*A Google self-driven car*

Wired’s Chris Anderson has said “Our children will not believe that people used to drive cars and drive airplanes. We are the weak link in the chain” (NYTimes). I believe it. In Sri Lanka we go a step backwards by having humans directing traffic, as Himal and PravNJ have been debating on Twitter. The beauty of trains, for example, is that they just run. With automated cars we could theoretically have a similar system, just automated.

Few months ago I was leaving a meditation retreat near Kandy. I tried to practice mindful driving. This meant not being a dick, cruising at a safe speed, and generally conserving gas. From Nilambe down to Kandy this was fine. It was downhill so I could keep the car in neutral most of the way, slow down for pedestrians, let people pass, etc. I felt great. Then, as you get nearer civilization, the traffic just gets crappier and crappier. People honk, cut you off, drive too slow, the aggravations just pile up. By the time I got into Colombo, I was driving like a contained ball of rage again. Ye Gods.

Driving should be recreational. Yes it is fun to zip around an Italian racecourse. Going to get the groceries, no. Google is currently lobbying to allow its self-driven cars in Las Vegas. In Colombo that’s obviously a ways away. We still have dogs and cattle on the street and major potholes are marked by sticking a leafy branch in them. But it still seems like the future.

In the meantime, I really wonder whether deploying traffic cops at intersections helps. There’s no standard way that they communicate for example, beyond really eye contact. There modus operandi seems to be to clear a lot of people going in one direction, then clear a lot of people going the other way. My hunch is that this is ineffective. Traffic travels backwards in waves, so if you create and extra long block the wave will go back for miles.

If you had automated cars you could theoretically have the cars literally thread through each other, keeping traffic moving both ways. That is, time the traffic so that there are gaps between cars, and then pass intersecting cars through those gaps. Or any number of things. And I could use car time to sleep or read or whatever, rather than dedicate such a significant part of my brain to being grumpy and trying not to die.

There are certain bits of modern life where you think ‘this is stupid’ and where it seems obvious that future generations won’t be doing stuff the same way. In the past it was feudalism, or blood-letting, or slavery. For me it’s driving.

“”Im wanting to do Genetics or Biology next year in year 10 and I was wondering how does math relate to these fields? Im not that good at math””

he’s answering someone in grade 9 graduating to grade 10. wow, heshan way to put things in perspective. and he’s absolutely correct grade 10 biology probably requires very little maths.

According to this answer, there are exceptions. That means at some point biology requires advanced math. Not what you said.

So, anyone wanting to study genetics in depth at an advanced level would be aided by an understanding of this topology thing. Presto! topology becomes a part of the study of genetics.

yes i’ve heard of interdisciplinary collaboration, and may have done some as well. ;) The reason there is interdisciplinary collaboration proves my point. in order to understand stuff like genetics you need help from the maths & comp-sci guys. One of the biggest interdisciplinary projects out there is the human genome project. There are plenty of mathematicians attached to that. what are they doing over there? are you claiming that their work isn’t genetics.

Genetics:

“”Genetics deals with the molecular structure and function of genes, with gene behavior in the context of a cell or organism (e.g. dominance and epigenetics), with patterns of inheritance from parent to offspring, and with gene distribution, variation and change in populations.””

and you seem to have no understanding of how academia works. no not all geneticists will use topology, neither will all economists or even physicists use mathematics. infact, you talk to most older econ profs they won’t even know basic calculus, even the stuff that is being taught at ALs here. researchers don’t come in one mold.

the so called exceptions are actually the norm when it comes to research these days.

I didn’t claim that their work isn’t genetics; I claimed that the geneticists are not the ones doing the heavy math stuff. Which just proves my assertion that you can become a geneticist by knowing very little math.

no not all geneticists will use topology, neither will all economists or even physicists use mathematics.Wow, that line takes the cake for stupidity quote of the millenium. How exactly do you do physics without using math? Every economist uses math, even the developmental economists have to gather and analyze large amounts of data.

infact, you talk to most older econ profs they won’t even know basic calculusYeah sure… you’ve (I) obviously never taken an economics class, (II) have probably never taken a science class either. You must have watched the “Discovery Channel” and come up with your dumb theories. All I’ll say is good lucking surviving doctoral level economics with no background in real analysis.

dna comes in cells all coiled up in a very compact & sophisticated way, but every time the dna gets expressed in nature, for example copied to make another strand, this coiled up structure gets unwound through a natural mechanism. and this gets done meticulously because if it’s done shoddily dna falls apart.(the complexity of this is one of the reasons why life on this planet stayed at micro level for so long. While i’m not certain about this but i think this is also one of the places where mutations occur with errors in unwinding leading to damage in strands that get copied off as slightly different DNA)

In any case, topology is essentially the study off stuff, especially complex structures, bending and contorting. so the link is obvious & critical. If we want to understand how dna works you need to understand how it gets tangled and untangled. to do that you need to understand the structure of DNA and how to untangle them. This is where topology becomes critical.

“”Yes, basic econ is something you can learn on “Youtube”, but beyond the basics, the theory becomes more and more mathematical. Genetics is not difficult at all.””

that was your claim. “”genetics is not difficult at all”” then you talked about how difficult and mathematical econ is and other nonsense.

heshan heshan, you do physics without using maths by getting data and running them through pre packaged software and publishing the output for the theorists to make sense. all the maths you learn in grad school simply gets forgotten and washed down the drain.

I know the bit about old econ profs because it came up at a luncheon of the econ department of a certain institution where all of the old prof except for a few admitted to this. Real analysis maybe used alot in grad school today, but from what those guys claimed it was hardy used ‘back then’. Although it’s good that they for these kids to understand the mathematics behind their econ models. Hopefully these people will understand enough to finally admit that those models of theirs is utterly useless.

now i’d be really interested in knowing how real analysis helps to do economics beyond understanding proofs. how about you enlighten us heshan.

it’s grand for someone who epically failed on this blog at econ to accuse me of never taking a econ, after that episode how could we expect you to know if someone ever took an econ class or not. However, i did take three econ classes in university. it was two many if you ask me i should have dropped out after the first. :( And you spot on about discovery channel. ;)

So as Down’s syndrome is mainly a result of duplication of the 21st chromosome in the egg cell, because these strands dont get unwound at all during meiosis, a geneticist trying to unravel the cause of Down’s might study topology to understand it? Wow, I’m so impressed with geneticists. And Dodo, is there any field you dont know anything about?

heshan heshan, you do physics without using maths by getting data and running them through pre packaged software and publishing the output for the theorists to make sense. all the maths you learn in grad school simply gets forgotten and washed down the drain.It’s true that you may not be doing so many explicit calculations by hand. But you can’t just forget the math; number (I) the computer can screw up, in which case you have to know how badly it screwed up and where it screwed up; and (II) you’ll have to understand the math behind the theory enough to draw any conclusion from the data. In other words, if you’re a condensed matter physicist running a Monte Carlo simulation, you just might need to refer to a quantum mechanics book now then, which will require a high level of mathematical understanding. As you can see, the formulation is not in plain English:

http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/cmorning/QM_MonteCarlo.pdf

now i’d be really interested in knowing how real analysis helps to do economics beyond understanding proofs.This is the product description for a real analysis book whose primary audience is econ grad students:

The emphasis throughout is on topics directly relevant to economic theory. In addition to addressing the usual topics of real analysis, this book discusses the elements of order theory, convex analysis, optimization, correspondences, linear and nonlinear functional analysis, fixed-point theory, dynamic programming, and calculus of variations. Efe Ok complements the mathematical development with applications that provide concise introductions to various topics from economic theory, including individual decision theory and games, welfare economics, information theory, general equilibrium and finance, and intertemporal economics. Moreover, apart from direct applications to economic theory, his book includes numerous fixed point theorems and applications to functional equations and optimization theory.http://www.amazon.com/Real-Analysis-Economic-Applications-Efe/dp/0691117683

it’s grand for someone who epically failed on this blog at econAre you talking about how I proved that the Central Bank is inflating GDP figures? That proof wasn’t original; it was taken from Harsha De Silva, who has a very good point when he says that if the CEB figures were correct, Sri Lanka would have the second fastest growing economy in Asia. Or perhaps you mean the fact that the Indian state of Kerala has a higher per capita income than any province in Sri Lanka. Well, that’s a “fact”; a fact is always true, otherwise it would be an opinion, which is less convincing.

Sure, if the geneticist is willing to spend 3 years to understand enough math to spend 1 year learning basic topology and another 1 year to understand algebraic topology, and another 2 years to understand knot theory, it sounds like a plan. 7 years to better understand how a protein unfolds, when you could hire someone much more capable to get the job done in a few weeks.

By the way, I understand that most of the “math” done with the human genome project involved sorting the data. The data was so massive they needed mathematicians to find better ways to organize it. It was a similar thing with the Manhatten Project, but they didn’t have computers back then.

The geneticist will never understand the topology “thing” to any

usefulextent. Even the 1-dimensional problems in topology can be extremely difficult:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZlb7js08EA (7 bridges of Konigsberg)

Even the proofs in basic topology are difficult; it’s a very counter-intuitive subject. As far as I know, there are no equations where you can put the numbers in, and the result will easily come out. That’s how most people learn calculus, which is fine for practical purposes, but in topology, you go lemma by lemma.

I can see it’s really pointless to try to get through to you Heshan, there is only some warped entertainment value in this exercise..

The point most of us made is that genetics is not “really easy”, as you claimed.

The fact that any descipline that goes in to understanding genetics, automatically becomes a part of it, doesn’t seem to penetrate your skull.

This is not about the value of a geneticist’s role in society, or his capacity to comprehend advanced math though personally I have a high regard for.

Please answer yes or know, do you still think the understanding and application of genetics as a science is easy?

Time or toil is immaterial to a scientist who is passionate about his subject.

A geneticist would understand any subject to the extent of it’s usefulness to him. The important thing is for him to get the desired result.s from his work. Whether he uses his own or another person’s knowledge or skill is not important.

Actually it is easy, once you get used to the language. The language is largely qualitative, not quantitative, as I have explained in detail here. Let me put it another way: most of the math required to earn a Ph.D in pure genetics can be learned on Youtube.

The mathematicians definition is very different from the layman’s; it’s a lot deeper, and based on abstract concepts. Whatever the geneticist “learned” from the mathematician during his free time will be full of holes. It would be the equivalent of watching a BBC special about black holes; anyone can watch the show, but the purpose is not to educate future cosmologists.

I was not asking you about the math involved in earning a ph.D. in genetics, Heshan. I cant imagine how you pass those exams of yours (I’m assuming you’re a student of some sort, undergrad or postgrad) if you cant keep your answer to the point. I dont know a thing about math, besides, Dodo has explained the math bit quite satisfactorily. Why are you limiting this to securing a Ph.D? I’m sure there are many ways to aquire a Ph.D. in any subject.

But if you say genetics is easy, I think I’ll go watch Youtube, and find out how our house gekkos grow back their tails once they are shed, and go on to cover myself in glory by helping out all those amputees from the war grow back their lost limbs.