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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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Review – Adulteration, Adulterated, and Adulterant, with Insight from Accum’s 1820 Treatise on Adulteration of Food

Can there be an “adulterated food” that does not include an “adulterant”? Yes. Confused yet? Keep reading. The bottom line is that to avoid confusion it is recommended to use the terms “Food Fraud” or “adulterant-substance” when referring to the type of fraud that is a substance intentionally added for economic gain. This blog post …

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Backpropagation in the Brain?

Ask and ye shall receive :-) In an earlier post I recommended a talk by Ilya Sutskever of OpenAI (part of an MIT AGI lecture series). In the Q&A someone asks about the status of backpropagation (used for training of artificial deep neural nets) in real neural nets, and Ilya answers that it’s currently not …

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Pseudocode in LyX

Fair warning: This post is for LyX users only. When I’m writing a paper or presentation in LaTeX (using LyX, of course) and want to include a program chunk or algorithm in pseudocode, I favor the algorithmicx package (and specifically the algpseudocode style). There being no intrinsic support for the package in LyX, I have …

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B.S.-ing Precisely

In a recent blog post titled “Excessive Precision“, John D. Cook points out the foolishness of articulating results to an arbitrarily high degree of precision when the inputs are themselves not that precise. To quote him: Excessive precision is not the mark of the expert. Nor is it the mark of the layman. It’s the …

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Physics as a Strange Attractor

Almost every student who attends a decent high school will be exposed to Special Relativity. Their science/physics teacher may not really understand it very well, may do a terrible job trying to explain it. But the kid will have to read a textbook discussion and (in the internet age) can easily find more with a …

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To Rally or Not to Rally?

As I approach this week the “Stand Up for Peace” rally that I have been helping to plan for months, I began to think about what drives people to attend rallies or to stay home. As someone who has not planned a rally before but who has participated in many over the decades, I started to wonder …

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Beyond the Soccer Mom

The white, middle class, minivan-driving suburban “Soccer Mom” has been part of U.S. political discourse since at least the 1996 presidential election. Two decades later, soccer is so embedded in mainstream American culture that a candidate is using past college playing experience to boost her campaign. Democrat Amy McGrath is challenging GOP incumbent Andy Barr …

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Coordinating Variable Signs

Someone asked me today (or yesterday, depending on whose time zone you go by) how to force a group of variables in an optimization model to take the same sign (all nonpositive or all nonnegative). Assuming that all the variables are bounded, you just need one new binary variable and a few constraints. Assume that …

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The French Way: Alain Connes interview

I came across this interview with Fields Medalist Alain Connes (excerpt below) via an essay by Dominic Cummings (see his blog here). Dom’s essay is also highly recommended. He has spent considerable effort to understand the history of highly effective scientific / research organizations. There is a good chance that his insights will someday be put …

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NP Confusion

I just finished reading a somewhat provocative article on the CIO website, titled “10 reasons to ignore computer science degrees” (when hiring programmers). While I’m not in the business of hiring coders (although I recent was hired as a “student programmer” on a grant — the Universe has a sense of humor), I find myself …

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Scientists of Stature

The link below is to the published version of the paper we posted on biorxiv in late 2017 (see blog discussion). Our results have since been replicated by several groups in academia and in Silicon Valley. Biorxiv article metrics: abstract views 31k, paper downloads 6k. Not bad! Perhaps that means the community understands now that genomic …

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A Few Reflections on the TOME Initiative

WASHINGTON, DC – Today a group of colleagues from the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses met to advance the Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) initiative. It was heartening to see the progress the initiative has made since our first gathering in the summer of 2016. At the time, I was enthusiastic …

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*Entry #32: Spartan Global Development Fund Reaches a Milestone and Honors SGDF Member Mitchell J. Taylor

One of the greatest joys of my life, personal and professional, is working with Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF), our Michigan State University-based microfinance organization, and I am delighted to report that SGDF has reached a significant milestone:  Since we made our first package of four $25 loans on July 4, 2009, SGDF has extended …

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Steps Toward Possibility

I keep stumbling along, bumping into ideas either new to me or reformulated to feel new. Of course, it could be that my memory is so bad I’ve been there before but can’t recall it. Like the movies I check out from a local library only to be told by my better half that we’ve …

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LATTICE 2018 at MSU

The 36th Annual International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory begins tomorrow, hosted by MSU. My opening remarks are below. No peeking if you are an attendee! LATTICE 2018 Opening Remarks 7/23/2018 Good morning. I’d like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you on behalf of Michigan State University. We are very pleased and …

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ICML notes

It’s never been a better time to work on AI/ML. Vast resources are being deployed in this direction, by corporations and governments alike. In addition to the marvelous practical applications in development, a theoretical understanding of Deep Learning may emerge in the next few years. The notes below are to keep track of some interesting …

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Selecting Box Sizes

Someone posted an interesting question about box sizes on Mathematics Stack Exchange. He (well, his girlfriend to be precise) has a set of historical documents that need to be preserved in boxes (apparently using a separate box for each document). He wants to find a solution that minimizes the total surface area of the boxes …

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Entry #31 Coffee Direct from Guatemala, Success for a Small Entrepreneur and His Family, and Joy for Michigan State’s Spartan Global Students

  This coffee was roasted and packaged by Sr. Victor Cataví of San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala in early January.  He was assisted by our Michigan State University Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF) students who visited Guatemala over the holiday break 2017-2018.  Students learned about the intricacies of and hard work involved in planting, tending, harvesting, sorting, …

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Usefulness of Computer Science: An Example

I thought I would follow up on my June 29 post, “Does Computer Science Help with OR?“, by giving a quick example of how exposure to fundamentals of computer science recently helped me. A current research project involves optimization models containing large numbers of what are basically set covering constraints, constraints of the form \(\displaystyle …

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Does Computer Science Help with OR?

Fair warning: tl/dr. After reading a blog post yesterday by John D. Cook, “Does computer science help you program?“, I decided to throw in my two cents (convert to euros at your own risk) on a related topic: does computer science (which I will extend to including programming) help you as an OR/IE/management science/analytics professional? …

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Evolution of a (data) visualization

Last summer, I taught the MAET Year 2 Summer Cohort with Danah Henriksen. After teaching the class, Danah realized she had taught five cohorts of (awesome) students and that we had some information available from pre- and post-course self-reported surveys to understand how students grew in terms of their confidence in using different educational (and …

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Callback Cuts That Repeat

The following post is specific to the CPLEX integer programming solver. I have no idea whether it applies to other solvers, or even which other solver have cut callbacks. Every so often, a user will discover that a callback routine they wrote has “rediscovered” a cut it previously generated. This can be a bit concerning …

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National Indian Law Library Bulletin (6/14/2018)

Here: The National Indian Law Library added new content to the Indian Law Bulletins on 6/14/18. U.S. Supreme Court Bulletin http://www.narf.org/nill/bulletins/sct/2017-2018update.html Petition for certiorari was filed in Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. Oklahoma (Indian Gaming – Arbitration) on 5/30/18. A Per Curium Opinion was issued in Washington v. U.S. on 6/11/18. Law Review & Bar Journal Bulletin http://www.narf.org/nill/bulletins/lawreviews/2018.html Rejecting the Zero-Sum …

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Nuclear diplomacy in the age of Trump

Less than twenty-four hours since Mr. Trump and Mr. Un shook hands, many pundits are critical of  the outcome. I am certainly no fan of  either of these two national leaders. Trump defines arrogance and narcissism as well as any public figure. His braggadocio is so untethered to reality that it’s difficult to believe anything …

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A Search for Wisdom

The nearly two month absence in blogging is the biggest gulf since I started this activity some years ago. I think my small handful of regular readers probably appreciated the break. I have certainly been reading and thinking but not much has jelled into anything approaching coherence in my mind. Maybe I have never been …

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Will the EPA allow the Line 5 Pipeline to remain in the Straits of Mackinac?

The Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline has stirred controversy in Michigan for most of the past decade. This pipeline carries Canadian oil products from Superior, Wisconsin to southern Ontario via Michigan. A five-mile span of the pipeline runs along the lake-bed beneath the Straits of Mackinac, from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula. If When this pipeline …

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National Indian Law Library Bulletin (5/29/18)

Here: The National Indian Law Library added new content to the Indian Law Bulletins on 5/29/18. U.S. Supreme Court Bulletin http://www.narf.org/nill/bulletins/sct/2017-2018update.html A decision was published in Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Lundgren (Tribal Sovereign Immunity) on 5/21/18. Petition for certiorari was granted in Royal v. Murphy (Reservation Boundaries) on 5/21/18. Petition for certiorari was filed in Makah Indian Tribe v. …

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Greg Ablavsky Commentary on Upper Skagit Decision

Gregory Ablavsky has posted “Upper Skagit v. Lundgren: Deceptively Straightforward Case Raises Fundamental Questions about Native Nations, History, and Sovereignty” on Stanford Law School’s blog. Here are excerpts: This decision provoked the ire of Justice Thomas, who, in a lengthy dissent, insisted that the immovable property exception did apply to tribes.  Thomas’s rationale involved a deep dive …

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Jenn Weddle Guest Post on Upper Skagit Decision

The Upper Skagit Court’s restraint Monday is appreciated in Indian Country.  A “hornbook” law principle is that tribes need not suffer litigation unless and until either the tribe or Congress expressly says so.  Monday’s Upper Skagit opinion affords appropriate time for further advocacy and lower court consideration as to whether that hornbook principle should be displaced by another—the immovable …

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Review Essay: African Futebol and Portugal

[Note: This review essay is cross-posted from idrottsforum.org.] In an extraordinary stroke of good luck, I recently had the opportunity to read Football and Colonialism by Nuno Domingos and Following The Ball by Todd Cleveland. These well-researched scholarly histories of Africans in Portugal’s soccer empire beautifully complement each other. Football and Colonialism reconstructs the culture of the game in Lourenço Marques …

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