Archive for Besancon

trip to Besançon (and the stars)

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2012 by xi'an

Today, I made a quick TGV trip to Besançon, in French Jura, to give a seminar to astronomers and physicists, in connection with the Gaia project I had mentioned earlier. I gave my talk straight out of the train and then we started discussing MCMC and ABC for the astronomy problems my guests face. To my surprise, I discovered that they do run some local form of ABC, using their own statistics and distances to validate simulation from the (uniform) prior on their parameter space. The discussion went far enough to take a peek under the hood, namely to look at some Fortran programs they are running (and make suggestions for acceleration and adaptation). It is quite interesting to see that ABC is actually a natural approach when people face complex likelihoods and that, while they construct appropriate tools, they feel somehow uncertain about the validation of those methods and are unaware of very similar tools in other fields. In addition to this great day of exchange, I had several hours of freedom in the train (and a plug) to work on the bayess package for Bayesian Essentials (not dead yet!). Here are my slides, pot-pourri of earlier talks. (Including the one on cosmology model choice in Vancouver.)

Observatoire de Besançon (#2)

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , on November 24, 2012 by xi'an

Observatoire de Besançon

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , on November 24, 2012 by xi'an


Beyond the acceptable…

Posted in University life with tags , , on May 22, 2009 by xi'an

I came across this video yesterday about an exam at the Université de Besancon being interrupted by a group of students, calling themselves the Brigade de la Grève (the strike brigade) who systematically block exams across the campus to enforce their call for a “neutral” semester (meaning that everyone would get their credits for this semester without any grade)…

I find this story quite appalling in that a self-nominated committee can decide to stop exams on the basis they are on strike and so should the other students and so should the professors. I am also quite relieved this has not happened to me because I do not think I would react as moderately as the professor in the video

That this professor has to justify his action (of organising an exam) to the gang of half-articulate brigadiers (or that one student seriously finds it amazing that he could go against the decisions of the general assembly) is reminding me of China’s “cultural revolution” where Red Guards would bring their teacher to volunteer their auto-criticism. (The very denomination “Brigade” stinks of a para-military orientation!) This is the final step in an escalation of protests where others´ opinion can no longer be respected, as also shown by the numerous blockades/pickets organised by students on strike or calls to boycott Le Monde because the journal was not sufficiently favourable to the protests… Actually, given the discourse of the students in the video, I am not certain they have any higher goal than expressing a general protest against the current government.