## unusual view of my office [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by xi'an

## the end of travel?

Posted in Books, Linux, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by xi'an

First came the bad news that travelling [by plane] with any electronic device larger than a small cell phone would be prohibited unless the device was checked in. I first thought this was a sort of weird protectionism for American airlines, since only Middle-East carriers seem to be impacted at the moment, but there are serious hints this could soon be extended to all flights to the USA. And to the UK. And likely to about every flight in a near future. That is fairly annoying and more, not only because it hugely reduces the ability to work on a plane [unless carrying paper printouts of every paper one wanted to read or review during a long flight, until this is as well considered as a fire hazard!], but mostly because quite likely these electronic devices in checked-in bags will be damaged or stolen. So the only convenient [least inconvenient] solution may be to stop travelling with laptops and operate on remote or cheap disposable machines from whenever one is. Since I presume even the smallest PCs like Raspberry Pi’s will be banned at some point. The only good news are for computer companies. And book sellers maybe.On top of this, I learned that the UK has [again!] copied the US in requiring visitors and even its own citizens to open devices to Border or Customs officers. And to disclose social media identities and associated passwords. A British Human Rights activist was recently arrested at London Heathrow for refusing to do so. And I read today that divulging those media IDs are now optional on the visa waiver program and possibly soon to be compulsory. Which sounds insane as a way to fight terrorism as it is obvious to set parallel accounts. And yet another travel nuisance.

At some point in the past, I had mused that we would soon be forced to travel with no personal item, maybe not even our own clothes, but a uniform provided by the airline. With luggages on a drone plane following by a safe margin. The invasion of privacy now contemplated and soon implemented by states that do not any longer seem concerned with Human Right goes way beyond this fantasy scenario. If travelling between countries means a massive reduction of one’s rights and dignity [which is already quite reduced under the current conditions], travelling may soon become a rare occurrence…

## ignorami rule

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by xi'an

There has already been many blog entries [incl. Andrew’s] on that story of a plane passenger calling security about a neighbour solving differential equations next seat and many jokes will certainly stem from it. My closest encounter with such a passenger was a while ago, when flying to Manchester for a visit to Lancaster, when the man next to me suddenly asked if I was working on particle physics because he would not tolerate it. Or something like this. As I did not want to get arrested upon arrival I refrained from smashing his head into the seat and muttered something indistinct between a curse and a comment that this was statistics, but I now regret I had not confronted this holier-than-thou (to keep polite) attitude! This story also reminds me of another flight, from Montpelier to Paris, when I was discussing ABC with Jean-Michel Marin and Jean-Marie Cornuet, when an AF flight attendant came by and added an x at random in one of my equations! This did not solve the problem but we had a good laugh and did not end up questioned by security!

Anyway, my reaction to this PDE (or is it ODE?!) scandal is of a more sombre tone: I find the fact that airline personal paid any attention to the complaint deeply worrying. Rather that dismissing the worries of this ignorant (or myopic) passenger [and possibly contacting a psychiatrist], they called security and the PDE had to be produced before the economics professor could resume his seat and the flight take off… This incident shows both (i) a trend in irrationality (if associating maths equations with terrorist threat) or ignorance (if confusing maths equation with Arabic writing), not to mention xenophobia and (ii) a readiness of companies and administrations to pester, detain, question and bother anyone with any exotic characteristics. Including solving PDEs or even trying to. [But what can we expect when bottled water or orange marmalade is treated as a potential threat by security checks?] Beside sticking to writing maths in my notebook when I travel, I think I should start signalling to flight attendants truly irrational behaviours of my fellow passengers, like reading newspapers that seem solely concerned by the anatomy of reality TV shows or muttering prayers to a deity at take-off and landing…

## partly virtual meetings

Posted in Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2014 by xi'an

A few weeks ago, I read in the NYT an article about the American Academy of Religion cancelling its 2021 annual meeting as a sabbatical year, for environmental reasons.

“We could choose to not meet at a huge annual meeting in which we take over a city. Every year, each participant going to the meeting uses a quantum of carbon that is more than considerable. Air travel, staying in hotels, all of this creates a way of living on the Earth that is carbon intensive. It could be otherwise.”

While I am not in the least interested in the conference or in the topics covered by this society or yet in the benevolent religious activities suggested as a substitute, the notion of cancelling the behemoths that are our national and international academic meetings holds some appeal. I have posted several times on the topic, especially about JSM, and I have no clear and definitive answer to the question. Still, there lies a lack of efficiency on top of the environmental impact that we could and should try to address. As I was thinking of those issues in the past week, I made another of my numerous “carbon footprints” by attending NIPS across the Atlantic for two workshops than ran in parallel with about twenty others. And hence could have taken place in twenty different places. Albeit without the same exciting feeling of constant intellectual simmering. And without the same mix of highly interactive scholars from all over the planet. (Although the ABC in Montréal workshop seemed predominantly European!) Since workshops are in my opinion the most profitable type of meeting, I would like to experiment with a large meeting made of those (focussed and intense) workshops in such a way that academics would benefit without travelling long distances across the World. One idea would be to have local nodes where a large enough group of researchers could gather to attend video-conferences given from any of the other nodes and to interact locally in terms of discussions and poster presentations. This should even increase the feedback on selected papers as small groups would more readily engage into discussing and criticising papers than a huge conference room. If we could build a World-wide web (!) of such nodes, we could then dream of a non-stop conference, with no central node, no gigantic conference centre, no terrifying beach-ressort…

## Off from Cancun [los scientificos Maya]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by xi'an

The flight back from ISBA 2014 was not as smooth as the flight in: it took one hour for the shuttle to take us to the airport thanks to a driver posing as a touristic guide [who needs a guide when going home?!] and droning on and on about Cancún and the Maya heritage [as far as I could guess from his Spanish]. Learning at the airport that out flight to Mexico City was delayed, then too delayed for us to make the connection, with no hotel room available there, then suggesting to the desk personal every possible European city to learn the flight had left or was about to leave, missing London by an hair, thanks to our droning friend on the scientific Mayas, and eventually being bused to the hotel airport, too far from the last poster session we could have attended!, and leaving early the next morning to Atlanta and then Paris. Which means we could have stayed for most of the remaining sessions and been back home at about the same time…

## simulating determinantal processes

Posted in Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2013 by xi'an

In the plane to Atlanta, I happened to read a paper called Efficient simulation of the Ginibre point process by Laurent Decreusefond, Ian Flint, and Anaïs Vergne (from Telecom Paristech). “Happened to” as it was a conjunction of getting tipped by my new Dauphine colleague (and fellow blogger!) Djalil Chaffaï about the paper, having downloaded it prior to departure, and being stuck in a plane (after watching the only Chinese [somewhat] fantasy movie onboard, Saving General Yang).

This is mostly a mathematics paper. While indeed a large chunk of it is concerned with the rigorous definition of this point process in an abstract space, the last part is about simulating such processes. They are called determinantal (and not detrimental as I was tempted to interpret on my first read!) because the density of an n-set (x1x2,…,xn) is given by a kind of generalised Vandermonde determinant

$p(x_1,\ldots,x_n) = \dfrac{1}{n!} \text{det} \left( T(x_i,x_j) \right)$

where T is defined in terms of an orthonormal family,

$T(x,y) = \sum_{i=1}^n \psi_i(x) \overline{\psi_i(y)}.$

(The number n of points can be simulated via an a.s. finite Bernoulli process.) Because of this representation, the sequence of conditional densities for the xi‘s (i.e. x1, x2 given x1, etc.) can be found in closed form. In the special case of the Ginibre process, the ψi‘s are of the form

$\psi_i(z) =z^m \exp\{-|z|^2/2\}/\sqrt{\pi m!}$

and the process cannot be simulated for it has infinite mass, hence an a.s. infinite number of points. Somehow surprisingly (as I thought this was the point of the paper), the authors then switch to a truncated version of the process that always has a fixed number N of points. And whose density has the closed form

$p(x_1,\ldots,x_n) = \dfrac{1}{\pi^N} \prod_i \frac{1}{i!} \exp\{-|z_i|^2/2\}\prod_{i

It has an interestingly repulsive quality in that points cannot get close to one another. (It reminded me of the pinball sampler proposed by Kerrie Mengersen and myself at one of the Valencia meetings and not pursued since.) The conclusion (of this section) is anticlimactic, though,  in that it is known that this density also corresponds to the distribution of the eigenvalues of an Hermitian matrix with standardized complex Gaussian entries. The authors mentions that the fact that the support is the whole complex space Cn is a difficulty, although I do not see why.

The following sections of the paper move to the Ginibre process restricted to a compact and then to the truncated Ginibre process restricted to a compact, for which the authors develop corresponding simulation algorithms. There is however a drag in that the sequence of conditionals, while available in closed-form, cannot be simulated efficiently but rely on a uniform accept-reject instead. While I am certainly missing most of the points in the paper, I wonder if a Gibbs sampler would not be an interesting alternative given that the full (last) conditional is a Gaussian density…

## over Greenland

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , on October 30, 2013 by xi'an