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

# 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 …

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# IPPSR’s State of the State Podcast: Education Spending and Minority Rights

By Matt Grossmann and Charles Ballard This is the third offering of IPPSR’s State of the State Podcast showcasing issues, answers, policy and research on the hottest topics on the local, state and national stage. In this State of the State Podcast, guest legal scholar talks with hosts Matt Grossmann and Charles Ballard. Dr. Grossmann is …

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# Life’s Blueprints: Designing the Structure of Our Professional Lives

Last year at this time, we spoke of beginnings and routine, of resolve and the quotidian habits required to weave them into a meaningful life. We set our intention to focus on five priorities through which we in the College of Arts & Letters will chart a path to national and international leadership in Arts and Humanities education …

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# Martin Luther King Day, 2018

The legacy of Martin Luther King and one of MSU’s core values, inclusion “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# What do you do to avoid causing additional light damage to a photo while it’s on exhibition?

What do you do to avoid causing additional light damage to a photo while it’s on exhibition? Hide it behind a facsimile, of course! #preservation #preventativeconservation #photograph #specialcollections #buffalobill #spoilers (at MSU Libraries)   Tweet

# Star Wars and editing your writing

I’m an enormous Star Wars fan, so I found this video, How Star Wars was saved in the edit to be really interesting (thanks to this Polygon article for recommending it). It’s a long watch, but I think it’s well worth it, because it has some lessons not only for enormous science-fiction franchises but also …

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# Ordering Index Vector with Java Streams

I bumped up against the following problem while doing some coding in Java 8 (and using streams where possible). Given a vector of objects $$x_1, \dots, x_N$$ that come from some domain having an ordering $$\le$$, find the vector of indices $$i_1, \dots, i_N$$ that sorts the original values into ascending order, i.e., such that …

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I am privileged. I am white. I am male. I have the time and the ability to read. I’ve always read, but with each passing year I seem to read more, and more diversely. It’s a privilege to read. I am not constantly worrying about how I will pay for the basics of life – …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# Grain size, where species are and where they might be

A large body of work in the ecology of conservation is devoted to figuring out where species truly are and what causes them to be in some places and not others. Termed species distribution modeling, or SDM for short, this endeavor involves looking at the environment where species are known to occur compared to the …

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# 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 …

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# Jorge Luis Borges’ Evaristo Carriego manuscript

The original manuscript for Jorge Luis Borges’ Evaristo Carriego (MSS 503) was delivered to us in a FedEx envelope. The package also included various letters, newspaper clippings, and a set of negatives. I humidified and flattered each piece, then placed it in a Mylar l-sleeve, and then into a paper folder labeled with the contents. …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# Nature, Nurture, and Invention: analysis of Finnish data

What is the dominant causal mechanism for the results shown above? Is it that better family environments experienced by affluent children make them more likely to invent later in life? Is it that higher income fathers tend to pass on better genes (e.g., for cognitive ability) to their children? Obviously the explanation has important implications …

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# IPPSR’s State of the State Podcast: Preemption Laws and Legacy Costs

IPPSR is delighted to launch its first official podcast: State of the State. Issues, answers, policy and research on the hottest topics on the local, state and national stage. In this second State of the State Podcast, guest political scientist Josh Sapotichne, director of Michigan State University’s Public Policy Program, joins Matt Grossmann and Charles …

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# Outrageous!!!

“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 …

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# Recursive Cortical Networks: data efficient computer vision

Will knowledge from neuroscience inform the design of better AIs (neural nets)? These results from startup Vicarious AI suggest that the answer is yes! (See also this company blog post describing the research.) It has often been remarked that evolved biological systems (e.g., a baby) can learn much faster and using much less data than existing artificial neural nets. …

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# How Europe lost its tech companies

Some perspectives from a Berlin tech guy who has also worked in China. To some extent Europe is like the Midwest of the US: a source of human capital for SV and other places. Europe and the Midwest have strong universities and produce talented individuals, but lack a mature tech ecosystem which includes access to venture …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# Heilongjiang is for the birds

My friends are used to my frequent and sometimes infuriating habit of stopping whatever I am doing (be it walking, talking or driving) to look at and identify any birds. I have even been known to pull to the side of the road to ogle particularly interesting species, a habit I picked up from my …

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# CMSE (Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering) at MSU

At Oregon I was part of an interdisciplinary institute that included theoretical physicists and chemists, mathematicians, and computer scientists. We tried to create a program (not even a new department, just an interdisciplinary program) in applied math and computation, but failed due to lack of support from higher administration. When I arrived at MSU as …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# Dwelling on the Shoreline of Wonder

In one brief sentence, Ralph W. Sockman summarizes the goal of an MSU undergraduate education – Spartans Will. “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” –        Ralph W. Sockman I recently ran across this quote from Ralph Sockman, who served as the host of the NBC radio program the National …

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# 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 …

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# 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 …

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# The nuclear physics of neutron star mergers at MSU’s FRIB

Science reports on MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which will probe the properties of nuclear matter. Science: Last month, astronomers wowed the world when they announced that they had seen two neutron stars merge, apparently creating heavy elements such as gold and platinum and spewing them into space. Nuclear physicists here at Michigan State …

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# Remarks on the Decline of American Empire

Some gloomy remarks on the decline of the American Empire. 1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous — trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in …

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# 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 …

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# Practices of Weaving: Arts & Letters at MSU

Late last month, the faculty on the College Advisory Council (CAC) gave me a writing assignment. In preparation for our Fall 2017 faculty meeting on November 17, they asked me to take a step back from the updates on priorities, imperatives, and initiatives that have occupied our more recent faculty meetings, to articulate a broader vision of …

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# 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 …

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# 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

# MSU Student Success Themes

It is incumbent on all of us who work at MSU to make sure we create realistic pathways so that our students from all backgrounds can meet the learning objectives the faculty have established for MSU programs. At MSU, we believe that all students whom we admit have the ability to learn, persist, and graduate …

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# Article Review – Create Investigation Networks that Mirror the Criminal Network

[This is an excerpt from one of our recent peer-review scholarly journal articles.] Our article focused on a recommendation for how the Public Private Partnership – that is, governments working together with industry and others – could be optimized to reduce the ‘fraud opportunity.’ One co-author was Peter Whelan, who is the head of food …

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# Benders Decomposition with Generic Callbacks

Brace yourself. This post is a bit long-winded (and arguably geekier than usual, which is saying something). Also, it involves CPLEX 12.8, which will not ship until some time next month. I have an updated version of an old example, solving a fixed charge transportation problem using Benders decomposition. The example (using Java, naturally) is …

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# 23andme

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 …

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# Review of ‘What’s Worth Teaching: Rethinking Curriculum in the Age of Technology’

I was recently asked to review with Charles Logan the book What’s Worth Teaching: Rethinking Curriculum in the Age of Technology by the incredible scholar Allan Collins. A link to the review and book on the Teachers College Record website here. A pre-print of our review is also available here.   Tweet