Vijay Iyer, polymath & a fantastic example of trans-disciplinary creativity

Vijay Iyer,  (http://vijay-iyer.com/) is an Indian-American jazz pianist and composer. He is a MacArthur Genius grant winner and is currently Franklin and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University and is widely regarded as being one of the most innovative composers and musicians today. His music transcends national boundaries through creatively bringing together traditional …

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The Blue Food

The late comedian George Carlin used to do a routine in which he feigned deep puzzlement in asking his audience “Where’s the blue food?” Of course folks in Michigan know blue food, and I’m here to tell you that even if they are “late” and even if, as some are saying, it isn’t a particularly …

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Neural Networks and Deep Learning

One of the SCI FOO sessions I enjoyed the most this year was a discussion of deep learning by AI researcher Juergen Schmidhuber. For an overview of recent progress, see this recent paper. Also of interest: Michael Nielsen’s pedagogical book project. An application which especially caught my attention is described by Schmidhuber here: Many traditional methods …

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Scheduling Instability

Fellow OR blogger Laura McLay recently wrote a post “in defense of model simplicity“, which is definitely worth the read. It contains a slew of links to related material. As I read it, though, my contrarian nature had me thinking “yes … as long as the model is not too simple”. A recent piece in …

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Announcement – £500,000 EU Food Fraud Grant for Queen’s University Belfast and MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Dr. John Spink, Director & Assistant Professor, Food Fraud Initiative, Michigan State University, spinkj@msu.edu , www.FoodFraud.msu.edu , Phone: (517) 381-4491 MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative Director Dr. John Spink is pleased to announce being included as a Co-Investigator on a research team that was awarded a £500,000 grant to tackle global Food …

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Mythbuntu: The Upgrade from Hell

I foolishly let Mythbuntu update to version 14.04 overnight a few days ago. The installer ran into problems (which I could not decipher) regarding updating the MythTV database. I let it upload two separate bug reports and did my best to soldier on. When the installation was finally over, the back end would not load, …

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Designer babies: selection vs editing

The discussion in this video is sophisticated enough to make the distinction between embryo selection — the parents get a baby whose DNA originates from them, but the “best baby possible” — and active genetic editing, which can give the child genes that neither parent had.The movie GATTACA focuses on selection — the director made a …

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A 0.000007 percent chance

Hamilton Place Strategies Student loans continue to be a popular topic in the media, with most of the stories (at least upon a quick glance) focusing on how terrible the growing volume of student loans is.  A Google news search on one day for the phrase “student loan debt” turned up the following headlines among …

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Learning From Yuri Kochiyama

The world recently lost Yuri Kochiyama, human rights activist and survivor of U.S. sanctioned Japanese internment camps. In a recent blog post on Edutopia, José Vilson writes in her memory in reminding us that we all play a part in the betterment of the human experience. He writes, “We need to consistently talk about what …

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If ‘Disgruntled Employee’ Actions Are ‘Economically Motivated’ Is It Food Fraud and Does It Meet the FDA’s Definition of ‘Economically Motivated Adulteration”? No and No.

Does it matter? Aren’t they all just words? Not if there is a regulatory compliance issue. The US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is still determining where and how they will address ‘Economically Motivated Adulteration’ (EMA) – and there are questions beyond just the text from the Federal Register or from FSMA (see previous blog …

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Top Women Players Fight for Equal Playing Fields at 2015 World Cup

Elite footballers, coaches, and advocates are threatening to sue FIFA and the Canadian local organizing committee for gender discrimination at next year’s Women’s World Cup. An international group that includes the last two FIFA Players of the Year, Nadine Angerer (Germany, @NAngerer) and Abby Wambach (USA, @AbbyWambach), is demanding organizers switch the six venues from …

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SCI FOO 2014: photos

The day before SCI FOO I visited Complete Genomics, which is very close to the Googleplex.   Self-driving cars: SCI FOO festivities:         I did an interview with O’Reilly. It should appear in podcast form at some point and I’ll post a link.   Obligatory selfie: Tweet

Tracking giant kelp from space

A new citizen science project called Floating Forests was just started a few days ago to help scientists study the effects of climate change on kelp forests in the world’s oceans.  It turns out that computers are not effective at distinguishing giant kelp sitting below the ocean’s surface in satellite photos, but the human eye …

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Curitiba Declaration

I ran into a character named Philip Low this week at a conference organized by Carla Molento, who runs an important research group on animal welfare in Brazil. It was the kind of week that makes the otherwise humdrum life of the peripatetic academic interesting. Philip is a brilliant neuroscientist who is currently trying to …

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JFK Against Ideology

I just came across what has become one of my favorite “JFK” quotes, a paragraph likely written by Ten Sorenson, Kennedy’s chief speech writer. The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth — persistent, pervasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches …

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Just Distribution

One of the most enjoyable parts of academic leadership is the chance to give people good news: they will be receiving the conference invitation, increased salary, or research grant they have requested.  But since invitations, raise dollars, and grant funds tend to be limited commodities, hard choices have usually preceded the happy announcement. Designing a …

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Next Super Collider in China?

If you’re in particle physics you may have heard rumors that the Chinese government is considering getting into the collider business. Since no one knows what will happen in our field post-LHC, this is a very interesting development. A loose international collaboration has been pushing a new linear collider for some time, perhaps to be …

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Fewer Zeros

A question I saw online not too long ago caused me a flashback to my days teaching linear programming (LP) to masters students. The poster had developed an optimization model — I can’t recall if it was an LP, a quadratic program (QP) or a mixed-integer program (MIP) — and had no problem solving it. …

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Giving the Past a Face: Facial Reconstructions

Excavations in Edinburgh revealed a previously undiscovered cemetery dating to the 1500s. The South Leith Parish Church cemetery was discovered while working on the new Edinburgh Trams project. Over the last five years since its excavation, bioarchaeologists have been working to identify these individuals, and recently, a forensic artist gave them faces. Using stable isotope analysis, macroscopic …

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Updated Benders Example

Two years ago, I posted an example of how to implement Benders decomposition in CPLEX using the Java API. At the time, I believe the current version of CPLEX was 12.4; as of this writing, it is 12.6.0.1. Around version 12.5, IBM refactored the Java API for CPLEX and, in the process, made one or …

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Ambigrams in new book

The Art of Deception: Illusions to Challenge the Eye and the Mind is a new book edited by Brad Honeycutt. Brad is a graduate of Michigan State (Go Spartans!) and maintains a blog (anopticalillusion) devoted to optical illusions. A few of my designs have ended up on his site (see here for previous mentions of Brad on this …

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Summer Cyborg Mailbag

Maybe it’s time for another Thornapple blog complaining about the robots in our midst. As my many legions of irregular readers may have surmised, I have become somewhat reconciled to many robotic presences during the years that I’ve been writing the blog. Anyone who runs a website with an opportunity for “Comments” goes through a …

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It’s all in the gene: cows

Some years ago a German driver took me from the Perimeter Institute to the Toronto airport. He was an immigrant to Canada and had a background in dairy farming. During the ride he told me all about driving German farmers to buy units of semen produced by highly prized Canadian bulls. The use of linear …

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