not published yet. Just cite one of the "citation classics" or an old Nobel lecture, "and all papers citing it".


08 September, 2010

Harry Potter course at Durham University

That's basically it. Durham University offers a course in Harry Potter to the students. That reminds me of the Starcraft course taught at UC Berkeley.

Take care,


05 September, 2010

The most useless machine. Ever.

Well, this is not really about science, but this is brilliant!

This toy is now the first on my wish list. :-)