Archive for the Books Category

Moon over Soho [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2014 by xi'an

London by Delta, Dec. 14, 2011

A book from the pile I brought back from Gainesville. And the first I read, mostly during the trip back to Paris. Both because I was eager to see the sequel to Rivers of London and because it was short and easy to carry in a pocket.

“From the figures I have, I believe that two to three jazz musicians have died within twenty-four hours of playing a gig in the Greater London area in the last year.”
“I take it that’s statistically significant?

Moon over Soho is the second installment in the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. It would not read well on its own as it takes over when Rivers of London stopped. Even though it reintroduces most of the rules of this magical universe. Most characters are back (except for the hostaged Beverly) and they are trying to cope with what happened in the first installment. The story is even more centred on jazz than in the first volume, with as a corollary, Peter Grant’s parents taking a more important part in the book. The recovering Leslie is hardly seen (for obvious reasons) and heard, which leaves a convenient hole in Grant’s sentimental life! The book also introduces a major magical villein who will undoubtedly figures in the incoming books. Another great story, even though the central plot has a highly predictable ending, and even more end of the ending, and some parts sound like repetitions of similar parts in the first volume. But the tone, the pace, the style, the humour, the luv’ of Lundun, all are there and so it is all that matter! (I again bemoan the missing map of London!)

Le Monde puzzle [#887quater]

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by xi'an

And yet another resolution of this combinatorics Le Monde mathematical puzzle: that puzzle puzzled many more people than usual! This solution is by Marco F, using a travelling salesman representation and existing TSP software.

N is a golden number if the sequence {1,2,…,N} can be reordered so that the sum of any consecutive pair is a perfect square. What are the golden numbers between 1 and 25?

For instance, take n=199, you should first calculate the “friends”. Save them on a symmetric square matrix:

m1 <- matrix(Inf, nrow=199, ncol=199)
diag(m1) <- 0
for (i in 1:199) m1[i,friends[i]] <- 1

Export the distance matrix to a file (in TSPlib format):

tsp <- TSP(m1)
write_TSPLIB(tsp, "f199.TSPLIB")

And use a solver to obtain the results. The best solver for TSP is Concorde. There are online versions where you can submit jobs:

0 2 1000000
2 96 1000000
96 191 1000000
191 168 1000000

The numbers of the solution are in the second column (2, 96, 191, 168…). And they are 0-indexed, so you have to add 1 to them:

3  97 192 169 155 101 188 136 120  49 176 148 108 181 143 113 112  84  37  63 18  31  33  88168 193  96 160 129 127 162 199  90  79 177 147  78  22 122 167 194 130  39 157  99 190 13491 198  58  23  41 128 196  60  21 100 189 172 152 73 183 106  38 131 125 164 197  59 110 146178 111 145  80  20  61 135 121  75  6  94 195166 123 133 156  69  52 144  81  40   9  72 184  12  24  57  87  82 62  19  45  76 180 109 116 173 151  74  26  95 161 163 126  43 153 17154  27 117 139  30  70  11  89 107 118 138 186103  66 159 165 124 132  93  28   8  17  32  45  44  77 179 182 142  83  86  14  50 175 114 55 141 115  29  92 104 185  71  10  15  34   27  42 154 170 191  98 158  67 102 187 137 119 25  56 65  35  46 150 174  51  13  68  53  47 149 140  85  36  64 105  16  48

Le Monde puzzle [#887ter]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on November 27, 2014 by xi'an

Here is a graph solution to the recent combinatorics Le Monde mathematical puzzle, proposed by John Shonder:

N is a golden number if the sequence {1,2,…,N} can be reordered so that the sum of any consecutive pair is a perfect square. What are the golden numbers between 1 and 25?

Consider an undirected graph GN with N vertices labelled 1 through N. Draw an edge between vertices i and j if and only if i + j is a perfect square. Then N is golden if GN contains a Hamiltonian path — that is, if there is a connected path that visits all of the vertices exactly once.g25I wrote a program (using Mathematica, though I’m sure there must be an R library with similar functionality) that builds up G sequentially and checks at each step whether the graph contains a Hamiltonian path. The program starts with G1 — a single vertex and no edges. Then it adds vertex 2. G2 has no edges, so 2 isn’t golden.

Adding vertex 3, there is an edge between 1 and 3. But vertex 2 is unconnected, so we’re still not golden.

The results are identical to yours, but I imagine my program runs a bit faster. Mathematica contains a built-in function to test for the existence of a Hamiltonian path.

g36Some of the graphs are interesting. I include representations of G25 and G36. Note that G36 contains a Hamiltonian cycle, so you could arrange the integers 1 … 36 on a roulette wheel such that each consecutive pair adds to a perfect square.

A somewhat similar problem:

Call N a “leaden” number if the sequence {1,2, …, N} can be reordered so that the sum of any consecutive pair is a prime number. What are the leaden numbers between 1 and 100? What about an arrangement such that the absolute value of the difference between any two consecutive numbers is prime?

[The determination of the leaden numbers was discussed in a previous Le Monde puzzle post.]

prayers and chi-square

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on November 25, 2014 by xi'an

One study I spotted in Richard Dawkins’ The God delusion this summer by the lake is a study of the (im)possible impact of prayer over patient’s recovery. As a coincidence, my daughter got this problem in her statistics class of last week (my translation):

1802 patients in 6 US hospitals have been divided into three groups. Members in group A was told that unspecified religious communities would pray for them nominally, while patients in groups B and C did not know if anyone prayed for them. Those in group B had communities praying for them while those in group C did not. After 14 days of prayer, the conditions of the patients were as follows:

  • out of 604 patients in group A, the condition of 249 had significantly worsened;
  • out of 601 patients in group B, the condition of 289 had significantly worsened;
  • out of 597 patients in group C, the condition of 293 had significantly worsened.

 Use a chi-square procedure to test the homogeneity between the three groups, a significant impact of prayers, and a placebo effect of prayer.

This may sound a wee bit weird for a school test, but she is in medical school after all so it is a good way to enforce rational thinking while learning about the chi-square test! (Answers: [even though the data is too sparse to clearly support a decision, esp. when using the chi-square test!] homogeneity and placebo effect are acceptable assumptions at level 5%, while the prayer effect is not [if barely].)

an ABC experiment

Posted in Books, pictures, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2014 by xi'an


ABCmadIn a cross-validated forum exchange, I used the code below to illustrate the working of an ABC algorithm:

#normal data with 100 observations
#observed summaries

#normal x gamma prior


  prior=priori(N) #reference table

  for (i in 1:N){
   summ[i,]=c(median(xi),mad(xi)) #summaries

  #normalisation factor for the distance

Hence I used the median and the mad as my summary statistics. And the outcome is rather surprising, for two reasons: the first one is that the posterior on the mean μ is much wider than when using the mean and the variance as summary statistics. This is not completely surprising in that the latter are sufficient, while the former are not. Still, the (-10,10) range on the mean is way larger… The second reason for surprise is that the true posterior distribution cannot be derived since the joint density of med and mad is unavailable.

sufvsinsufAfter thinking about this for a while, I went back to my workbench to check the difference with using mean and variance. To my greater surprise, I found hardly any difference! Using the almost exact ABC with 10⁶ simulations and a 5% subsampling rate returns exactly the same outcome. (The first row above is for the sufficient statistics (mean,standard deviation) while the second row is for the (median,mad) pair.) Playing with the distance does not help. The genuine posterior output is quite different, as exposed on the last row of the above, using a basic Gibbs sampler since the posterior is not truly conjugate.

Challis Lectures

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2014 by xi'an


I had a great time during this short visit in the Department of Statistics, University of Florida, Gainesville. First, it was a major honour to be the 2014 recipient of the George H. Challis Award and I considerably enjoyed delivering my lectures on mixtures and on ABC with random forests, And chatting with members of the audience about the contents afterwards. Here is the physical award I brought back to my office:


More as a piece of trivia, here is the amount of information about the George H. Challis Award I found on the UF website:

This fund was established in 2000 by Jack M. and Linda Challis Gill and the Gill Foundation of Texas, in memory of Linda’s father, to support faculty and student conference travel awards and the George Challis Biostatistics Lecture Series. George H. Challis was born on December 8, 1911 and was raised in Italy and Indiana. He was the first cousin of Indiana composer Cole Porter. George earned a degree in 1933 from the School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington. George passed away on May 6, 2000. His wife, Madeline, passed away on December 14, 2009.

Cole Porter, indeed!

On top of this lecturing activity, I had a full academic agenda, discussing with most faculty members and PhD students of the Department, on our respective research themes over the two days I was there and it felt like there was not enough time! And then, during the few remaining hours where I did not try to stay on French time (!), I had a great time with my friends Jim and Maria in Gainesville, tasting a fantastic local IPA beer from Cigar City Brewery and several great (non-local) red wines… Adding to that a pile of new books, a smooth trip both ways, and a chance encounter with Alicia in Atlanta airport, it was a brilliant extended weekend!

a pile of new books

Posted in Books, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2014 by xi'an

IMG_2663I took the opportunity of my weekend trip to Gainesville to order a pile of books on amazon, thanks to my amazon associate account (and hence thanks to all Og’s readers doubling as amazon customers!). The picture above is missing two  Rivers of London volumes by Ben Aaraonovitch that I already read and left at the office. And reviewed in incoming posts. Among those,

(Obviously, all “locals” sharing my taste in books are welcome to borrow those in a very near future!)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 706 other followers