Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Orioles are all about pitching consistency

The Orioles are the worst-pitching team in baseball, and it’s not even close — they’re giving up 5.35 runs a game, half a run more than the next-worst staff in Minnesota.  The Orioles have had bad rotations for years and years, but what’s special this year is the incredible consistency.  Usually our bad rotation has at least one good pitcher (Erik Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie in a good year, Sidney Ponson in a good year, Rodrigo Lopez in a good year…)  Or even when there’s no good pitcher, there’s a bad pitcher like Daniel Cabrera who pitches a gem every third or fourth time out.  But not this year.  It’s like a pitchpipe of mediocrity.  Every starter has an ERA between 4.5 and 5.5.  And get this.  We just took two games from Twins, 4-1 and 8-1.  Before that, the last time the Orioles allowed fewer than 2 runs in a game was June 10, when we shut out the Rays.  More than two months without a single game when an Oriole pitcher came out and shut down the opposition.  It’s weird, and it explains why this stretch of baseball has been particularly dreary to follow.

Update:  Orioles win 6-1 — three straight games allowing 1 run after not doing it since June!

Re-update:  Another 6-1 victory — four straight!

The median integer sequence

Meaningless question of the day:

What do you think the asymptotics of a_n are, where a_n is the median of the nth terms of all integer sequences in the OEIS?

Google interviewers, feel free to use this.

Update:  Henry Cohn comes through in the comments!  The median sequence starts 1, 3, 7, 13….

 

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Holden Karnovsky on the perils of expected utility

I asked a while back how seriously we should take expected utility computations that rely on multiplying very large utilities by very small probabilities.  This kind of computation makes me anxious.  Holden Karnovsky of GiveWell agrees, arguing that we are constrained by some kind of informal Bayesianness not to place too much weight on such computations, especially when the probability computation is one that can’t really be quantitatively well-grounded.  Should you give fifty bucks to an NGO that does malaria prevention in Africa?  Or should you donate it to a group that’s working on ways to deflect asteroids on a collision course with the Earth?  The former donation has a substantial probability of helping a single person or family in a reasonably serious way (medium probability of medium utility.)  The latter donation is attached to the very, very large utility of saving the human race from being wiped out; on the other hand, the probability of achieving this utility is some combination of the chance that a humanity-killing asteroid will be on course to strike the earth in the near term, and the chance that the people asking for your money actually have some prospect of success.  You can make your best guess as to the extent to which your fifty dollars decreases the chance of global extinction; and you might find, on this ground, that the expected value of the asteroid contribution is greater than that of the malaria contribution.  Karnovsky says you should still go with malaria.  I’m inclined to think he’s right.  One reason:  a strong commitment to expected utility makes you vulnerable to Pascal’s Mugging.

 

 

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Should the AMS have a Fellowship program?

Many professional societies (e.g. American Physical Society, American Chemical Society)  have “Fellows,” a smallish class of members who for whatever reason are denoted as being more distinguished than the rest.  The AMS doesn’t.  Should we?  The membership is asked to vote this year on creation of an AMS Fellows program.  Such a vote has failed once before; at the time, the Notices ran an interesting point-counterpoint in which Ron Stern argued for the fellowship program and David Eisenbud argued against.

Readers:  should there be AMS fellows or not?

Update:  I should make it clear that I myself haven’t decided how to vote, so this is not a rhetorical question.

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Arithmetic Veech sublattices of SL_2(Z)

Ben McReynolds and I have just arXived a retitled and substantially revised version of our paper “Every curve is a Teichmuller curve,” previously blogged about here.  If you looked at the old version, you probably noticed it was very painful to try to read.  My only defense is that it was even more painful to try to write.

With the benefit of a year’s perspective and some very helpful comments from the anonymous referee at Duke, we more or less completely rewrote the paper, making it much more readable and even a bit shorter.

The paper is related to the question I discussed last week about “4-branched Belyi” — or rather the theorem of Diaz-Donagi-Harbater that inspired our paper is related to that question.  The 4-branched Belyi question essentially asks whether every curve C in M_g is a Hurwitz space of 4-branched covers.  (Surely not!) The DDH theorem shows that if you’re going to prove C is not a Hurwitz curve, you can’t do it by means of the birational isomorphism class of C alone; every 1-dimensional function field appears as the function field of a Hurwitz curve (though probably in very high genus.)

 

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“Cremona Tables” for elliptic curves over Q(sqrt(5)), by William Stein and his REU

William’s REU at the University of Washington has constructed a table, in the “Cremona format,” of all elliptic curves over Q(sqrt(5)) with conductor of norm up to 1831.  More complete data in computer-readable form here.

The authors of this table, besides William, are Ben Leveque, Ashwath Rabindranath, Ariah Klages-Mundt, Paul Sharaba, Andrew Ohana, Joanna Gaski, Aly Deines, and Jon Bober.

What are good questions to ask this dataset?

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_________ Dave?

I don’t have much to say about the recall elections besides the obvious — both sides got some of what they wanted and about what they expected, it’s an interesting time to be Dale Schultz — but here’s a different Wiscopolitical question.  Why don’t people talk much about Dave Cieslewicz running for statewide office?  He served two very successful terms as mayor of a pretty big city, and he surely has more name recognition around the state than all but a handful of politicians.  He’s a moderate Democrat — OK, he’s a liberal Democrat, but one who arguably lost his mayoral re-election race for being too “business-friendly.”  He’s more of an “I like bike lanes and libraries and tech companies” liberal than a “burn the corporations” liberal.   If Tammy Baldwin is a viable Senate candidate, he’s a viable gubernatorial candidate.

I know some of my readers don’t like him, so feel free to have at him here.

Maybe he’s just not interested.  Here’s Cieslewicz’s blog post about why he’s not running for Congress.  Now looking at this I have to concede that he’s not exactly self-presenting as a Clintonist triangulator.

So, if I went to Congress I’d go to push for another stimulus package big enough to pull us out of the re-recession we seem to be in; I’d go to pass a constitutional amendment that officially defines marriage as none of the government’s damn business; I’d go to build commuter rail, streetcars, bike paths and really nice bus systems in every city in America and high speed rail to connect them all; I’d go to pass meaningful gun control laws to slow the mindless carnage that results from there being just too damn many guns around; I’d go to do something strong to stop global climate change, starting with rejecting the notion that fossil fuels have to be the largest part of our energy portfolio even for the next couple of decades; I’d go to extend Medicare to everyone; I’d go to outlaw the death penalty everywhere in America; I’d go to stop subsidizing corporate agriculture and start providing real incentives for locally grown food.

Is “rip-roaring liberal who says damn a lot” a winning political stance?

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Sat. Nite Duets on CNN

Some criticized me a few months back for posting about obscuro Milwaukee slack-pop heroes Sat. Nite Duets, but now here they are, interviewed on CNN — and you heard them here first!

Here’s “Peel Away”:

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Breeders exegesis

CJ’s explanation of “Cannonball”:

“I think she’s going to get married to somebody, and she knows he’s a cannonball, but he’s just dressed up as a human.”

He’s right, isn’t he?

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There’s no 4-branched Belyi’s theorem — right?

Much discussion on Math Overflow has not resolved the following should-be-easy question:

Give an example of a curve in {\mathcal{M}}_g defined over \bar{Q} which is not a family of 4-branched covers of P^1.

Surely there is one!  But then again, you’d probably say “surely there’s a curve over \bar{Q} which isn’t a 3-branched cover of P^1.”  But there isn’t — that’s Belyi’s theorem.

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