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Assad Ebrahim
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Attended UW, Swarthmore
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Assad Ebrahim

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Mathematics of Image Decluterring  The narrated video explains how motion in a short sequence of images allows decomposition into a primary component, a reflection component, and an obstruction component.  This allows separation / extraction of reflections and obstructions. 

Original paper:
A Computational Approach to Obstruction-Free Photography; Tianfan Xue, Michael Rubinstein, Ce Liu, William T. Freeman; ACM Transactions on Graphics (Proc. SIGGRAPH); 2015; Vol.34; No.4
from: https://sites.google.com/site/obstructionfreephotography/
Google has teamed up with MIT to create new technology that lets you erase obstructions from your photographs to give Photoshop one less unique functionality to offer.
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The Economics Behind Sovereign Debt Default   Greece has voted No More Austerity.  Ashoka Mody [1] critiques the IMF position by explaining the economics linking deflation, austerity, & debt.  The Greeks may have been wise to vote No; to finish the IMF treatment would likely have killed the patient.

He writes:
To see this [that the Greek debt burden is much greater than portrayed], we must go back to a lesson that American economist Irving Fisher taught in 1933.  He says on page 344 that “the more debtors pay, the more they owe.” That pathological condition arises in the midst of Great Depressions, such as the United States in the 1930s and Greece in the last 5 years.

Here is how this principle applies today to Greece. Recall that prices in Greece have been falling for about two years now. Since debt repayment obligations do not change when businesses sell at lower prices or when wages fall, businesses and households struggle to repay their debt in that deflationary environment. Investment and consumption are held back, the government receives less revenue, making its debt repayment harder. If fiscal austerity is imposed in such a deflationary setting, prices and wages are forced down faster, making debt repayment even harder. This is Fisher’s debt-deflation cycle. Greece is in a debt-deflation cycle.

After stepping through the IMF's role, it's recommendations, and the policy decisions taken by Greece since 2010, he concludes:

We may not like the conclusion, but it is quite simple. Greece has not grown and prices have fallen because that was to be expected when persistent austerity is laid on top of an unsustainable debt. The debt-deflation spiral always outpaces the returns from structural reforms.

As certainly as these things can be predicted, on the path set out by the creditors, the stakes will continue to be escalated: the debt-to-GDP ratio will continue to rise, the calls for more austerity will grow, and, as the pattern repeats, more debt relief will needed.

So we arrive to the present. The IMF looks back at its diagnosis in November 2012 and says, the Greeks did not follow our advice; it is no surprise that they are in a mess and they need more debt relief. The truth is that the Greeks are in a mess precisely because they followed the IMF’s austerity advice and because the promised elixir of structural reforms was illusory.

If this is true, then Greece, sadly, follows a string of countries whose economies were made worse by following IMF advice.  Take your pick from the Latin American debt crisis countries [2], beginning with Mexico in 1982 and ending with Argentina in 2001.


Further Reading:

[1] Ashoka Mody, In Bad Faith, 4 July 2015, Bruegel
http://www.bruegel.org/nc/blog/detail/article/1669-in-bad-faith/

[2] Wikipedia: Sovereign Default
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_default

[3] Paul Ebeling: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Dilemma: How tight and loose financial policies work, and the relation of these cycles to the US Dollar decoupling from the gold-backed instrument (Bretton-Woods)
http://www.livetradingnews.com/janet-yellen-and-the-fomcs-dilemma-110181.htm#.VZmn9EZdM2U

[4] List of Sovereign Debt Crises: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_debt_crises
On July 2, the IMF released its analysis of whether Greek debt was sustainable or not.  The report said that Greek debt was not sus...
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Greece has a lesson for the U.S. as Paul Krugman (NY Times) explains:  Greece’s formula for disaster didn’t just involve austerity; it involved the toxic combination of austerity with hard money [whose value cannot be depreciated and stimulate exports].

Krugman lays out the argument, makes the connection to economic proposals made by prominent Republicans, and then concludes:

... If [America's] right gets its way on economic policy — slashing spending while blocking any offsetting monetary easing — it will, in effect, bring the policies behind the Greek disaster to America.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/opinion/paul-krugman-greeces-economy-is-a-lesson-for-republicans-in-the-us.html?src=me
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Dot-Space: The New Buzz in Seattle  From UW PhD Rob Hoyt's Tethers Unlimited, to Planetary Resources preparing to mine asteroids, Greater Seattle is now the home for a new wave of entrepreneurial technology companies looking to transcend earthly business.
A surge in the commercial-space business is generating excitement in the Greater Seattle area as private money spurs innovation and buzz at local companies.
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President Obama delivering stand-up comedy.  Obama has outstanding timing.  Quoting Jeb Lund from the Guardian: "He's quick to read the room, weigh the beat, and sell the gag.  It is really reassuring to see a mentally agile and attentive person on the other end of American power structure, with the wit to pay attention and the humility to laugh even at his own expense. There’s a human being at the controls, more so than “some guy I can drink a beer with” or some other campaign artifice. That’s fun. Obama, and especially the Luther routine, were the best part of the night."
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Who's Winning the Battle of Distributed Version Control Systems?  Several years ago, when choosing between Git and Mercurial, the eventual winner was perhaps still unclear.  Mercurial had Mozilla, Joel Spolsky, Facebook, and Python amongst others.  And of course Python had Google in its corner, which seemed not too bad a counter-weight to the fact that Git had Linux and most Linux projects. 

Today it appears that Git, with GitHub, can be said to have won the DVCS rivalry, judging by captured mindshare of open source developers.  That's no disrespect to Mercurial which is still used and loved by many.  (Indeed, I've been one of these for almost half a dozen years now.)

But Git, well, the article describes it all. 

Now, if you're reading this and are still on Subversion or heaven forbid, CVS, it might be time to consider whether a modern distributed version control systems may offer some more appealing ways of working.  If you do start looking, Git and TortoiseGit are a pretty good place to start.
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And now this: Github suffers largest Distributed Denial of Service attack in site's history.
http://www.zdnet.com/article/github-suffers-largest-ddos-attack-in-sites-history/
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Mathematical Virology: using cryptographic techniques to unlock the code governing how viruses reproduce.  Mathematician Reidun Twarock (U. York) describes:  "The Enigma machine metaphor is apt. The first observations pointed to the existence of some sort of a coding system, so we set about deciphering the cryptic patterns underpinning it using novel, purpose designed computational approaches. We found multiple dispersed patterns working together in an incredibly intricate mechanism and we were eventually able to unpick those messages. We have now proved that those computer models work in real viral messages." [1]

Paper: Revealing the density of encoded functions in a viral RNA, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015
http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~rt50/JournalPublications_2014.html

Reidun Twarockhttp://maths.york.ac.uk/www/rt507

A Course in Mathematical Virologyhttp://maths.york.ac.uk/www/node/14102

Source:
[1] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204075224.htm
Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses including the common cold and polio. Until now, scientists had not noticed the code, which had been hidden in plain sight in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome.
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'The Stream' has changed 'The Web'  (https://goo.gl/V6IrQd)  What happened?  When the web was younger, early adopters were over-represented amongst its users.  The intellectual power and diversity of conversation has not been lost, it's just been diluted by democracy -- and many more content consumers.

Unhelpfully, consuming content which others have created is the featured use case of the tablet/smartphone.  The fact that the tablet/phone have largely replaced the laptop for leisure use means that the majority of those with digital access are now separated from the ability to create original textual content.  We're a lot less likely to see a multi-page article from a tablet user now than we were from a laptop user 6 years ago. 

Conversation lost something similar when participation in ham radio declined as radio was eclipsed by TV.

Original article by activist +Hossein Derakhshan:
The Web We Have to Save _The rich, diverse, free web that I loved — and spent years in an Iranian jail for — is dying.
Why is nobody stopping it?_
https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426
 
 Here's a fascinating article (long blog post?) that compares "the Web" as it was 6 years ago, with it now (largely due to "social media"), as Hossein Derakhshan believes.  Have the rest of us not noticed? Is he right? Worth some thought at least.....

https://medium.com/@h0d3r/
Author, blogger, critic. Pardoned and freed from prison after 6 years. Trying to get back to normal life in Tehran. hoder@hoder.com
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"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." said Martin Luther King Jr.    This is an historic week in the U.S.  Steve Benen's article is an excellent summary.  It is gratifying to witness.
Watching this president discuss this ruling from this location served as a striking reminder about the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in.
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+runman1271  In 1896 the Supreme Court upheld Louisiana's Jim Crow laws upholding racial segregation as constitutional (Plessy v Ferguson).  In 1954 the Supreme Court unanimously reversed course and ruled that state sanctioned segregation was unconstitutional (Brown v Board of Education).

Times change.  Societies evolve in their understanding of justice.  The Constitution was designed to be a living document that serves the societies whose laws it interprets.  It was designed to allow flexibility so that injustices from past times could be challenged and re-addressed by posterity.   Hence the title of the post.

Is the Supreme Court the last word on any subject?  Yes for at least a few years.  But not forever.  There are two other branches of elected government that could oppose if the electorate supports the counter view but this has not often happened as far as I know, since the Supreme Court tends not to move too dramatically out of step from the views of the majority of the electorate.  Can the Supreme Court itself change course?  Yes, but new cases have to be brought through the court system and the Supreme Court has to agree to consider them.
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String theory & Geometry: tensor networks, entanglement, and correlations in geometry when viewed at Planck scales.  The animation "imagines entanglement creating space-time gradually: Along the outside of the figure, individual particles (dots) become entangled with each other. These entangled pairs then become entangled with other pairs. As more particles become entangled, the three-dimensional structure of space-time emerges."  This, according to Mark van Raamsdonk, a string theorist at University of British Columbia in Canada.

This is an interesting and well-written article by Jennifer Oullette on an area of physics that is probing the fundamental nature of space-time and therefore geometry.
Tensor networks could connect space-time froth to quantum information.
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The Mathematics of High Performance  Individual performance across a wide variety of fields is more a power law distribution than a normal distribution. [1]   This means that "ten percent of productivity comes from the top percentile, and 26% of output derives from the top 5% of workers," a more extreme ratio than the typical 80-20 rule in long-tail distributions.

The exceptions to this observation include "industries and organizations that rely on manual labor, have limited technology, and place strict standards for both minimum and maximum production" — essentially anywhere there's little opportunity to be exceptional.

The implication for entrepreneurial companies?  Laszlo Bock (Google SVP People Operations):  Managers at any company should ask, "How many people would you trade for your very best performer? If the number is more than five, you're probably underpaying your best person. And if it's more than ten, you're almost certainly underpaying."

[1] The Best and the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance; 2012; ERNEST O’BOYLE JR. (Longwood University) and HERMAN AGUINIS (Indiana University); Personnel Psychology, Vol. 65; pp79-119
Source: http://mypage.iu.edu/~haguinis/PPsych2012.pdf

[2] Inside Google's Policy to 'Pay Unfairly': Why 2 people in the same role can earn dramatically different amounts.  Richard Feloni; 11.Apr.2015; Business Insider UK;
Source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/google-policy-to-pay-unfairly-2015-4?r=US
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Good films about maths are rare... yet director George Csicsery (pronounced "Chi-cherry") has produced 13 elegant films about mathematicians & mathematics.  (List below.)  In his own words "Working with mathematicians is a great source of pleasure. It is the only group I know, where the answer 'I don't know' is met with excitement and motivation rather than with irritation. I hope that some of this excitement and passion filters through the film to audiences." [a]
    
Just watching the trailers is rewarding.  If you've never met a mathematician, these should give you a personal look into the very diverse worlds of some great modern mathematicians and to see the humanity behind the thinking.  If you're a mathematician or love mathematics, these are inspiring.

And now, the list of 13 films, courtesy of Csicery's studio Zala Films:

[1]  Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang & the Twin Prime Conjecture (2015)
    The central challenge of the film was finding a way to depict Yitang Zhang's dedication to working in isolation. The qualities he embraces-solitude, quiet, concentration-are the opposites of those valued in the media. Fortunately, it is a conundrum Csicsery had faced before in other films about mathematicians. He had learned that contrary to the rules, it is okay to shoot long scenes of "the grass growing," or in this case, shots of "a person just sitting with pencil and paper and thinking. The longer the scene, the more you realize that you really can see someone thinking. The human face is very expressive. Give it time and it speaks volumes."  - George Csicsery
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/countingabout.html
    Trailer: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/countingtrailer.html

    
[2]  Porridge Pulleys & Pi: Two Mathematical Journeys (Hendrik Lenstra, Number Theory, Elliptic Curves & Cryptography) & (Vaughan Jones: Quantum Mechanics, Knot Theory, and DNA Protein Folding) (2004)
    Trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi1773798425/     About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/pppdirector.html
    "There are several stereotypes and beliefs about mathematicians that Porridge pulleys and Pi aims to dispel. First, I wanted to show that there is no single type of person who can become a mathematician. ... given the right training, any child with the aptitude can turn into a mathematician. ... Jones and Lenstra are the opposites of the eccentric nerdy type who has come to characterize the popular conception of what mathematicians are like. Another cliche I hope to debunk is that of the tortured genius. This film contains clear evidence that mathematicians derive a great deal of pleasure from their work." - George Csiscery
    http://www.zalafilms.com/films/pppdirector.html
    

[3]  Taking the Long View: The Life of Shiing-shen Chern (one of the fathers of modern differential geometry) (2011)
    View Short: http://zalafilms.com/takingthelongviewfilm/viewfilm.html
    Synopsis: http://zalafilms.com/takingthelongviewfilm/synopsis.html
    There’s a quotation from Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, that could have been written about Chern. ‘The master does his job and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need other’s approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.’ - Alan Weinstein, UC Berkeley
    
    The true importance of Shiing-shen Chern’s role in the development of mathematics ... His influence with Chinese government leaders helped bring Western mathematicians to China and send Chinese students to study abroad. Today’s leaders in Chinese mathematics were all beneficiaries of Chern’s vision. His greatest contribution to the restoration of Chinese mathematics, however, is the establishment of the Nankai Institute of Mathematics, today known as the Chern Institute of Mathematics. The Chern Institute provided a base for these international interactions which often led to collaborations, reciprocal visits, and joint papers.
    About: http://www.takingthelongviewfilm.com/


    He said, ‘my policy to operate this institute is very simple. Three words in Chinese. First, no meetings. Second, no plan. Third, do more.’ That means, just do your research work.
    Molin Ge, Theoretical Physicist, Chern Institute of Mathematics


[4] Invitation to Discover: An Introduction to the MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute) (2002)
    Watch: http://www.msri.org/web/msri/online-videos/special-productions-events/invitation-to-discover     
    
[5] I Want to Be a Mathematician: A Conversation with Paul Halmos (2009)
    Trailer: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/halmostrailer.mov
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/halmossynopsis.html
    "When an engineer knocks at your door with a mathematical question, you should not try to get rid of him or her as quickly as possible. You are likely to make a mistake I myself made for many years: to believe that the engineer wants you to solve his or her problem. This is a kind of over simplification for which mathematicians are notorious. Believe me, the engineer does not want you to solve his or her problem. Once I did so by mistake (actually I had read the solution in the library two hours previously, quite by accident) and he got quite furious, as if I were taking away his livelihood. What an engineer wants is to be treated with respect and consideration, like the human being he is, and most of all to be listened to with rapt attention. If you do this, he will be likely to hit upon a clever idea as he explains the problem to you, and you will get some of the credit. Listening to engineers and other scientists is our duty. You may learn some interesting mathematics while doing so." - Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscreet Thoughts 1979


[6]  Julia Robinson and Hilbert's 10th Problem (2008)
    Trailer: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/julia.html
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/jrbackground.html

    
[7]  Navajo Math Circles (in production)
    "Open-ended questions are totally new to most of the kids. Usually you have to have an answer within 20 seconds, 30 seconds, that’s what math is. Math circles are the opposite. We start with some simple questions, and we ask more questions and more questions. We get some answers along the way. The answers actually don’t matter. The more and more questions… we’re opening whole research problems, and that is something totally new to the kids. And once they like it, it’s just amazing, it’s transformative." - Matthias Kawski, Arizona State University
    Trailer: http://www.zalafilms.com/navajo/trailer.html
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/navajo/about.html

    
[8]  Hard Problems: The Road to World's Toughest Math Contest, covering the story of the 2006 US IMO team (2008)
    *Trailer: http://www.hardproblemsmovie.com/trailer.html
    About: http://www.hardproblemsmovie.com/synopsis.html


[9]  N is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdos (1993)
    Trailer: https://www.simonsfoundation.org/multimedia/n-is-a-number-a-portrait-of-paul-erdos/     About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/nisfilm.html
    Full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN4yLPPvRBgs


[10]  Erdos 100 (2013)
    Trailer: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/erdostrailer.html    
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/erdos.html


[11]  To Prove and Conjecture: Excerpts from Three Lectures by Paul Erdos (1993)
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/prove.html

        
[12]  The Right Spin: How to fly a broken space craft (Mir), the Story of a Dramatic Rescue in Space and the Mathematics Behind It (2005)
    About: http://plus.maths.org/content/right-spin-how-fly-broken-space-craft            http://archive.msri.org/specials/rightspin     Alternate documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM7fTLLmgbk


[13]  On Mathematical Grounds: A Refresh of an Introduction to the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) (2009)
    About: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/omg.html
    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO-JRzTiSNo     
    
References:
[a] George Csicsery, Producer & Director, Zala Films, in his own words:   http://zalafilms.com/takingthelongviewfilm/directors_statement.html

[b] The Films: http://www.zalafilms.com/films/index.html

[c] The story of George Csicsery: Math Films, Yes - But So Much More:  http://cinesourcemagazine.com/index.php?/site/comments/csicsery_math_films_yes_but_so_much_more/

[d] Science Lives, Simon Foundation & Zala Films, videos of interviews with living mathematicians  https://www.simonsfoundation.org/category/multimedia/science-lives/alphabetical-listing/
About the Film. In April 2013, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire submitted a paper to the Annals of Mathematics. Within weeks word spread: a little-known mathematician, with no permanent job and working in complete isolation, had made an important breakthrough towards solving the ...
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Assad Ebrahim

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The Three Temperaments of Mathematicians  This piece explores the three intellectual temperaments, characterised as birds, frogs, and beavers, from the point of view of famous mathematicians.

Articlehttp://lesswrong.com/lw/2z7/draft_three_intellectual_temperaments_birds_frogs/
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Work
Occupation
Commercial Mathematician
Employment
  • Amazon.com
    Senior Manager - Supply Chain Control & Analytics, present
  • Dixons Carphone Group
    Commercial Mathematician
  • Thalassa Autonomous Robotics
    Consulting Systems Engineer (Navigation Algorithms R&D)
  • BioSonics Inc. (Smart Sonar)
    Director of Engineering & Operations
  • BioSonics Inc. (Smart Sonar)
    Head of Software Development
  • Boeing Phantom Works (R&D Centre of Excellence)
    Scientific Programmer, NSF VIGRE Fellowship
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London
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Seattle - Boston - Philadelphia - Vancouver - Nairobi - Islamabad - Zanzibar
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Tagline
Commercial Mathematician
Introduction
I'm an applied mathematician & engineer, American citizen and British resident, living, working, and raising a lovely little girl in the U.K., just outside the London metro area.

Over the years and on both sides of the Atlantic, I've led a variety of quantitative & operational challenges across intelligent systems & software engineering, sonar, defense, environmental technology, robotics, and most recently the complex world of multi-channel retail.

The common thread linking passion, profession, and play is applying technology, good design, and quantitative modelling and simulation, to build better products, enable better decisions, and optimise performance.

Presently, I am Commercial Mathematician (aka data scientist) to a leading UK retailer, where I develop mathematical models and algorithms that get beneath a complex of systems, processes, and behaviours, to drive better performance for customers at a lower cost. My work is applied to demand forecasting, product replenishment, supply chain optimisation, statistical modelling of multi-channel behaviour, predictive analytics, as well as decisions around property portfolio transformation, merchandise ranging & assortments, and own-brand profitability.

Prior to this, I developed navigation & localisation algorithms for unmanned autonomous underwater robotic vehicles working for the ocean robotics R&D company Thalassa  Autonomous Robotics Ltd. (Bristol, UK).  This neat little animation[1] illustrates the concept of what we designed for Undersea Oil & Gas Exploration.  Videos of early prototypes in action are here[2], and here[3]

In the U.S., I was the Director of Engineering & Operations at BioSonics, Inc. (Seattle, Washington), where I led the design, development and manufacturing of intelligent sonar systems and their real-time software.  Applications spanned a number of industries including environmental monitoring of the world's first underwater tidal energy grid in New York City's East River, homeland defense with Sandia National Labs & the Naval Underwater Warfare Centre, and off-shore aquaculture (automated fish farming) with the Chilean government, among others.

I'm always experimenting and tinkering, so feel free to get in touch with ideas.

Education
  • UW, Swarthmore
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