Archive for linguistics

day five at ISBA 22

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2022 by xi'an

Woke up even earlier today! Which left me time to work on switching to Leonard Cohen’s song titles for my slide frametitles this afternoon (last talk of the whole conference!), run once again to Mon(t) Royal as all pools are closed (Happy Canada Day!, except to “freedom convoy” antivaxxxers.) Which led to me meeting a raccoon by the side of the path (and moroons feeding wildlife).

Had an exciting time at the morning session, where Giacomo Zanella (formerly Warwick) talked on a mixture approach to leave-one-out predictives, with pseudo-harmonic mean representation, averaging inverse density across all observations. Better than harmonic? Some assumptions allow for finite variance, although I am missing the deep argument (in part due to Giacomo’s machine-gun delivery pace!) Then Alicia Corbella (Warwick) presented a promising entry into PDMP by proposing an automated zig-zag sampler. Pointing out on the side to Joris Bierkens’ webpage on the state-of-the-art PDMP methodology. In this approach, joint with with my other Warwick colleagues Simon Spencer and Gareth Roberts, the zig-zag sampler relies on automatic differentiation and sub-sampling and bound derivation, with “no further information on the target needed”. And finaly Chris Carmona presented a joint work with Geoff Nicholls that is merging merging cut posteriors and variational inference to create a meta posterior. Work and talk were motivated by a nice medieval linguistic problem where the latent variables impact the (convergence of the) MCMC algorithm [as in our k-nearest neighbour experience]. Interestingly using normalising [neural spline] flows. The pseudo-posterior seems to depend very much on their modularization rate η, which penalises how much one module influences the next one.

In the aft, I attended sort of by chance [due to a missing speaker in the copula session] to the end of a session on migration modelling, with a talk by Jason Hilton and Martin Hinsch focussing on the 2015’s mass exodus of Syrians through the Mediterranean,  away from the joint evils of al-Hassad and ISIS. As this was a tragedy whose modelling I had vainly tried to contribute to, I was obviously captivated and frustrated (leaning of the IOM missing migrant project!) Fitting the agent-based model was actually using ABC, and most particularly our ABC-PMC!!!

My own and final session had Gareth (Warwick) presenting his recent work with Jun Yang and Kryzs Łatuszyński (Warwick) on the stereoscopic projection improvement over regular MCMC, which involves turning the target into a distribution supported by an hypersphere and hence considering a distribution with compact support and higher efficiency. Kryzs had explained the principle while driving back from Gregynog two months ago. The idea is somewhat similar to our origaMCMC, which I presented at MCqMC 2016 in Stanford (and never completed), except our projection was inside a ball. Looking forward the adaptive version, in the making!

And to conclude this subjective journal from the ISBA conference, borrowing this title by (Westmount born) Leonard Cohen, “Hey, that’s not a way to say goodbye”… To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, I have not interacted with at least half the participants half as much as I would have liked. But this was still a reunion, albeit in the new Normal. Hopefully, the conference will not have induced a massive COVID cluster on top of numerous scientific and social exchanges! The following days will tell. Congrats to the ISBA 2022 organisers for achieving a most successful event in these times of uncertainty. And looking forward the 2024 next edition in Ca’Foscari, Venezia!!!


neural summaries

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2019 by xi'an

Nature snapshot [Volume 539 Number 7627]

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2016 by xi'an

A number of entries of interest [to me] in that Nature issue: from the Capuchin monkeys that break stones in a way that resembles early hominins biface tools, to the persistent association between some sounds and some meanings across numerous languages, to the use of infected mosquitoes in South America to fight Zika, to the call for more maths in psychiatry by the NIMH director, where since prevision is mentioned I presumed stats is included, to the potentially earthshaking green power revolution in Africa, to the reconstruction of the first HIV strains in North America, along with the deconstruction of the “Patient 0” myth, helped by Bayesian phylogenetic analyses, to a cover of the Open Syllabus Project, with Monte Carlo Statistical Methods arriving first [in the Monte Carlo list]….

“Observations should not converge on one model but aim to find anomalies that carry clues about the nature of dark matter, dark energy or initial conditions of the Universe. Further observations should be motivated by testing unconventional interpretations of those anomalies (such as exotic forms of dark matter or modified theories of gravity). Vast data sets may contain evidence for unusual behaviour that was unanticipated when the projects were conceived.” Avi Loeb

One editorial particularly drew my attention, Good data are not enough, by the astronomer Avi Loeb. as illustrated  by the quote above, Loeb objects to data being interpreted and even to data being collected towards the assessment of the standard model. While I agree that this model contains a lot of fudge factors like dark matter and dark energy, which apparently constitutes most of the available matter, the discussion is quite curious, in that interpreting data according to alternative theories sounds impossible and certainly beyond the reach of most PhD students [as Loeb criticises the analysis of some data in a recent thesis he evaluated].

“modern cosmology is augmented by unsubstantiated, mathematically sophisticated ideas — of the multiverse, anthropic reasoning and string theory.

The author argues to always allow for alternative interpretations of the data, which sounds fine at a primary level but again calls for the conception of such alternative models. When discrepancies are found between the standard model and the data, they can be due to errors in the measurement itself, in the measurement model, or in the theoretical model. However, they may be impossible to analyse outside the model, in the neutral way called and wished by Loeb. Designing neutral experiments sounds even less meaningful. Which is why I am fairly taken aback by the call to “a research frontier [that] should maintain at least two ways of interpreting data so that new experiments will aim to select the correct one”! Why two and not more?! And which ones?! I am not aware of fully developed alternative theories and cannot see how experiments designed under one model could produce indications about a new and incomplete model.

“Such simple, off-the-shelf remedies could help us to avoid the scientific fate of the otherwise admirable Mayan civilization.”

Hence I am bemused by the whole exercise, which deepest arguments seem to be a paper written by the author last year and an interdisciplinary centre on black holes also launched recently by the same author.

Nature highlights

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2016 by xi'an

Among several interesting (general public) entries and the fascinating article reconstituting the death of Lucy by a fall from a tree, I spotted in the current Sept. 22 issue of Nature two short summaries involving statistical significance, one in linguistics about repeated (and significant) links between some sounds and some concepts (like ‘n’ and ‘nose’) shared between independent languages, another about the (significant) discovery of a π meson and a K meson. The first anonymous editorial, entitled “Algorithm and blues“, was rather gloomy about the impact of proprietary algorithms on our daily life and on our democracies (or what is left of them), like the reliance on such algorithms to grant loan or determining the length of a sentence (based on the estimated probability of re-offending). The article called for more accountability of such tools, from going completely open-source to allowing for some form of strong auditing. This reminded me of the current (regional) debate about the algorithm allocating Greater Paris high school students to local universities and colleges based on their grades, wishes, and available positions. The apparent randomness and arbitrariness of those allocations prompted many (parents) to complain about the algorithm and ask for its move to the open. (Besides the pun in the title, the paper also contained a line about “affirmative algorithmic action”!) There was also a perfectly irrelevant tribune from a representative of the Church of England about its desire to give a higher profile to science in the/their church. Whatever. And I also was bemused by a news article on the difficulty to build a genetic map of Australia Aboriginals due to cultural reticence of Aboriginals to the use of body parts from their communities in genetic research. While I understand and agree with the concept of data privacy, so that to restrain to expose personal information, it is much less clear [to me] why data collected a century ago should come under such protections if it does not create a risk of exposing living individuals. It reminded me of this earlier Nature news article about North-America Aboriginals claiming right to a 8,000 year old skeleton. On a more positive side, this news part also mentioned the first catalogue produced by the Gaia European Space Agency project, from the publication of more than a billion star positions to the open access nature of the database, in that the Gaia team had hardly any prior access to such wealth of data. A special issue part of the journal was dedicated to the impact of social inequalities in the production of (future) scientists, but this sounds rather shallow, at least at the level of the few pages produced on the topic and it did not mention a comparison with other areas of society, where they are also most obviously at work!

new kid on the blog

Posted in Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2016 by xi'an

[I first thought this title was highly original but a google search showed me wrong…] This short post to point out to the new blog started by Ingmar Schuster on computational statistics and linguistics. Which, so far, keeps strictly to the discussion of recent research papers (rather than ratiocinating about all kinds of tangential topics like a certain ‘Og…) Some of which we may discuss in parallel. And some not. So keep posted! Ingmar came to Paris-Dauphine for a doctoral visit last Winter and is back as a postdoc (supported by the Fondation des Sciences Mathématiques de Paris) since last Fall. Working with me and Nicolas, among others.


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