Monthly Archives: March 2011

It’s Grothenday!

The G-Man turns 83 today.

Suggested Grothenday activity;  locate the hackiest, most awkward argument in a paper you’re working on, and replace it with an elegant proof that follows effortlessly once the correct definitions are set down.

Bonus points if this extends the original statement to the relative case over an arbitrary base scheme.

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Kloppenburg, Soglin, Cieslewicz

Will a tight mayoral election between Paul Soglin and Dave Cieslewicz help JoAnne Kloppenburg in her bid to unseat David Prosser on the Wisconsin Supreme Court?  The theory is that a mayoral election in Madison increases turnout in a precinct likely to be very Kloppenburg-friendly.

But I don’t think the effect will be so big.  Supreme Court races here have tended to draw about 800,000 voters.  (Compare with the 2.1 million who voted in the 2010 governor’s race.)  There have been three State Supreme Court elections in the last five years.  The election that included  a Madison mayoral race drew 90,000 voters from Dane County; the one that featured a County Executive contest got 100,000.  The other, the high-profile race between Louis Butler and Michael Gableman, got 70,000 Dane County votes.  In each of these, Dane County gave a large majority of its votes to the more liberal candidate.

So let’s say the Soglin-Cieslewicz race brings out an extra 30K Madison voters on April 5.  Based on previous Supreme Court votes, give 75% of these to Kloppenburg.  That gives her an extra margin of 15,000 votes, or about 2%.  Not that big a swing, when you’re trying to unseat an incumbent justice, something that’s only been done once in the last forty years.

That one time, by the way, was Gableman’s victory over Butler.  Gableman won by 23,000 votes.  If Madison had elected a mayor on 2008, it’s just possible Butler would still be on the Court.

While we’re talking about the spring election — people in comments, especially old Madison hands, should feel free to lobby for a mayoral candidate.  I’m undecided.  Here’s Cieslewicz’s blog and here’s Soglin’s.

And, of course, if you live in Wisconsin, don’t forget to vote on April 5.


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How the Hippies Saved Physics: David Kaiser visits UW April 1

David Kaiser from MIT will give Physics colloquium next Friday, April 1, about his appealing new book How the Hippies Saved Physics.  Did you ever see a dog-eared copy of The Dancing Wu Li Masters at a used book store?  It’s about those guys, and how their thoughts turned out to be not totally irrelevant to academic physics after all.  He’s also talking in History of Science at noon, about the Cold War explosion, credentialization, and finally contraction of the physics profession, a story told in his book in progress American Physics and the Cold War Bubble. Both will be interesting, I bet.



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And the Drungo Larue Hazewood Award for the year’s best sports name goes to

Nimrod Hilliard IV, of Madison East HS, this year’s “Mr. Basketball Wisconsin.”

If it’s not enough that his name is Nimrod Hilliard IV, the Madison East team is called the Purgolders.

Purgolder Nimrod Hilliard IV.

Drungo approves.

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Wisconsin hires for 2011

The Wisconsin math department has hired four terrific new assistant professors this season (rah rah countercyclical hiring!)  We will be joined next year by:  Melanie Matchett Wood, an arithmetic geometer and an AIM 5-year fellow, who shares my love of counting number fields and of the arithmetic fundamenal group; Philip Matchett Wood, who does probabilistic combinatorics, especially related to random matrices; Jun Yin, another random matrix guy, just finishing up a BP at Harvard; and our own postdoc Brian Street, who works on the geometric side of harmonic analysis.



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Two algebraic number theorists in search of a square dance

STS 1989 Top Three Winners
Me and Chris Skinner, 1989.


Condorcet on French mathematics as underdog

Quite striking and strange for a modern mathematician to read the following, from Condorcet’s 1787  lectures to the Lycee:

It is to French mathematicians that we owe the theory of probability calculus.  This is perhaps worth saying.  Other nations, and often even Frenchmen themselves, have reproached us for lacking the gift of invention, granting us only the ability to perfect other people’s discoveries…

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I talk about Pi Day on Wisconsin Public Radio

Tomorrow (Monday) morning on Morning Edition at 88.7FM, aired at 6:35 and again at 8:35.  Available online at Wisconsin Life.

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I was going to write a post about Baryshnikov’s homotopy-theoretic proof of Arrow’s theorem — and I will!  Because it is cool! — but it’s gotten very late, so instead here’s a nerdy joke I heard on Marc Maron’s podcast.

Guy walks into a bar, says “Gimme a martinus.”

Bartender says, “You mean martini?”

Guy says, “If I wanted two, I would have ordered two!”

I highly recommend Maron’s podcast, by the way, as long as you’re interested in hearing stand-up comics talk about their anguish, the terrible mistakes they’ve made, and the weird alcoves and deformations of their inner lives.  Also, there are jokes.


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