Here are some interesting things that I should be blogging about:
- This is probably not the best way to go about doing research, but after returning from my vacation in Montreal last week I learned that we’ve changed the way we analyse our galaxy parameter space for the second time in less than a month (see my university web page for more info). We started with a downhill simplex method, which sort of worked but didn’t lend itself to a systematic application; then we moved on to a gradient method, which was more systematic but gave occasionally wierd results; and now we’re working on Markov chain Monte Carlo methods to which we will subsequently apply Bayes’ theorem. This is actually the most promising approach, but i remain slightly put off by the seemingly regular changes in strategy. That being said, I’m thinking of changing strategies again to a Hamiltonian Monte Carlo approach to speed up the process of modelling the chi-square space. (At least this way I get to write my own code in a language that isn’t Fortran instead of using my supervisor’s.)
- Anything to bring down the price of textbooks and make them more accessible (financially) is a good thing. The Global Text Project (globaltext.org, posting from old browser at school again) will use a wiki-style approach to create textbooks – i.e., a collaborative approach where many people can contribute. In this case, the process is overseen by academics and experts in the field, distinguishing it from most wikis. Besides making such knowledge available at a much lower price to students, it should allow such knowledge to flow more freely among students in developing nations, who are less likely to be able to afford the exorbitant prices charged by textbook publishers. This will hopefully force textbook publishers to rethink their business model; with quality free texts widely available, they should be less able to charge high prices for textbooks.
- Somehow, Hewlett Packard’s chairperson thinks it’s okay to spy on HP’s executives using the unethical and very likely illegal method of ‘pretexting’ to find out who leaked some info to the press. Somehow, leaking info to the press is a serious breach of personal integrity. It doesn’t seem consistent to believe that the former is fine while the latter is not, but that’s exactly the impression that HP’s own statement on the matter gives (see techdirt). You can’t claim that you uphold your own employees’ (as well as customers’) privacy, say that you expect them hold high standards of personal integrity, and then break both of those tenets to find out who leaked the information (which does not appear to have been particularly interesting). It sounds like what Dunn did was far worse than what Keyworth did; making matters worse, most of the board, with the exception of Tom Perkins, does not seem to care (or at least sided with Dunn on the issue). Makes you wonder what types of people run the company. This may seem to be a fairly irrelevant matter to most people, but it reflects very poorly on the company when the board implicitly sanctions such actions from the chairperson. There’s something so repulsively hypocritical about this that it makes me question whether or not I should consider buying from HP at all in the future. What type of attitude do you suppose they take to their own customers’ privacy?