Archive for France Culture

Claire Voisin’s CNRS Gold Medal

Posted in pictures, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2016 by xi'an

voisatrLast week, I attended the award ceremony of the Gold Medal of the French Scientific Research Council, which may well be the most prestigious scientific award in the country. It was awarded this year to Claire Voisin who is a specialist in algebraic geometry.

While I ended up in the meeting by the chance occurrence of Jean-Michel Marin visiting me, it was an impressive event with great talks from Claire Voisin (with a poetic praise of the complex exponential) and the CRNS Head, Alain Fuchs, but also quite enjoyable and mostly a-political discourses from the two Ministers attending the ceremony, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Thierry Mandon, who both mixed quotes from classics with some appreciation of Claire Voisin’s work. Even if one may suspect that those discourses were not (completely) written by the speakers (even though Mandon went looking for a Zweig’s quote during the meeting and ended up reading it from his phone, which was clearly unrehearsed!), they were delivered with enough conviction to be, well, convincing!

voiseuxThe event took place in the Grand Amphithêatre de la Sorbonne, which looked much nicer in the evening than when I attended the IUF rentrée a few weeks ago. And the classic (19th) paintings on the walls of this part of La Sorbonne made the ensuing cocktail even more classy. (Not that we had any opportunity to mingle with the Ministers, who are most likely too risk-adverse to be drawn in potential debates on the status of [funding] French Academia and academics…)

An update: on the road to Normandy, to visit my mother, we listened to a one-hour interview of Claire Voisin on France Culture that was a very good layman introduction to the maths she works on. (In French only.)

Le Monde puzzle [#845]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by xi'an

Yet another one of those Le Monde mathematical puzzles which wording is confusing to me:

Take the set of integers between 1 and 1000. endow all of them randomly with red or blue tags. group them by subsets of three or more (grapes). and also group them by pairs so that a switch can change the colour of both integers.  Is it always possible to activate the switches so that one ends up with all grapes being multicoloured?  Unicoloured? 

I find it (again!) ultimately puzzling since there are configurations where it cannot work. In the first case, take a grape made of four integers of the same colour, reunited two by two by a switch: activating the switch simply invert the colours but the grape remains uni-coloured. Conversely, take two integers with opposite colours within the same grape. No mater how long one operates the switch, they will remain of an opposite colour, won’t they?!

This issue of Le Monde Science&Médecine leaflet actually had several interesting entries, from one on “the thirst of the sociologist for statistical irregularities“—meaning that regression should account for confounding factors like social class versus school performances—to the above picture about weighting the mass of a neutrino—mostly because it strongly reminds of Escher, as I cannot understand the 3D structure of the picture—, to  another tribune of Marco Zito informing me that “quark” is a word invented by James Joyce—and not by Carroll as I believed—, to an interview of Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscientist professor at Collège de France and a (fairly young) member of the Académie des Sciences—where he mentions statistical learning patterns that reminded me of the Bayesian constructs Pierre Bessière discussed on France Culture—.

Bayes on the radio

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2012 by xi'an

In relation with the special issue of Science & Vie on Bayes’ formula, the French national radio (France Culture) organised a round table with Pierre Bessière, senior researcher in physiology at Collège de France, Dirk Zerwas, senior researcher in particle physics in Orsay, and Hervé Poirier, editor of Science & Vie. And myself (as I was quoted in the original paper). While I am not particularly fluent in oral debates, I was interested by participating in this radio experiment, if only to bring some moderation to the hyperbolic tone found in the special issue. (As the theme was “Is there a universal mathematical formula? “, I was for a while confused about the debate, thinking that maybe the previous blogs on Stewart’s 17 Equations and Mackenzie’s Universe in Zero Words had prompted this invitation…)

As it happened [podcast link], the debate was quite moderate and reasonable, we discussed about the genesis, the dark ages, and the resurgimento of Bayesian statistics within statistics, the lack of Bayesian perspectives in the Higgs boson analysis (bemoaned by Tony O’Hagan and Dennis Lindley), and the Bayesian nature of learning in psychology. Although I managed to mention Poincaré’s Bayesian defence of Dreyfus (thanks to the Theory that would not die!), Nate Silver‘s Bayesian combination of survey results, and the role of the MRC in the MCMC revolution, I found that the information content of a one-hour show was in the end quite limited, as I would have liked to mention as well the role of Bayesian techniques in population genetic advances, like the Asian beetle invasion mentioned two weeks ago… Overall, an interesting experience, maybe not with a huge impact on the population of listeners, and a confirmation I’d better stick to the written world!