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Yonatan Zunger
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Attended Stanford University
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Yonatan Zunger

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I had been under the impression that the University of Toronto was an actual, well, university. It appears that I may have been mistaken. 

On the other hand, there aren't many universities where you can learn about how quantum mechanics explains homeopathy, so I suppose they are producing some sort of public service. As someone who actually knows something about both quantum mechanics and biology, I would be quite fascinated to know that.

(For those who are in the dark as to what's actually going on here: it appears that Beth Landau-Halpern, the teacher of this "class," is married to the dean of the Scarborough campus. I do not know if she is at all related to the two physicists whose name she shares – the great Lev Landau, or Berkeley string theorist Marty Halpern – but if either knew, I suspect that one would be turning in his grave, and the other would be designing magnets and coils to generate electric power out of any planned future spinning in his grave.)

h/t +God Emperor Lionel Lauer 
Earlier this year two groups of academics (scientists and faulty members) at the University of Toronto wrote letters of concern to the President of the University regarding the course Alternative H...
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I always wondered what they did in their natural habitats; now I know.

I'm really tempted to build ornithopter drones with surveillance camera bodies.

Also, the art here is cool. You should click through and see the rest of it.
Artist Installs Flocks of Surveillance Cameras and Satellite Dishes in Outdoor Settings
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+Mark Rodriguez beat me to it! 
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Most combustion reactions are what are called "redox reactions:" a reducer (aka a fuel, something which has too many electrons and wants to get rid of some) meets an oxidizer (something which wants electrons badly). Electrons move from one to the other, energy is liberated, and the resulting products are ejected at potentially high speed.

Many reactions won't go off on their own: you need to inject some energy, an activation energy, for them to start. This is why gasoline doesn't explode into flame when it's touched to air; instead, it has to be vaporized (liquid gasoline isn't actually flammable at all; only gasoline vapor), that vapor thoroughly mixed with oxygen, and a spark applied.

Other reactions ignite on contact. These are called hypergolic reactions, and they tend to be kind of spectacular.

For example, boiling potassium chlorate (KClO3, a strong oxidizer) is hypergolic with sugar. 

Such as gummy bears.

Watch the video. It's worth it.
Reaction of sugar with potassium chlorate

Potassium chlorate (KClO3) is an extremely strong oxidizer and violently reacts upon contact with a fuel source (sugar). When the gummy bear is dropped into the beaker, it immediately reacts with the potassium chlorate and ignites. The heat generated is a great demonstration of the energy stored within carbohydrates like sugar. 



#ScienceGIF   #Science   #GIF   #Chemistry   #Sugar   #GiantGummyBear   #GummyBear   #PotassiumChloride   #Reaction   #Explosion   #Fire  
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And activation energy is usually much higher then the energy required for the reaction (kinetics of chemistry) + PS gonna share it in a teens community 😏
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It's that time of year again: the time when a young pinniped's fancy turns to thoughts of lounging around on the beach. And what better way to celebrate high summer in the Arctic than with WalrusCam, a continuous live stream from Round Island, Alaska, where you can hear the soothing sounds of the waves crashing on the shore as thousands of tons of blubber, muscle, and tusk photosynthesize and lumber about?

And by thousands, I mean thousands; there can be as many as 14,000 walruses, each weighing a good two tons, on this island at a time. It's kind of fascinating.

Alas, the video link on the page below seems to have expired; you can see the current WalrusCam at .

h/t +California Academy of Sciences 
An ugly of walruses. It's Friday and who doesn't need a little more Walrus in their lives? I certainly do. Streaming live 24-7 from Round Island, Alaska (in the
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+Kerrylynn Capello Yes, it's part of the traditional diet of Inuit people.
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A brief note to those lacking sense: The Queen's Guard are not animatronic Disney exhibits. They are soldiers on guard duty. This might be indicated to you by the large, loaded rifle with bayonet fixed which is normally found resting on their shoulder.

Think of them as brightly colored and unusually heavily armed Secret Service agents.
What a fucking idiot.

Why would you even think it was ok to disrespect someone on duty in uniform like that, no matter the place?
A video showing the dramatic moment a soldier from the Queen's Guard turned his rifle on a tourist outside Windsor Castle has emerged online
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What the fuck!
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I find these reports both interesting and uninteresting. On the one hand, they're trying to capture an important quantity: How happy are people? They do this by directly surveying people (targeting 1,000 people per country per year) in what's called the "Gallup World Poll," which asks people about a range of aspects of their lives. This chart is based on just one question from the poll: "it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale." The colored segments of the bars are the attempts of the team to use regression to figure out how different factors contribute to happiness; the big gray area is the part that wasn't explained by any of these factors.

So that's the good part, and it's also good that the study is done by people who actually know how to do statistics correctly. (You can follow the link for detailed FAQs)

But there are two issues here: one about the question asked, and the other about statistics.

The problem with the question is that it's all about comparing people's perceived happiness to their imagined minimum and maximum. That's really not a measure of their overall happiness; it's a measure of how optimistic they feel about their world versus their realm of possibilities. As several researchers have noted, it's likely more useful to measure unhappiness; that turns out to both be easier to measure, and tell you more about people's day-to-day happiness.

The reason is tied to the fact that "money can't buy you happiness, but poverty can buy you a whole lot of misery." When people's wealth increases, happiness increases sharply – up to a point, at which it basically stops. That's because most of those happiness increases come from the elimination of things like worrying about food, shelter, medicine, and so on. In practice, a good measure of happiness is something like "mean time between bad events." Quantifying that is tricky, but is more likely to give a much better measure. The data below is largely not, I think, a real measure of happiness.

(An excellent article about measuring unhappiness is . Thanks to +Peter Scully for that find!)

There's also a statistical thing which, I suspect, hides a tremendous amount of information. For each country, the happiness scores are combined into a mean.

Why is a mean a problem? Of all the methods of averaging, mean is one of the most susceptible to outliers. There's an old joke about two guys sitting in a bar in Seattle, grousing about how broke they are, when Bill Gates walks into the room. One of them thinks hard for a few moments, then, wide-eyed, jumps up and yells "A round of drinks on me!" As the patrons cheer, his friend asks him, "What? I thought you said you were broke!" "Yeah, but I just did the math – on average, everyone in this bar is a millionaire!"

In particular, a country with a small number of extremely happy people and lots of unhappy people and a country with a large number of kind of happy people would look the same on this measure.

Not only do means hide variation in general, they could be specifically important for happiness measurements: people's response to everyone around them being unhappy is very different from their response to a few people being very happy and everyone else being miserable.

So while this study is interesting, what I'd really like to see is a further breakdown of the numbers. For example, we could divide each country into four quartiles, and ask how happy the least, middle two, and top quartiles of the country are. (I picked four quartiles because the more you break it down, the more data you need, so I doubt there's enough data to go further) Then you could show a plot of the countries of the world, ranked by one number – maybe the happiness of the top quartile, or the bottom quartile, or the median happiness – and plot all four numbers on one graph. (Say, through splitting up bars with colors)

That sort of graph would tell you a lot more. Wide spacing between top and bottom is very different from narrow spacing. And it may reveal other statistical correlations of the sort that the graph below tends to show: For example, is the mean happiness of a country correlated to the size of the difference between top and bottom? Is there a link between "homogeneity of happiness" (or homogeneity of any other metric) and overall happiness?

There's a lot to learn here. I'm actually quite interested in the measurement of overall happiness; we tend to focus a lot on financial metrics like GDP or health metrics like life expectancy, but we have to be careful of the metric effect: Whatever you measure is what you end up optimizing for. Money and life expectancy contribute to the underlying goal of a better world, but they aren't themselves equal to that goal. By having the right things to measure, we can better allocate resources and solve problems.

You can read the full results at , and poll methodology at .

h/t +Ward Plunet.
According to the 2015 World Happiness Report, Switzerland is the happiest country in the world.
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Where is south-africa were not that unhappy.
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Yonatan Zunger

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Beware of gifts bearing Greeks.

(Also: is it wrong that I've always wanted a story to have a character named Donna Ferentes, just so someone could fear both her and the Greeks?)
THE nation of Greece said sorry to the European Union with a present of an enormous wooden horse.
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+Neil Carvin​ had an interesting post that indicated of the 200B bailout funds just 12 percent went to running the government, the rest went to debt payments, banks, or private investors. Click his name and add him (you can then also read his post)

The horse is funny but...

If Greece has no manufacturing then most of their debts were created by importing goods from other countries. I assume a few of those countries lent them money to purchase those things from themselves.

The wizard of OZ taught us: When you look behind the curtains...

it's complicated...
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I'm not really sure if "total value of residential property per county" is a useful metric of anything. We already know that houses are more expensive in some places than others, and this isn't even value of residential property per person or per residence; this map also tells us "more people live in counties with big cities than in counties without them," which isn't exactly the greatest insight of all time.

However, this image does show us that, scaled by residential property value, the United States looks a bit like China, or maybe a kidney. So it's kind of cool for that.

h/t +Autumn Ginkgo Leaves™ 
Animated GIF showing a map of the US re-scaled by total residential property value for each county.
After the last post, which looked at housing values across New York City, I thought it would be interesting to take a more granular look at housing values across the U.S.To create the map below, I took the total residential property value for every county in the U.S. (the contiguous 48 states), and substituted those values for each county’s land area. Total […]
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It looks like Marshmallow Man kicking an angry dino to me
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Since 2009, Colorado has had the single most effective anti-abortion program in the country. In its first four years (for which we now have full data), it reduced abortions by 42%, and teen pregnancies by 40%. And there is nothing particularly startling about the success, because it was done by the most obvious means possible: give contraception to women who want it but can't get access to it, namely teenagers and people who can't afford it. 

"Startlingly," this turns out to work quite well, quite inexpensively, and make basically everyone happy. ("Startlingly" is in quotes because I suspect that if I asked someone who knew nothing about American politics, "what would you do to decrease the rate of unwanted pregnancies?," they would probably guess pretty much exactly what Colorado did, and be not at all startled that it worked) 

(This is not actually a horribly new story, there are just some more numbers out. We've known that this has been working well for quite some time.)
A program to offer long-acting birth control, like free IUDs and implants, has helped reduce teenage pregnancies by 40 percent and abortions by 42 percent.
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J Stone
I read Welcome to the monkey house when it first came out. Have kept a copy ever since.
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I have no idea what one could possibly add to this. Except delivery by swallow.
Setting the standard for marketing overkill:

Seriously, I've seen car ads that were pathetic by comparison.
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Clockwork Orange drinks...
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A fantastic invention: Jie Bao (of Tsinghua University) and Moungi Bawendi (of MIT) have invented an optical spectrometer small and cheap enough to attach to a cell phone, which can nonetheless perform comparably well to serious professional equipment.

Spectrometers are amazingly useful devices: they simply break light up through a prism, and report on how bright the light is in each frequency. That lets you recognize chemicals (each molecule has a distinctive color "fingerprint"), measure temperature (when you heat an object, it glows with a spectrum that's a simple function of temperature), and even measure the speed of objects. (If you know something's color when it's still, its colors in motion are shifted by the Doppler effect, just like an approaching siren's pitch goes up and a receding one goes down. The fingerprints of chemical colors give you an excellent reference point for that)

Bao and Bawendi's device is completely different from traditional spectrometers: Rather than using a prism and precision optics, they use an array of 195 carefully chosen inks and a CCD light sensor. The result is rugged and cheap – a few dollars, instead of a few hundred or thousand.

This is a tool that could revolutionize all sorts of devices; the authors give an example of a tool that could identify skin cancer just by pointing at it. (Cancers contain specific chemicals which produce specific optical fingerprints, after all!)

And more to the point, it's neat.

Dear Drs. Bao and Bawendi: TAKE MY MONEY!

Via +California Academy of Sciences.
A spectrometer that fits in your mobile devices could let you scan yourself for skin cancer.
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Good point +Olivier Malinur.
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Despite this article's title, it's about more than just women of color in technology: it's about recruiting and retaining people from underrepresented groups across the board. And that's something extremely important to the success of any technology company.

Why? There are three major reasons.

(1) Diverse groups avoid stupid product mistakes. This is in literally every sense of the word "diverse:" if you have people from different groups in your team, they'll notice – and you'll prioritize – problems that you never would have spotted otherwise. If your system doesn't work for the deaf and someone on your team is deaf, or if it requires hitting tiny affordances all the time and you have someone with a motion disability, you're never going to ship it that way, and that means more users. If your system has a price structure, or a branding, or a visual style that would never appeal to users outside of Silicon Valley, you'll catch that if people on your team are from a very different world. If women experience a different kind of abuse on your system than men do, then you'll build entirely different protections into your system if there are women in the room when you're making the design decisions.

The key point is that these are just examples: nobody can predict what an extra set of eyeballs, especially different eyeballs, will catch. The one thing that's reliable is that each set of eyeballs – not just working grunt jobs, but in the core decision-making process – means you don't make a mistake that shuts out a bunch of potential customers.

(2) Diversity interrupts groupthink. It's really easy for a room full of similar people to start to talk in similar ways. Not only do you not make the right decisions, you don't even realize there are decisions that you're implicitly making. More different eyes prevent that.

(3) You get to hire the best people. People who haven't been in this game very long think "Recruit minorities? You mean lower the bar!" People who have played this for a while hear that and think "Sucker."

The thing about structural racism/sexism/etc. is that a lot of people from the various underrepresented groups don't have the "traditional signifiers" of being good. They won't have gone to the top-tier schools, or they won't have any contacts, or their job history will be so-so. What you quickly learn in engineering, though, is that these signifiers are simply signals that you use when trying to find good people – and overall, as signals, they kind of suck. Terribly.

I've lost count of how many people I've interviewed who came from top-tier schools and had a glowing résumé and couldn't think an independent thought or design a system on their own to save their lives. Top-tier schools don't provide a systematically better education in CS; often, CS departments are so mathematically inclined that students that don't actively go the extra mile come out with a degree in theory and no ability to code. They used to claim that they were "filtering out the best of the best," but in practice, they do a lot of that filtering starting from "people with enough contacts to get in." 

Job histories are sometimes useful, sometimes not, especially in an era where so many people end up unable to find a job for months or years at a stretch anyway. 

References are great, but they're only a positive signal: the lack of references tells you nothing.

And the important thing is, that unless you're a tiny company hiring a temp, or hiring a senior specialist, you shouldn't be hiring for experience: you should be hiring for brains. You can teach CS; you can't teach smart.

What this means is that among these "underrepresented groups," there are a bunch of smart people out there who, lacking these traditional signifiers, aren't getting the right job offers. And that means smart people that you can hire. Lots of them. All you have to do is hire them and treat them with respect.

(As a side note: I attended GHC, the biggest annual conference for women in CS last year, for recruiting purposes. The quality of people looking for jobs there was insane compared to any other CS event.)

But.... if you want to hire and retain these people, you have to make an active effort. This open letter has a bunch of specific suggestions in it which I personally think are all individually excellent: I endorse these ideas wholeheartedly.

(NB: It also makes several statements about how various companies do things. I have it on good authority that several of these statements are incorrect, but I have no personal knowledge either way and so am neither affirming nor negating that part. My endorsement of this letter is about all of the courses of action it favors, which I think are excellent ideas; on the rest, I have no opinion)

I will add: In my groups, people of all genders, races, and backgrounds are not only welcome but actively desired. This is the case now and will continue to be the case in every team I run in the future.

Thanks to +Erica Joy for pointing me at this great letter.

[DISCLAIMER: I am writing this post in my personal capacity and am not speaking on behalf of Google. I make no assertions as to the truth or falsity of any of the claims of fact made within the letter, nor of any conclusions of law. Those of you who have been in the field for a while know why I have to state this, too]
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I'll suggest an extra step: stop equating "tech" with programming. Off the top of my head (because they relate to things I happen to be interested in) : Du Pont, Sugru, 23andMe, Theranos, Blaze are all female headed tech companies. The undeserved pre-eminence of software is confounding these disparities.
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  • Stanford University
    Ph. D., Physics, 2003
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
    B. A., Mathematics, Physics, 1997
Basic Information
Chief Architect, Google+
Lots of people ask me what my job title means. I'm the senior engineer on the Google+ team, and my primary responsibility is to oversee and guide the technical design of Google+ and all of the things related to it. In practice, I'm also involved in lots of non-technical issues as well: my job is to make Google as fun, exciting, social, and pleasant a place to be as it can possibly be.

(I've been at Google since 2003, but you probably haven't seen me before this, because I worked deep in the back end: planet-scale storage, very large-scale search, ranking, and so on. Lots of teams whose unofficial motto is "if we told you, we'd have to kill you" -- as opposed to Google+, where we get to go out and talk and interact with our users.)

For those who just came here, welcome to the Google+ Project. It's something that we're all very passionate about, and which (as its name indicates) is going to continue to develop and improve at what we hope is an amazing rate. I'm avidly interested in hearing user feedback, and while I can't guarantee that I'll have time to respond to all of it, it will most certainly be listened to.

And the obligatory (very important!) disclaimer: I'm not on this system as an official representative. While I'm listening to user feedback and interacting about the system, I'm also here for perfectly ordinary social networking purposes. If I am saying something official on behalf of Google, I will make that explicitly clear; anything else that I say here is not the position of Google, or of anyone other than myself.

In fact, most of what I post about has nothing to do with CS at all. If you want a taste of it, take a look at my blog.
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