Archive for Fall

FALL [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2019 by xi'an

The “last” book I took with me to Japan is Neal Stephenson’s FALL. With subtitle “Dodge in Hell”. It shares some characters with REAMDE but nothing prevents reading it independently as a single volume. Or not reading it at all! I am rather disappointed by the book and hence  sorry I had to carry it throughout Japan and back. And slightly X’ed at Nature writing such a positive review. And at The Guardian. (There is a theme there, as I took REAMDE for a trip to India with a similar feeling at the end. Maybe the sheer weight of the book is pulling my morale down…) The most important common feature to both books is the game industry, since the main (?) character is a game company manager, who is wealthy enough to ensure the rest of the story holds some financial likelihood. And whose training as a game designer impacts the construction of the afterlife that takes a good (or rather terrible) half of the heavy volume. The long minutes leading to his untimely death are also excruciatingly rendered (with none of the experimental nature of Leopold Bloom’s morning). With the side information that Dodge suffers from ocular migraine, a nuisance that visits me pretty regularly since my teenage years! The scientific aspects of the story are not particularly exciting either, since the core concept is that by registering the entire neuronal network of the brain of individuals after their death, a computer could revive them by simulating this network. With dead people keeping their personality if very little of their memories. And even more fanciful, interacting between them and producing a signal that can be understood by (living) humans. Despite having no sensory organs. The reconstruction of a world by the simulated NNs is unbearably slow and frankly uninteresting as it reproduces both living behaviours and borrows very heavily from the great myths, mostly Greek, with no discernible depth. The living side of the story is not much better, although with a little touch of the post-apocalyptic flavour I appreciated in Stephenson. But not enough to recover from the fall.

Among other things that set me off with the book, the complete lack of connection with the massive challenges currently facing humanity. Energy crisis? climate change? Nope. Keep taking an hydroplane to get from Seattle to islands on Puget Sound? Sure. Spending abyssal amounts of energy to animate this electronic Hades? By all means. More and more brittle democracies? Who cares, the Afterworld is a pantheon where gods clash and rule lower beings. Worse, the plot never reaches beyond America, from the heavily focused philosophical or religious background to the character life trajectories. Characters are surprisingly unidimensional, with no default until they become evil. Or die. Academics are not even unidimensional. For instance Sophie’s thesis defence is at best a chat in a café… And talks at a specialist workshop switch from impressive mathematical terms to a 3D representation of the activity of the simulated neuronal networks. Whille these few individuals keep impacting the whole World for their whole life. And beyond… By comparison, the Riverworld series of Phillip José Farmer (that I read forty years ago) is much more enjoyable as a tale of the Afterworld, even if one can object at “famous” people been central to the action. At least there are more of them and, judging from their (first) life, they may have interesting and innovative to say.

Nature snapshots

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2019 by xi'an

In this 6 June issue of Nature, which I read on my way to O’Bayes, an editorial on the scary move by the WHO to incorporate traditional Chinese medicine remedies in its classification as this includes drugs made from protected and endangered species and as such remedies have not been evidence tested. A news brief on India abandoning the requirement for PhD students to get a paper published prior to been awarded the degree, presumably much to the sorrow of predatory publishers. A delay to Plan S (a European project to make all funded research freely available) reported to 21 January 2021. A review of the latest and yet unpublished book by Neal Stephenson, Fall. Which I obviously ordered immediately! A paper in the British Journal of Anasthesia published along with an independent assessment of the same study (methods and results). Some letters protesting the “public’s phobia” induced by the series Chernobyl. Which recoups an email from one of my colleagues on the same complaining theme, since “only 20 deaths” can be attributed to the disaster with certainty! A revisit of the “cold fusion” with no evidence of the claimed phenomenon that led to a scientific outcry in 1989.

O’Bayes 2019: poster deadline extension

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2019 by xi'an

For potential participants to the ISBA O’Bayes 2019 conference in Warwick next June 28 – July 02, that is, almost everyone except the participants who have already submitted!, this post is to announce that the deadline for poster submission has just been extended till March 15, to account for BNP 12 potential participants having not yet been notified of the accepted contributed sessions. Or the poster presentations there, since the same poster can be discussed at both places, by all means!  (Thank you Robin for pointing this out!) As an aside, the construction of the webpage is still under development for registration fees (low) and university accommodations (cheap), but should be out next week! (The current links are to BAYSM 2018, which took place last year, obviously.)

free fall [fake]

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2019 by xi'an

As I was looking for the location of a picture serving as a background image for Windows 10 log-in page, I came across several versions of the above, supposedly showing a climber failing to grab another climber’s hand and as a result falling. Or “falling” as the image is obviously doctored, most likely by removing the ropes securing both climbers. This is fairly ridiculous, from the top climber hanging by his hand to the bottom one carrying quickdraws on his harness, as in the worst climbing movies… Still, I wish the location of the shot was provided on the website. (As an insider joke, I had a fall when running that was definitely not fake during the Xmas vacations, scraping a fair amount of skin on the gritty sidewalk, but with no apparent lasting damage, although I am barred from running by a tendinitis which started in Warwick last month..!)

free Fall

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on September 15, 2018 by xi'an

Summer is off, Fall is back, as now the open air swimming pool has closed, the park opens too late for my schedule, shorts have all but disappeared from the streets and classrooms, the last raspberries have dried out, green tomatoes in my garden are unlikely to get any redder, the ant traps are no longer needed, the watering hose has been stored inside along the umbrella, and eating outdoors becomes a challenge, but the return from the traditional August vacation break has seen an explosion in the number of cyclists on my way to Dauphine, meaning I end up on most trips biking with (or against) other [100% nuke free] cyclists, with an improved trip duration (if not safer trips!). And no connection with the free fall tee!

art brut

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , on November 11, 2017 by xi'an

tramonto in Venezia [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by xi'an