latest news

Distractions and amusements, with a sandwich and coffee.

Love itself became the object of her love.
•
• count sadnesses
• more quotes

On March 14th celebrate `\pi` Day. Hug `\pi`—find a way to do it.

For those who favour `\tau=2\pi` will have to postpone celebrations until July 26th. That's what you get for thinking that `\pi` is wrong.

If you're not into details, you may opt to party on July 22nd, which is `\pi` approximation day (`\pi` ≈ 22/7). It's 20% more accurate that the official `\pi` day!

Finally, if you believe that `\pi = 3`, you should read why `\pi` is not equal to 3.

This year's `\pi` day art collection celebrates not only the digit but also one of the fundamental forces in nature: gravity.

In February of 2016, for the first time, gravitational waves were detected at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

The signal in the detector was sonified—a process by which any data can be encoded into sound to provide hints at patterns and structure that we might otherwise miss—and we finally heard what two black holes sound like. A buzz and chirp.

The art is featured in the Gravity of Pi article on the Scientific American SA Visual blog.

All the art was processed while listening to Roses by Coeur de Pirate, a brilliant female French-Canadian songwriter, who sounds like a mix of Patricia Kaas and Lhasa. The lyrics Oublie-moi (Forget me) are fitting with this year's theme of gravity.

Mais laisse-moi tomber, laisse-nous tomber

Laisse la nuit trembler en moi

Laisse-moi tomber, laisse nous tomber

Cette fois

But let me fall, let us fall

Let the night tremble in me

Let me fall, let us fall

This time

The art is generated by running a simulation of gravity in which digits of `\pi` are each assigned a mass and allowed to collide eand orbit each other.

The mathematical details of the simulation can be found in the code section.

A simulation starts with taking `n` digits of `\pi` and arranging them uniformly around a circle. The mass of each digit, `d_i` (e.g. 3), is given by `(1+d)^k` where `k` is a mass power parameter between 0.01 and 1. For example, if `k=0.42` then the mass of 3 is `(1+3)^{0.42} = 1.79`.

The figure below shows the evolution of a simulation with `n=3` digits and `k=1`. The digits 3 and 4 collide to form the digit `3+4 = 7` and immediately collides with 1 to form `7+1=8`. With only one mass left in the system, the simulation stops.

When masses have initial velocities, the patterns quickly start to get interesting. In the figure above, the masses are initalized with zero velocity. As soon as the simulation, each mass immediately starts to move directly towards the center of mass of the other two masses.

When the initial velocity is non-zero, such as in the figure below, the masses don't immediately collapse towards one another. The masses first travel with their initial velocity but immediately the gravitational force imparts acceleration that alters this velocity. In the examples below, only those simulations in which the masses collapsed within a time cutoff are shown.

Depending on the initial velocities, some systems collapse very quickly, which doesn't make for interesting patterns.

For example, the simulations above evolved over 100,000 steps and in some cases the masses collapsed within 10,000 steps. In the figure below, I require that the system evolves for at least 15,000 steps before collapsing. Lovely doddles, don't you think?

When a simulation is repeated with different initial conditions, the set of outcomes is called an ensemble.

Below, I repeat the simulation 100 times with `n=3` and `k=0.2`, each time with slightly different initial velocity. The velocities have their `x`- and `y`-components normally distributed with zero mean and a fixed variance. Each of the four ensembles has its simulations evolve over progressively more time steps: 5,000, 7,500, 10,000, and 20,000.

You can see that with 5,000 steps the masses don't yet have a chance to collide. After 7,500, there have been collisions in a small number of systems. The blue mass corresponds to the 3 colliding with 4 and the green mass to 1 colliding with 4. After 10,000, even more collisions are seen and in 3 cases we see total collapse (all three digits collided). After 20,000,

The value of `k` greatly impacts the outcome of the simulation. When `k` is very small, all the digits have essentially the same mass. For example, when `k=0.01` the 0 has a mass of 1 and 9 has a mass of 1.02.

When `k` is large, the difference in masses is much greater. For example, for `k=2` the lightest mass is `(1+0)^2=1` and the heaviest `(1+9)^2=10`. Because the acceleration of a mass is proportional to the mass that is attracting it, in a pair of masses the light mass will accelerate faster.

As the number of digits is increased, the pattern of collapse doesn't qualitatively change.

I ran a large number of simulations. For various values of `n` and `k`, I repeated the simulation several times to sample different intial velocities.

Below is a great example of how a stable orbital pattern of a pair of masses can be disrupted by the presence of another mass. You can see on the left that once the light red mass moves away from the orange/green pair, they settle into a stable pattern.

The figure below shows one of my favourite patterns. As the digits collide, three masses remain, which leave the system. They remain under each other's gravitational influence, but are moving too quickly to return to the canvas within the time of the simulation.

Use this fun inteactive gravity simulator if you want to drop your own masses and watch them orbit.

The presence of constraints in experiments, such as sample size restrictions, awkward blocking or disallowed treatment combinations may make using classical designs very difficult or impossible.

Optimal design is a powerful, general purpose alternative for high quality, statistically grounded designs under nonstandard conditions.

We discuss two types of optimal designs (D-optimal and I-optimal) and show how it can be applied to a scenario with sample size and blocking constraints.

Smucker, B., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of significance: Optimal experimental design *Nature Methods* **15**:599–600.

Krzywinski, M., Altman, N. (2014) Points of significance: Two factor designs. Nature Methods 11:1187–1188.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking. Nature Methods 11:699–700.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of significance: Designing comparative experiments. Nature Methods 11:597–598.

An illustration of the Tree of Life, showing some of the key branches.

The tree is drawn as a DNA double helix, with bases colored to encode ribosomal RNA genes from various organisms on the tree.

All living things on earth descended from a single organism called LUCA (last universal common ancestor) and inherited LUCA’s genetic code for basic biological functions, such as translating DNA and creating proteins. Constant genetic mutations shuffled and altered this inheritance and added new genetic material—a process that created the diversity of life we see today. The “tree of life” organizes all organisms based on the extent of shuffling and alteration between them. The full tree has millions of branches and every living organism has its own place at one of the leaves in the tree. The simplified tree shown here depicts all three kingdoms of life: bacteria, archaebacteria and eukaryota. For some organisms a grey bar shows when they first appeared in the tree in millions of years (Ma). The double helix winding around the tree encodes highly conserved ribosomal RNA genes from various organisms.

Johnson, H.L. (2018) The Whole Earth Cataloguer, Sactown, Jun/Jul, p. 89

An article about keyboard layouts and the history and persistence of QWERTY.

My Carpalx keyboard optimization software is mentioned along with my World's Most Difficult Layout: TNWMLC. True typing hell.

McDonald, T. (2018) Why we can't give up this odd way of typing, BBC, 25 May 2018.

The theme of the April issue of Molecular Case Studies is precision oncogenomics. We have three papers in the issue based on work done in our Personalized Oncogenomics Program (POG).

The covers of Molecular Case Studies typically show microscopy images, with some shown in a more abstract fashion. There's also the occasional Circos plot.

I've previously taken a more fine-art approach to cover design, such for those of Nature, Genome Research and Trends in Genetics. I've used microscopy images to create a cover for PNAS—the one that made biology look like astrophysics—and thought that this is kind of material I'd start with for the MCS cover.

A map of the nearby superclusters and voids in the Unvierse.

By "nearby" I mean within 6,000 million light-years.