Happy Pi Day!


It’s Pi Day today (3/14 as a US-style date). Oxford Connect is running some interesting events in association with the day, including a large-scale collaborative effort to determine pi using Buffon’s needle (like this):

Why not join in, or follow the Oxford lecture on YouTube?


Habemus Papam

The Pope (left) and the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope or “Pope Scope” (right)

The world has a new Pope, Francis. What does that mean for science? Well, some past papal scientific milestones are these:

The Jesuit order, from which Francis comes, has a tradition of being involved with science, although Teilhard de Chardin was a step too far for them. And Pope Francis does in fact have a scientific background: he studied chemistry before becoming a priest.

Looking forward to MODSIM 2013

Every 2 years, the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand holds an international congress. The 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2013) will be combined with the 22nd National Conference of the Australian Operations Research Society (ASOR 2013) and will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre in Adelaide, South Australia, from Sunday 1 to Friday 6 December 2013. See www.mssanz.org.au/modsim2013 for more details. Initial abstracts are due on April 8.

It promises to be a great event. I plan to be there and to chair a session on Homeland Security & Emergency Management Applications of Modelling & Simulation.

Conference venue (click for photo credit)

Oh dear!

This one is the opposite of a gem. Three scientists have published an article which cites parody site The Onion as a source – for the existence of a children’s menu on the back of the U.S. Constitution (shades of National Treasure!). The journal in question has an impact factor of 4.5, but apparently has some gaps in peer review (thanks to 0xDE for bringing this to my attention).

The alleged menu on the back of the U.S. Constitution, from The Onion

Of course, this is still not as funny as the Sokal affair, or the multiple repeated cases where conferences or journals have accepted randomly generated papers.

Winston Churchill once stated that “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Peer review is, I guess, much the same.

“Visualizing Global” competition

The Visualizing Global Marathon last year showcased some brilliant student visualisations. Two that stood out for me were the winning interactive entry by Krisztina Szucs of the University of Budapest (click for interactive graphic):

… and the winner of People’s Choice, by Qian Liu and Yun Teng from UCSB, which uses a nifty two-layer plot to visualise airline flights (click for more details):

Wellcome Image Awards

The 2012 Wellcome Image Awards included some fantastic science photographs. My personal favourite was this false-coloured scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a lavender leaf, by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy from the School of Pharmacy, University of London. The stomata and the glandular trichomes secreting the essential oils are clearly visible:

Annie has some fascinating things to say about the Art of Science here, including the recipe for one successful image of a strawberry: “5 attempts, 4 failures, 3 weeks, 2 supermarket trips, 1 image.” See wellcomeimages.org for more fantastic photographs.

CIRCOS and networks

In an earlier post, I highlighted a nice visualisation of career paths, produced by Satyan Devados using the CIRCOS tool (which has its origins in genetic visualisation). As an experiment, here is a similar diagram I produced for the Southern Women Data Set. This famous dataset (originally from this book) links a somewhat divided community of 18 women to 14 events which they organised (click on the picture for a larger image):

It’s very pretty, but is it more or less informative than a traditional network diagram? What do you think?