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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Big data is being reshaped thanks to 100-year-old ideas about geometry | Science + Technology - The Conversation - UK

Photo: Ittay Weiss
Techniques from topology can help us understand DNA and improve drug development, explains Ittay Weiss,  Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Portsmouth.
Photo: Elesey/Shutterstock

Your brain is made up of billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses. And how they’re arranged gives rise to the brain’s functionality and to your personality. That’s why scientists in Switzerland recently produced the first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas, a complete mapping of the brain of a mouse. While this is a colossal achievement, the great challenge now lies in learning to decipher the atlas. And it’s a huge one.

Science is full of this kind of problem: how to turn large amounts of information into useful insight. For many years, researchers relied on mathematics and statistics to explore data. The explosion of large datasets created by digital storage, the internet, and cheap sensors has led to the development of new techniques designed specifically to deal with this “big data”.

And now there is an emerging new approach based on century-old ideas that’s producing superior tools for understanding certain types of big data. Using the mouse’s brain as an example, its physical shape determines its functionality. But a precise description of this shape, which we now have, doesn’t automatically reveal everything about how the brain works. 

Behind the physical shape lies a more abstract shape formed by the interconnections within the brain. Capturing aspects of this shape by applying techniques from the study of what’s known as “topology” can help reveal a deeper understanding of the brain’s functioning. This same guiding principle of using topological techniques on big data also has applications in drug development and other cutting-edge endeavours...

Millions of years ago, evolution was confronted with a similar problem. DNA in cells is a molecule composed of two coiled up chains. Each chain is a very long wire, built up from a sequence of small molecules called nucleobases. When a cell divides, these wires unwind, replicate and then coil up again. But just like wires in a bag, the strands of DNA can become tangled, which prevents the cell from dividing and causes it to die.
Read more... 

Source: The Conversation - UK 

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A mathematical formula for sharing fair and square | Science - The Irish Times

Photo: Peter Lynch

That’s Maths: Even the naming of the Thue-Morse sequence is about fair play, says Peter Lynch, emeritus professor at UCD School of Mathematics & Statistics – he blogs at

Sequencing is important in sports: penalty shoot-outs in football, service order in tennis tie-breaks and choice of colour in chess matches.
Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

It is common practice in science to name important advances after the first discoverer or inventor. However, this process often goes awry. A humorous principle called Stigler’s Law holds that no scientific result is named after its original discoverer.

This law was formulated by Prof Stephen Stigler of the University of Chicago in his publication “Stigler’s law of eponymy”. He pointed out that his “law” had been proposed by others before him so it was, in a sense, self-verifying. 

The Calculus Wars
Occasionally, mathematical inventions are made simultaneously by more than one person. Perhaps the greatest example is the formulation of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Jason Bardi, The Calculus Wars. The conflict between British and European mathematicians raged for decades before joint credit for independent discovery was accepted.

The Calculus Wars
The ensuing controversy over priority was described in a book by Jason Bardi, The Calculus Wars. The conflict between British and European mathematicians raged for decades before joint credit for independent discovery was accepted.
Axel Thue (1863-1922) and Marston Morse (1892-1977)
A remarkable numerical sequence that has been discovered several times by different mathematicians in different circumstances illustrates Stigler’s Law. It was originally called the Morse sequence when, in 1921, it was popularised by the American mathematician Marston Morse, who applied it in differential geometry. Today, it is usually called the Thue-Morse sequence: the Norwegian mathematician Axel Thue discovered the sequence while studying “combinatorics” on words; this was in 1906, well before Morse. But, more recently, the name Prouhet has been prefixed to the title of the sequence, which was first studied by Eugène Prouhet in 1851...

But what use is the Thue-Morse sequence? It arises in a remarkably wide variety of contexts. It is valuable in number theory, combinatorics, computer graphics, fractal geometry and equitable sharing. Let’s look at the last of these.

Source: The Irish Times  

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Top 10 Greatest Mathematicians Of All Time: Check Them Out | Science - ValueWalk

Here are Vikas Shukla, technology reporter at Value Walk's list of top 10 Greatest Mathematicians Of All Time below.

Photo: geralt / Pixabay

Mathematics has been around for thousands of years, and several mathematics geniuses have contributed to the field with their revolutionary discoveries that changed the world. It is at the core of almost every aspect of our lives including satellites, computers, medicines, astronomy, and advanced technologies. Here we are going to take a look at the top 10 greatest mathematicians of all time based on their contributions to the field.

Top 10 greatest mathematicians Dozens of mathematicians have made revolutionary contributions to the field of mathematics. So, it’s pretty tricky to pick the top 10 and leave many other legends out. Muhammad Al-Khowarizmi invented algebra; Aryabhatta discovered zero; John Von Neumann gave the Von Neumann architecture; and Paul Erdos published about 1,500 papers. We believe these are the top 10 greatest mathematicians.

Source: ValueWalk

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stories of African-American STEM Societies: Part 2 — From Psychologists to Mathematicians | Absolutely Maybe - PLoS Blogs

After the slow first wave of African-American STEM societies from 1895 to 1947 (part 1), a new wave swept in at the end of the 1960s. So there have been a few golden jubilees, and more coming, inform Hilda Bastian, Absolutely Maybe - PLoS Blogs.

At the Conference for African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences (CAARMS) in Berkeley, 1995
Lenore Blum, via Wikimedia Commons
The new organizations in the ’60s and early ’70s were fueled by the energy of the Black Power, student, and civil rights movements in a tumultuous time for society and universities. The organizations they created, in turn, empowered them, changing their professions, and sometimes challenging knowledge and how their disciplines work in profound ways as well...

10. Mathematicians 
African-American mathematicians had long struggled to participate in national mathematical meetings. Even when William S. Claytor gave an address to the American Mathematical Society (AMS), he was not allowed to stay at the hotel. And that was still going on into the ’60s. [PDF] Walter R. Talbot put it this way:
When I entered the college teaching scene, it was 1934… It was 35 years later before I had a chance to start existing in the national activities of the mathematical bodies.

He also said:
Nowadays our promising youth are even more menacingly threatened by exposure to teachers who have not only been vigorously and successfully indoctrinated relative to the difficulty of mathematics, but also have been convinced to their viscera that Blacks, however successful in sports, music, politics, law, medicine, and so on and so on, are abysmally and irrevocably hopeless as far as mathematics is concerned.
Talbot organized and got funding for the meetings to form an African-American mathematical society. [PDF] In 1969, 17 gathered at the annual national mathematical meeting and formed the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM).
Read more... 

Additional resources
Robert F. Boyd, from his 1902 paper “”What are the causes of the great mortality among the Negroes in the cities of the South, and how is that mortality to be lessened?”
Photo: via Project Gutenberg

Stories of African-American STEM Societies: Part 1 — The First Wave (1895 to 1947) by Hilda Bastian, Absolutely Maybe - PLoS Blogs.

Source: PLoS Blogs 

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How to Become an Actuary in 9 Steps | Life Insurance -

Actuaries can make a very high salary, but it takes a ton of work. Here's what you need to know, recommends Steve Fiorillo, writer for TheStreet.

Are you someone with a love of data and statistics? Someone with a keen interest in computer software? If you're a math whiz, or even just someone with a passion for the subject, an awful lot of companies could use you and there are ways to make a career out of it.

One such career is an actuary. It's a career that may be heavily associated with insurance but can be far more wide-reaching than that. If you put in the work needed to become a professional actuary, you could find yourself in a lucrative, stable career. But be warned: it's a lot of work.

If you think this could be a worthwhile line of work that's worth the prep, you'll need to ask: what is an actuary, and how can I become one?

What Does an Actuary Do? 
An actuary is essentially an analyst for risk management, doing the math to figure out how risky something might be and determining how best to minimize it in the future.

Actuaries are most often needed in the insurance industry where there is a lot of financial risk involved in health insurance, life insurance and home insurance. Here, actuaries use data and a number of factors to determine just how risky an insurance policy is to give to someone.

An actuary is expected to determine how likely a risky scenario is to play out - and then determine a way to minimize that damage. If risky events keep happening, an actuary could be asked to use their numbers to figure out how to decrease the times they occur.

Much of this is done through computer software, since the math is particularly advanced - it's why you'll need not just math courses, but computer science ones in your education as well... 

How to Become an Actuary 
Actuaries are expected to be in high demand over the next several years, so it's smart to get prepared for it sooner than later. Becoming an actuary is a multi-step process that is still ongoing even in the beginning of your actual career.

Here's how to get your start as an actuary.


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Never say ‘I am not a maths person’ in front of children: expert |

Paul Bradwell, Subject Leader Mathematics, Kings School Barsha, Dubai, explains how parents and teachers can make the subject be appreciated for its beauty and application.
Photo: Supplied

1. Who is responsible for making maths seem like a chore? Parents? Teachers?
It can be very frustrating for a student to be sat across from a parent with them saying, “I was never very good at maths” or “I’m not a maths person”. This can be damaging as it normalises the idea of being bad at maths for the child and validates any thoughts that being good at maths is a natural ability. There is a responsibility on all of us to ensure that every child believes the truth, which is that anyone can study maths successfully. Any student can succeed at anything if they are willing to put in the effort.


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Nearly half of US female scientists leave full-time science after first child |

Holly Else, Reporter at Nature Research says, Study reveals proportion of people leaving full-time careers in science after the birth of their first child.

Having a child can lead to scientists switching or quitting their careers.
Photo: Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty

More than 40% of women with full-time jobs in science leave the sector or go part time after having their first child, according to a study of how parenthood affects career trajectories in the United States. By contrast, only 23% of new fathers leave or cut their working hours.

The analysis (see ‘Parents in science’), led by Erin Cech, a sociologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, might help to explain the persistent under-representation of women in jobs that involve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The study also highlights the impact of fatherhood on a career in science, she says...

A ‘structural’ problem Virginia Valian, a psychologist at the City University of New York, says: “The results showing that fathers also leave STEM reinforces the hypothesis that the problem is a structural one, in which dedicated professionals are not expected to have a personal life, and, indeed, are punished for so doing.”

Ami Radunskaya, a mathematician at Pomona College in Claremont, California, who mentors young female mathematicians, says women can become exhausted from constantly having to prove themselves in a professional environment that is, “at best, challenging to everyone and, at worst, openly sexist”.

Additional resources
Cech, E. A. & Blair-Loy, M. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2019).


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Mathematician painting inspires local students during Black History Month | Local - KBTX

An Instagram post made by a Bryan High School theater teacher is catching the eye of some notable names in Hollywood, summarizes Erika Fernandez, Reporter at KBTX news team.

Photo: KBTX

What started as a challenge among teachers turned into a much bigger message for Black History Month. 

Inside Ms. Robert’s theater class, students learn about the arts. Outside, her classroom door is catching eyes.

"I had no idea it would blow up this big," said Bryan High School freshman Madison Bailey.
The school's Key Club hosted a door-painting competition for February, and Bailey Robert made hers one to remember.

"It meshed history and film and theater together for them in a brand new way," Robert said.

Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA in the 1950s, is on the door of room 4150...

Although what goes on inside Ms. Robert's class is far from math or science, students say they're inspired by Johnson and her will to thrive in the face of adversity.
Read more... 

Source: KBTX

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Empty Brain | Data & Information - aeon

This post originally appeared on aeon.

Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California notes, No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli.

What’s in a brain?
Photo: Unsplash

The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’.

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

To see how vacuous this idea is, consider the brains of babies. Thanks to evolution, human neonates, like the newborns of all other mammalian species, enter the world prepared to interact with it effectively. A baby’s vision is blurry, but it pays special attention to faces, and is quickly able to identify its mother’s...

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever...

In his book In Our Own Image (2015), the artificial intelligence expert George Zarkadakis describes six different metaphors people have employed over the past 2,000 years to try to explain human intelligence.
Read more... 

Source: aeon via Pocket. 

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Moving into Management: The Skills New Managers Are Learning | Leadership - LinkedIn Learning

Imagine you’ve just reached a major landmark in your career - you’ve been promoted from an individual contributor to a manager! according to Sophie (Wharton) Smith, Insight Analyst, Learning Solutions at LinkedIn.

Photo: The Learning Blog

This is a moment to celebrate, but it can also be a challenging transition. Research suggests that adjusting to a promotion can be a stressful life experience; however, it’s also the perfect time to learn.

So when new managers seek help, what types of skills are they looking to learn? We analyzed data from LinkedIn Learning to understand what courses this group is watching at higher rates than the average user. Of the 13,000 courses on our platform, which do first-time managers flock to when they’re starting their new role?

Two main insights emerged from our analysis: new managers are focused on thinking more strategically and learning to build stronger relationships.

Source: LinkedIn Learning (Blog) 

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