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August 31, 2010

Lost in Transcription, welcome to the blogosphere!

Jon Wilkins, a former colleague at the Santa Fe Institute, has joined that illustrious, notorious and sometimes obnoxious group (well, perhaps that's just me) of scientists who blog. Welcome Jon!

Jon is blogging at a place he calls "Lost in Transcription" which will cover, in his words "Science, Poetry, and Current Events, where 'Current' and 'Events are broadly construed." This choice of topics reminds me of a quotation by P.A.M. Dirac that I like "In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite." Either way, Lost in Transcription should be an interesting read, and I'll be adding it to my RSS reader.

As a taste, here's an excerpt from Jon's musings over the weekend:

On aging, conservatism, and experimental economics

So, it is standard conventional wisdom that people are liberal when they're young, and conservative when they're old. To the extent that we interpret "liberal" as "eager for change" and "conservative" as "against change," this trajectory is only natural. Especially in the modern world, where things are changing all the time, it may simply come down to a difference in experience: you're less likely to pine for the way the world was thirty years ago if you weren't alive thirty years ago.

But what I am really interested in here is the apparent trend where people become more conservative with respect to economic policies. In this context, the argument about familiarity does not seem to hold. In the United States, the government's economic policies have been trending more conservative for decades, and the familiarity argument would predict that older people should be, on average, more liberal. However, there is a different aspect of familiarity that may be relevant, as it pertains to our beliefs about human nature...

posted August 31, 2010 03:07 PM in Pleasant Diversions | permalink | Comments (0)

Be a postdoc at the Santa Fe Institute

It's that time of year again: SFI is hiring new Omidyar Fellows.

Appointments begin Fall 2011. As a newly former Omidyar Fellow, I can tell you that SFI is an exceptionally good place to spend a few years doing research. It's not for everyone, but if you do your best work in unstructured environments, have a good nose for asking fundamental questions, and are comfortable working in a highly interdisciplinary environment, then it's hard to beat the freedom, breadth and resources that SFI provides.

This year's deadline is November 1. Here's the official ad:

The Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellowship offers:
• unparalleled intellectual freedom
• transdisciplinary collaboration with leading researchers worldwide
• up to three years in residence in Santa Fe, New Mexico
• discretionary research and collaboration funds
• individualized mentorship and preparation for your next leadership role
• an intimate, creative work environment with an expansive sky

The Omidyar Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute is unique among postdoctoral appointments. The Institute has no formal programs or departments. Research is collaborative and spans the physical, natural, and social sciences. Most research is theoretical and/or computational in nature, although it may include an empirical component. SFI typically has 15 Omidyar Fellows and postdoctoral researchers, 15 resident faculty, 95 external faculty, and 250 visitors per year. Descriptions of the research themes and interests of the faculty and current Fellows can be found at http://www.santafe.edu/research.

Requirements include a Ph.D. in any discipline (or expect to receive one by September 2011), an exemplary academic record, a proven ability to work independently and collaboratively, a demonstrated interest in multidisciplinary research and evidence of the ability to think outside traditional paradigms. Applications are encouraged from candidates from any country and discipline. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

More information is here.

posted August 31, 2010 01:56 PM in Complex Systems | permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2010

Fall 2010, CSCI 7000-003

This Fall, as is customary for new faculty in my department, I'm teaching a section of Current Topics in Computer Science. This series is basically the CS department's vehicle for advanced topics at the graduate level. I'll be posting my lecture notes, problem sets and class readings on the class webpage, if anyone here is interested in that material. Here's a short ad for the course:

CSCI 7000-003 Inference, Models and Simulation for Complex Systems

First meeting is in MUEN E114 on Tuesday, August 24, 11:00am.

This graduate-level topics course will cover a selection of recent developments in computational approaches to doing science with complex systems. It is not a scientific computing course. Topics will include statistical inference, the structure of complex networks, macro-phenomena in biological evolution and in wars and terrorism, simple mathematical models, and simulation techniques for more complicated models. The focus will be on using computational tools (algorithms) to do science (work with data; test hypotheses; build understanding; make predictions). The first half of the class will be driven by lectures and problem sets. The second half will revolve around student-run lectures and an independent research project.

I should add that this will be a rather biased (and in no way even remotely complete) selection of "recent developments", with the bias going heavily in the direction of stuff I like and find useful. Much of the material will be drawn from my own research, although at least in the beginning I'm going to pare some things down to a more introductory level. The second half of the course will be an adventure, with the student-led lectures on topics of (largely) their choosing.

posted August 22, 2010 11:17 AM in Teaching | permalink | Comments (3)

Postdoc in Computational Biology at CU Denver

The Computational Biosciences Program at CU Denver is affiliated with the Colorado Initiative for Molecular Biotechnology that I'm involved with at CU Boulder. I got to interact with them when I interviewed at CU Boulder, and it seems like a very good program. All the better that it's co-located with CU's medical school, which is in Denver not Boulder. If you're into computational biology, this postdoctoral fellowship should be a great opportunity. I should also add that if you wanted to work with me at CU Boulder, I believe you could do that under this fellowship. The bad news is that the submission deadline is September 1st.

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Computational Bioscience

The Computational Bioscience Program at the University of Colorado, Denver School of Medicine is recruiting for three NLM (NIH) funded postdoctoral fellow. The Computational Bioscience Program is home to ten core faculty working in the areas of genomics, text mining, molecular evolution, phylogenetics, network analysis, statistical methods, microarray, biomedical ontology, and other areas. The School of Medicine is home to a broad array of outstanding research and instrumentation, including a 900 MHz NMR, extensive DNA sequencing and microarray facilities, and more. We are housed on the first all-new medical campus of the 21st century, close to both the urban amenities of Denver and the beautiful Rocky Mountains. For more information, please consult http://compbio.ucdenver.edu.

QUALIFICATIONS: Candidates must have a Ph.D. degree in Computational Biology or a related discipline, and be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.

SALARY/BENEFITS: Successful candidates will be offered the NRSA specified stipend (based on years of experience), medical insurance, $2000 per year in travel support and $6500 per year in additional research-related expenses.

TO APPLY: Send to liz.pruett@ucdenver.edu a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and a statement of research interests; also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent to the same email address.

Priority will be given to applicants that apply by September 1, 2010.
UC Denver is an equal opportunity employer. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

posted August 22, 2010 06:59 AM in Simply Academic | permalink | Comments (1)

August 16, 2010

Phase change

Today I started work as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

My three and a half years as a postdoc at the Santa Fe Institute were intense and highly educational. As I've been saying recently when people asked me, I feel like I really found my own voice as a young scholar at SFI, developing my own perspective on the general areas I work in, my own research agenda for the foreseeable future, and a distinct approach to scientific problems. I've also written a few papers that, apparently, a lot of people really like.

As a professor now, I get to learn a lot of new stuff including how to teach, how to build and run a research group, and how to help run a department, among other things. I hope this next phase is as much or even more fun than the last one. I plan to continue to blog as regularly as I can, and probably about many of the same topics as before, along with new topics I become interested in as a result of hanging out more with computer scientists. Should be fun!

posted August 16, 2010 09:46 AM in Self Referential | permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2010

Philip Zimbardo on our relationship with time

In this short film, a cartoonist illustrates a portion of a lecture by Philip Zimbardo (yes, that one) on his understanding of different peoples' relationship and perception of time. Mostly, it sounds pretty reasonable, especially if you ignore some of his categorical reasoning and think instead about the general idea of delayed rewards and how different preferences for delay (none, short, long) can lead to social conflict. Toward the end, however, I was rather disappointed at his generational bashing of young people, which he drapes in scientific language to make it sound reasonable. As someone who spent thousands of hours playing video games when I was younger, I have a hard time looking back and feeling any regret.

posted August 13, 2010 08:12 PM in Scientifically Speaking | permalink | Comments (3)

Universe closed

Albuquerque, NM (via Brian Arnold, creative commons license)

For those less familiar with the locale, Universe and Rainbow are two streets in Albuquerque NM. This kind of thing makes you wonder if the traffic person who had the sign made, or the people who set it up, noticed the double meaning.

Tip to Lisa, via Barbara, via Duke City Fix via Kaid Benfield via ...

posted August 13, 2010 07:44 PM in Humor | permalink | Comments (1)

August 05, 2010

Workshop: Research and Analysis of Tail Phenomenon Symposium (RATS)

If you're in the Bay area next week and interested in power laws, "long tails" and other kinds of heavy-tailed distributions, this one-day event at Yahoo! Research might be interesting. I'll be giving a presentation about my own work on power-law distributions in empirical data, which looks like it will be the least interesting of the scheduled talks.

Research and Analysis of Tail Phenomenon Symposium

Date & Location: 20th August 2010, Sunnyvale, CA

Organizers: Ravi Kumar, Andrei Broder and Anirban Dasgupta

Description: The last decade has witnessed the emergence of enormous scale artifacts resulting from the independent action of hundreds of millions of people; for example, web repositories, social networks, mobile communication patterns, and consumption in "limitless" stores. The stochastic analyses of these processes often reveals heavy-tailed distributions and their understanding has become a common challenge for a plethora of scientists: statisticians, physicists, sociologists, economists, computer scientists, etc. It is time for all of us to get together! To this end we invite you to participate in the first Research and Analysis of Tail phenomena Symposium (RATS) that will explore the different computational, statistical, and modeling problems related to tail phenomena. The symposium will consist of a series of longer invited talks by experts in the field, and a number of shorter contributed presentations. We are particularly encouraging summer interns in any of the Bay Area research centers to join us in the event.

Invited Speakers: Chris Anderson (Wired), Michael Mitzenmacher (Harvard), Aaron Clauset (Univ. of Colorado), Neel Sundersan (eBay), Sharad Goel (Yahoo! Research, NY) and Michael Schwarz (Yahoo! Research, CA).

Update 21 Aug 2010: Michael has a nice and short summary of the workshop up on his blog.

Update 25 Aug 2010: Ravi tells me that they've posted the slides for all the talks on the RATS website.

posted August 5, 2010 08:58 AM in Conferences and Workshops | permalink | Comments (1)