Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A collection of John and Alicia Nash articles

Some of these, in particular the Peter Woit article, have some wonderful additional contributions in the comments sections.

And thank you to those authors who took the time to recognize that there were two very special people in the back seat of that taxi.

  • John F. Nash Jr., Math Genius Defined by a ‘Beautiful Mind,’ Dies at 86
    Dr. Nash’s theory of noncooperative games, published in 1950 and known as Nash equilibrium, provided a conceptually simple but powerful mathematical tool for analyzing a wide range of competitive situations, from corporate rivalries to legislative decision-making. Dr. Nash’s approach is now pervasive in economics and throughout the social sciences and applied in other fields as well, including evolutionary biology.
  • John Nash 1928-2015
    During the years I was a graduate student in Princeton, Nash was often to be seen, especially in the mathematics/physics library, and I talked to him a few times. The first time was when he stopped me one day, told me he had seen my name on the physics department picture board, and was curious about the origin of my last name.
  • John and Alicia Nash, 1928,1933–2015
    Alicia’s life was one of boldness and courage from the day she emigrated with her family from El Salvador in 1944. Her father had followed her uncle fearing backlash against their aristocratic family from a popular insurrection. Hearing about the nuclear bomb on the radio inspired her to become an atomic physicist, and she worked hard to become one of only seventeen women in MIT’s class of 1955.
  • John Nash, mathematician portrayed in A Beautiful Mind, dies in taxi crash at 86
    Nash describes thinking himself out of his illness.

    “After my return to the dream-like delusional hypotheses in the later 60s I became a person of delusionally influenced thinking but of relatively moderate behavior and thus tended to avoid hospitalization and the direct attention of psychiatrists,” Nash wrote.

    “Thus further time passed. Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.”

  • John Forbes Nash, 1928–2015
    On the evening before the award ceremony John Nash was introduced to World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. You can watch a video of the encounter in this NRK report. Nash says that he encouraged his son (who was also diagnosed with schizophrenia, to play chess and asks Magnus whether he thinks the game could be good for mental health. "I think it keeps the mind active, I suppose," replies Magnus, who goes on to sign a chessboard for Nash.
  • Eisgruber: Princeton saddened over reported deaths of John Nash and wife
    The University community is "stunned and saddened" upon hearing news reports that Princeton mathematician John Nash and his wife, Alicia, were killed in a traffic accident, President Christopher L. Eisgruber said Sunday.
  • A Beautiful Mind, an Amazing Couple: Community Mourns the Loss of John and Alicia Nash
    It was common for Princeton area residents to see John Nash taking his beloved Dinky train between his home in Princeton Junction and downtown Princeton. At 86, he was still a daily fixture on the Princeton University campus and was often seen in the Princeton U Store.
  • The Lost Years of a Nobel Laureate
    Then came what Professor Kuhn calls "a miraculous remission." And as happens, for reasons unknown, in the case of some people with schizophrenia, it was not, according to Mrs. Nash or Mrs. Legg, due to any drug or treatment.

    "It's just a question of living a quiet life," said Mrs. Nash.

    The most dramatic sign of that remission, perhaps, is that Mr. Nash was able to do mathematics again.

  • Nash and the NSA
    Not only did John Nash think about computation and cryptography, there are many ideas in these letters that were a bit ahead of their time when Nash sent these letters in 1955.
    • Expressing a cryptographic process as a Boolean function with input bits.
    • Breaking the cryptographic system as a function of the key length.
    • Exponential in key length as computationally hard and polynomial in key length is computationally easy.
  • National Cryptologic Museum Opens New Exhibit on Dr. John Nash
    The National Cryptologic Museum's newest exhibit, "An Inquisitive Mind: John Nash Letters," features copies of correspondence between Dr. Nash and the National Security Agency (NSA) from the 1950s when he was developing his ideas on an encryption-decryption machine.

I don't take taxi rides often, but I must try to train myself to put on my seat belt even in the taxi.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Stephen Curry is playing at an astonishing level

I was never a good basketball player, but I love to watch the game; I think it is the best televised sport.

And Stephen Curry is playing at a simply astonishing level.

The last time I saw a player playing at this level, it was 1991, and his name was Michael Jordan.

They're very different players, but Curry is really doing something remarkable.

Oh, and by the way: Curry's current coach, the one who seems to have figured out how to elevate Curry's play that final little bit until he's truly above and beyond anyone else around him on the court?

None other than Steve Kerr, who was Jordan's teammate during the great "3-peat" years of 1995-1997.

Astonishing talent, coupled with a superb coach: total joy to behold.

This is why sports, when it finds that magical something, is the most fascinating entertainment.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stuff to read, late May edition

Happy Memorial Day, a little bit in advance.

  • Silicon Valley Is a Big Fat Lie
    What was once a land of upstarts and rebels is now being led by the money-hungry and the unspirited. Which is why we have a start-up that mails your dog curated treats and an app that says "Yo." The brightest minds in tech just lately seem more concerned with silly business ideas and innocuous "disruption," all for the shot at an immense payday. And when our country's smartest people are working on the dumbest things, we all lose out.

    That gap between the Silicon Valley that enriches the world and the Silicon Valley that wastes itself on the trivial is widening daily. And one of the biggest contributing factors is that the Valley has lost touch with reality by subscribing to its own self-congratulatory mythmaking.

  • Google systems guru explains why containers are the future of computing
    Inktomi and also early Google ended up using essentially a Unix process model and doing everything in terms of processes, running many processes on the same piece of hardware. In fact, Google didn’t use virtual machines really at all until it started doing some corporate stuff where it wanted to run third-party things. But all the internal stuff never used VMs.
  • A Repository with 44 Years of Unix Evolution
    The evolution of the Unix operating system is made available as a version-control repository, covering the period from its inception in 1972 as a five thousand line kernel, to 2015 as a widely-used 26 million line system. The repository contains 659 thousand commits and 2306 merges.
  • Microsoft, Salesforce talks fizzled over price: Sources
    The deal envisioned Microsoft using a significant portion of its $95 billion cash pile to pay for Salesforce, but there was discussion of allowing Benioff to roll his 5.7 percent stake in Salesforce into Microsoft stock, while other shareholders would have gotten paid in cash. Benioff would have had a management role at Microsoft under the deal, according to people close to the talks.
  • Top 10 data mining algorithms in plain English
    Once you know what they are, how they work, what they do and where you can find them, my hope is you’ll have this blog post as a springboard to learn even more about data mining.
  • Why should I have written ZeroMQ in C, not C++ (part I)
    While the possibility to handle the exceptions differently in different contexts may seem appealing at the first sight, it quickly turns into a nightmare.

    As you fix individual bugs you'll find out that you are replicating almost the same error handling code in many places. Adding a new function call to the code introduces that possibility that different types of exceptions will bubble up to the calling function where there are not yet properly handled. Which means new bugs.

  • Why should I have written ZeroMQ in C, not C++ (part II)
    The real reason why any C++ programmer won't design the list in the C way is that the design breaks the encapsulation principle: The implementer of the "person" class has to know that its instances will be eventually stored in "people" list. Moreover, if a 3rd party chooses to store it in a different list, the implementation of the person would have to be change. This is an anti-pattern that OO programmers learned to avoid.

    However, if we can't place the "prev" and "next" fields into "person" class, we have to put them elsewhere. Thus, there's no other option but to allocate a helper object, the way std::list<> does.

  • Don’t Stack Your Log On My Log
    Our work investigates the impacts to performance and endurance in flash when multiple layers of log-structured applications and file systems are layered on top of a log-structured flash device. We show that multiple log layers affects sequentiality and increases write pressure to flash devices through randomization of workloads, unaligned segment sizes, and uncoordinated multi-log garbage collection. All of these effects can combine to negate the intended positive affects of using a log.
  • How Could a Flash Cache Degrade Database Performance Rather Than Improve It? Lessons to be Learnt from Multi-Tiered Storage
    Contrary to intuition, host-side flash caches can degrade performance rather than improve it. With flash write operations being expensive, cache hit-rates need to be relatively high to offset the overhead of writes. Otherwise, the end-to-end performance could be worse with flash cache.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Apache status changes

Among other things, I realized that I'm coming up on my 9th year as an Apache committer, my 8th year as a participant in the Google Summer of Code, and my 11th year, overall, being a part of the open source community at the Apache Software Foundation.

And now there's another change, as I'm now in the (largely administrative, but still interesting) new role: "Chair, Apache DB project."

I'm following in a long list of Apache DB chairs: Rick Hillegas, Jean Anderson, Kristian Waagan, Myrna van Lunteren, others whose history I'm unaware of).

As I said above, it's really just an administrative thing, but there you go: Who runs the ASF? (search for Apache DB)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Google Summer of Code 2015 is underway!

This is the 10th year of the Google Summer of Code, though I have only participated in 7 years, I believe. (It would have been my 8th year, but one year I messed up the paperwork and had to miss that year.)

This year, I'm pleased to be working with Abhinav Gupta, who is studying Information Technology at Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad, India.

This summer, we will be working on fixing some of the open bugs in Apache Derby.

Derby is a very mature and sophisticated piece of software by now, and all the easy bugs have been fixed.

Which is fine with us; fixing the hard bugs is fun, too, and there's always more to learn!

Here's to a successful summer for all the Google Summer of Code participants.

Dean Potter died

Not a lot of information, but I guess it's pretty clear what happened, in broad strokes: Dean Potter Killed in BASE-Jumping Accident

Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) initiated a hasty search, but the rangers were unable to locate the pair overnight. Potter and Hunt had been attempting to fly along terrain that required them to clear a notch in a rocky ridgeline. “It’s kind of a trickier flight to go through this notch,” Gauthier says. On Sunday morning, a state police helicopter was able to spot both bodies from the air. No parachutes had been deployed. Two rangers were then airlifted to the site to perform the recovery.

It would appear that Clif Bar was accurate in their assessment of his activities.

There's more, if you don't already know who Dean Potter is, everywhere. The National Geographic Adventurer's Blog has this: Pioneering Climber Dean Potter Killed in Wingsuit BASE Jumping Accident

An observer shooting photos of Hunt and Potter’s flight reported hearing two disconcerting, loud sounds in succession that suggested impact—but also could have been parachute deployment.

What a shame.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Details, details

I pre-ordered Seveneves.

I thought it came on May 15th.

My bad.

It will arrive on May 19th.

Just a few more days to wait.