B. Allen, B. C. Stacey and Y. Bar-Yam, “An Information-Theoretic Formalism for Multiscale Structure in Complex Systems” [arXiv:1409.4708].

We develop a general formalism for representing and understanding structure in complex systems. In our view, structure is the totality of relationships among a system’s components, and these relationships can be quantified using information theory. In the interest of flexibility we allow information to be quantified using any function, including Shannon entropy and Kolmogorov complexity, that satisfies certain fundamental axioms. Using these axioms, we formalize the notion of a dependency among components, and show how a system’s structure is revealed in the amount of information assigned to each dependency. We explore quantitative indices that summarize system structure, providing a new formal basis for the complexity profile and introducing a new index, the “marginal utility of information”. Using simple examples, we show how these indices capture intuitive ideas about structure in a quantitative way. Our formalism also sheds light on a longstanding mystery: that the mutual information of three or more variables can be negative. We discuss applications to complex networks, gene regulation, the kinetic theory of fluids and multiscale cybernetic thermodynamics.

There’s much more to do, but for the moment, let this indicate my mood:

]]>If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards — in heaven if not on earth — all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.

To which Wolfgang Pauli is said to have replied,

Well, our friend Dirac, too, has a religion, and its guiding principle is, “There is no God and Dirac is His prophet.”

So, you see, as far as broadly-themed content written in books goes, there is precious little *new* in the “New Atheism” of the past decade; nor did the backlashes against it contribute much wit, insight or style beyond Pauli’s brief quip. To the extent that anything was “New” about it, the novelty was the comparative strength of popular support, the fact that irreligion could be taken as a Movement, the spreading sense that old arguments had new relevance for improving the world.

Said atheo/skeptical “Movement” must have, of course, its own quota of “leaders” elevated far out of proportion with their scholarly capabilities and, indeed, their moral character. (To imagine it might have avoided developing them is to indulge in a flight of — one shudders at the word — optimism.) And we have learned who some of them are. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Michael Shermer come to mind.

The project of melioristic irreligion should be in better hands.

[The Dirac quotation is from Heisenberg's *Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations* (1971). Pauli's response is attested in asssorted variant versions.]

It also established our low societal standards for “complex” cinema. A heist movie? About Assembling a New Team for the One Last Job Before Retirement? Really?

]]>You’re free to pretend that TERF is a slur, if it feeds your inner need to feel persecuted without actually being disadvantaged. However, the rest of us do not need to respect your martyrbation fantasy.

]]>- “That isn’t the worst idea you’ve ever told me.” “Thanks.” “And that wasn’t necessarily a compliment.”
- A basket of whatfruit [1] via [2]
- When therapists fail to understand bisexuality
- Wiping out mosquitoes by making them all male
- Shermer rides again!
- Harvard digital repository draws millions of readers
- Sins of the Discovery Channel
*Science*magazine puts transwomen on their cover without their heads*Science*has an Image Problem- Adjunct Life: You’d think the ivory tower would at least come with health insurance
- Nothing in conservative economics makes sense except in the light of creationism
- Inclusive Becomes Sexist, In One Easy Step
- When the NRA asks
*The Ecologist*magazine to retract an article. - Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault
- RT @owillis: scott brown hid in a bathroom so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about hobby lobby
- Sexual advances for *some* students, insults for others. It’s only fair!
- One screencap is worth 1008 words [1] via [2]
- Turning down an endowed lectureship in the name of equality
- Big Shitpile Redux: subprime loans for used cars
- How a Raccoon Became an Aardvark (or, the Wiki-Will to Believe)
- Manufacturing the Talent Shortage
- And for comic relief, we go to an evolutionary psychologist. (A significant number of my friends are evolutionary impossibilities, because savannah ancestors.)
- “The little mammoth was caught in a mud flow…when the bank of a waterway collapsed, breaking her bones” — Joy is for the weak!
- “Matlab…is the primary rural field site for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research”
- Thomas Friedman Wants You To Be Happy With Your Scraps
- If Facebook Was A Guy
- The Russian Government’s 7,000 Wikipedia Edits

- Modes of competition and the fitness of evolved populations [adaptive dynamics]
- Why all medical professionals need to study evolution
- “When I hear ’20 standard normal deviates’ I think of the members of a typical math department…”
- Please, Todd Akin, keep talking.
- “Understanding why things are how they are may not make life less disturbing.”
- Physics demonstrations: Geiger counter
- RT @DrMRFrancis: Dear tech dudes: what the fuck is wrong with you? Love, Matthew (h/t @mandaYoho )
- “One of the things that disturbed me about the episode was a milieu of [dickheadedness] among Facebook workers”
- Another Republican-appointed judge overturns a state marriage ban
- Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion
- Word of the afternoon: “martyrbation”

[From *Is It College Yet?* (2002).]

- RT @joewongsg: 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth
- Did Facebook and PNAS violate human research protections in an unethical experiment? short version: yes
- “An ingratitude of children”? Does Wiktionary not have a “citation needed” tag?
- Hands off your grad students!
- RT @Plektix: My review article “Games on Graphs” with Martin Nowak is now available for free
- The exoplanet that wasn’t there
- RT @archaeologymag: This papyrus records the details of a fixed wrestling match in ancient Egypt.
- “I’m a reasonable man, MacArthur…”
- What Scott Aaronson considers a “paperlet” is just a little intimidating
- And in honour of #SCOTUS whizzing on itself and the nation, the history of the peeing Calvin decals
- The #PNAS “Expression of Concern” for the #FacebookExperiment seems intentionally opaque
- “#SCOTUS has undermined confidence in itself.” “Who said that?” “Justice Sotomayor.” Happy Independence Day.
- If your only justifications for sexism are stupid, you should maybe stop making them. Also: what the balls is the point of “superior 3D transformation” skills?
- Hertha Ayrton: physicist, Ri member, suffragette, reputed money launderer, tireless campaigner for women’s rights
- RT @tarahaelle: Remember uproar last wk re #Sciam Curious Wavefun anti-feminist post? Here’s why it started & why it’s important
- RT @Laelaps: Come on, America. Why can’t we have awesome dinosaur coins like this one from the Royal Canadian Mint?
- “I am a very strong supporter of LGBT rights,” he lied
- Why scientists claimed a 75% chance of an El Nino by the end of 2014
- RT @PLOS: PLOS launches Responding to #ClimateChange Collection
- “What can “Leaning In” do for us when once we do succeed by its metrics, unending public abuse awaits us?”
- RT @KMBTweets: I just turned off geolocation on Firefox. Here’s how you can, too: #locationtracking #infosec
- “It’s Summer And If You’re Not Hopelessly In Love, You Might As Well Be Dead”
- RT @aliceandstuff: Dan Savage is bullying a 17-year old trans person. What a fucking hypocrite.
- “At that age, I could infuriate at most two or three men at a time…This is varsity-level Frightening White Men”
- Acupuncture can transmit tuberculosis. Warning: disturbing photos.

- “morality and justice belong to us all, not only to those with the luxury of perfection”
- RT @drskyskull: Florida has officially broadened “Stand Your Ground” to cover cases where the shooter is bored or overcaffeinated.
- RT @BenZvan: Bad guys with guns steal 11 guns at gunpoint from good guys with guns.
- Antibacterial Soap is Fouling Up Sewage Treatment Systems
- Congratulations, Richard Dawkins
- Amid the untethered speculation, we should at least get right the variety of statements made by people here on Earth
- a “platypus would seek out and attack batteries that were immersed and otherwise invisible”
- Information complementarity: A new paradigm for decoding quantum incompatibility
- “The beauty of an inaccurate story is that people don’t have to tell it right” #SpacePens
- Oh, Glob, I needed a laugh today: “Mensa has cozied up to Match.com to announce a new platform called Mensa Match”
- “Much like dowsing, homeopathy or astrology, journal rank seems to appeal to subjective impressions” #burrrn
- I suspect these just might be applicable in a few places outside of bioinformatics, too
- RT @Laelaps: Ugh. Mormon missionaries cement a flagpole to Utah’s Mount Olympus. At least the morons left their names.
- “Drinking with Thomas Pynchon” spoiler: Thomas Pynchon not actually present
- RT @Pixelfish: Man, these dudes take their “toxic masculinity” literally.
- Continuous variable quantum information: Gaussian states and beyond
- Optimization in Julia [1] [2]
- The history of
*mana* - This xkcd becomes noticeably funnier when you discover the Manual for Civilization includes Ray Kurzweil
- Also in the Manual: Gibson’s Neuro-Nobody-Has-Cell-Phones-in-Yesterday’s-Tomorrow-Mancer.
- 45 Years After Stonewall, LGBT Movement Has A Transphobia Problem
- RT @drskyskull: CNBC Caught Soliciting Writer To Promote Global Warming As Hoax // Wow… Just… wow.
- In which @simonpegg is sensible

And what do our choices say about ourselves, about the way we codify canons and build cultural capital?

Per this entertaining development, I’m reminded of something the science writer Timothy Ferris once wrote:

Imagine that we here on Earth have made contact with an interstellar network and have downloaded thousands of simulations from its memory banks. All over the planet people are putting on VR helmets and immersing themselves in the art, culture, and science of alien worlds. We in turn have uplinked whole libraries’ worth of Bach, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, Homer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt, Newton and Einstein, Darwin and Watson and Crick, the proudest products of our little world. Yet we appreciate that our wisdom and science are limited, our art to some degree provincial. There may be an audience somewhere among the stars for Virgil and Dante and Kubrick and Kurosawa, just as there may be some humans who genuinely enjoy the poetry of the crystalline inhabitants of Ursa Major AC+ 79 3888, but it is apt to be a limited audience. Our movies and plays are not likely to find a wide popular following in the Milky Way galaxy—any more than many humans settling down on the sofa after dinner are likely to watch an infrasonic opera that lasts ten years, the cast of which are alien invertebrates who dine on live spiders.

And the solution?

The answer, I suggest, is nature itself, the raw reality of our unique world. Here, in the sands and waves and wind, the incomparable birds and bears and snakes in the grass, lies the bedrock of our common ground with all other living beings in the universe. [...] There are is almost certainly no willow tree in the galaxy exactly like the willow I see outside my window, no field of wildflowers identical to those on the distant hillside, no sky just like the skies over Montana or Montenegro.

Ferris goes on to suggest that the primary use of interstellar bandwidth would be interactive simulations based on broad-spectrum recordings of planets’ natural environments.

Who speaks for Earth? If it must be a singular intelligence, perhaps we’d better go with a tour guide.

[Quotations from *The Mind's Sky* (1992).]

My goal with the Wolfram Language in general—and Wolfram Programming Cloud in particular—is to redefine the process of programming, and to automate as much as possible, so that

once a human can express what they want to do with sufficient clarity, all the details of how it is done should be handled automatically.[my emphasis]

Ah. You mean, like programming?

Wolfram’s example of the Wolfram Programming Cloud is “a piece of code that takes text, figures out what language it’s in, then shows an image based on the flag of the largest country where it’s spoken.” The demo shows how the WPC maps the string *good afternoon* to the English language, the United States and thence to the modern US flag.

English is an official language of India, which exceeds the US in population size, and of Canada, which exceeds the US in total enclosed area.

The Wolfram Language documentation indicates that “LargestCountry” means “place with most speakers”; by this standard, the US comes out on top (roughly 300 million speakers, versus 125 million for India and 28 million for Canada). But that’s not the problem we were supposed to solve: “place with most speakers” is not the same as “largest country where the language is spoken.”

Even the programming languages which are sold as doing what you mean still just do what you say.

]]>- In the
*Guardian*: Without this equation there would have been no internet - What does “ELV riser” stand for? Physicist John Baez explains.
- Improper anonymisation of the NYC taxi data dump
- Solution to Twitter Harassment Gaffe -> Link Notifications
- I think I saw “Battlespace Awareness, Assured C2″ and “JBAIIC – Seal Team 8 Architecture” in the Huntsville airport
- WHOOOO NONEQUILIBRIUM DYNAMICS RE-PRE-SENT!
- on the ubiquity of ADE classifications [1] via [2]
- Internet + amateur photography = telescope
- As close as I get to romance: Apparently a paper I coauthored was cited in a study of online dating. Alternate punchlines: “looking for citations in all the wrong places”; “damn, they take evopsych seriously—that’s a dealbreaker.” (ZOMG you guys “women state more restrictive preferences than men and contact and reply to others more selectively” is an EVOPSYCH PREDICTION!!)
- “They know how to [comfort the afflicted]“. Fixed that for you, Will!
- Better forecasts of El Niño
- “the L. Ron Hubbard of the Fuck You, I Got Mine set”
- 1,500 letters by medieval European women
- Time for a roundup of stereotypes in this week’s social-science reporting! In other words, Friday
- “Everywhere continuous and nowhere differentiable” knocks the socks off “always winter and never Christmas”
- Cards against Humanity creators apologize for and remove “Passable transvestite” card
- Tanker paves over part of the Mystic River #everett
- Look what’ll be coming out on my birthday: ATLAS SHRUGGED PART 3: SPEECH WITH A VENGEANCE
- epic: Rejected Princesses
- Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 2 has been greenlit. Idea: make the witches like those in Madoka Magica.
- Analytical computation of the epidemic threshold on temporal networks
- “when the war doesn’t cost us $2t, people are going to remember that the next time you talk” —Megan McArdle, 2003
- Damn. Why can’t my country have doctoral regalia like Finland’s?
- Today I made a joke dependent on fact that “banlieue” shouldn’t be translated “district” [1] [2]
- Maybe we shouldn’t use the same word for cookiecopters and for flying military killbots
- Wind Power and the Smart Grid
- Milwaukee bar constructs fake Brazilian slum for yuppies to enjoy the World Cup in
- 1961: [1] 2014: [2]
- Because nothing says “well-regulated militia” like shooting off your own penis #MostUnkindestCutOfAll. (Fortunately, guns are already accustomed to serving the role of phallus replacement.)
- “Elsevier even sued one university…to set a precedent for blocking the release of bundled subscription terms”;
- And, of course, the study which prompted that news item is paywalled
- “With Top Gear it is three rich, middle-aged men laughing at poor Mexicans. Brave, groundbreaking stuff, eh?”
*Danger Mouse*is coming back!

My Struggles with the Block Universe[arXiv:1405.2390]Christopher A. Fuchs, Maximilian Schlosshauer (foreword), Blake C. Stacey (editor)

This document is the second installment of three in the Cerro Grande Fire Series. Like its predecessor arXiv:quant-ph/0105039, “Notes on a Paulian Idea,” it is a collection of letters written to various friends and colleagues, most of whom regularly circuit this archive. The unifying theme of all the letters is that each has something to do with the quantum. Particularly, the collection chronicles the emergence of Quantum Bayesianism as a robust view of quantum theory, eventually evolving into the still-more-radical “QBism” (with the B standing for no particular designation anymore), as it took its most distinctive turn away from various Copenhagen Interpretations. Included are many anecdotes from the history of quantum information theory: for instance, the story of the origin of the terms “qubit” and “quantum information” from their originator’s own mouth, a copy of a rejection letter written by E. T. Jaynes for one of Rolf Landauer’s original erasure-cost principle papers, and much more. Specialized indices are devoted to historical, technical, and philosophical matters. More roundly, the document is an attempt to provide an essential ingredient, unavailable anywhere else, for turning QBism into a live option within the vast spectrum of quantum foundational thought.

As the comment field says, “CAUTION, do not unthinkingly print from a printer: 2,348 pages, 4 indices, 6 figures, with extensive hyperlinking.”

*MSwtBU* was originally submitted to the arXiv on 10 May 2014, the anniversary of the predecessor volume and before that of the Cerro Grande Fire, which started the whole business. To my knowledge, it is the longest item currently on the arXiv.

*omg 2000+ pages. There goes my free time.*

— Dave Bacon, via Twitter

]]>An unexpected connection exists between compatibility criteria for quantum states and symmetric informationally complete POVMs. Beginning with Caves, Fuchs and Schack’s “Conditions for compatibility of quantum state assignments” [Phys. Rev. A 66 (2002), 062111], I show that a qutrit SIC-POVM studied in other contexts enjoys additional interesting properties. Compatibility criteria provide a new way to understand the relationship between SIC-POVMs and mutually unbiased bases, as calculations in the SIC representation of quantum states make clear. Along the way, I correct two mathematical errors in Caves, Fuchs and Schack’s paper. One error is a minor nit to pick, while the other is a missed opportunity.

Me encouraging scientists to use Twitter sometimes feels like Bill Hicks saying, “I am available for children’s parties, by the way.”

]]>From Wikipedia’s page on Duchamp’s *Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2* (today’s version):

It has been noted disquisitively [link] that the number 1001 of Duchamp’s entry at the 1912 Indépendants catalogue also happens to represent an integer based number of the Golden ratio base, related to the golden section, something of much interest to the Duchamps and others of the Puteaux Group. Representing integers as golden ratio base numbers, one obtains the final result

1000.1001. This, of course, was by chance—and it is not known whether Duchamp was familiar enough with the mathematics of the golden ratio to have made such a connection—as it was by chance too the relation to Arabic Manuscript of The Thousand and One Nights dating back to the 1300s._{φ}

*Euhhhhh, non.*

As best I can tell, all this is saying is that the catalogue number of Duchamp’s painting contains only 0s and 1s.

The idea behind the “golden ratio base” is that we can write integer numbers in terms of the golden ratio, $\phi$, if we add up different *powers* of $\phi$. For example, anything to the zeroth power is 1, so $1 = \phi^0$. Less obviously, we can say from the definition of $\phi$ that

$\frac{1}{\phi} = \phi – 1.$

Squaring both sides of this equation,

$\frac{1}{\phi^2} = (\phi – 1)^2 = \phi^2 – 2\phi + 1.$

So,

$\frac{1}{\phi^2} + \phi = \phi^2 – \phi + 1 = \phi(\phi – 1) + 1.$

Referring back to our first equation,

$\frac{1}{\phi^2} + \phi = \phi\left(\frac{1}{\phi}\right) + 1,$

which means that

$\frac{1}{\phi^2} + \phi = 2.$

Another way of writing this would be to say

$2 = \phi^{-2} + \phi^1.$

With more cleverness, we can write any positive integer as a sum of powers of $\phi$:

$N = \phi^{k_1} + \phi^{k_2} + \cdots + \phi^{k_n},$

where the numbers $k_1$ through $k_n$ are distinct integers. Notice that we don’t have any coefficients in front of the terms—or, to say it more carefully, the coefficient of any term in the sum is either zero or one. So, “1001” could be a representation of a number in the golden-ratio base, if we read it as

$1001_\phi = 1\cdot\phi^3 + 0\cdot\phi^2 + 0\cdot\phi^1 + 1\cdot\phi^0.$

In the same way, “1000.1001” can stand for a number in base $\phi$. It’s the number we normally write as **5.** It is not the “final result” of “representing integers as golden ratio base numbers.”

I tried making sense of the disquisition to which Wikipedia credits this observation. The stuff about writing numbers in the golden-ratio base isn’t even there. What we do get is that the number 1001 is

le nombre figuré pentagonal en relation avec le mythique « nombre d’or » que l’on retrouve dans toute forme pentagonale et dans l’étoile à cinq branches.[the pentagonal number in relation with the mythic "golden number" which one finds in all pentagonal forms and in the five-pointed star.]

It’s true: 1001 is a pentagonal number (so are 1, 2, 5, 7, 12, 15, 22, 26, 35, …). The sense of the argument appears to be, “1001 is a pentagonal number [true], and because pentagon therefore GOLDEN RATIO!” The golden ratio occurs in a *regular* pentagon, as the ratio of the diagonal length to the side length. That doesn’t make the free word association of “pentagon” and “mystical golden number” a valid argument.

But hey, when you feel the need for uninhibited babble slicked over with a superficial veneer of pseudoscholarship, there’s no better place to find it than an encyclopaedia article, right?

*“Painters who definitely did make use of GR include Paul Serusier, Juan Gris, and Giro Severini, all in the early 19th century, and Salvador Dali in the 20th, but all four seem to have been experimenting with GR for its own sake rather than for some intrinsic aesthetic reason. Also, the Cubists did organize an exhibition called “Section d’Or” in Paris in 1912, but the name was just that; none of the art shown involved the Golden Ratio.”*

—Keith Devlin

**EDIT TO ADD (12 August 2014):** I might as well include the proof that 1000.1001_{φ} is 5. We figured out above that

$2 = \phi^{-2} + \phi^1.$

So, we square this:

$4 = (\phi^{-2} + \phi^1)^2.$

Using the binomial theorem,

$4 = \phi^{-4} + 2 \phi^{-1} + \phi^2.$

We want all the coefficients to be 0 or 1, so we split up the middle term:

$4 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi^{-1} + \phi^2.$

Next, we use the basic fact we know about the golden ratio.

$4 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi – 1 + \phi^2.$

To find an expression for the integer five, we add one to our expression for the integer four:

$5 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi + \phi^2.$

We can shorten this by the following move:

$5 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi^2(\phi^{-1} + 1).$

Again using our basic fact about the golden ratio, we recognize the expression in parentheses:

$5 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi^2 \cdot \phi.$

Therefore,

$5 = \phi^{-4} + \phi^{-1} + \phi^3.$

Q.E.D.

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