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
Computational Complexity and other fun stuff in math and computer science from Lance Fortnow and Bill Gasarch
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
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.
Margaret Thatcher and Lenny Bruce.
(I really doubt that's second place)
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.
(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 wheel, Pat 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!
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.
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:
(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.
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.