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

# The Quantum Theory of Fields

Excerpt from Sidney Coleman’s Erice lectures. The period he describes just predates my entry into physics. This was a great time to be a high-energy theorist, the period of the famous triumph of quantum field theory. And what a triumph it was, in the old sense of the word: a glorious victory parade, full of …

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# Of Typewriters and Permutations (V)

Okay, this is the last post on the subject. I promise! If you’re coming into this movie on the last reel, you may need to skim the last few posts to see what it’s about. I’m trying not to repeat myself too much. To summarize where we are at: Hardmath123 posted a solution (generated by …

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# Of Typewriters and Permutations (IV)

I’m continuing the recent theme of solving a quadratic assignment problem that lays out the 26 letters of the English alphabet on a one-dimensional “keyboard” for an 18th century typewriter. I thought this would be the last post, but something new turned up, so there will likely be one more. In the blog post that …

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# Of Typewriters and Permutations (III)

This continues the discussion (okay, monologue) from the two previous posts about the problem of laying out a one-dimensional typewriter keyboard. This is not the last post in the series, but I can at least guarantee that the series is converging. In the previous post, I gave a MIP model (named MIP1) that used binary …

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# Of Typewriters and Permutations (II)

This continues my previous post about the problem of optimally laying out a one-dimensional typewriter keyboard, where “optimally” is taken to mean minimizing the expected amount of lateral movement to type a few selected books. As I noted there, Nate Brixius correctly characterized the problem as a quadratic assignment problem (QAP). I’ll in fact try …

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# Of Typewriters and Permutations (I)

This is going to be the first of a few posts on the same problem. My efforts are based on a blog post by Nate Brixius (@natebrix) titled “Optimizing 19th Century Typewriters“, which in turn is based on a post titled “Tuning a Typewriter” by “Hardmath123”. As the image in Hardmath123’s post shows, an old …

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# Time to Empty Your Pockets

I just made my self read the nine page “Executive Summary” of the recently (November 14) released Providing for the Common Defense: The Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission . It was all I could do to keep from gagging. I won’t put myself through the full 116 pages, especially as I scanned the …

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# He did it: He Jiankui talk at HKU conference on gene editing

This is He’s talk from a conference on gene editing, in progress now in HK. (Should start at 1h09.) This article describes serious discussions between He and bioethicists over the last year. It’s important to note that CapEx required for this process is quite modest — not beyond the capability of a medium-sized IVF clinic. …

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# Generation CRISPR?

Very strange. This guy left his university a few years ago to concentrate on this research. Are his claims real? Genome-edited baby claim provokes international outcry (Nature News) The startling announcement by a Chinese scientist represents a controversial leap in the use of genome-editing. A Chinese scientist claims that he has helped make the world’s …

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# Back to Blue; Future Ahead

﻿ The State of the State Podcast discusses issues, questions, answers, policy and research on the hottest topics on the local, state and national stage. State of the State podcasters Interim IPPSR Director Arnold Weinfeld and Charles Ballard, Director of IPPSR’s State of the State Survey, will talk together and share the air with frequent …

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# In Other Words (Week of November 5)

To the Right: https://rightmi.com/in-the-beginning/ Even from the beginning of Michigan’s current reapportionment process, there was chaos, Right.com notes. https://rightmi.com/michigan-2018-election-results/ A lineup of Michigan’s win’s and losses in Election 2016 with analysis about top races from Right.com. https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/whos-moving-up-in-next-years-michigan-legislature Michigan Capitol Confidential.com outlines the new state Legislature broken down by party and notes some key details, after …

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# The Indian Child Welfare Act at 40

On this date in 1978, President Carter signed the Indian Child Welfare Act into law. Senator Abourezk introduced the bill to the Senate on April 1, 1977, and the Senate voted on it on November 4, 1977. Interestingly, while Sen. Goldwater supported the purpose of the bill, he did not vote on the Senate’s version …

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# The Narcotic of Power

I still have two chapters to go before I finish Philippe Sands penetrating 2005 book, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules, so what follows might have been improved if I had finished before sharing these thoughts.  I can’t be sure if what follows is inspired by that engaging book, or the …

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# The Limits of Our Thoughts

The reading pile keeps getting bigger. Each morning upon grabbing the coffee and nestling into a corner of the couch, I reach for one of the books in my reading pile. On the coffee table in front of the couch are the magazines that pile up – The Sun, The Atlantic, The Nation, Yes Magazine. Today I grabbed a …

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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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# 1 In 4 Biostatisticians Surveyed Say They Were Asked To Commit Scientific Fraud

In the survey reported below, about 1 in 4 biostatisticians were asked to commit scientific fraud. I don’t know whether this bad behavior was more prevalent in industry as opposed to academia, but I am not surprised by the results. I do not accept the claim that researchers in data-driven areas can be ignorant of …

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# Stepwise Regression Code Revisited

I’ve added a few more tweaks to the stepwise regression code I published back in 2011. (If you wish, see here for the original post and here for a subsequent update.) The code does stepwise regression using F tests (or, equivalently, p-values of coefficients), which is a bit old fashioned but apparently how it is …

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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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# Population-wide Genomic Prediction of Health Risks

The UK is ahead of the US in the application of genomics in clinical practice. Part of this is due to their leadership in projects like the UK Biobank (500k genomes with extensive biomedical phenotyping), and part is due to having a single-payer system that can adopt obviously beneficial (and cost-beneficial) practices after some detailed …

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# Quantum Information Science Workshop at MSU

Webpage / Program / Abstracts. My opening remarks: On behalf of Michigan State University it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this workshop on quantum information science. In the fall of 1983 (my freshman year!) Feynman taught a graduate course at Caltech called Potentialities and Limitations of Computing Machines. Chapter 6 of …

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# Intuition and the two brains, revisited

﻿ Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, in conversation with Jordan Peterson. I wrote about McGilchrist in 2012: Intuition and the two brains. Albert Einstein: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have …

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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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# Sniffing out pandas’ social secrets

I find I tend to write most of my blog posts from the field – I guess this is what I think readers will find most exciting, which is probably because it’s what I find most exciting. I thought that I was done with fieldwork back in April, but while doing analyses for my dissertation …

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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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# Choosing “Big M” Values

I seem to bring up “big M” models a lot, so apologies if I end up repeating myself in places here. Not long ago, someone passed along highlights of a “big M” type model to me and asked if he could somehow reformulate to get rid of $$M$$. I did not see any good way …

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# Adding Items to a Sequence

A question posed on OR-Exchange in 2017 asked the following: Given a tour of nodes, how does one best add two new nodes while respecting the ordering of the original tour. Specifically, the author began with a tour 0 – 1 – 2 – 4 – 6 – 0 (where node 0 is a depot) …

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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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# Genomic Prediction: A Hypothetical (Embryo Selection), Part 2

The figures below are from the recent paper Genome-wide polygenic scores for common diseases identify individuals with risk equivalent to monogenic mutations (Nature Genetics), discussed previously here. As you can see, genomic prediction of risk allows to identify outliers for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Individuals who are top 1% in polygenic risk score are …

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# Genomic Prediction of disease risk using polygenic scores (Nature Genetics)

It seems to me we are just at the tipping point — soon it will be widely understood that with large enough data sets we can predict complex traits and complex disease risk from genotype, capturing most of the estimated heritable variance. People will forget that many “experts” doubted this was possible — the term …

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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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# SSGAC EA3: genomic prediction of educational attainment and related cognitive phenotypes

Years ago I predicted that: 1. Cognitive ability would turn out to be influenced by many thousands of genetic variants, each of small effect. 2. With large enough sample size we would detect these variants and eventually construct genomic predictors. The Nature Genetics paper (below) from the SSGAC collaboration takes a significant step in that …

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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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# Russia 2018: A Fútbologist’s Lament

Prior to this year’s FIFA World Cup, which France won last night in Moscow by defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final, I had never experienced a World Cup without my Italy. To make matters worse, my secondary teams, USA and South Africa, also did not qualify. What would it be like to follow the most …

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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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# In what months are educational psychology jobs posted? An update!

In August of last year, I wrote a post that involved looking at when educational psychology jobs (mostly, but not only, academic jobs or those related to research and teaching) were posted to the excellent Ed Psych Jobs website. As that post made (in part) the (anticipated) point that most jobs were posted in September (in which 16% of …

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# Reflections on Justice Kennedy’s Indian Law Legacy

My most enduring memory of Justice Kennedy is no doubt watching him lean over the bench, red faced and angry, screaming/yelling/lecturing at Neal Katyal during the Dollar General oral argument. I concluded then, if I hadn’t already before that moment from his writings, that Justice Kennedy was so disturbed by tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians and non-Indian …

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# Thank you & Farewell #MSUrbanSTEM

On December 18, 2013 Sonya, Punya, Anurag & I took this picture (in the snow, on the roof of Erickson Hall) to celebrate the official signing of the Wipro Urban STEM Fellowship Program at MSU. We knew we were starting something special – but I don’t think we knew just how special. Fast forward 4 1/2 …

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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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