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Nominations: Award for statistical excellence in the pharmaceutical industry

Nominations are now open for the award for statistical excellence in the pharmaceutical industry jointly made by the Royal Statistical Society and PSI (Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry).

Now in its second year, the award was first made last year to Phil Woodward for “a portfolio-wide implementation of a Bayesian framework for early clinical development within a major pharmaceutical company“.

The RSS website gives the following information about criteria:

Once again, this year the award will be for the most influential example of the novel application of an existing statistical practice, or the implementation of an innovative statistical practice, in the pharmaceutical industry.

The nominees will have either employed existing or new statistical techniques or processes to enhance the planning and analysis of investigations, or developed statistical systems and processes which have strengthened the quality and efficiency of these investigations. The winning nominee(s) will have demonstrated how they identified the need for improvements, applied existing techniques or developed innovative techniques, and successfully implemented these techniques in their organization to enhance the statistical service provided.

Nominations for the award will close at 5pm on Friday, 18 May 2012. The winner(s) will be announced towards the beginning of July 2012. The RSS web site has further details and an entry form for nominations, including self-nominations. Nominations should refer to work undertaken between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011. In the case of projects which span more than one year, the project should have delivered the final product during this period.

Source: Nominations open for award for statistical excellence in the pharmaceutical industry.

Talk: Two Dictionaries of Mathematics, 1679 and 1989 by David Nelson

The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics

On my book shelf is a paperback of over 460 pages of two column, densely typeset definitions of mathematical terms. The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics (Third Edition) is edited by David Nelson. On Friday 2nd March 2012 David Nelson will give a talk to the IMA East Midlands Branch, “Two Dictionaries of Mathematics, 1679 and 1989”. The abstract for this is:

This talk attempts to describe the history, aims and content of two books. Firstly Joseph Moxon’s Mathematicks made Easie: or, a Mathematical Dictionary Explaining the Terms of Art and Difficult Phrases used in Arithmetick, Geometry, Astronomy, Astrology, and other Mathematical Sciences (1679), which was the first mathematical dictionary to be published in English. Secondly The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics (1989), which has had subsequent editions in 1998, 2003 and 2008.

This talk will take place at the University of Nottingham at 7.30pm. As usual, no charge is made to attend meetings; non-IMA members are welcome. Full details and directions are available via the IMA East Midlands Branch website.

Deriving dynamical equations is NP-Hard

This paper has just been accepted by Physical Review Letters:

The behavior of any physical system is governed by its underlying dynamical equations. Much of physics is concerned with discovering these dynamical equations and understanding their consequences. In this work, we show that, remarkably, identifying the underlying dynamical equation from any amount of experimental data, however precise, is a provably computationally hard problem (it is NP-hard), both for classical and quantum mechanical systems. As a by-product of this work, we give complexity-theoretic answers to both the quantum and classical embedding problems, two long-standing open problems in mathematics (the classical problem, in particular, dating back over 70 years).

This paper has been accepted, so I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to read it yet. Possibly something to do with money. The preprint is on the ArXiv, anyway.

via ScienceNOW via Slashdot, who reported it as “It’s Official: Physics is Hard”. That’s exactly the kind of unhelpful attention-grabbing headline we’re hoping to avoid here at The Aperiodical.

A commenter on Slashdot raises an interesting point:

Could we then map NP-HARD computation problems onto real world physics systems to find solutions?

Pricing bot interactions

Carlos Bueno writes about a book “Computer Game Bot Turing Test”. This, he says, is:

one of over 100,000 “books” “written” by a Markov chain running over random Wikipedia articles, bundled up and sold online for a ridiculous price. The publisher, Betascript, is notorious for this kind of thing.

He writes that the pricing bots on Amazon Marketplace have got hold of this book and are “fight epic price wars” over it.

So with “Turing Test” we have a delightful futuristic absurdity: a computer program, pretending to be human, hawking a book about computers pretending to be human, while other computer programs pretend to have used copies of it. A book that was never actually written, much less printed and read.

He then talks about his own book (Lauren Ipsum; a children’s story about computer science) and how he saw pricing bots fighting over this. The book is print-on-demand, so a bot claiming to have a used copy could simply buy a new copy and resell it for a profit. Then the bots started to undercut the retail price! Finally, the Amazon pricing bot put his book on sale at 28% discount (and Amazon swallows the difference).

My reaction to this algorithmic whipsawing has settled down to a kind of helpless bemusement… After all, I no longer have a choice. The price is now determined by the complex interaction of several independent computer programs, most of which don’t actually have a copy to sell.

Read the whole story: How Bots Seized Control of My Pricing Strategy.

Turing stamp issued tomorrow

As part of its Britons of Distinction Stamp Set, one of a series of special stamp sets issued this year to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Royal Mail are due to release a stamp commemorating Alan Turing tomorrow. This features the rebuilt Turing Bombe on display to visitors at Bletchley Park.

Bletchley Park are offering for sale a set of first day covers. According to ebay, “first day cover”:

refers to an envelope on which a stamp is pasted and the stamp gets cancelled on the very first day of issue. A cachet is placed on the left side of the envelope that describes the stamp’s issue. The cachet is a design that will explain the event or anniversary being commemorated. The stamps affixed are related to some events. The first day cover stamps are must haves for the first day cover collectors.

The first day covers are produced in association with the Alan Turing Centenary Year Committee and Bletchley Park Post Office, with proceeds from sales going to support Bletchley Park. According to a Bletchley Park press release:

The first design is by Rebecca Peacock of Firecatcher Design and the theme is Turing’s work on the mathematics of patterns.  It was Turing’s genius for mathematics that made his work so vital to Bletchley Park and the development of modern computing.
The other three are original paintings by artist Steve Williams who has donated his work to the Bletchley Park Trust. They depict three buildings at Bletchley Park associated with Alan Turing.  These are the cottage and Hut 8 where he worked and Hut 11 that housed the Turing Bombe machines.
The Royal Mail stamp features the rebuilt Turing Bombe on display to visitors at Bletchley Park.  The first day of issue postmark is a facsimile of one of the Bombe’s 36 drums marked with letters of the alphabet.

Stocks are limited (1000 for the first design; 500 each of the others) so early ordering is recommended.

First Day Covers at Bletchley Park Shop.

Press release: Bletchley Park Puts Stamp On Turing Centenary.

Alex the parrot could count to eight

The Nature News Blog reports on a new addition to the non-human numerism literature:

Even in death, the world’s most accomplished parrot continues to amaze. The final experiments involving Alex – a grey parrot (Psittacus eithacus) trained to count objects – have just been published.

They show that Alex could accurately add together Arabic numerals to a sum of eight and three sets of objects, putting his mathematical abilities on par with (and maybe beyond) those of chimpanzees and other non-human primates. The work was just published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Experimental evidence for Turing’s morphogensis mechanism

Alan Turing’s research in the latter part of his life focused, among other things, on morphogensis – particularly of animal pattern formation.  According to a King’s College London press release, Turing “put forward the idea that regular repeating patterns in biological systems are generated by a pair of morphogens that work together as an ‘activator’ and ‘inhibitor'”. Now researchers at Kings have provided experimental evidence to confirm this theory. This study:

not only demonstrates a mechanism which is likely to be widely relevant in vertebrate development, but also provides confidence that chemicals called morphogens, which control these patterns, can be used in regenerative medicine to differentiate stem cells into tissue.

The press release quotes Dr Jeremy Green from the Department of Craniofacial Development at King’s Dental Institute saying:

“Regularly spaced structures, from vertebrae and hair follicles to the stripes on a tiger or zebrafish, are a fundamental motif in biology. There are several theories about how patterns in nature are formed, but until now there was only circumstantial evidence for Turing’s mechanism. Our study provides the first experimental identification of an activator-inhibitor system at work in the generation of stripes – in this case, in the ridges of the mouth palate.
“Although important in feeling and tasting food, ridges in the mouth are not of great medical significance. However, they have proven extremely valuable here in validating an old theory of the activator-inhibitor model first put forward by Alan Turing in the 50s.
“Not only does this show us how patterns such as stripes are formed, but it provides confidence that these morphogens (chemicals) can be used in future regenerative medicine to regenerate structure and pattern when differentiating stem cells into other tissues.”

Source: Scientists prove Turing’s tiger stripe theory.