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Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ashLeonard Cohenburn somethingmore quotes

pi day: beautiful


In Silico Flurries: Computing a world of snow. Scientific American. 23 December 2017


visualization + design

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The 2018 Pi Day art celebrates the 30th anniversary of `\pi` day and connects friends stitching road maps from around the world. Pack a sandwich and let's go!

`\pi` Approximation Day Art Posters


Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2018 `\pi` day shrinks the world and celebrates road trips by stitching streets from around the world together. In this version, we look at the boonies, burbs and boutique of `\pi` by drawing progressively denser patches of streets. Let's go places.

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2017 `\pi` day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2016 `\pi` approximation day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2016 `\pi` day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2015 `\pi` day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2014 `\pi` approx day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2014 `\pi` day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2013 `\pi` day

Pi Day 2014 Art Poster - Folding the Number Pi
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Circular `\pi` art

The never-repeating digits of `\pi` can be approximated by 22/7 = 3.142857 to within 0.04%. These pages artistically and mathematically explore rational approximations to `\pi`. This 22/7 ratio is celebrated each year on July 22nd. If you like hand waving or back-of-envelope mathematics, this day is for you: `\pi` approximation day!

Want more math + art? Discover the Accidental Similarity Number. Find humor in my poster of the first 2,000 4s of `\pi`.
Vague mathematics and alternative explanations to reality ahead.
Equip your imagination.

What would circles look like if `\pi`=22/7?

Tiny loop, Folded dimensions and solidland

Imagine that the circle had a tiny loop at one of its points. The circumference of this loop would be added to the circumference of the circle, but the loop would be so small that we would never notice it.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
In a universe where Pi=22/7, circles might have a single point at which another dimension is curled up, contributing to the additional component of circumference.

This is reminiscent of how string theories describe higher dimensions—as tiny loops at each point in space, except in my example the loop is only at one point.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A 3rd dimension explained on a 2d plane. The 3rd dimension is represented by a circle of a very small radius.

This idea originated with Klein, who explained the fourth dimension as a curled up circle of a very small radius. Another way in which this curling-up is used is to say that the fifth dimension is a curled up Planck length, as explained in this Imagining 10 Dimensions video.

flatlanders and solidlanders

If this idea is difficult to wrap your head around, you're not alone. We cannot think of additional dimensions in the regular spatial sence since we have no means of experiencing such phenomena. We can however imagine how flatlanders might explain the 3rd dimension, since we can perceive it. They would draw the curled up circles in their plane because they would not have the experience of drawing with perspective mimicking our 3rd dimension.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
How creatures that live in a 2-dimensional world, so-called flatlanders, might explain the 3rd dimension (left) and how we ourselves might visualize their explanation (right).

We would draw their explanation as shown on the right in the figure above, borrowing from our concept of the 3rd spatial dimension. Now imagine showing our explanation to a flatlander. They would not see the same thing as you—the circles would not intuitively imply the higher dimension to them.

This is analogous to why we cannot draw folded up dimensions. We are merely solidlanders—flatlanders in 3d space. Creatures that can perceive more spatial dimensions would use us as examples of diminished perceptual ability.

Did you notice the fallacy in the term solidlander? We refer to solids as objects that occupy the maximum number of spatial dimensions. There's no reason to think that creatures that perceive more dimensions wouldn't use this word the same way we do. We're solidlanders from our perspective and they're solidlanders from theirs.

relativistic speeds, frames of reference and length contraction

Another way to imagine how a circle might look is a little more realistic. The theory of special relativity tells us that when we travel at speed relative to another object the dimensions of that object appear contracted to us in the direction of motion.

This contraction is always present, but essentially imperceptible unless we're travelling fast enough. For example, in order for a 1 meter object to appear contracted by the length of a hydrogen molecule (0.3 nm) we would have to be travelling at 7.3 km/s (Wolfram Alpha calculation)!

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
If we travel at a speed of 0.04c and use the radius length along our direction of motion, the circumference of the circle will appear to be `2 \times 22/7 \times r`.

How fast would we have to be going to compress the circle sufficiently so that its circumference and radius ratio embody the `22/7` approximation of `\pi`? Pretty fast, it turns out. If we travel at just over 12,000 km/sec (0.04 times the speed of light, Wolfram Alpha calculation), the circle will compress as shown in the figure above, and the ratio of its circumference to the radius along direction of motion will make `\pi` appear to be `22/7`.

This compression in length would be barely perceptible to us. Below are both circles, shown overlapping, with `delta` being the extra length in radius required.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Deformation of the circle required to change the ratio of its circumference to original radius from \pi to 22/7.

The value of `\delta`, which is 0.0008049179155 (if `r = 1`), can be calculated by considering the perimeter of an ellipse. The fact that `\delta` is small shouldn't be surprising since `22/7` is an excellent approximation of `\pi`, good to 0.04%.

Calculating the parameter of an ellipse is more complicated than calculating it for a circle because it uses something called an elliptic integral. This integral has no analytical solution and requires numerical approximation. Luckily, we have computers.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
If a circle compressed slightly in one direction (e.g. vertically) then we can make the ratio of its circumference to the new radius be 2 × 22/7.

We can use the expression shown above for the perimeter of the ellipse to determine how much the circle needs to be deformed. Let's write `a = r + \delta` (original radius with slight deformation `\delta`) and `b=r`. Since `22/7 > \pi` we know that `\delta > 0`.

It remains to solve the equation below for a value of `\delta` that will yield a ratio of circumference to `r` of `2 \times 22/7`.

Pi Approximation Day Art Poster / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The equation we need to solve to determine how much of a stretch the circle needs.

To make things simpler, let set `r=1`. Solving the equation numerically, I find $$\delta = 0.0008049179155$$

You can verify this solution at Wolfram Alpha.

the meaning of full-circle

After all this, we come full-circle to the meaning of full-circle.

You might ask why I didn't change the definition of `\pi` to `22/7` in the upper limit of the integral. After all, why not make the approximation exercise more faithful to the approximation?

It turns out that if I did that I would get `\delta=0`, which brings us back to the original circle. How is this possible?

Technically, this is because the integral returns the upper limit as its answer if the eccentricity is zero (i.e., `E(x,0)=x`).

Intuitively, this is because changing the upper limit of the integral actually redefines the angle of a full revolution. Now, full-circle isn't `2 \pi` radians, but `2 \times 22/7`. Given that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius is exactly the size, in radians, of a full revolution, we don't need to change the shape of the circle if we're willing to change what a full revolution means.

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news + thoughts

Statistics vs Machine Learning

Tue 03-04-2018
We conclude our series on Machine Learning with a comparison of two approaches: classical statistical inference and machine learning. The boundary between them is subject to debate, but important generalizations can be made.

Inference creates a mathematical model of the datageneration process to formalize understanding or test a hypothesis about how the system behaves. Prediction aims at forecasting unobserved outcomes or future behavior. Typically we want to do both and know how biological processes work and what will happen next. Inference and ML are complementary in pointing us to biologically meaningful conclusions.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Statistics vs machine learning. (read)

Statistics asks us to choose a model that incorporates our knowledge of the system, and ML requires us to choose a predictive algorithm by relying on its empirical capabilities. Justification for an inference model typically rests on whether we feel it adequately captures the essence of the system. The choice of pattern-learning algorithms often depends on measures of past performance in similar scenarios.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Statistics vs machine learning. Nature Methods 15:233–234.

Background reading

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: supervised methods. Nature Methods 15:5–6.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Happy 2018 `\pi` Day—Boonies, burbs and boutiques of `\pi`

Wed 14-03-2018

Celebrate `\pi` Day (March 14th) and go to brand new places. Together with Jake Lever, this year we shrink the world and play with road maps.

Streets are seamlessly streets from across the world. Finally, a halva shop on the same block!

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A great 10 km run loop between Istanbul, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Dublin. Stop off for halva, smørrebrød, espresso and a Guinness on the way. (details)

Intriguing and personal patterns of urban development for each city appear in the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques series.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
In the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques of `\pi` we draw progressively denser patches using the digit sequence 159 to inform density. (details)

No color—just lines. Lines from Marrakesh, Prague, Istanbul, Nice and other destinations for the mind and the heart.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Roads from cities rearranged according to the digits of `\pi`. (details)

The art is featured in the Pi City on the Scientific American SA Visual blog.

Check out art from previous years: 2013 `\pi` Day and 2014 `\pi` Day, 2015 `\pi` Day, 2016 `\pi` Day and 2017 `\pi` Day.

Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN)

Thu 18-01-2018
Supervised learning algorithms extract general principles from observed examples guided by a specific prediction objective.

We examine two very common supervised machine learning methods: linear support vector machines (SVM) and k-nearest neighbors (kNN).

SVM is often less computationally demanding than kNN and is easier to interpret, but it can identify only a limited set of patterns. On the other hand, kNN can find very complex patterns, but its output is more challenging to interpret.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN). (read)

We illustrate SVM using a data set in which points fall into two categories, which are separated in SVM by a straight line "margin". SVM can be tuned using a parameter that influences the width and location of the margin, permitting points to fall within the margin or on the wrong side of the margin. We then show how kNN relaxes explicit boundary definitions, such as the straight line in SVM, and how kNN too can be tuned to create more robust classification.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 15:5–6.

Background reading

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Human Versus Machine

Tue 16-01-2018
Balancing subjective design with objective optimization.

In a Nature graphics blog article, I present my process behind designing the stark black-and-white Nature 10 cover.

Nature 10, 18 December 2017

Machine learning: a primer

Thu 18-01-2018
Machine learning extracts patterns from data without explicit instructions.

In this primer, we focus on essential ML principles— a modeling strategy to let the data speak for themselves, to the extent possible.

The benefits of ML arise from its use of a large number of tuning parameters or weights, which control the algorithm’s complexity and are estimated from the data using numerical optimization. Often ML algorithms are motivated by heuristics such as models of interacting neurons or natural evolution—even if the underlying mechanism of the biological system being studied is substantially different. The utility of ML algorithms is typically assessed empirically by how well extracted patterns generalize to new observations.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Machine learning: a primer. (read)

We present a data scenario in which we fit to a model with 5 predictors using polynomials and show what to expect from ML when noise and sample size vary. We also demonstrate the consequences of excluding an important predictor or including a spurious one.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Snowflake simulation

Tue 16-01-2018
Symmetric, beautiful and unique.

Just in time for the season, I've simulated a snow-pile of snowflakes based on the Gravner-Griffeath model.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A few of the beautiful snowflakes generated by the Gravner-Griffeath model. (explore)

The work is described as a wintertime tale in In Silico Flurries: Computing a world of snow and co-authored with Jake Lever in the Scientific American SA Blog.

Gravner, J. & Griffeath, D. (2007) Modeling Snow Crystal Growth II: A mesoscopic lattice map with plausible dynamics.