## the Ramanujan machine

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2021 by xi'an

Nature of 4 Feb. 2021 offers a rather long (Nature-like) paper on creating Ramanujan-like expressions using an automated process. Associated with a cover in the first pages. The purpose of the AI is to generate conjectures of Ramanujan-like formulas linking famous constants like π or e and algebraic formulas like the novel polynomial continued fraction of 8/π²:

$\frac{8}{{{\rm{\pi }}}^{2}}=1-\frac{2\times {1}^{4}-{1}^{3}}{7-\frac{2\times {2}^{4}-{2}^{3}}{19-\frac{2\times {3}^{4}-{3}^{3}}{37-\frac{2\times {4}^{4}-{4}^{3}}{\ldots }}}}$

which currently remains unproven. The authors of the “machine” provide Python code that one can run to try uncover new conjectures, possibly named after the discoverer! The article is spending a large proportion of its contents to justify the appeal of generating such conjectures, with several unsuspected formulas later proven for real, but I remain unconvinced of the deeper appeal of the machine (as well as unhappy about the association of Ramanujan and machine, since S. Ramanujan had a mystical and unexplained relation to numbers, defeating Hardy’s logic,  “a mathematician of the highest quality, a man of altogether exceptional originality and power”). The difficulty is in separating worthwhile from anecdotal (true) conjectures, not to mention wrng conjectures. This is certainly of much deeper interest than separating chihuahua faces from blueberry muffins, but does it really “help to create mathematical knowledge”?

## can you spare a dime? [or rather 113,900?]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2020 by xi'an

Just read the announcement in Nature of 24 November that

Publisher Springer Nature has announced how scientists can make their papers in its most selective titles free to read as soon as they are published.

which is presented as a great advance to make scientific papers available for all to read. The catch is that there is no free lunch, obviously, as the author(s) have to pay Springer a 1,514,324.68 krónur charge for immediate open access! The Nature article does mention the issue obviously, as this is such a huge amount of money that it makes publishing under such conditions inaccessible for all academics but those with sufficient funding grants. It also mentions an alternate scheme contemplated by some Nature outlets to introduce “a non-refundable fee of €2,190 to cover an editorial assessment and the peer-review process.” None of the fee going to reviewers, apparently. This “evolution” (?!) is driven by the EU Plan S for making scientific publications available to all, but it even more crucially calls for a radical reassessment of publishing policies for research that is publicly funded and publicly reviewed, then paid again by publicly funded libraries and institutions. Even more radical than India’s push for `One nation, one subscription’.

## another book on J.B.S. Haldane [review of a book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2020 by xi'an

As I noticed a NYT book review of a most recent book on J.B.S. Haldane, I realised several other books had already been written about him. From an early 1985 biography, “Haldane: the life and work of J.B.S. Haldane with special references to India” followed by a “2016 biographyPopularizing Science” along an  2009 edited book on some Haldane’s essays, “What I require from life“, all by Krishna R. Dronamraju to a 1969 biography with the cryptic title “J.B.S.“, by Richard Clarke, along with a sensational 2018 “Comrade Haldane Is Too Busy to Go on Holiday: The Genius Who Spied for Stalin” by Gavan Tredoux, depicting him as a spy for the Soviet Union during WW II. (The last author is working on a biography of Francis Galton, hopefully exonerating him of spying for the French! But a short text of him comparing Haldane and Darlington appears to support the later’s belief in racial differences in intelligence…) I also discovered that J.B.S. had written a children book, “Mr Friend Mr. Leaky“, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl’s illustrator. (Charlotte Franken Haldane, J.B.S.’s first wife, also wrote a considerable number of books.)

The NYT review is more a summary of Haldane’s life than an analysis of the book itself, hard as it is not to get mesmerised by the larger-than-life stature of J.B.S. It does not dwell very long on the time it took Haldane to break from the Communist Party for its adherence to the pseudo-science Lysenko (while his wife Charlotte had realised the repressive nature of the Soviet regime much earlier, which may have led to their divorce). While the review makes no mention at all of Haldane’s ideological move to the ISI in Kolkata, it concludes with “for all his failings, he was “deeply attractive during a time of shifting, murky moralities.”” [The double quotes being the review quoting the book!]

## enjoy a cuppa for International Tea Day

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2020 by xi'an

## fake conference

Posted in Books, Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2019 by xi'an

One of my (former) master students approached me last week for support to attend an AI conference in London next May, as he had been invited there as a speaker with the prospect of publishing a paper in an AI journal. And very excited about it. As the letter of invitation definitely sounded fake to me and as Conference Series LLC did not seem connected to anything scientific, I had a quick check whether or not this was another instance of predatory conference and indeed the organisation is an outlet of the (in)famous OMICS International company. Setting conferences all around the year and all around the world by charging participants a significant amount and cramming all speakers on potentially any topic in the same room of a suburban motel (near Heathrow in that case). It is somewhat surprising that they still manage to capture victims but if they aim wide enough to cover students like the one who contacted me and had no idea of the possibility of such scams, no wonder the operation is still running. Coincidence, I was reading a news article in Nature, while in Seoul, that “South Korea’s education ministry wants to stop academics from participating in conferences that it considers “weak” and of little academic value”. I hope it works better than India’s earlier attempt at banning publications in predatory journals.