Archive for Mao Zedong

ISBA in Kunming postponed till 2021

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2020 by xi'an

The ISBA Program committee has just announced that the ISBA World Meeting 2020 in Kunming, China, is postponed until 2021, 28 June till 03 July (and the resolution of the nCoV epidemics). Which is quite unfortunate given the closeness of the meeting and the degree of preparation of the local and scientific committees, but also unavoidable given the difficulties and reluctance of traveling to China at the moment. Hopefully, the health threat will get under control (other than keeping every citizen under lock) sooner than that. Satellite meetings like BAYSM will be moved as well, in a place and on a date soon to be announced.

As an aside, I still call for the additional organisation of mirror conferences of this World meeting  to multiply the opportunities for gathering Bayesians, share results, listen to talks and decrease the amount of travelling (and potential issues with visa, funds, human right concerns, &tc.) To quote Chairman Mao, let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend!

the three-body problem [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2017 by xi'an

“Back then, I thought of one thing: Have you heard of the Monte Carlo method? Ah, it’s a computer algorithm often used for calculating the area of irregular shapes. Specifically, the software puts the figure of interest in a figure of known area, such as a circle, and randomly strikes it with many tiny balls, never targeting the same spot twice. After a large number of balls, the proportion of balls that fall within the irregular shape compared to the total number of balls used to hit the circle will yield the area of the shape. Of course, the smaller the balls used, the more accurate the result.

Although the method is simple, it shows how, mathematically, random brute force can overcome precise logic. It’s a numerical approach that uses quantity to derive quality. This is my strategy for solving the three-body problem. I study the system moment by moment. At each moment, the spheres’ motion vectors can combine in infinite ways. I treat each combination like a life form. The key is to set up some rules: which combinations of motion vectors are “healthy” and “beneficial,” and which combinations are “detrimental” and “harmful.” The former receive a survival advantage while the latter are disfavored. The computation proceeds by eliminating the disadvantaged and preserving the advantaged. The final combination that survives is the correct prediction for the system’s next configuration, the next moment in time.”

While I had read rather negative reviews of the Three-Body Problem, I still decided to buy the book from an Oxford bookstore and give it a try. Ìf only because this was Chinese science-fiction and I had never read any Chinese science-fiction. (Of course the same motivation would apply for most other countries!) While the historical (or pseudo-historical) part of the novel is most interesting, about the daughter of a university physicist killed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution and hence forever suspect, even after decades of exile, the science-fiction part about contacting another inhabited planet and embracing its alien values based on its sole existence is quite deficient and/or very old-fashioned. As is [old-fashioned] the call to more than three dimensions to manage anything, from space travel to instantaneous transfer of information, to ultimate weapons. And an alien civilization that is not dramatically alien. As for the three body problem itself, there is very little of interest in the book and the above quote on using Monte Carlo to “solve” the three-body problem is not of any novelty since it started in the early 1940’s.

I am thus very much surprised at the book getting a Hugo award. For a style that is more reminiscent of early Weird Tales than of current science-fiction… In addition, the characters are rather flat and often act in unnatural ways. (Some critics blame the translation, but I think it gets deeper than that.)