Sunday, November 29, 2020

James Randi, Magicians-Author-Skeptic, passed away at the age of 92


James The Amazing Randi died on October 20, 2020, at the age of 92. He is survived by

his husband Jose Alvarez.  His Wikipedia page is here

 
A few Randi Points:


0) Wikipedia lists his careers as Magician, Author, Skeptic. I didn't know that skeptic was a career.

1) Randi debunked many paranormal claims, though he did not like the term debunker. He preferred investigator.

2) Martin Gardner and James Randi founded the

Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

which publishes

The Skeptical Inquirer: see here  


3) The internet is both a place where unchecked claims of paranormal activity (and more dangerous lies) can grow faster than in an earlier time, but also a place where magazines like The Skeptical Inquirer, and fact-checking websites, can help check the unchecked claims. What is winning? I leave that as an exercise for the reader. 

4) I suspect most (all?) people reading this blog do not believe in astrology, UFO's, ESP, or other crank theories. Hence I was surprised to read that Alan Turing thought the evidence for  ESP was overwhelming. This was mentioned in passing in his paper on The Turing Test (called there The Imitation Game) as something the Turing Test will have to account for. I've tried to find out why he believed this, without success. Some websites mentioned that belief in the paranormal was more... normal in those days. One suggested that after the counter-intuitive theories of quantum mechanics and relatively were out there, other counter-intuitive theories took hold, like ESP.  Even so, what was the evidence he was referring to?

5) Claims that  I was abducted by a UFO or I saw a UFO have decreased since people now have cell phones so ALWAYS have a way to take pictures. Also rumors like (I had heard this one)

There is an alternative ending to the movie BLAH which made is way to a few DVDs by mistake.

are no longer made since IF true you could EASILY produce evidence of such (post to you tube or elsewhere).

6) The term skeptic just means someone who doubts something, and is not necc a positive things.

I am a skeptic when it comes go Global Warming

being one example.

Randi largely debunked things that were obviously false and not-political. (That the very existence of Global Warming is political is  appalling. At some future point the question of whether or not we ever got to the moon will be political: Something done by big government that worked is impossible, hence it did not happen. See Scott's Blog on disbelief that we ever went to the moon here. And people like Randi will need to debunk the notion that the moon landing was faked.) 

7) Back to Turing- There is a large diff between believing in ESP and believing in astrology.

For ESP Turing mentioned overwhelming evidence.  While he was WRONG, he did see the need to HAVE evidence. And note that ESP CAN be tested and found to NOT be true. Also note that it is plausible (though I really doubt it) that some humans somehow have some level of ESP. Astrology has NO redeeming value or hope whatsoever. (I am reminded that in Martin Gardner's book Fads and Fallacies in the name of science he noted that most people would say things like `YES, I liked your debunking of A, but you are wrong about B--- B is for real!')

UFO's: I do not believe that aliens have come here and abducted people or left crop circles or anything of the sort. The intelligent question of  is there intelligent life in the universe  is quite another matter.

7) When I saw magicians as a kid (1960's) I knew that it was all tricks- though very skillful tricks which were impressive. Sometimes they would indicate that it was real magic but I did not know what they meant. Since then I have learned that in an earlier time it was common that magicians claimed they used  real magic.  I still don't quite know what that means, which is just as well since it does not exist.

8) Randi has been sued by people whose tricks he has debunked. Randi seems to have always won.  I say seems to  since legal cases are not as clear cut as mathematics.  I also looked up Uri Geller. He has sued A LOT of people, and not just people who deny his claims. Thinks like using his likeness  without permission  (he may have a point there). Very hard to tell how he is doing on balance.

9) According to Wikipedia Randi dropped out of High School. I assume he learned A LOT on his own.

(Trivia-- who was the last president who did not have a college degree? I will answer at the end.)

10) This seems like a paradox... or something (quoted from Wikipedia):

BEGIN

Randi has been accused of actually using psychic powers to perform acts such as spoon bending. According to James Alcock, at a meeting where Randi was duplicating the performances of Uri Geller, a professor from the University at Buffalo shouted out that Randi was a fraud.  Randi said: "Yes, indeed, I'm a trickster, I'm a cheat, I'm a charlatan, that's what I do for a living. Everything I've done here was by trickery. The professor shouted back:

That's not what I mean. You're a fraud because you're pretending to do these things through trickery, but you're actually using psychic powers and misleading us by not admitting it.

A similar event involved Senator Claiborne Pell, a confirmed believer in psychic phenomena.  When Randi personally demonstrated to Pell that he could reveal—by simple trickery—a concealed drawing that had been secretly made by the senator, Pell refused to believe that it was a trick, saying: "I think Randi may be a psychic and doesn't realize it." Randi consistently denied having any paranormal powers or abilities.

END

Reminds me of this blog entry where I speculate about someone who codes up a great new classical  factoring algorithm and claims he has a quantum computer, or someone who has a working quantum computer and claims its a great new classical factoring algorithm. 


11) The last president who did not have a college degree: Harry Truman.



Sunday, November 22, 2020

Fun with birthdays, inspired by Nov 20

 On Nov 20, 2020  the Google Doodle was of Benoit Mandelbrot for his 96th birthday. Why have a Doodle on his 96th bday? Anyway, the Doodle is here.  

On Nov 20, 2020 I read that Joe Biden turned 78. Why no Google Doodle of him? Maybe when he's 96. 

This got me thinking of who else might have a Nov 20 birthday. I found the following (`found' is not quite right as I will explain later).

In order of age. 

Benoit Mandelbrot: Dead at 85, would have been 96

Bobby Kennedy: Dead at 43, would have been 95.

Sergei Novikov: 82 years old. (Won Fields Medal in 1970 and did work on Solitons)

Dick Smothers: 80 years old (Tommy Smothers is not his twin, Tommy  is 3 years older) 

Joe Biden, 78 years old (in most crowds he would be an old-timer, but in this crowd he is the baby of the bunch- though there is a reason for that as you will see later)

There are more Nov 20 famous people (famous to someone- I have not heard of most of them) here

Some thoughts on all of this trivia

1) I keep a list of famous (to me) people over 80 (though if I look someone up who is not quite 80 I may put him on the list anyway, as is the case for Biden and Trump) so if they die I won't be one of those people saying `I thought they were already dead'.  I then began putting people on it who were  already dead so I could find matching bdays. Hence it was easy to find Nov 20 birthdays of people over 80, and one under. 

2) Mandelbrot is more famous than Novikov since Mandelbrot has those pretty pictures. This is not a criticism of his work. Is it possible to make people who do hard and abstract math more in the public eye? Probably not. 

3) There is an awesome song about the Mandelbrot set (though some of the comments on the you tube video say its the Julia Set, but HEY- if they have math in a song, I am happy and don't get too fussy about how accurate it is- though I would understand if Julia fans are annoyed). The song is here. It has 464 likes and 41 dislikes. That always puzzled me- why does it have any dislikes? I've seen really awesome songs still have some dislikes. Well, as Rick Nelson sings in Garden Party (see here) ,you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself. He got 25,000 likes and 702 dislikes. An awesome ratio, but why are there any dislikes? 

4) I don't think Novikov will have a song about his work anytime soon.

5) Joe Biden has had some novelty songs about him in the past, and will do have more in the future once he is the Whitehouse. (Is the statement `Joe Biden is the president-elect' biased?)

6) I like the variety of the Nov 20 birthdays: two math, two politics, one entertainment. 

7) I originally thought Nov 20 is NOT special and that most days would have around 5 bdays in my files. but actually no- I did a spot check of Nov 21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30 and they are all either 0,1, or 2 bdays. Prob not significant since this is just my small file. OR people avoid having babies close to thanksgiving (not sure of that one, but people DO avoid Feb 29 and Dec 25). 

8) Of more interest are people born the same DAY and YEAR. I have a few of those, but I will point out one relevant to our field:

Albert Meyer and Art Garfunkel are same DAY and same YEAR.

(ADDED LATER: Art Garfunekl got a BA in Art History and then an MA in Math Eduacation)

Most famous SAME DAY and SAME YEAR of all time? I would guess

Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin. 

Second place

 Margaret Thatcher and Lenny Bruce.

 (I really doubt that's second place) 




Thursday, November 19, 2020

Vaughan Jones and Kaikoura

Vaughan Jones, one of the greatest mathematicians from New Zealand, passed away on September 6 at 67. Jones is an expert in knot theory among other areas and received the Fields Medal in 1990.

The Jones polynomial captures information about knots. Vaughan Jones himself co-authored a paper on a polynomial-time quantum algorithm for approximating the Jones polynomial, one of the few natural problems outside of factoring that has an exponential improvement with a quantum algorithm. 

From his Vanderbilt obituary

One way he worked to improve the field of mathematics in his native country was to organize a “summer school” in January each year and attract leading mathematicians from around the world to give lectures and interact with local students and professional mathematicians at a variety of beautiful locations around New Zealand. Out of this activity grew the New Zealand Mathematics Research Institute, which he co-founded and then led from the mid-1990s to this year.

I had the pleasure of teaching in one of those summer schools in January 2000 in Kaikoura on the South Island. In between the whale watching, mountain hiking, jogging, gorging on mussels, and Maori ceremonies, the NZMRI summer school Aspects of Complexity had short courses to a mix of students and researchers in complexity and logic. I gave some lectures on Kolmogorov complexity that preceded a study of algorithmic randomness in the logic community. Other speakers included Eric Allender on basic complexity, Felipe Cucker on real computation, Mike Fellows on parameterized complexity, and Dominic Welsh on counting complexity. 

It took me 36 hours door-to-door to get to Kaikoura but definitely worth it. Thanks to Vaughan Jones, for his research, his polynomial and creating a summer school that gave me that one perfect week in New Zealand.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Alex Trebek/What is today's post about?

(ADDED on Nov 23: Ken Jennings will be an interim host for Jeopardy, see here.)


 Alex Trebek, long time host of the TV show Jeopardy! (the exclamation point is part of the name, though I will omit it for the rest of the post), passed away in November of 2020 at the age of 80. He announced he had pancreatic cancer in March 2019.

0) Here is a pointer to a page that has all of our posts with the word Jeopardy in them. Some are about the show and others mention the show in passing. All of the posts relate to the TV show. That is because Lance and I lead fairly safe lives.

1) On April Fools day of 1997 Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy and Alex Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune. Both are on You tube: Trebek hosts wheelPat hosts Jeopardy Alex's hosting was more fun because- well, you can see for yourself. 

2) Aside from that one day, Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy every night since he began in 1984. 

3) My favorite pangram (sentence that has all 26 letters) is

Watch Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek's fun TV quiz game show. 

(See my post on natural pangrams here for... more natural pangrams and a discussion of what natural means.) 

It's my favorite since I can really imagine someone saying it. The show should have used it for its tagline. And now they can't :-(

4) From Alex's comments he seems to like high scoring games that are not run-a-ways. He also likes when people bet big on the daily doubles and on final Jeopardy.  I think he liked having long win streaks like Ken Jenning's  and James Holzhauer, but see point 7 below.  I think he didn't like it when people go for the high scoring questions first (perhaps looking for the Daily Double) since sometimes the category name is not quite clear (e.g., Country Groups could be things like NATO or things like The Charlie Daniels Band) so you want to do a cheap question to get your feet wet, and also easier for the audience to see what the category means.  IMHO they should really make the Daily Double Uniformly distributed on all the squares instead of having it tend to be the bigger-money questions. 

5) When the final Jeopardy category is  revealed he sometimes says that's a  good category! or that sounds hard.  Makes me wonder that if he makes no comment he is thinking that's a stupid category  or Gee that's easy.

6) Because of the pandemic they could not, for a while, make new shows. Hence  they aired old shows including the  first ever Alex-Trebek-Jeopardy (the show had been hosted by Art Fleming and the Trebek-version was really a reboot). From that show I found out WHY it's called Jeopardy (a question I had never thought about). It's because if you get an answer WRONG you can LOSE money- that's the Jeopardy. Not really a good name, but by now everyone knows the show by that name.

7) Art Fleming also died of pancreatic cancer, back in 1995 (he was 70). Coincidence? Well, yes, though two game show hosts of the same show dying of the same disease 25 years apart could be the premise of a really bad murder mystery. 

8) Alex makes some small talk with the contestants  (though some is edited for time). Things like I hear you have a book on muffins that is not a cookbook-- what's that all about?' I wonder if during Ken Jenning's 74-long winning streak, towards the end,  Alex ran out of things to ask him. I can imagine I hear you're pretty good at Jeopardy.

9) I wonder how good Alex would be playing Jeopardy. When he hosted Wheel of Fortune he said in passing that he would NEVER go on Jeopardy as a contestant, so he doesn't think he would do well. He could be wrong about that since over time they ask questions that are not quite repeats but draw on the same knowledge- and he's heard all of them. However, it could be that he is too busy concentrating on other things to really absorb all of this knowledge. 

10) The we give the answers you give the questions is a bit odd. However, in my classes I  sometimes say  We'll Trebek this - we know what the answer is, we have to find the question.

11) This youtube video is of a contestant singing WORDS to the Jeopardy theme song that he wrote.The contestant  refers to Jon Stewart as having also written words to the Jeopardy theme, but I can't find that anywhere- if you can, let me know. 

12) Weird Al did a novelty song about Jeopardy using Art Fleming in the video (see  here)  I always hoped he would update it and use Alex Trebek. He never did and now he can't :-( OR-with todays technology maybe he can. Here's hoping!

13) Alex Trebek was in a category by himself!



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Recovery

Lance: Perhaps we should do a post-election vidcast--what does it mean for complexity!

Bill: Not sure if you are serious- but I doubt a Biden presidency will either speed up or slow down the proof that P NE NP or anything else in complexity. Did Trump give LESS money to the NSF and other funding agencies, and will Biden give more? I doubt it. 

Lance: Trump's budget did call for a massive cut for the NSF but luckily he doesn't control the purse strings. It's the immigration policy that worried me--both that it keeps good students from coming to the US and that it cuts off a revenue source that will cause many good schools to close down.

Bill: Excellent point- but sounds more like a post you could write since you... know stuff, as opposed to a vidcast with me who... doesn't know stuff. 


Bill sells himself short and me long but here is my post.

After Trump was elected in 2016 I thought maybe Trump with all his bluster will just be a typical conservative politician that we can live through until the next election. That didn't last long with his travel ban for Iranians just a few weeks after his inauguration when I said "This is not the America I believe in."

Judges have stopped the worst of Trump's travel bans but he has continued to whittle down the number of available visas, made it harder to get visas and get visas after they graduate. New students can't come to America if they take only on-line courses at a time many universities are online. Now students will have to get their visas renewed after two or four years. Few get a PhD in four years and would students come here and take the risk that their visas won't get renewed before they can finish? The CRA has some details on the newest rules. Not to mention Trump's handling of COVID--would you send your kid to America now?

Trump hasn't hidden his disdain for higher education and had he won a second term his policies would greatly diminish the country's academic strength. Biden can and certainly will undo much of these changes and I hope it is not too late. 

More from The Chronicle.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Random Thoughts on the Election (2020)


1) Biden will be the oldest president (measuring by when they take the oath of office), at 78. The next two are Trump 70 and Reagan 69. Biden will be older entering office then Reagan was leaving office. 

After Biden, Trump, Reagan:

William Henry Harrison 68. Why do some people have middle names that are commonly spoken and some do not? Others with middle names spoken: Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth. 

James Buchanan 65

George H. W. Bush 64. Why do some people have their initials commonly spoken and others do not? In this case it may be to distinguish from W. Why are some people known by their middle initial? Well, actually one that I know of, W.

Youngest was Theodore Roosevelt 42 who took the office after McKinley was assassinated . Kennedy was youngest to take the oath after being ELECTED at 43. Theodore Roosevelt was known as TR. John F Kennedy is often called JFK. Franklin D Roosevelt was called FDR. Why are some people known by their initials? In these cases maybe to distinguish them from other Roosevelts and Kennedys.

2) Right now it looks like GA will go for Biden. This surprises me. I had heard `GA is on the verge of turning blue and always will be.'

3) Dem-Blue, Rep-Red always puzzled me since I thought Red was associated with communism.

4) A quote from the Trump/Schwartz  book THE ART OF THE DEAL about why Carter was a one-termer  is rather predictive:

See here

(I've heard Schwartz referred to as a ghost writer. That is not true-- Tony Schwartz's name is ON THE COVER, so he is not a ghostwriter.)

5) During the Trump administration UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan all recognized Israel (gee, when I see it on a map I recognize it, why did it take them so long :-) ). See here. All three deals were brokered by the US so Trump could  take credit here. So why didn't he? One answer is that the left-wing lame stream media didn't cover it much. But FOX didn't cover it much. Trump didn't mention it much. Trump didn't even mention it as a way to complain about media coverage. So- independent of if you think Trump deserves credit here or not, I am interested in why he didn't brag about this one. (When I have asked this question people point out that Trump's base would not care about this. But Trump could complain that Obama got a Nobel Peace prize for nothing, and he got these deals done and hasn't, gotten a Nobel Prize because of the fake-Nobel-Committee and channel this into anti-Obama sentiment.)(ADDED LATER- some of the comments have corrected me and say that Trump DOES mention it-- A LOT. My bad. Still do not know if Fox News mentioned it much.) (ADDED LATER- another comment on my blog pointed to three times Fox News DID talk about this achievement.)

6) Truth avoids imitating  art: Watch Season five of the HBO show VEEP for how m

messy a close election can be. 

7) I think Biden will end up being president and the transition will be peaceful. Why? Fox News and other conservative organizations are urging Trump to concede. Republican state legislators are NOT trying to find ways to overturn the results in their states. Judges have found NO evidence for the kinds of fraud that Trump is complaining about. Many Republicans are silent (John Oliver says that means they SUPPORT  Trumps allegations, but I think it means they are NOT supporting Trump's allegations.) 

 Why is the Republican establishment NOT backing Trumps claims of fraud? Here are some thoughts.

a) Because the allegations of fraud are not just false but obviously false.  

b) Because they think that it is better for the country to have a clean transition.

c) Because they are tired of Trump also and realize he is not good for the party brand (a bit late now).

d) Corrupting the electoral process is a bridge to far. (Where did that phrase come from?)

e) I wonder if Trump himself would have preferred to lose in 2016 and go around having rallies, perhaps have his own TV network. RALLIES are fun, RUNNING THE COUNTRY is not. So those around him may want him to go back to his original plan. 

8) Did Nate (the only pollster with a one-word-name) do well this time around  He thinks so, see here. Its not even clear he did badly in 2016- he gave Trump a 20% chance in 2016 and a 10% chance this time. 

9) I think that if  we had not had a pandemic then  Trump would have won. Two reasons: the country thinks he handled it badly, and it may have literally killed some of his voters.  As a final note on that: Mark Meadows (WH Chief of staff) has COVID. I am surprised Pence didn't get it-- thought maybe he did or will. 

10) Why did people in the Trump WH who one assumes know that Covid is serious and that masks and social distancing were  way to prevent it, not do these simple things?  Perhaps they thought (correctly) that the more people thing about covid, the more likely Trump loses, so they took a risk. Alas, those that trade their health for electability get neither. 

11) Neither Pence nor Harris is particularly young or old as VP's go. 

Youngest: John Breckenridge, 36. Buchanan's VP

Second Youngest: Richard Nixon, 40, Eisenhower's VP

Oldest: Alben Barkley, 71, Truman's VP

Second oldest: Charles Curtis, 69, Hoover's VP

Pence was 57 when took the oath, Harris will be 56. 

12) If Biden wins then on Jan 20 when he takes the oath there will be 5 living Ex-presidents:Carter, Clinton, W, Obama, Trump (assuming they all stay alive until then). This ties the record for most living ex-presidents. See here for my blog post on this. Getting to 6 will be difficult since Carter is 96 years old. 

13) Neither Lance nor I have blogged much about the election, or even about politics. One reason is that whatever I want to say Scott says better (Scott and Lance are the only theory bloggers known by just their first names). I was going to point to Scott's  political blogs but that was hard since he often has blog posts about multiple topics (Like his post about  Mike Pence thinking that the Ind of CH is a sort of relativism that also allows for adultery to be considered okay (see here for Pence's pre-Trump views on adultery)  Actually Scott never blogged about Pence and CH  but after reading his posts they kind of blur in my mind.) I will point to one blog entry of his  that I suspect will NOT be relevant but is still very interesting: Will he go?

14) Trump claimed the polls showing he was behind were false and part of a conspiracy. I am not sure how this conspiracy would work. If people think their candidate is ahead or behind, then does that affect how or if they vote? Do people say `Gee X is winning, I'll vote for them' ? I doubt it. There are two ways such a conspiracy could work (1)  claim was that some candidate was WAY ahead (it would not matter which one) so you should not bother to vote (2)   in a primary where you are voting on who you think will win the general election.  He also claimed that the early returns saying Biden was winning was a conspiracy. Same problem there- how would that work. This isn't just Trump, other politicians in diff  years claim that early-returns saying X is winning might make it harder for Y to win. I can't see how. 

15) Kamala Harris will be the first women, the first African-American, and the first Asian Veep.  Trivia: There has been a Native American Veep- who was it? More trivia- who coined the term Veep? I won't answer these here, but they might be on my Prez Quiz that I will post after the new President is sworn in.  

Can she be BOTH the first African-American and the first Asian? Yes.

16) In my lifetime the election for President was  SETTLED when the losing candidate conceded. This was good for the country's mindset that YES the president is known and even the other candidate agrees. What if Trump does not concede? I doubt this has any practical affect, except that  on Jan 20 he might be trying to arrange a moving van at the last minute. But if the losing candidate does not concede then when is the matter settled?  When the major news venues say it is? Which ones are major? What if there was a really close election and diff news networks declared diff candidates to have won? This does not seem to be a problem for this election cycle, but it is a question: When is the matter SETTLED in that the country ACCEPTS the result, if the losing candidate does not concede?

(ADDED LATER- I didn't realize how much the TRANSITION matters-- so Trump not letting the transition happen is dangerous.)

17) Carter beat incumbent Ford, but they became friends. Clinton beat incumbent Bush Sr, but they became friends. This is understandable in that so few people are president so they have a shared experience. I doubt that Trump and Biden will become friends.

18)   Bill Clinton's staff removed W's from the typewriters and did some other damage before W moved into the WH see here.  This is NOT a tradition, nor is it acceptable in any way, shape. or form.  I do not know of any other similar cases in America (if you do, let me know in the comments).  I wonder if Trump will do damage  to the WH before he leaves. Do presidents put a deposit down on the WH so that any damage they do, they pay for? I  doubt it, but it would be a good idea. 

19)  Obama and Trump had a cordial 90 minute meeting, see here, after Trump won but before he moved in. This makes perfect sense--outgoing presidents know stuff and have experiences worth sharing with the next president.   Obama said North Korea would be a problem and it is (Trump later tried to spin this--`Obama said it would be hard, but it was easy') I wonder if Trump and Biden will have any kind of meeting, cordial or not. 

20) Every state that went for H Clinton in 2016 went for Biden in 2020. The following states went for Trump in 2016 but went for Biden in 2020: Wisc, Mich, PA, AZ, and maybe Georgia and maybe NC (frankly I doubt NC). There was a plausible  scenario (I forget what it was) where Biden would have won 270-268. 

21) Did Third parties matter? In PA the Libertarian Candidate Jo Jorgenson got 1.1% of the vote which was larger than the diff between Biden (49.7) and Trump (49.1) (The Green party either wasn't on the ballot or got so few votes it was not counted). If most of the Libertarians voted for Trump then he would have won PA and possibly the election. However, Trump is not really a Libertarian, so I doubt that would have happened As for the entire country: (1) . The Libertarians got 1.14% of the total vote in 2020, as opposed to 3.25% in 2016, (2)  The Green party got 1.06% in 2016 and 0.02% in 2020. 

21) I was not particular impressed with the satires of the debates and other political satire on SNL this year. Not sure why- maybe Trump is too wild  to satirize and Joltin Jo is too boring. But the following I DID like and is now more relevant. Watch the whole thing since the first half looks like a real ad.

here

Monday, November 02, 2020

I polled my class about the election

 In 2016 I had the Sophomore discrete math class do a poll of who they wanted for president.

In 2020 I had the  both my  Senior Crypto class and Clyde's Sophomore algorithms course do a poll of who they wanted for president.

All of these polls were anonymous. One big difference- in 2016 it was paper, they could check offwho they wanted or put in a write in, whereas in 2020 it was on elms without a mechanism for a write in--- so no votes for Bernie or Bill or Kruskal (not sure if they were voting for the man or the algorithm) were possible. In all cases I included everyone who was on the Maryland Ballot (so Libertarian and Green votes were possible). 


Discrete Math 2016: 428 students took the poll. Write ins allowed. 

Clinton- 305 which is 71%

Trump- 44 which is  10%

Johnson (Libertarian)- 21 which is 5%

Stein (Green)-  11which is 3%

Sanders-6 which is 1%

Silly answers: 41 which is 10%

I was NOT surprised that Trump got 44 votes- every year I do this and every year the 

republican gets between 10 and 20 percent. Romney go 17% in 2012 (see here). 


Algorithms, 2020, 161 students took the poll

Biden: 127 (79%)

Trump: 25 (16%)

Hawkins (Green): 4 (2%)

Jorgenson (Libertarian): 4 (2%)

Segal (Bread and Roses Party) 1 (1%)


Cryptography in 2020: 

Biden- 40 which is 78%

Trump-6 which is 12%

Hawkins (Green ) 3 which is 6%

Jorgenson (Libertarian) 2 which is 4%

Segal (Bread and Roses) 0 which is 0%


I have no idea what these numbers mean. College students tend to be liberal- we knew that. That Trump went from 10% to 16% would be interesting if it was a larger sample size. I wonder if forcing them to NOT have a write-in had an effect. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

2020 Fall Jobs Post

My annual fall jobs posts, giving advice to PhDs looking for faculty positions, were getting repetitive. See last year's post for the usual stuff and feel free to post opportunities in the comments on this post. This year let's talk about what's changed.

First something you might have missed--the latest Taulbee Survey shows a small drop in the number of new undergraduate CS majors in 2019 after years of massive growth. Is it a simple blip or have we hit the saturation point? We may never know because of the change you definitely didn't miss seeing.

So let's talk about the effect of COVID. We're seeing a large drop in new international students who are having a hard time getting visas or just avoiding the US like the plague (literally). Not sure those numbers will fully come back given other alternatives and a changing international relationship particularly with China. Many undergrads have delayed college and some may never attend. 

On the other hand, COVID has accelerated digitizing the economy, from videoconferencing to in-home entertainment and games to remote access to work environments. The post-COVID economy could create even a larger demand for computer scientists. 

Many universities curtailed hiring last year worried and may do so in the spring given the uncertain budget situation due to the virus. Others continue to hire in computing, some to make up for last year. I just can't make a prediction for the upcoming year but I wouldn't rush to the job market if you have the option to wait. Last year the CRA reinstated the CIFellows, postdocs to help those in a tight job market, and may do so again next year. The CRA will also repeat its CV database.

Late spring interviews in 2020 went virtual and will likely go virtual again in 2021. Nevertheless take the zoom meetings seriously. Make sure your interview talk is still a discussion--answer questions people give in the chat. Still do your research to have strong conversations with everyone you talk to, especially the non-theorists. And still dress nicely, at least from the waist up. Putting on a sports coat is not a bad idea. 

Though most places continue to focus on data science/ML, cybersecurity and to some degree quantum, Rutgers is specifically looking for a hire in computational complexity. Don't see that everyday.