Saturday, May 30, 2009

Open Letters

Dear AUTO/whomever wrote the program AUTO (Eusebius Doedel, thanks Scholarpedia!),

I get that your program is ridiculously useful. So useful, in fact, that it's been in use since the days of DOS and it's still probably one of the best programs around for finding bifurcations. Congratulations to you Dr. Doedel (hee hee). However, there are a few minor issues I have with AUTO and it would be wonderful if you could rectify them.

1. Why bother putting a 'find periodic solution' option on there if it never works? I have not once gotten your program to work when starting from a limit cycle and I always have to change my paramaters so that I'm starting from a stable node so I can run a steady state solution.

2. Unfortunately, for each of the models I'm working with when the parameters are at (0,0) I have limit cycles. This means I have to run the steady state solution both forwards and backwards because I'm not starting at the begining. If maybe your program could handle both these calculations without accidently making one disappear or forgetting to do one of them it would be splendid.

3. When I finally do find a bifurcation going backwards could you maybe not freeze. That's not helpful. All it tells me is that there's a bifurcation, I have no idea what kind or what it looks like and then you just freeze and I can't find out. In social circles that's called being a tease and nobody likes a tease AUTO.

4. When I lower the number of iterations so that you'll stop freezing and I finally get a chance to try and plot bifurcations, could you not crash... thank you.

5. After everything is finally all figured out and I have what both plots look like together and they even look like how I would expect them to and I go click on 'Postscript' so that I can save it in a nice pretty looking graph format it would be absolutely splendid if you didn't freeze because then I wouldn't have to start everything all over again.

6. I know this isn't your fault but could postscript files maybe actually print instead of just crashing whenever I try to print them. Thanks.

Dear Lotka-Volterra population model with a generalist predation term added in/Matlab,

1. What the fuck. When gamma and eta are zero, your equilibrium point is a center. That means the populations orbit around one point like a planet. So why, WHY when I change the amount of time in the simulation does the amplitude change? THAT'S NOT FUCKING POSSIBLE. All that should happen is you maybe go around the orbit a couple more times, your maxes and mins should stay the same.

2. Can your phaseplanes in XPPAUT and your amplitude in Matlab maybe give me consistent answers?

3. How is it that you're the hardest one to non-dimensionalize? I mean, you're the simplest model I'm working with so how does that work out. I'll tell you why, it's because you're a dick and aren't limited by a carrying capacity so there's no handy (1 - n/k) term. Well guess what. THIS IS THE REAL WORLD, animals have carrying capacities and you're just living in a deluded fantasyland .

Dear Little Wayne,

Please stop. I can understand why you would want to play guitar - it's fairly obvious. Any rockstar is about a billion times cooler than you could ever be. However, holding a guitar in your music videos while someone else plays the song and then putting a hilariously pitiful 'solo' at the end to showcase your truly horrendous 'skillz' is not the right way to go about it. Frankly I find it insulting to all of music that people actually buy that shit. You played two different notes without any rhythm and about half of those notes were dead anyways. There are actually talented musicians out there who are struggling to get their next meal and yet you get money for being basically retarded. I can fucking play guitar better than you and I'm terrible so why don't I have the best selling album of 2008? This is why I don't like the vast majority of music being made nowadays. It's all vapid, undertalented, overproduced, hollow, emotionless tripe. Lastly, Mr. Wayne I recommend you actually learn how to play your instrument. Do not record anything with it or play it at live shows until you are able to do this.

Dear roomate,

Please go and die. Preferrably in some manner that results in unimaginably excrutiating amounts of pain. Feel free to be creative and come up with all sorts of interesting ideas but I, for one, feel that it should involve fire in some manner or another and maybe a little bit of acid as well. Is acid flammable? If so you should light it on fire and then drink it. If not, just mix some gasoline in with it and drink that.

Also: would it kill you to maybe leave the apartment every now and then. If so, please do it. If not, do it anyways because I'm pretty certain that I haven't been alone in this apartment since the first night I got here.

Much love,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Today I Graphed Infinity

So, two really cool things to talk about and one not-so-cool-thing. I'll leave it up to your discretion to pick which is which.

First up, today at work, I graphed infinity. More specifically, I graphed a Mandelbrot Set and if you don't know what that is, me oh my are you ever in for a treat. It is one of the very few things in math that the general population would consider to be "pretty cool". Basically - you get a shape (sortof) that you can zoom in on forever and it still has clarity. What makes it so rad is that if you colour it (generally complex values that fall within the set are black and all values outside of the set are given different colours based on how quickly they diverge to infinity) it becomes the trippiest thing ever. If you happen to be on acid at the moment you may not want to click that link cause it will freak you the hell out. Looking at it perfectly sober still makes me feel like I'm falling forever.

This was the first math type thing that I was ever actually interested in. There was a special PBS program on called "Colours of Infinity" and I figured "hey, I like colours and infinity so let's watch that". Well, they just talked all about the Mandelbrot Set and Fractals and it was still frickin awesome. Did you know that leaves and lightning bolts are sortof fractals? I didn't and it was cool! I was in grade 8 or 9 and all the math was way above my head and all I knew about fractals was that you could zoom in forever. Actually, all the math is still way above my hand but I kindave understand the absolute basics now.

Second cool thing => There are alot of things that I sortof know a little bit about but actually trying to understand and know them makes me cringe because they're so complex and complicated. Examples of words that make me cringe: Quantum, Complex ( a math term meaning that imaginary numbers are involved), Nuclear , Non-Euclidean, and Chaos. If you put all those words together I imagine you would have a phrase that nearly everyone would cringe at. Complex non-Euclidean quantum nuclear chaos anyone?

Anyways, one of these things, Chaos Theory, I had read up on before and managed to barely understand any of it. Today, I came across it several times while reading a manual to try and learn how to use a computer program for making bifurcation plots. After cringing about 15 times I decided to finally bite the bullet and google it and try to maybe figure out what the hell it is. Guess what? I already knew what it was. My reaction was "Oh... that's all that chaos is? Man that's easy." Now don't get me wrong... I can't actually do any math stuffs with it but I do understand what it is and what it implies. GO ME!

Okay, the last thing. It appears as though my roomate has gotten a job as a research assistant. He just finished his first year of engineering and is absolutely the most infuriating person I have ever met. I can't stand being near him - I hang around the library/work at school so I don't have to be near him. He does not deserve to be doing research nor is he even remotely qualified for whatever the hell it is he's doing. I know that my school has very little in the way of standards (one of the reasons why I like it) but COME ON! Now, naturally I am a little bit biased because I would like to see him dead on the side of the road but here are a few reasons why he should not be doing research (and also should be kicked out of school and deported)

1. He just finished first year. Typically only in extraordinary instances do first years get to do research because they don't know anything usefull yet. Fuck, I barely know anything useful. He certainly is not an extraordinary case... unless we are measuring ineptitude.

2. He was opening a tin can with scissors. I told him I had a can opener and got it out for him. He struggled with it for a minute - holding the can opener backwards and then asked me to show him how to use it. I did. He struggled with it for another minute in exactly the same manner he was before and then went back to the scissors. Now remember how he wants to be an engineer, y'know, those people who are generally mechanically inclined.

3. Asked me if a zillion came after a trillion. Now remember how he wants to be an engineer, y'know, those people who are good at math.

4. He wonders why tin foil doesn't burn. I think you get the point by now.

5. He has a solid 61% average. Now this might just be me but I'm not setting foot anywhere near a 61% bridge.

The last two years seem like such a giant waste now if someone as wholly useless as he can do research.

EDIT: This video has a little bit less crazy zooming and a very basic introduction into what a Mandelbrot set is and I found it very interesting and helpful. Also: I'm pretty sure that if God exists he looks like the pudgy black dude.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Journal Articles

These are the most boring things on the face of the entire planet. Which is a little bit strange because the stuff that alot of them imply is all so very frickin' cool. Yet, somehow they are tres tres boring. If you're ever having trouble sleeping, the hell with traditional methods. Throw out your sleeping pills, put that book down, and if you even think about having some warm milk I will fucking kill you. Instead, try to slog your way through a couple pages of riveting literature such as the following example,

"Let us postulate by ascertaining the community composition, we can unambiguously state the instantaneous rate of change of both the predator's and the prey's density" (Rosenzweig 1963).

I guarantee you'll be asleep in minutes (patent peding). Anyways, after reading about 15 of these in a row, constantly battling an ever-increasing desire to pass out until December, one's brain tends to... oh what's the word... commit suicide. Which is why, every once in a while it is so refreshingly nice and beautiful and hilarious to find something so bizarre or unnatural that you just have to laugh... or giggle silently to yourself.

The first of these I found was an article called "Populations of small mammals cycle - UNLESS THEY DON'T!!!11!!" (Hanski 1987). Now, Hanski didn't actually capitalize the "unless they don't" part because that would have been unprofessional (he also left out the exclamations and the ones). However, that was how I read it in my mind and, also, how I imagined Mr. Hanski imagined it in his mind when he wrote it. It reminds me of a frustrated person who doesn't really have any good supporting reasons behind what they think so instead they just yell "BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY IT IS OKAY NOW SHUTTUP AND LEAVE ME ALONE". I don't blame Mr. Hanski for this - in fact, good on him! The dude's probably published 6 or 7 other articles and he's even got a model named after him and still no one knows why sometimes, some small mammal populations don't cycle when, in a different place, the exact same species does experience population cycles. It's kindave annoying and I can see him getting very frustrated at the issue.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have cookies to eat


[1] M.L. Rosenzweig and R.H. MacArthur. Graphical representation and stability conditions of predator-prey interactions,
The American Naturalist, 97(895): 209-223, 1963

[2] I. Hanski. Populations of small mammals cycle - unless they don't.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2(3): 55-56, 1987

Saturday, May 2, 2009


It's pretty awesome. I decided to rollerblade to the school today cause I had some stuff to do there. It was pretty good, only took me 40 minutes to get there which is pretty great 'cause I thought it would take an hour at least and I even managed to avoid the highway for the most part except for one little part on the bridge that freaked me out completely. I got to the school okay though and then managed to get neither of the things I needed to done. The first thing was get my student card back that someone had turned in but the service center was closed and so I couldn't get it. The second thing was get some books from the library - which evidently, I need my student card to do. Just giving them your student number isn't good enough. So that was a giant fail.

So I hung around a bit, read a couple of journal articles which was pretty amazing because I can usually only get through half of one before I start falling asleep. And I decided to go back home. I found a wicked nice bike path that goes down beside the on-ramp so I didn't even have to go on the highway on the way back. Of course, that wouldave been too easy so the bike path randomly turns into dirt and gravel at the bottom of a hill. I would have bailed pretty hard were it not for my unbelievable athletic abilities.

As I started going in the direction of home I decided "fuck it" and randomly went down a whole bunch of other roads. Lots of them end in gated communities. I hate gated communities. If I ever wind up living in one, please shoot me please. But, it turns out there's alot of really cool random things hiding away in Kelowna. I shall make a list.

1. There was a house where the guy decided that it would be pretty cool if he put a driving range in his backyard. That is so cool! I don't even like golf but man, awesome! There was just a bunch of people in his yard hitting golfballs. Rad!

2. There was another house that randomly had a caboose on their front lawn. I have no idea how that caboose couldave gotten there or why anyone would want it there and that's what made it awesome. The nearest railway was a kilometer away at least. That's what makes it so awesome. It was totally awesome. The sign on the places driveway said that they made gourmet spreads. What the hell does that have to do with a caboose?

3. Orchards. These look like they would be so much fun to run through as fast as you can. Or maybe walk softly holding hands and whispering secrets? They're like a really long straight cave made out of trees and I love it. If it weren't for me being too lazy to put my shoes on and if the electric fence didn't have so much electricity in it, I totally would have ran up and down the rows.

4. A bird (not a chicken) played chicken with me. It just flew straight at my face and then dodged away at the last second. I guess that means I won. At any rate, I think the bird was probably a fan of Pearl Harbour

5. The coolest playground ever. It was half playground and half water park. You know how every playground ever has a slide on one side of it? Well this one did too. Except it was a water slide. There was also a giant dragon (aren't they all giant?) supported by posts in mid-flight. I wanted to go conquer that playground but I think the grown-ups would have yelled at me. Probably because I would kick their shitty kids asses so hard at playground.

6. There was a short little road called "Euclid Drive". I checked it out and it's okay guys, it totally had Euclidean Geometry so there is no need to panic. Actually, it would be pretty cool to see a road with non-Euclidean Geometry, a hyperbolic road or something maybe? I don't even know what that would look like

7. Airplanes flying 200 metres-ish above my head. So cool!

Overall, good day. Even if I managed to get absolutely nothing done. I think I'll do it tomorrow too. Sure beats staying in my room. Also: need to consider looking into a bike - would make things easier and safer.