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Distractions and amusements, with a sandwich and coffee.

Sun is on my face ...a beautiful day without you.
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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. I sympathize with this position and have `\tau` day art too!

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.

My cover design for Hola Mundo by Hannah Fry. Published by Blackie Books.

Curious how the design was created? Read the full details.

*You can look back there to explain things,
but the explanation disappears.
You'll never find it there.
Things are not explained by the past.
They're explained by what happens now.
—Alan Watts*

A Markov chain is a probabilistic model that is used to model how a system changes over time as a series of transitions between states. Each transition is assigned a probability that defines the chance of the system changing from one state to another.

Together with the states, these transitions probabilities define a stochastic model with the Markov property: transition probabilities only depend on the current stateâ€”the future is independent of the past if the present is known.

Once the transition probabilities are defined in matrix form, it is easy to predict the distribution of future states of the system. We cover concepts of aperiodicity, irreducibility, limiting and stationary distributions and absorption.

This column is the first part of a series and pairs particularly well with Alan Watts and Blond:ish.

Grewal, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Markov Chains. *Nature Methods* **16**:663–664.

*Places to go and nobody to see.*

Exquisitely detailed maps of places on the Moon, comets and asteroids in the Solar System and stars, deep-sky objects and exoplanets in the northern and southern sky. All maps are zoomable.

Quantile regression explores the effect of one or more predictors on quantiles of the response. It can answer questions such as "What is the weight of 90% of individuals of a given height?"

Unlike in traditional mean regression methods, no assumptions about the distribution of the response are required, which makes it practical, robust and amenable to skewed distributions.

Quantile regression is also very useful when extremes are interesting or when the response variance varies with the predictors.

Das, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Quantile regression. *Nature Methods* **16**:451–452.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of significance: Simple linear regression. *Nature Methods* **12**:999–1000.

Outliers can degrade the fit of linear regression models when the estimation is performed using the ordinary least squares. The impact of outliers can be mitigated with methods that provide robust inference and greater reliability in the presence of anomalous values.

We discuss MM-estimation and show how it can be used to keep your fitting sane and reliable.

Greco, L., Luta, G., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue. *Nature Methods* **16**:275–276.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2016) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Influential or nuisance. Nature Methods 13:281–282.

Two-level factorial experiments, in which all combinations of multiple factor levels are used, efficiently estimate factor effects and detect interactionsâ€”desirable statistical qualities that can provide deep insight into a system.

They offer two benefits over the widely used one-factor-at-a-time (OFAT) experiments: efficiency and ability to detect interactions.

Since the number of factor combinations can quickly increase, one approach is to model only some of the factorial effects using empirically-validated assumptions of effect sparsity and effect hierarchy. Effect sparsity tells us that in factorial experiments most of the factorial terms are likely to be unimportant. Effect hierarchy tells us that low-order terms (e.g. main effects) tend to be larger than higher-order terms (e.g. two-factor or three-factor interactions).

Smucker, B., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Two-level factorial experiments *Nature Methods* **16**:211–212.

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