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Dee Roytenberg
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More grumbling from the help.
 
Letter: In British universities, innovation, creativity, originality and critical thought, as well as notions of social justice, are being threatened by marketisation
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Good to have such heavyweights on board.
 
An awesome blog post from David Mumford. I wish more senior people had attitudes like this

More recently Springer realized that even books out of copyright could generate new revenue and offered authors the "benefit" of keeping their books in print indefinitely by voluntarily extending copyright to infinity. Actually, you can get nearly all math books free online at the rogue Russian "Genesis Library", with websites libgen.in and gen.lib.rec.ec (most of my books are there -- help yourself). Which is better: lunch money royalties once a year or wider free distribution of your books? (Emphasis added)

Yes, that is a senior mathematician telling people "go to Library Genesis and download my books for free".

More telling is the history of mathematics publishing and relatively recent, and unfortunately unsuccessful, efforts in establishing the World Mathematics Library.

Here is Mumford on the issue of money:

Of course, I hear loud cries of "who pays?". Yes, it's not free. But moving to something like the above would free up large amounts of library money currently being spent for overpriced journals, e.g. Springer and Elsevier (maybe even shaming NYU into reducing its ridiculous price for Communications in Pure and Applied Math). The cost of running an online journal is certainly fairly small, though by no means zero. There are no printing, mailing and storage costs and no subscription record keeping. Refereeing is done for nothing, manuscripts are prepared by the author in latex with fixed formatting packages so they are ready to post, editing beyond a spell check is a luxury we can omit, esp. in our multi-lingual world where the niceties of grammar are increasingly forgotten or never learned by foreign speakers.


The image below is a personal letter of thanks to Springer, the man, from mathematicians (Hilbert! Caratheodory! Courant! Bieberbach! Hecke! Landau! etc) thanking him for his efforts and sacrifices to keep two important journals going. This would never happen today. Mumford is in the league of the signatories, and he is giving modern publishing corporations what for.

http://www.dam.brown.edu/people/mumford/blog/2015/WakeUp.html

(Ignore the date of posting---1st April---it's a serious article)

cc: +Michael Nielsen +Mike Taylor +Richard Poynder +Peter Suber +Stuart Shieber 

#openaccess  
The world of professional publishing, of scholarly communication, is in a state of profound transformation. In some fields, for example physics and computer science, researchers have embraced this transformation and are forging new policies and better customs. In my experience, however, ...
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Damn you, Onion!
 
"In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return."
ROCHESTER, MN—In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never ...
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From the description:
"In 1958, Philips tried to make "popular" electronic music. 
For a couple of years "room 306" of the Philips laboratory in Eindhoven
was allowed to make records like this. It did not catch on.
You could say they were 30 years ahead of their time..."

The first two links below are tracks from the late 1950's, the third one a modern remix of one of them. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW-n6GWFAvI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVl2_MSwmSA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_T2iJQqsf8
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This is not as ridiculous as it sounds. In fact, it is fair to say that the best approximation I have of a religion is based, for the most part, on sci-fi.
 
Might future villagers in a fallen world worship the mystical visions of today’s science fiction authors?  
Sayeth Damien Walters in The Guardian  : “We’re only a few centuries and a small apocalyptic event away from isolated communities of huddled believers worshipping the gospels of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and Le Guin. If a future society based on the eccentric thinking of sci-fi writers seems outrageous, it’s no stranger than a society founded on Genesis, Exodus and Revelations.”  

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/jan/16/sci-fi-21st-century-religion-universe-hubble
SF provides a place to focus our awe at the wonders of the universe, just one of many functions it shares with religious beliefs
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A digital image is an undirected graph with at most one edge between any two vertices (adjacency relation). A map between two such is continuous if it preserves adjacency. Homotopy between two such maps is defined using "Moore paths" [0,k]. This leads to the notion of homotopy equivalence of digital images. 

Question: what can one say about the resulting homotopy type, e.g. for finite images?  

Turns out all images with the number of vertices n up to 4 are contractible, for n=5 or 6 the usual pentagon and hexagon are the only irreducible ones, and for n=7 there are three irreducible types (where irreducible means not equivalent to an image with a smaller number of vertices). Beyond that classification is not known, and one of the authors of the technical paper (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1408.2584v2.pdf) created an online game, described in the linked post, to help figure out how to proceed. The paper also defines certain homotopy invariants -- sort of infinitely many "fundamental groups", one for each value of the length of a loop. It does not raise the question of whether the converse is true (whether a kind of Whitehead theorem holds), but obtains some partial results in that direction (Theorem 4.7 and Conjecture 4.8). Intriguing.

via +Daniel Estrada 
 
Nice Neighbors: Online Game Crowd-Sources Theorems in Digital Topology http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/2014/12/23/nice-neighbors-digital-topology-gamification/
Now is your chance to prove some theorems without knowing what they mean! Chris Staecker, a mathematician at Fairfield University, created the game Nice Neighbors to get ...
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As for the captcha notion, I think the relationship is indirect. Probably the graph as you see it is a representation of granulated data eg gif encoding. As pointed out in the article, though, the small cases covered by this game are too small for practical application.
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Dee Roytenberg

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A major advance in higher Lie theory: the result was announced two years ago, but now there's a preprint. +David Roberts: this is doing higher geometry "Yau-style".

http://arxiv.org/abs/1506.04898
Abstract: We consider the problem of integration of L_\infty-algebroids (differential graded manifolds) to L_\infty-groupoids. We first construct a "big" Kan simplicial manifold (Fr\'echet or Banach) whose points are solutions of a (generalized) Maurer-Cartan equation. The main analytic trick in ...
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From Anathem by Neal Stephenson:

Bulshytt: Speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said.

In that world, this is not an expletive but a technical term.
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The flaw resulted from a former U.S. government policy that forbade the export of strong encryption and required that weaker “export-grade” products be shipped to customers in other countries, say the researchers who discovered the problem. These restrictions were lifted in the late 1990s, but the weaker encryption got baked into widely used software that proliferated around the world and back into the United States, apparently unnoticed until this year.

Use this example if you ever need to explain the meaning of the word "backfire".

via +Andreas Schou 
 
There could hardly be a better, or better-timed, story showing why the intelligence community's idiotic call for weakening the cryptographic protections on our communications is an awful and dangerous idea. In the 1990s, security was deliberately weakened so that spies could spy, and today we find that practically all of our communications are now subject to interception by criminals[1] as a result.

The NSA and others want a crypto backdoor that only they can use. If you know anything about security, you know that's a logical impossibility -- a lock that only good guys[2] can open. It doesn't work because the lock has no way to tell if you're a good guy. It only knows whether you have the key.

What's really interesting about that is that the NSA, of all organizations, must know that what they're asking for can't exist. (Or else they're woefully incompetent and should be shut down for that reason alone.) So they clearly don't care whether your information is stolen by criminals, as long as they get to continue spying on you.

Thus, every demand they make to weaken our security is a reminder of just why we need better security. Keep demanding, ya jerks. Keep demanding.

--
[1] Determining the overlap between "spies" and "criminals" is left as an exercise for the reader.

[2] That's how the NSA sees themselves, of course. It isn't how the rest of us see them. Yet another reminder not to make their lives easier by using a deliberately weakened lock.
Companies and U.S. agencies scramble to fix a newly discovered security hole. Hundreds of thousands of sites such as Whitehouse.gov, NSA.gov and FBI.gov are vulnerable.
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It seems natural in these circumstances for the adjunct faculty to try to organize. If it's gotten so far that they now form the backbone of college education, their employers would be up shit creek should they walk out en masse. I wonder if is there such an effort underway anywhere, and whether the employers have good reasons to believe it will never pan out, and if it did  -- if the adjuncts did walk out --  there would be hordes of starving PhD's waiting at the door, eager to replace them on the same outrageous terms.
 
"I, along with many of my colleagues in Higher Education in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are being shamelessly exploited by our employers. We do not have permanent jobs, we have to eke out an existence by patching together many temporary contracts to try and earn enough to survive on."
By Andrew Robinson, Contract (Sessional) Instructor, Department of Physics, Carleton University -. Recently, I had a perfectly reasonable request from a student who wanted to review an exam from last term. I was unable to comply with this request because to do so would be to give my employer ...
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Having read the excerpt below I now want to read the whole book.
 
From The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

Excerpt via +Kartik Agaram 

Shevek ended his career as a tourist with relief. The new term was opening at Ieu Eun; now he could settle down to live, and work, in Paradise, instead of merely looking at it from outside.

He took on two seminars and an open lecture course. No teaching was requested of him, but he had asked if he could teach, and the administrators had arranged the seminars. The open class was neither his idea nor theirs. A delegation of students came and asked him to give it. He consented at once. This was how courses were organized in Anarresti learning centers: by student demand, or on the teacher’s initiative, or by students and teachers together. When he found that the administrators were upset, he laughed. “Do they expect students not to be anarchists?” he said. “What else can the young be? When you are on the bottom, you must organize from the bottom up!” He had no intention of being administered out of the course—he had fought this kind of battle before—and because he communicated his firmness to the students, they held firm. To avoid unpleasant publicity, the Rectors of the University gave in, and Shevek began his course to a first-day audience of two thousand. Attendance soon dropped. He stuck to physics, never going off into the personal or the political, and it was physics on a pretty advanced level. But several hundred students continued to come. Some came out of mere curiosity, to see the man from the Moon; others were drawn by Shevek’s personality, by the glimpses of the man and the libertarian which they could catch from his words even when they could not follow his mathematics. And a surprising number of them were capable of following both the philosophy and the mathematics.

They were superbly trained, these students. Their minds were fine, keen, ready. When they weren’t working, they rested. They were not blunted and distracted by a dozen other obligations. They never fell asleep in class because they were tired from having worked on rotational duty the day before. Their society maintained them in complete freedom from want, distractions, and cares.

What they were free to do, however, was another question. It appeared to Shevek that their freedom from obligation was in exact proportion to their lack of freedom of initiative.

He was appalled by the examination system, when it was explained to him; he could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn than this pattern of cramming in information and disgorging it at demand. At first he refused to give any tests or grades, but this upset the University administrators so badly that, not wishing to be discourteous to his hosts, he gave in. He asked his students to write a paper on any problem in physics that interested them, and told them that he would give them all the highest mark, so that the bureaucrats would have something to write on their forms and lists. To his surprise a good many students came to him to complain. They wanted him to set the problems, to ask the right questions; they did not want to think about questions, but to write down the answers they had learned. And some of them objected strongly to his giving everyone the same mark. How could the diligent students be distinguished from the dull ones? What was the good in working hard? If no competitive distinctions were to be made, one might as well do nothing.

“Well, of course,” Shevek said, troubled. “If you do not want to do the work, you should not do it.”

The boys went away unappeased, but polite. They were pleasant boys, with frank and civil manners. Shevek’s readings in Urrasti history led him to decide that they were, in fact, though the word was seldom used these days, aristocrats. In feudal times the aristocracy had sent their sons to university, conferring superiority on the institution. Nowadays it was the other way round: the university conferred superiority on the man. They told Shevek with pride that the competition for scholarships to Ieu Eun was stiffer every year, proving the essential democracy of the institution. He said, “You put another lock on the door and call it democracy.”
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It was an interesting book, as I remember. There's a part that takes places within an anarchist society (the Moon, from the quote). Le Guin came up with some clever ideas about it might work as well as dysfunction. The other part has Shevek observing an oppositely organized, capitalist, society as an outsider. I found that part somewhat less clever. It included many essentially true commentaries on our own society, like the one above. It's just that one finds them often repeated in many places.

One of the amusing bits for me was watching Le Guin paint Shevek's (a theoretical physicist) academic world in essentially the same colors as the world of humanities. You'll also find lots of Jungian ideas popping up in the physics of her universe, if you know how to spot them.
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There can be no “lawful interception” capacity for a self-driving car, allowing police to order it to pull over, that wouldn't also let a carjacker compromise your car and drive it to a convenient place to rob, rape, and/or kill you.
 
Question: what is the meaning of this quote from +Cory Doctorow op-ed linked here? "...if the World Wide Web Consortium continues to infect the core standards of the web itself to allow remote control over your computer against your wishes—then we are in deep, deep trouble."
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Doctorow has been pushing this idea for a while.
E.g. his CCC keynote  three years ago:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvRyemKSg It's quite convincing. CCC just started today btw.
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