Monday, November 10, 2014

Sleeping beauty problem IV

Previous post in this series

I have been waiting to see some conclusions coming from discussions of the problem at the Stubborn Mule blog, however the discussion seems to have petered out without a final statement. I admit I did not read the details of Giulio Katis's mathematical model, even though it was very closely related to the (sequential part of ) the compositional model of Markov chains that de Francesco Albasini, Sabadini and I developed in "The Compositional Construction of Markov Processes, Applied Categorical Structures 2011",  "The Compositional Construction of Markov Processes II, RAIRO - Theor. Inf. and Applic., 2011", and in Luisa's PhD thesis at the University of Insubria, Como, 2011.

However I remain convinced that the matter is simple and I would like to make a couple of mathematical comments.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Stephen H. Schanuel and Dietmar Schumacher

Steve and Dietmar are two mathematicians I knew who died earlier this year. I meant to write something earlier but have been distracted by my own health problems.

I knew Stephen Schanuel (14 July 1933-25 July 2014) mainly from his visits to Sydney. During his 1988 visit my friend Bob Bolton took this photograph of him:
My memory of him is that he was enthusiastic as a mathematician, but also Missouri-Skeptical of exaggerated claims. I remember he was not very keen on the word "categorification" though of course being well aware of the process of abstraction from objective categories. To visit Buffalo was to be involved in the ongoing Lawvere-Schanuel mathematical discussions. I liked very much Fred Linton's remarks on Steve's death on the Categories List in which he said "no longer does Steve belong so exclusively to his peers, colleagues, friends, and family, as to History".

I also knew Dietmar (who died on 17th September 2014) from visits to Sydney (I think actually to Macquarie University), and from a visit I made to Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  He was great company, and had the odd habit of apologizing, even to the extent of apologizing for apologizing. He was the founder with Bob Paré of the Atlantic Category Seminar and wrote extensively with Bob Paré on indexed categories


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The mess we are in with scientific publishing II - not in the club

previous post in this series; next post in this series

I mentioned various problems with scientific publishing in the previous post.

I neglected to mention the most discussed problems like the ownership of results by private companies, the lack of free access, the uncontrolled costs, the publicly funded work by referees and editors, et cetera.

Today I want to talk about another change in scientific publishing which has occurred in my lifetime. When I was young (1970) there were many fewer journals, mostly of scientific societies, and mostly journals of mathematics with a content intended to be of interest to all mathematicians.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014


I just linked up this blog with Google+. This is a test to see what the effect of that is. I assume my posts will now be visible from Google+.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

My 1992 FTP site

Don't believe any links, or email addresses. Almost all have disappeared. Notice the strange domain name for mathematics at Sydney.

We did not get to see the web until at least 1993 when Mosaic came out (though we had to use Chimera on the Appollos). I haven't found my first email but I think it was around 1985 when I went to conferences announcing the importance of email, in particular to us in Australia. Hard to remember those times.

ftp site at the University of Sydney


ftp site at the University of Sydney

Date: Thu, 2 Apr 92 13:35:18 +10

      Category theory material
         Available by Anonymous FTP

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The mess we are in with scientific publishing

Next post in this series

I am a little out of the Italian academic scene since my retirement, but if I understood the recent rounds of hiring in Italy they occurred in the following way. It was possible to apply for  "abilitazione", that is a judgment was made if you were at an appropriate level to hold a post. This was made in most cases on the grounds of purely numerical indicators, and was supposed to be a threshold. It was not a competition. A deeper analysis, actually looking at the papers or asking experts who had read the papers, was clearly impossible since, for example, in Computer Science a committee of 5 had to judge in a year the qualities of approximately 900 applicants. (There were even complaints when more than numbers were used, since that gave power to the "barons".)
After this judgment a great number of the abilitati were given permanent posts, thus filling up vacancies for some time.

The pressure this type of thing puts on scientific publishing is enormous. Referees, while trying to make judgments on papers, now have to consider that they are deciding the careers of young people, the grants for older people, that the prestige of the journal will affect jobs and grants. The reason the pressure is so enormous is that the job and granting committees don't look at the papers, just the numbers.
The job of a referee has become impossible, at the same time that there is more and more need for referees since scientists are being forced to publish more and more.

Scientific publishing must free itself from these pressures.

Thinking about this situation brought back to mind some thoughts of Bernhard Neumann.
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Arguments for funding

From the blog of Sabine Hossenfelder regarding the argument for funding the next supercollider:

"The next argument I keep hearing is that the worldwide web was invented at CERN which also hosts the LHC right now. If anything, this argument is even more stupid than the war-also-wastes-money argument. Yes, Tim Berners-Lee happened to work at CERN when he developed hypertext. The environment was certainly conductive to his invention, but the standard model of particle physics had otherwise very little to do with it."

I am glad that some physicists are being a bit more honest in their arguments for science funding. (However even this statement is inaccurate since Berners-Lee did not invent hypertext.)


Friday, September 19, 2014

Sleeping beauty problem III

Previous post in this series, next post in series

I am writing a third post about the sleeping beauty problem partly because I have seen Sean Carmody's post  (26th August) in which he describes the problem and expresses his uncertainty about it, and promises an opinion in a future post. We are waiting, Sean, for your ideas on the matter!

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Opera d'abbaco del reverendo padre don Smiraldo Borghetti

Here are some pages from a book I bought some years ago on arithmetic, published in 1594.
It is interesting to read that without numbers the world would be without order,  and a horrible chaos.
Strangely the current popular view (which I do not share) is that the world is chaos, even to the extent that the laws of physics are the casual effect of which universe of the multiverse we happen to inhabit.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Giuseppe Peano

On Saturday I  bought for 2 euros  at the mercatino of Lavello a little book by Giuseppe Peano of numerical tables. It has an interesting preface by Peano.

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