Archive for Cédric Villani

the decline of the French [maths] empire

Posted in Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , on December 16, 2017 by xi'an

In Le Monde edition of Nov 5, an article on the difficulty of maths departments to attract students, especially in master programs and in the training of secondary school maths teachers (Agrégation & CAPES), where the number of candidates usually does not reach the number of potential positions… And also on the deep changes in the training of secondary school pupils, who over the past five years have lost a considerable amount of maths bases and hence are found missing when entering the university level. (Or, put otherwise, have a lower level in maths that implies a strong modification of our own programs and possibly the addition of an extra year or at least semester to the bachelor degree…) For instance, a few weeks ago, I realised for instance that my third year class had little idea of a conditional density and teaching measure theory at this level becomes more and more of a challenge!

weapons of math destruction [fan]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2017 by xi'an

As a [new] member of Parliement, Cédric Villani is now in charge of a committee on artificial intelligence, which goal is to assess the positive and negative sides of AI. And refers in Le Monde interview below to Weapons of Maths Destruction as impacting his views on the topic! Let us hope Superintelligence is no next on his reading list…

Cédric Villani elected

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by xi'an

GG Day in Rouen

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2017 by xi'an

[Notice: This post is fairly “local” in that it is about a long-time friend being celebrated by his university. Nice poster though and an opportunity to stress his essential contributions to the maths department there!]

Next June, I will spend the day in Rouen for a conference celebrating the career and dedication of Gérard Grancher to mathematics and the maths department there. (When I got invited I had not realised I was to give the research talk of the day!) Gérard Granger is a CNRS engineer and a statistician who is indissociable from the maths department in Rouen, where he spent his whole career, now getting quite close to [mandatory] retirement! I am very happy to take part in this celebration as Gérard has always been an essential component of the department there, driving the computer structure, reorganising the library, disseminating the fun of doing maths to high schools around and to the general public, and always a major presence in the department,  whom I met when I started my PhD there (!) Working on the local computers in Pascal and typing my thesis with scientific word (!!)

career advices by Cédric Villani

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2017 by xi'an

Le Monde has launched a series of tribunes proposing career advices from 35 personalities, among whom this week (Jan. 4, 2017) Cédric Villani. His suggestion for younger generations is to invest in artificial intelligence and machine learning. While acknowledging this still is a research  topic, then switching to robotics [although this is mostly a separate. The most powerful advice in this interview is to start with a specialisation when aiming at a large spectrum of professional opportunities, gaining the opening from exchanges with people and places. And cultures. Concluding with a federalist statement I fully share.

introduction à la Statistique, by Cédric Villani

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by xi'an

crossing Rue Soufflot on my way to IHP from Vieux Campeur, March 28, 2013On Tuesday, there was a series of talks (in French) celebrating Statistics, with an introduction by Cédric Villani. (The talks are reproduced on the French Statistical Society (SFDS) webpage.) Rather unpredictably (!), Villani starts from an early 20th Century physics experiment leading to the estimation of the Avogadro constant from a series of integers. (Repeating an earlier confusion of his, he substitutes the probability of observing a rare event under the null with the probability of the alternative on the Higgs boson to be true!) A special mention to/of Francis Galton’s “supreme law of unreason”. And of surveys, pointing out the wide variability of a result for standard survey populations. But missing the averaging and more statistical effect of accumulating surveys, a principle at the core of Nate Silver‘s predictions. A few words again about the Séralini et al. experiments on Monsanto genetically modified maize NK603, attacked for their lack of statistical foundations. And then, hear hear!, much more than a mere mention of phylogenetic inference, with explanations about inverse inference, Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithms on trees, convergence of Metropolis algorithms by Persi Diaconis, and Bayesian computations! Of course, this could be seen more as numerical probability than as truly statistics, but it is still pleasant to hear.

The last part of the talk more predictably links Villani’s own field of optimal transportation (which I would translate as a copula problem…) and statistics, mostly understood as empirical distributions. I find it somewhat funny that Sanov’s theorem is deemed therein to be a (or even the) Statistics theorem! I wonder how many statisticians could state this theorem… The same remark applies for the Donsker-Varadhan theory of large deviations. Still, the very final inequality linking the three types of information concepts is just… beautiful! You may spot in the last minute a micro confusion in repeating twice the definition for Fisher’s information rather than deducing that the information associated with a location family is constant. (And a no-so-necessary mention of the Cramer-Rao bound on unbiased estimators. Which could have been quoted as the Fréchet-Darmois-Cramer-Rao bound in such historical grounds ) A pleasant moment, all in all! (There are five other talks on that page, including one by Emmanuel Candés.)

comment j’ai détesté les maths [teaser]

Posted in Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , on December 12, 2013 by xi'an

A (French) documentary film about maths just came out on French screens this week, here is the preview/teaser (with English translation or subtitles):

I have not seen {comment j’ai détesté les maths} (and do not plan to!) as this movie/documentary seems to centre on a few exotic characters like Cédric Villani and to blame the subprime crisis on the mathematical modelling used in constructing complex financial products, so cannot see how this could improve the vision outsiders have of mathematics. Rather than of  mathematicians. And I have always hated the joke on the film poster (“Find X. Here it is!”), joke that adorns too many office doors in maths departments all over the World…