Happenings – 2012 May 12

Well, I slept through another earthquake last night. Ho-hum. It was merely a 2.5 instead of the 4.1 I slept through last week.

There were 4 earthquakes of at least magnitude 2.5 in the Bay Area through Friday. If my counting is correct, we are up to 8 so far in May… not counting the early one today.

My alter ego the kid picked up something unusual this past week: “Eye of the hurricane”, the autobiography of the mathematician Richard Bellman. It’s an easy read… but it’s rather discouraging. He was very good, and he worked very hard… I’m not and I don’t. Well, maybe I can be productive today.

To make matters worse, he was either the inventor or the major proponent of “dynamic programming” – and I do not appear to own a book on the subject. Hmm, it’s literally true that I do not own a book… but at least 4 of my operations research books have sections on dynamic programming… and maybe the kid will look at them this morning….

Interestingly, he chose the name for political reasons – that is, for funding: “programming” was hot, and “dynamic” was harmless. And he needed harmless.

“We had a very interesting gentleman in Washington named Wilson. He was Secretary of Defense, and he actually had a pathological fear and hatred of the word, research. I’m not using the term lightly…. His face would suffuse, he would turn red, and he would get violent if people use the term, research, in his presence. You can imagine how he felt, then, about the term, mathematical…. Hence, I felt I had to do something to shield Wilson and the Air Force from the fact that I was really doing mathematics inside the RAND Corporation.” (p. 159).

Oh, I was looking for books by him yesterday, and the cheapest copy of his autobiography sells for $275. Yikes! Find it in a library somewhere. (My copy was $26 new at the Stanford Bookstore.)

I’m making progress on mathematics… but I haven’t finished anything since last Monday’s post.

Well, it’s not all bad. I have a post through stage IV – the mathematics is done – for this coming Monday. It is a real–world follow-up to the artificial – but essential – introduction to getting trig parameters from the discrete Fourier transform. As usual, I learned something while doing it – but that meant it took longer than I expected. I not only have real data, but it is also fitted very well by 2 frequencies. In other words, it is a magnificent example – if I say so myself.

My alter ego the graduate student has stopped collecting theory about rings and, instead, has been playing with the “abstract algebra” package, which I used for the group theory posts. Yes, in addition to groups, it also does rings.

My alter ego Jimmie – who is responsible for time series analysis in general and regression in particular, among too many other subjects – is making progress on the next regression post. I’ve already decided to split it into 2 parts. Much of what we know about a least-squares fit does not depend on the assumption that the disturbances are normally distributed, and it is worthwhile separating the conclusions which do not require normality from those that do. Besides, I finally get to write a long-planned post: the normal, chi-square, t, and F distributions, described in one place.

Kang’s “computational color technology” continues to be frustrating… much of what he says is interesting and engaging, but he doesn’t quite have the details right. I made it through chapter 1 okay – and I’m planning a post – but chapter 2 has me tearing my hair out.

I don’t read math books and say, “Ah, yes.” I read them and cry, “What the hell is going on?”

Speaking of color, I found a rather comprehensive source of references. Perhaps I should put out a post whose sole purpose is to collect in one place all the interesting color links I have posted at one time or another.

OK, let me get the engine in gear and see what I can do today.


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