New Years

January 6, 2010

It has always seemed strange to me that we start the new year when we do. January 1st doesn’t seem like the most salient date to choose to start a year on.

It doesn’t correspond to the start of winter, which falls on the winter solstice, about 9-10 days earlier than the new year. Even if we were going to choose to start the year with a season, winter seems like a crappy one to choose. Makes more sense to start with something like spring which fits more with a theme of renewal etc. Also I think it kinda makes sense cuz people plant the new year’s harvest in Spring I think. Not 100% sure on that since I don’t farm.

As a 22 year old who has been on schools his whole life, it seems to me that September 1st would be a more sensible starting date since my life is governed by school years. In addition young people in schools, this would be more convenient for everyone involved in these fields like parents, teachers, professors, janitors, secretaries, etc.

Apparently westerners used to use different dates like March 25 and Easter as new years. Apparently those are important dates to Christians because their myths take place on those days.

This post was pretty boring. Oh well.

Listening to: Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin


lol terrorism

December 26, 2009


In case you haven’t heard, some terrorist wannabe named Umar “party in his pants” Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a plane with explosives he hid in his pants. He didn’t manage to hurt anyone other than himself though, so you’d think it is a happy ending. But of course authorities will respond by having their minimum wage TSA flunkies enforce more annoying, intrusive, and ineffective “security” policies to convince retards they are safer.

AirCanada is leading the way of stupid policies by requiring that passengers spend the last hour of their flights in their seats without access to any of their carry-ons or anything on their lap. Surely even the cleverest of terrorists will be unable to devise a plot that doesn’t involve fiddling with explosives during the final hour of a flight. Or at least thats what I imagine the retards thinking whose fears this policy is designed to placate. They’ve also tried to get passengers not to bring carry-ons by threatening “lengthy security delays” for people with carry-ons. One wonders if this policy is motivated by security concerns or their new policies of charging for checked bags.

Even though he failed in his mission, he will still manage to cause many millions of people to be needlessly inconvenienced. For this I blame the retards who believe these measures make them safer. Without these retards the government’s attempt to signal to its citizens that it’s protecting them would be seen for what it really is, a huge inefficiency.

When I fly on Thursday, I fully expect TSA peons to perform perfunctory patdowns, but I hope I’m at least allowed to keep my pants on.

Cop Brings Gun to Snowball Fight

December 24, 2009

Not that surprised. Kinda surprised that people keep bombing his face with snowballs when he pulled a gun. Seems like he has been moved to desk duty but still has a job. I wonder what the penalty would have been if he had been a regular civilian instead of cop aka super citizen.

Interesting Game (cont.)

December 21, 2009

This is a continuation of my thoughts on the game I was talking about here.

The other route I can see players taking is a cooperative strategy.

Over the long term, players can’t expect to win more than 1/n in each round since there are n players splitting a maximum prize of 1 unit per round. To achieve this outcome, players start out by naming 0 or 1 randomly. They do this until they reach a round where they receive the maximum prize (ie. they are the sole player to name 1). From that round forward they name all 0’s except for every nth round. So if I win in round 3, I will name 1 only in rounds 3+n, 3+2n, 3+3n, … . Given enough time players will almost certainly fall into a pattern of taking turns naming 1, each earning the prize every n rounds.

The problem with this cooperative strategy is that people have incentive to defect. Once the group gets settled into taking turns, one player could just start naming 1 every round and collect 1 prize on his turn and 1/2 of the prize on every other turn. Normally players would try to defend against defectors by switching to a  mutually punishment strategy. In this game they could switch to a strategy of picking uniformly from the first million numbers. The defector’s best response in this case would be to name anything from 1-1,000,000n and expect a payoff of 1/1,000,000n which is definitely less than the 1/n he would make from cooperating.

In this game it would be difficult for players to enforce this plan to punish the defector since it’s hard for them to tell whether he is defecting or just randomly picking a lot of 1’s and unable to find the turn where nobody else picks 1. They need to decide upon a statistical test to detect defectors. With any statistical test there will be a chance of a false positive, but but they can choose a test so that the probability of a false positive is arbitrarily low. Also, defectors will be able to defect infrequently enough to still gain an advantage while going undetected.

One simple test would be to choose a large number M. Players would play the cooperative strategy until round M. By choosing M to be large enough we can be arbitrarily certain that all the players will have settled into a turn taking pattern. After round M players are ‘on alert’ for defectors. If a player sees anyone else play on a 1 on his turn (ie. he only gets 1/2 a prize on his turn), he will respond by playing 1 in the nextn rounds to alert the other players and then switch to the punishment strategy. This test has the advantage of catching defectors with certainty. Overall, players should expect to make almost 1/n per round over the very long term which is as good as we can hope for. There might be other ways to do this better.

Now the important question is whether players should go for this cooperative strategy or the one-upsmanship game from my last post. It’s tricky to quantify what a specific individual will expect to make in the one-upsmanship game since it depends on how often he can outsmart the other players. Averaged over all the players, they cannot do better than expecting 1/n per round although they will likely do much worse. If  all the players are equally smart, they should probably cooperate. If (n-1) of the players are equally smart they will want to cooperate and the other player would be forced to cooperate. There is some minimum number of cooperators needed for it to get going, but at the moment I can’t think of what this number is. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader. lol.

Listening to: “One Love” – Nas

Interesting Game

December 20, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this game recently. You take a group of n players and let them simultaneously choose a non-negative integer. Players who named exactly one more than the median split a prize. Then the game is repeated many times.

Of course it would never make sense to choose 0 since the median will never be -1. Knowing that nobody in their right mind would choose 0, it wouldn’t make any sense to choose 1 since we don’t expect the median to ever be 0. By the same token, we don’t expect anybody to choose 0 or 1 so we shouldn’t choose 2. By iterating this process we can eliminate all the natural numbers!

There are two routes I can see this game taking if it were played out. The first way is like a game of one-upsmanship. Most players will try to best respond to what they expect the median player to do. People whose strategies don’t change from round to round can be thought of as level-0 learners. Some players called level-1 learners will choose the best strategy under the assumption that all other players are level-0 learners. There is an infinite hierarchy of learning with level-n learners best responding to level-(n-1) learners. If the median player is a level-k learner, then level-(k+1) learners will win. It’s like this game of choosing a method to choose numbers is a meta-game on top of the game. Notice that this meta-game has the same structure as the game itself.

Just as players who don’t change their strategies are level-0 learners, players who don’t change the level they learn on are level-0 meta-learners. Level-1 meta-learners choose to learn at one level higher than they expect the level-0 meta-learners to learn at. This meta-meta-game again has the same structure as the original game. This can be extended to the (meta)^m-game.

It would be interesting to play this game out experimentally with smart people. I think if they go this route of one-upsmanship, they should eventually realize to stop playing level-0 in the (meta)^m-game for any m. If this is true, the median as a function of the round number should rise faster than any polynomial over the long term.

To be continued…

Listening to: Play It Off – Nelly


December 19, 2009

It is pretty straightforward to express sounds mathematically as changes in pressure so we can express any sound as a pressure profile over time. Similarly, it isn’t too complicated to express how things look visually. In each direction there is a color and an intensity. Each color is defined by the frequency of light of that color.

I’m not sure how one would express taste mathematically. There are about five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (aka umami). Perhaps a taste is some combination of these basic tastes like a vector in this five dimensional vector space spanned by these basic tastes. But let’s say I taste something and notice a hint of lime. Does that mean that I break the taste vector into a sum of common taste vectors that include lime? This seems unlikely to me. It seems more likely that we interpret complex tastes as a set of more familiar tastes, like a chord of tastes. Those tastes, in turn, could be combinations of even more basic tastes chords or they could be just be a chord of the five basic tastes.

People can only perceive a couple distinct musical notes at once without confusing them in their mind. In the same way, people have trouble picking out all the ingredients of complicated dishes. I guess this is good because it provides a constraint for chefs to work with. Otherwise they might just try to throw together as many tastes as possible.

So when you’re eating food, you can think of it as a symphony of food chords!

First Post

December 17, 2009

Boom first sentence. There is usually a lot of pressure on the first blog post so I thought I would write something quick just to get it out of the way. I’ve even had several other thoughts I wanted to write posts about, but they weren’t worthwhile enough to be considered for the first post. Luckily the second post is not nearly as important.

At first I was thinking of starting two blogs — one for funny stuff and one for thoughts that involve more thinking. Instead I think I’ll just have this blog be a dump for all my thoughts. So it might end up being a strange mix of thoughts. Oh well.

You can see my old blogs at

I Don’t Even Need a Title

First Blog

Listening To: Same Song and Dance – Eminem