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About Spartan Ideas

Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries


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A Shiny interactive web application to quantify how robust inferences are to potential sources of bias (sensitivity analysis)

We are happy to announce the release of an interactive web application, Konfound-It, to make it easy to quantify the conditions necessary to change an inference. For example, Konfound-It generates statements such as “XX% of the estimate would have to be due to bias to invalidate the inference” or “an omitted variable would have to …


Report – A Review of ISO Standards Terminology Regarding Product Integrity and Authenticity

This review of ISO standards is in support of several project definitions of Food Fraud and related terms. The ISO definitions are important to consider since they are already published, internationally recognized, led by government appointed representatives, and have already been through a rigorous, consensus-based development process. The US government is represented and led by …


Institute for Advanced Study: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits (seminar)

Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits After a brief review (suitable for physicists) of computational genomics and complex traits, I describe recent progress in this area. Using methods from Compressed Sensing (L1-penalized regression; Donoho-Tanner phase transition with noise) and the UK BioBank dataset of 500k SNP genotypes, we construct genomic predictors for several complex traits. Our …


Independent Streams (Week of January 1)

Problems Op-Ed: Special Education Funding Is Unequal(link is external) IPPSR affiliate Sarah Reckhow co-authors article on the inequities of special education funding in schools. Baton Rouge Police Detectives ‘Woefully Short’ Working The City’s Historic Number Of Killings(link is external) IPPSR affiliate David Carter discusses the influence of detective caseloads in solving homicides. Other Views: Black Infant Mortality …


Gork revisited, 2018

It’s been almost 10 years since I made the post Are you Gork? Over the last decade, both scientists and non-scientists have become more confident that we will someday create: A. AGI (= sentient AI, named “Gork” :-)  See Rise of the Machines: Survey of AI Researchers. B. Quantum Computers. See Quantum Computing at a Tipping …


Outcomes from a self-generated utility value intervention in science (in IJER)

The Scientific Practices project, was focused on engaging middle school students in scientific and engineering practices (such as developing and using models, constructing explanations of phenomena, and analyzing and interpreting data). As part of this longitudinal project, we carried out field experiments to understand the impact of specific features of the curriculum. In this paper published …


New Student Scholarship on Indian Country Cross Deps

Here is “Bridging the Jurisdictional Void: Cross-Deputization Agreements in Indian Country,” forthcoming in the Arizona State Law Journal. The abstract: Comment examines cross-deputization agreements in Indian Country, focusing on the relationship between tribes and state and local governments and the impact cross-deputization agreements have on enforcing criminal law in Indian Country. Section I examines the …


Low SES does not decrease heritability of cognitive ability (N=300k)

These researchers, from Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Florida, analyze a large population of twins and siblings (~24k twins and ~300k children in total, born 1994-2002 in Florida). They find no evidence of SES (Socio-Economic Status) moderation of genetic influence on test scores (i.e., cognitive ability). The figure above shows the usual pattern of lower pairwise …


Quantum Computing near a Tipping Point?

I received an email from a physicist colleague suggesting that we might be near a “tipping point” in quantum computation. I’ve sort of followed quantum computation and quantum information as an outsider for about 20 years now, but haven’t been paying close attention recently because it seems that practical general purpose quantum computers are still …


100 Billionaires In Beijing Alone

Real talk from former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating on the strategic outlook for Australia in Asia, the rise of China, and the likely future military balance of power in the Pacific region. More from the Australian strategic viewpoint. Balance of power in the Western Pacific. From the YouTube transcript: 29:18 [Eventually… Total] Chinese GDP is twice as …



“Outrageous –  Grossly offensive to decency or morality” (American Heritage College Dictionary) 4th ed. 2002, p.989.   Outrageous   This appears to be the appropriate word to describe the tax system bludgeoning recently performed by Republicans (Democrats and Independents were given little time to read, let alone participate in the development of the proposals). To suggest …


Big Ed

Today I came across a recent interview with Ed Witten in Quanta Magazine. The article has some nice photos like the one above. I was struck by the following quote from Witten (“It from Qubit!”): When I was a beginning grad student, they had a series of lectures by faculty members to the new students about …


Creating A New MIME Type

I struggled a bit this afternoon creating a new MIME type and associating it with a particular application, so I’m going to archive the solution here for future reference. This was on a Linux Mint system, but I found the key information in a GNOME documentation page, so I suspect it works for Ubuntu and …


IQ (Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering) at MSU

  Chris Contag is the founding director of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering and the chairperson of the new Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering. Contag was previously a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Radiology, Bioengineering and Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University. He held the titles of …


Humanities Commons and the Cultivation of Sustainable Communities

As we navigate the intense period of transformation in human communication through which we are living, identifying ways to nurture sustainable communities through which scholarship can be shared, discovered, and enhanced gains urgency. So many of the platforms through which we might cultivate scholarly lives together — Facebook, Twitter, Google, Academia.edu — are compromised by business models designed to maximize …


On developing my dissertation

“What are you researching?” Since starting my PhD program at MSU this fall, I have been asked this question countless times, but it is one to which I have no definite answer yet. Some grad students start their studies by joining an ongoing project, while others begin from scratch and create their own project. I fall …


Ex Laboratorium

The E. coli long-term evolution experiment, or LTEE for short, is approaching its 30th birthday, which will be on February 24th, 2018. In honor of all the people who have worked on this project, I thought it would be neat to commission a special, but shareable, piece of art. Given the history of science and …


From the Beginning

It was five years ago today I transferred my meanderings since the mid 90s into this blog. 246 blog entries preceded this one with another dozen or so that never got past the draft stage. Probably many of the 246 should have stayed as drafts. So the occasion caused me to go back and look …


DOJ invokes Title VI against Harvard admissions

“Elections have consequences…” — Barack Obama See 20 years @15 percent: does Harvard discriminate against Asian-Americans? CNN: The Justice Department is actively investigating Harvard University’s use of race in its admissions policies and has concluded the school is “out of compliance” with federal law, according to documents obtained by CNN. … [Click through for DOJ …


A Sinkhole That Is Pulling Us All Down

While most local papers probably did not splash the news on their front page or headline their evening news last week, our largely bought Congress just gave the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) a sizable raise in thanks for their contributions and lobbying pursuits. President Trump’s initial budget request for the Pentagon was for a sizable $54 billion increase for the military …


Behold, the Super Cow

Hmm… how do they compute the Net Merit and GTPI? (But, but, what about all of that missing heritability?) See also Applied genomics: the genetic “super cow” Genomic prediction: no bull. Attention climate virtue signalers: more efficient cows produce less methane per liter of milk! Drink milk from genetically engineered cows :-) Tweet


I’m in Mountain View to give a talk at 23andMe. Their latest funding round was $250M on a (reported) valuation of $1.5B. If I just add up the Crunchbase numbers it looks like almost half a billion invested at this point… Slides: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits Abstract: We apply methods from Compressed Sensing (L1-penalized regression; Donoho-Tanner …


Thread Safety

As I noted in yesterday’s post, one of the major changes associated with the new “generic” callback structure in CPLEX is that users now bear the responsibility of making their callbacks thread-safe. As I also noted yesterday, this is pretty new stuff for me. So I’m going to try to share what I know about thread …


CPLEX 12.8: Generic Callbacks

IBM is getting ready to release CPLEX 12.8, and I had the opportunity to attend a presentation about by Xavier Nodet at the 2017 INFORMS annual meeting. Here are links to two presentations by Xavier: CPLEX Optimization Studio 12.8 – What’s New and CPLEX 12.8 – the Generic Callback. As with any new release, there …