Third culture

Foreign students don’t feel at home in the Netherlands (Netherland!). Does not quite match the image that exists amongst Dutch natives, as I have experienced it at least in my time in Amsterdam. The source is a Dutch newspaper, so come armed with your Netherlandic skills!

Having been on the receiving end of living a longer period abroad, I suspect this not feeling instantly at home is probably mostly dependent on how different the culture exactly is from the one you came from. I went to France, which is not a large geometric distance, but certainly a larger cultural distance than going to Germany. Most people I know that went abroad went to ‘culturally near’ places like Berlin or the UK, and I imagine that makes easier to feel at home than a Romanian in the Netherlands.

Cultural distance, by the way, is something I’ve never dug into. Is it actually quantifiable? Someone must’ve tried, right? Well, indeed! But can we get some numbers? Here you go! Without having dug into what the number actually mean, from a quick glance I see my personal observations validated: Germany-Netherlands have some of the lowest cultural distance in that dataset (of mostly European countries, and I think only Ukraine-Belarus beats us), at 0.026. The UK comes in at 0.047 and France at 0.065.

I digress. People will, to some degree, not feel at home elsewhere. It’s important to correct our self-image based on data that we are in fact not the Valhalla we tend to tell ourselves we are. It’s of course an uninformed self-image: what makes the Netherlands a Valhalla? What exactly is good, and why? And what not? I think in general people are not really aware of their own culture, outside of some stereotypes. After all, it’s a quantity best seen in contrast to something else, and the more you experience the else, the more you actually know about your original culture.

A related article (Dutch again) was recently published at the NRC: it introduced something I recognize. Although I haven’t lived significant periods in eight different countries, I do experience the Third Culture effect: if you’ve thought about all those different cultural traits you’ve experienced and have experimented with them all and made your own custom synthesis, you have arrived at something new! While in itself it’s a great thing to not just accept a single home culture wholesale but are able to hand pick from a few the parts that you find best, you make yourself different and therefore lose a certain capability to integrate. You don’t even need to go abroad for this, your country or city may have many different subcultures that in practice don’t mingle all that well, because they consider themselves very different. It’s not just a feeling ‘us third culturerers’ feel, you usually notice it through other ‘countrymen’ as well. They see you’ve changed a few parts in your culture, and often… ‘neglect’ is a strong word, but there is some sort of avoidance? An ever so slight look of disapproval? Basically what the foreign students experience I think (I have): it’s not very visible, because there’s a lot shared as well, but in the details it can become quite apparent.

One of the students says:

Ik heb ook in België gewoond. Hun Nederlands is makkelijker uit te spreken, ze hebben beter eten. En ze zijn net iets minder arrogant.

Through my partner I’ve become aware of a few aspects of spoken Dutch that are very unusual (hard-g, variety in vowels, diphthongs) which are less pronounced in the way the Flemish speak Dutch, and therefore easier. In terms of food and arrogance most agree. Another student:

We missen allemaal hetzelfde: het eten en het goede weer.

One of the students writes that the temperature changes makes him sick. I never realized this, but when I lived in Lyon (France), I indeed took a lot less sickleave!

Tunnelvisie

De homobeweging in Nederland, of in elk geval het COC, wilde aanvankelijk geen homohuwelijk, maar relatievrijheid waarbij personen zelf bepaalden welke vorm het huwelijk had, en de overheid slechts de verbintenis vastlegde. Toch is de geschiedenis anders gelopen, en is het homohuwelijk sinds 2001 een feit. Ik heb mijn best gedaan het fragment terug te vinden, maar dat is me niet gelukt: ik herinner me een radiogesprek met een activiste van het eerste uur en die blikte terug dat ze toch niet tevreden is met het homohuwelijk: het is een expliciete ‘whitelist’ van wat mag, terwijl een fundamenteler oplossing het opheffen van de witte lijst is, de relatievrijheid.

Ik zie het wel vaker, of eigenlijk regelmatig: mensen maken stap voor stap (waarde voor waarde) ruimte binnen een categorie. Bij mij duikt het beeld van dimensies op: iemand wordt beschreven met een punt (of wolk, of een andere geometrie, zover heb ik hem nog niet doorgedacht) in een N-dimensionale ruimte. Maar mensen hebben de neiging in discontinue ruimtes te denken, soms is er zelfs maar 1 punt in een bepaalde dimensie (het “tradionele” huwelijk). We hebben er nu een punt bij, het homohuwelijk. Misschien later nog meer, en nemen we dat naar de limiet oneindig, dan hebben we oneindig veel punten en kunnen we een continue ruimte beschrijven, en ik denk wel dat de verscheidenheid van mensen min of meer continue is. Er zullen mensen zijn die met meer dan een partner zouden willen trouwen, met een kat en ga zo nog maar even door. Er zijn natuurlijk beperkingen te verzinnen, zoals trouwen met kinderen, omdat die een grens overschreiden die bijvoorbeeld medisch of psychologisch toch ergens moet liggen. Natuurlijk zijn ook dat voortschreidende inzichten (100 jaar geleden waren dokters het ongetwijfeld eens dat er een medische reden was tegen het homohuwelijk), maar dat neemt niet wel eens over het denken na te denken: in plaats van bepaalde vormen toe te staan, de vorm, binnen de kaders die de rechtstaat elders al definieert, aan de burger zelf te laten, in dit geval dus een (bepaalde mate van) relatievrijheid.

Die discrete ruimte dwingt namelijk naar die discrete punten. De meeste huwelijken zijn hetero, maar zouden ze dat ook zijn als dat niet normaal was? Zelf heb ik meestal weinig belangstelling voor normaliteit, abnormale dingen zijn immers, en hier spreekt misschien mijn wetenschappelijke blik, veel interessanter. Op persoonlijk vlak heb ik geen last van de vorm van het huwelijk, maar wel andere (kleinere) impliciete verwachtingen. Er zijn bijvoorbeeld Nederlandse collega’s die er niet aan wennen dat ik een warme lunch eet. Dan doe ik ‘niet normaal’. Deze gewoonte pikte ik op in Frankrijk (het is veel makkelijker gisteravond iets meer te koken dan nog weer bammetjes te moeten smeren). Fransen die snapten dan weer niets van mijn hekeling van patriotisme, iets wat er daar veel sterker in wordt gegoten. Op zich was dat makkelijker op afstand te houden, immers, ik ben geen Fransman, dus werd dat ook niet op die manier van mij verwacht. Die afstand geeft dus een bepaalde vrijheid. Het zal wel zijn waarom vreemde vogels zoals David Bowie een tijdje in het buitenland gaan wonen, eens even weg van die normaliserende kracht die ze al een leven lang het hoofd moeten bieden.

Als je dan weer ‘terug komt’, dan heb je echter een nieuw probleem: mensen die niet bekend zijn met even afstand nemen, relativeren, en nog altijd in de lokale superioriteit blijven geloven. Daardoor wordt ik wel een beetje bang: wat zie ik ondanks deze ervaring nog over het hoofd? Waar denk ik nog onnodig star over?

Academics in the labour market

Academics in the labour market. Some experiences will follow.

In the past two years my partner, a PhD graduate and a few small postdocs under her belt, has been applying for jobs outside of academia. That in itself usually requires motivation to potential employers, because “why’d you give up your dream”? Well, the reality of an academic career, especially if both partners are academics, is not really a dream. There are many practical issues that you have less if you can work outside of the few places that offer academic jobs in a given country. But let’s assume for now that you can convince the potential employer that publishing papers isn’t your only interest, what’s next? Well, fortunately I have met a few employers that seemed to know what an academic training entails, and has a rough idea of what an academic can do. For most of us, it’s been a varied training of learning technical skills to perform studies, to write scientific papers, to write grants, to present in front of professors, but also first year students, to convince colleagues, to convince bosses, and in general we have a mind habituated to fact-based arguing and we tend to step around personal mismatches automatically and fairly fluidly. We have learned to be creative when tackling problems, because in a sense that is the work of a researcher: at the start we know nothing, perhaps we don’t even have any relevant skill. What we can do is identify our limitations, work on them (taking trainings, read a book or papers, interrogate colleagues and experts, in general “figuring things out”), thereby identifying solutions and work-arounds, such that the goal being worked towards gets closer. Sometimes drastic course changes are taken, after all, there are dead ends, certainly in research, and it’s a skills to see dead ends coming, and to have the courage to realize you’ve been on the wrong track and you must change course. I guess this may sound a bit like a startup, if you’re more familiar with that. In general rules and structure are neglected in favor of creative problem solving. And for that, most academics develop pallet of skills.

There are non-academics that develop similar pallets of skills: a wide and sometimes deep pallet. By no means did I want to imply the above is exclusive to academics, anyone can do that, it’s just that PhD’s and on provide room in most jobs not available to do that. Startups seem similar environments, and of course, they are not rarely staffed by people who might have started their university studies first. The non-academic employers I have spoken with that understood and recognized the above were all self-starters and the CEO of their own business, usually extremely competent at what they were doing. So, where I say academic, perhaps I just mean a person with a certain mix of entrepreneurship, intelligence, persistence, and creativity.

This pallet is however, I am now discovering, not known to or even understood by many other employers. The kind that you’ll find in middle-management of larger companies, or smaller to medium businesses that do not do particularly specialized work (i.e. you might find a number of competitors in the same market). Often, they’re not even clear on the difference between a bachelor and a PhD degree, other than rank. I’ll emphasize I’m not implying anything other than that’s what I’ve experienced. I simply notice these employers usually do not understand what an academic can bring to the table. Perhaps not by chance, they’re also usually not terribly interested. It’s perfectly fair that you, as an employer, seek to fill a well-defined position, and decided to invite an academic over, because they applied too. However, I think it’d be good if employers realized that such potential employees might immediately be interested in improving processes in your company. After all, that is the very thing they’ve been trained to do! And it might benefit you, after all, which employer wouldn’t be interested in increased output, more efficiency and so on. An academic may find these, perhaps in areas where you’ve never thought to look. If you’re looking for replaceable workers for your factory, an academic is probably not a good fit.

Some employers think academics have little experience, and need to be trained. They, like a high school student, will need to work for a while before they’ll be able to add value. Well, depending on your company, that may be true! However, it betrays a lack of understanding of what an academic is, which I’ll agree is a term with a lot of variance. In vernacular an academic mindset may indicate a lack of output, too much focus on theory and not enough on work. That is a fair critique. After all, improving your business, as opposed to running it, is more in line with the competences of an academic. Many companies, it turns out, are not looking to improve anything, they’re just looking to run it. In my opinion, that makes it unlikely that you know how to take advantage of the skills of an academic. Maybe it would be more correct to say that it is an effect of a highly compartmentalized company, which most larger ones are. Manager X, who’s placed the vacancy through HR on the website, is responsible for, say, production of widget Y, and is not in charge of improving the production of widget Y, let alone hiring or interviewing for it. So, they’ll see a natural division between production and development, where most academics would not see, or particularly like, the division.

Since the end of my current academic position is coming up within the year, I though it would be a good idea to start getting good at applications now, while there is still plenty of time. Until recently, I’d never applied outside of academia, so until recently all of the above was unknown to me. It’s been very educating to go through it myself, and to learn what employers typically ask, and how they are different. Mean and sigma. Another thing I didn’t know: my gut is pretty good at picking up signs. Sometimes there are clues in the way things are organized, things are approached or said that tell give you a bad or good feeling. Sometimes you catch one of those off signs, but because you’re applying you want to succeed you may bury it and focus your convincing skills on the win. However, so far I’ve learned that this is a bad case of letting ego in the way: these signals usually add up in one direction, and are dead-on. In one application, I made it to the last end of the last round and suddenly they asked my opinion about uncompensated, structural overwork. At that point, I realized I had already spotted a whole series of clues but had failed to add them up because I was too eager to get the offer. This question crystallized the pattern in front of me, and actually corroborated a story with with that employer had been in the news recently. At that moment, I realized that that was the only question they had for that interview. That interview was a major revelation, also because the position (scientific programmer) was misadvertised as a creative and free, whereas it turned out, in the final minutes of the final interview, to be all about production, and then some more production. I felt like I’d levelled up in spotting ‘the right kind’ of employers that day.

I’ve felt most drawn to employers who’d ask me what I could do for them, rather than asking me if I could do what they ask of me. The best (and most academic!) interview I’ve had so far was with a very commercial, and very small (and I suspect very profitable) company run by a non-academic. He actually had me talk at length about my research, which of course I was happy to do, focused on the relevant software dev parts of it. The company felt a bit like a research group, where people had different expertises and they came together to tackle the challenges in the world of their product. Since then, I’ve been in a few other places that had a same sense of openness and curiosity, and where pursuing your hunches was encouraged. That is I think the type of company most fit for an academic: a place where all parties are naturally curious and looking to make best use of each others resources. I learned that anything that does not fit the above, is very likely to be a sign the place is no good for the academic type. If an employers lowballs your salary (because ‘you need to be trained’), it conveys a similar sign: he probably has no idea of what you can do! So then, don’t work there.

Writing this up made me realize something: an academic probably likes a versatile job, and highly compartmentalized businesses (in the sense that departments don’t ‘interfere’ with each other) are likely to require ‘unversatile’ workers, and therefore may be a bad fit. An academic should probably look for freedom and curiosity, which may be found in larger companies or institutes, but perhaps especially in smaller companies ran by smart and curious self-starters. There will be room, even the expectation, that you’ll pursue new avenues in order to improve or increase business. These are they places where you’ll find other people with larger pallets, or at least the ability to understand them, and the need to keep you pallet growing!

I still have 10 months to go on my current contract, and I expect to develop my understanding and skills more. Not that I expect anyone to read this, but in case you have insights, don’t hesitate to sends them though my brand new contact form!

Simulate disease

A very nice walkthrough of the basics of vacination and the spread of diseases. The walkthrough has simple and straightforward 2D simulation to demonstrate the effects of every component relevant to the spread of disease, such as infection rate and infection susceptibility. It makes it visible how a high vaccination rate makes the spread of diseases near impossible, and in turn helps all unvaccinated persons.

The basis of his simulations are networks: nodes have various kinds of relationships which can be perturbed by chance or other properties. Thanks Kevin Simler!

Randstadrail

Infrastructuur, een hobby. Sinds ik zoals velen wegens prijsdruk buiten (nouja, op de rand van) de Randstad ben gaan wonen, is mij duidelijk geworden hoe slecht het OV netwerk in Nederland is. In vergelijking met andere west-Europese hoofdsteden zoals Parijs, Berlijn of Londen is het netwerk in Nederland zeer grofmazig. Waar die andere steden een metro-, lightrail- of treinstation in bijna elk blok van 500 meter hebben, is dat dramatisch veel lager hier, met name omdat we hier nauwelijks metro en lightrail hebben. Voor de goede orde, trams telt men niet als lightrail, daar is die te traag voor. Immers, een goed netwerk is fijnmazig en snel genoeg om reistijden binnen het gebied binnen de perken te houden. In die andere steden kun je twee willekeurige punten meestal binnen een uur bereiken, maar in de Randstad lukt dat bij lange na niet. Het is overigens jammer dat dit weinig ingezien wordt, immers, stedelingen wonen meestal net dicht genoeg bij Centrale Stations om de afstand niet te voelen (al is de dorpsmentaliteit in mijn ervaring erg sterk in Nederland: een Amsterdammer gaat niet werken in Rotterdam, terwijl die afstand niets geks zou zijn in vergelijkbare urbane regio’s). Woon je verder van het station, dan kom je al gauw inde ook grote groep autorijders. Mijn woon-werk afstand is 40km (waarvan werk in Amsterdam, op 10 minuten lopen van een station), maar het OV is 1u50 volgens de planner, terwijl de auto, zelfs met file, niet meer dan een uur is, zonder file 30 minuten. Dan is OV ook nog eens duurder, inclusief afschrijving van de auto.

Er zijn helaas geen overzichtskaarten van stations in de Randstad (of Nederland) waar meerdere modaliteiten in worden opgenomen. Misschien onderdeel van het probleem: we kijken hier op het verkeerde niveau en in hokjes. Een kaart van de Randstad (of desnoods Nederland) met daarin de lightrail en metrostelsels opgenomen is wat een handige student met GIS in elkaar zou moeten zetten. In elk geval, wat ik wel kan vinden is de lijst heavy rail stations in Londen, 369, en hier de lijst Nederlandse treinstations, een ronde 400. Bij de Londense lijst zit de overground, dus we moeten eigenlijk de Randstadrail bij de NS optellen, maar dan eigenlijk ook alle niet-Randstedelijke stations weglaten. Het zal het aantal Randstedelijke ‘heavy-rail’ stations in elk geval naar beneden brengen. Greater London heeft dus ongeveer evenveel (ietsje meer waarschijnlijk) stations dan Nederland. Merk op, hier zitten dus de metrostations niet bij, en ondanks de Londense overlap, is die vergelijking zeer scheef (de liefhebber mag tellen).

Tot zover de vergelijking waaruit blijkt dat het Randstedelijke netwerk behoorlijk achterloopt. Gelukkig zijn er Nederlanders die dat doorhebben, en er iets aan doen! In Zuid-Holland hebben we sinds enkele jaren het Randstadrail netwerk, een soort grootstedelijke uitbreiding van de Rotterdamse metro (strict genomen dus geen heavy-rail, maar laat me nu even het glas halfvol zien) richting Delft en Den Haag, Zoetermeer, binnenkort Hoek van Holland, en hopelijk ooit naar Utrecht en Leiden, misschien zelfs Amsterdam. Naast de fijnmazigheid is ook de onderlinge verbondenheid immers laag in Nederland, overstappen tussen de stedelijke OVs kan enkel door eerst op een trein te stappen, in plaats van dat er langere lijnen zijn zoals de Overground, RER, of gewoon het metro-netwerk zelf. De Randstadrail maakt een mooi begin met een uitzondering zijn op deze regel, en dat gaat zo goed, dat de capaciteit van het netwerk veel sneller bereikt wordt dan men had gedacht. Goed nieuws dus, dit onderstreept dat er inderdaad behoefte is aan zo’n soort netwerk. Ik wens ze veel succes en ik wens ons allemaal veel succes met het uitbreiden van een Randstedelijk OV zoals we vinden in andere urbane regio’s van gelijke grootte en gelijke bevolkingsaantallen.

Bonus: zoek eens naar de polderspoorbanen, stoomtramlijnen en buurtspoorwegen op kaarten van voor de oorlog: ooit was het OV netwerk veel dichter!

Uprooting PhD

Today, a bit of a blast from the past. I’m still working on getting some results published from my PhD days, and part of that is getting some old Python 2 scripts to work. Well, thankfully that isn’t very hard, they were written for Python 2(.7), which hasn’t changed and is still very available. Python 2 really is the Latin of programming languages; we (scientists) will be using in for a looooong time precisely because it isn’t receiving updates anymore. Not everyone appreciates that property, but in science, with people ever moving on and nobody having time to do maintenance, it’s actually a nice feature.

Anyway, the main thing that has changed is that I’m no longer a ROOT user (if I ever was) and am too lazy to setup ROOT (and it’s Python (2) bindings). Gate produces ROOT files containing TTree’s (PhaseSpaceActor) or TH1D’s (AugerActor), so I need to read them. At the tail end of my PhD I came across Uproot, a Python implementation of a ROOT file reader. So not of the ROOT software, just the file format. Well, that was the simplest update I’ve ever had the joy of doing, because it’s a very Pythonic library and it just werks. I even could simplify my code from this:

def thist2np_xy_cache(infile,key):
    assert(infile.endswith(".root"))
    npzfile = infile+"."+str(key)+".npz"
    if os.path.isfile(npzfile):
        cached = np.load(npzfile)
        return [cached['x'].tolist(),cached['y'].tolist()]
    else:
        tfile=r.TFile(infile,"READ")
        for item in tfile.GetListOfKeys():
            outname=item.ReadObj().GetName()
            if outname == key:
                outdata_x=[]
                outdata_y=[]
                for i in range(item.ReadObj().GetNbinsX()):
                    outdata_x.append(float(item.ReadObj().GetXaxis().GetBinCenter(i+1)))
                    outdata_y.append(float(item.ReadObj().GetBinContent(i+1)))
                np.savez(npzfile, x=np.array(outdata_x), y=np.array(outdata_y))
                return [outdata_x,outdata_y]

to this:

def thist_to_np_xy(infile,key='reconstructedProfileHisto'):
    assert(infile.endswith(".root"))
    f=uproot.open(infile)
    outdata_x=binedges_to_centers(f[key].edges)
    outdata_y=f[key].values
    return [outdata_x,outdata_y]

Note that I omitted the caching function, which wasn’t necessary anymore because Uproot is also much faster then ROOT’s Python bindings. Fantastico.

Second, TexLive 2019 was released today. It reminded me of my ol’ PhD thesis, which I still hadn’t converted to html using tex4ht. It’s ofcouse a somewhat complex document, and today I gave it my third attempt, but failed. So I’ve given up, and decided to use Mozilla’s pdf.js. See here the result.

Figs

I like figs. But are figs vegan? I never thought a fruit wouldn’t be, but there seems to be some discussion about that within the vegan community, because it turns out, and that’s the interesting bit, figs and wasps are involved in a very close relationship. Symbiotic? I’m afraid to claim that, because biologists no doubt have strict requirements for such categories. Anyway, a Quora post by Beth Goldowitz decribes the relationship, and because it’s a Quora post, I’ll quote it in full here:

If you aren’t a botanist, the life cycle of the fig is truly bizarre. If you’re a vegan, and you find out that figs contain dead wasps, it probably freaks you out a little.

To begin with, figs are not actually fruit. A fig is an inflorescence, a hollow stem filled with flowers. In order to pollinate the flowers, a female wasp that has gathered pollen from another fig (the one she was hatched in, and in which she mated with her brothers before they carved an escape hatch for her (but alas, not for themselves) must crawl through a tiny hole to enter the inflorescence, shedding her wings and her antennae (occasionally) as she does so. Once inside, she pollinates the flowers, lays her eggs, and dies. When her eggs hatch, the next generation continues the story, males mating with females, females gathering pollen, males making a hole for the females to escape, then, having performed their function in life, dying inside the fruit.

If this sounds odd to you, you aren’t reading enough biology and natural history texts. It’s one of my favorite responses to the anti-Darwinists who like to point to things like Emperor Penguins demonstrating that nature supports biblical families. I’ve often thought the Saga of the Fig and the Wasp would make a marvelous opera, or perhaps a ballet, with its chorus of tragic males spending their entire lives confined within a single fig, while their sisters escape, laden with pollen and possibilities.

It gets even more interesting when you find out that in some species of fig, if the female wasps don’t carry pollen to new inflorescences, the tree will drop its fruit, punishing them by eliminating their offspring from the gene pool. Cue dramatic fig tree aria. Or even more dramatic pas de deux, with sexy, but stand-offish female wasps.

But, and this is a big but, commercial figs aren’t grown this way.

The commercially cultivated fig tree is usually a female parthenocarpic variety of the ancient common fig (Ficus carica) and does not need pollination to produce fruit.

The story of the fig and its wasp

Most commercial figs do not need to be fertilized. They do not contain wasps, other than the incidental bits of insects and other debris that can be found on all fruit and vegetables everywhere. Many varieties of commercial figs are vegan. If you’re really worried about it, you can probably do a little research online.

Even the ones that do contain wasps can be considered vegan in my opinion. Veganism is about reducing harm and suffering, and these wasps aren’t being harmed. After all, no one is forcing the wasps to fertilize the figs. It’s part of their natural life cycle. They aren’t being carted around in commercial hives, like the honeybees that some vegans think make almonds and avocados unacceptable in their diet. These wasps are perfectly happy. They live inside figs, one of the world’s most delicious fruits. They hatch out of their eggs, reach maturity, and indulge in an incestuous orgy before the females go out into the world to carry on their species. They make it possible for the trees to grow more figs, which make it possible for the next generation of wasps to survive. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

I’m not vegan anymore, but if I were, I would eat figs. Figs are delicious.

EDIT: Apparently, a ripe fig is actually an infructescence, which is the fruit that results when an inflorescence is fertilized. Thanks to Michael Williams for pointing this out.

What a story! Biology is so much more than survival of the fittest. It reminded by of a documentary I once watched on symbiosis, in particular the story of Lynn Margulis. She faced a lot of criticism from here (mostly male) colleagues for daring to argue and show that Darwinism is a too simplyfied a picture of evolution. As she puts it:

Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.

Time for new biology textbooks!

Population density

A good analysis of population density. The lure of such statistics is so represent many numbers as one single number, but of course that introduces bias: what does the author of the single number think is representative? The mean is often taken, which is probably the most common measure of central tendency. However, it only works well for symmetric distributions, and prehaps only normal distributions. Complex data is nearly never normally distributed, and the choice of where to live could be argued is a complex decision: near work, near family, near a town or city center, or perhaps far away from it, near transport connections, and so on. On top of that, you can bin data in different ways, and looking at the distributions of the bins is not always the same as the distribution of the data (aliassing). What’s most interesting is this author’s population density over built up area. Spain apparently has very little built up area, so its people live in denser towns and cities. After this correction, Spain is (modulus a few city states) the densest country in Europe! Also nice, the fraction of non-buil-up square kilometers: the Netherlands has few, but more than I though (~20%).

A good example of how complex data can be sliced in many different ways, and that the mean is just about the least interesting. Let’s bury the mean!

New Multiplication

An article describes a new and more efficient method of (manual) multiplication. Here, efficiency is defined as fewer operations and simpler operations. Addition is considered easier than multiplication, e.g. multiplying two large numbers is usually done by adding their logarithms. I admit I did not read the scientific paper, but I did test out the Karatsuba method mentioned in the article. By chopping up larger numbers, calculating two products, two sums and two crossterms, and then adding/subtraction these components gives the answer. Fewer operations, even if you chop possible subterms (after chopping) once more and repeat the procedure.

However, since the idea is it make it easier to do the calcuation manually, I’m not sure I agree it’s simpler. THe simplest method is serial calculation of each digit with each other, is replaced with fewer mathimatical operations, but more bookkeeping operations. Something you absolutely need pen and paper for. And if you have to partition multiple times, you’re going to be plugging in numbers all over, which seems error prone to me. I guess if you frequently must multiple large number it pays off to train yourself in this method, but after a first try I think it replaces operations with bookkeeping.

Since computers are excellent at bookkeeping, I can see how a math library in compute-heavy operations might benefit from such methods.

Geldstelsel

Hij staat al heel lang op de lijst om over te posten: de Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid waarschuwt voor een nieuwe economische crisis. Een klein aantal banken speelt een spilrol in de (Nederlandse) economie, en zijn toch niet zo ingericht om negatieve ontwikkelingen te dempen. Bovendien hebben we steeds meer schulden, als je hypotheken meerekent verslaan Nederlanders zelf Amerikanen als diepst in schulden gestoken. In ons marktdenken krijg je immers niets meer voor niets. Onder andere een soort burgermedezeggenschap in die banken wordt door het WRR rapport voorgesteld.