Honoring great teaching

first_imgIt was sunny and summery on Saturday (Nov. 13), which broke the drear spell of autumn. So what were the odds of enticing 100 people to stay inside — and listen to lectures on statistics?The odds were excellent. That many people attended the inaugural David K. Pickard Memorial Lecture at Maxwell Dworkin. The program was named for a junior faculty member in statistics who died young, but not before winning every major Harvard undergraduate-teaching award for his passion, accessibility, patience, and clarity.“I literally gasped when I saw David’s record,” said Statistics Department Chair Xiao-Li Meng. He called the afternoon symposium a way of expressing “belated but deep gratitude” to Pickard for inspiring a generation of young scholars to become passionate teachers themselves.“Henceforth, the name ‘Pickard’ is going to be synonymous with great teaching,” said Carl N. Morris, a 20-year veteran of Harvard’s statistics faculty.The Canada-born Pickard — dashing, athletic, and an authority in something called the Ising model — did his doctoral work in Australia and taught at Harvard from 1977 to 1985. He died of brain cancer in 1986, shortly after moving to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.Pickard exemplified a “sea change” in the way Harvard teaches its undergraduates, said statistician Judith Singer, the James Bryant Conant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity.Honoring Pickard, she added, came at a critical time in a complicated world, when students more than ever have to be “statistically accurate and statistically literate.”For the young scholar, dead too soon, teaching began at home. For one thing, he came from a long line of Canadian mathematicians and scientists. For another, his children felt the heat and light of Pickard’s pedagogical skills. His daughter Darcy, who was in the audience Saturday, is a senior statistician with a British Columbia ecological consulting firm. His son, Damon, is a Kingston paramedic who was 15 when his father died.Damon remembered a vital man who turned card games into lessons on probability, backyard basketball into calculations of optimal throwing arcs, and a neighborhood tree into a lesson on determining height through trigonometry.“Teaching was in his blood,” said Damon. “His life was short. But by all standards, and by all accounts, it was full.”The Pickard lecture, endowed by alumni contributions, will be a biennial affair. The conference was co-organized by Victor Solo, who taught statistics with Pickard at Harvard from 1980 to 1985, and who is now back in his native Australia at the University of New South Wales.He invited the audience to study a picture of the smiling and handsome Pickard. “The first thing is: This guy is a happy man,” he said, one who brought that joy to the classroom, along with confidence, peace, humility, and verve.Add in a sense of adventure. Pickard and his wife, Dale, spent two years teaching in a village high school in Sierra Leone. He continued to ponder statistics there, she said, and came away with “some big ideas.”Pickard’s academic interests included spatial statistics, graphical modeling, and the Ising model. The last, a fixture of statistical mechanics, uses variables called “spins” to emulate ferromagnetism in real substances, like metals that are subjected to magnetic impulses.“He made the difficult understandable,” said Harvard Ph.D. alumnus Colin Goodall, now on the technical staff at AT&T.The perpetual fund in Pickard’s name will pay for the biennial lecture, for a biennial junior faculty award for teaching and mentoring, and for awards related to a new graduate student honor, the Pickard Teaching Fellows. (Winning this year were doctoral students Kevin Rader, Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak, and Xianchao Xie — who is known around the department as “Double X.”)The winner of the first Pickard mentoring award was Assistant Professor Joseph K. Blitzstein, co-director of undergraduate studies in the Statistics Department, who himself is starting to rack up Pickard-esque awards for teaching.Blitzstein, whose mother traveled from Los Angeles to be in the audience, got to show off his teaching chops with a historical lecture on British logician and mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954), who is widely regarded as the father of modern theoretical computer science. “He was one of the first computer scientists — before there were computers,” said Blitzstein.During World War II, Turing was part of a cryptography team that cracked the Enigma ciphers used by the German military. But by 1952 he was on trial for being openly gay, under the same “gross indecency” statute used against writer Oscar Wilde more than five decades earlier. Convicted, Turing was offered two choices: prison, or chemical castration by massive injections of estrogen. He chose the latter, and two years later committed suicide.Professionally, Turing is now best known for the conceptual and computational work that made computers possible, and for the “Turing test” — still the standard for determining the “intelligence” of a computing machine. But statistics drew his attention as well. Starting with his wartime work, Turing anticipated empirical Bayesian methods. The Bayes factor is now a standard tool in statistical inference, but it was rarely used then.Turing, said Blitzstein, “anticipated many important statistical methods decades before others.”Delivering the first Pickard Memorial Lecture was University of Toronto statistics Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, whose popular 2005 book “Struck By Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities” has made him a favorite expert with Canadian print, radio, and television reporters.He talked about his experiences with the media, including “statistical ideas that work on TV.” It was an improbable topic at an academic conference, but one that lit a fire under an audience of authorities on data mining, inference, and regression — concepts that fail to light a fire under most reporters.Solo, the Australian scholar, had an immediate idea: Establish a professorship at Harvard like the one at the University of Cambridge, the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk. Perhaps it’s time, he said, “to step into the ring.”Rosenthal, who earned a Harvard mathematics Ph.D. at age 24, rolled through a sequence of topics that would be likely to prompt interest from the media.High on the list, of course, was winning the lottery. The secret, Rosenthal said, is not just giving reporters the odds — a 14 million to 1 chance of winning, for instance. Give them an analogy too — the idea, for instance, that winning that same lottery is likely to occur only once every 270,000 years.Then there are the odd media requests: Write something on the board — anything. Get man-on-the-street reactions to your odds. Or in the case of a weather story, report your statistics while out in the wind and the rain. “That’s the way the media works,” said Rosenthal, a veteran of doing all this (and more) on camera.Then there are those times when public feelings contradict the scientific facts. The homicide rate in Toronto one year was so bad that the streets were “bathed in blood,” went one report. In fact, that year Toronto was statistically safer than many other cities in Canada. “You say: Let’s look at the facts,” said Rosenthal. “Of course, there are no headlines in that.”Then there are coincidences, another favorite with headline writers. Rosenthal told the story of one that on face value represented a “1 in 36 billion billion” probability of happening. But when subjected to more rigorous testing, the coincidence in fact had a 38 percent chance of happening. He said reporters hated that, because there was no headline.In the end, as crude as the results may be, reaching out to the media “is one way to teach,” said Rosenthal. “It’s the only media we have. To reach those … millions, there are no other options.” In the end, he said, “our society will be better if people think more logically.”After the symposium, nearly everyone stayed for a catered Chinese dinner, while authorities on probability and the Bayes’ theorem jitterbugged, belted out the blues on hot guitars, blazing keyboards, and — well, OK — one trombone. What are the odds of great music (and dancing) from people who always did their math homework? They were excellent.Rosenthal started the music program on the keyboards by singing a statistician’s version of “Yesterday.” All of their advances in teaching, for one, gave the lie to the spoof’s first line: “Yesterday, students came to class but didn’t stay.”Among the conference guests was 7-year-old David C. Pickard, who survived his grandfather’s academic memorial by reading workbooks and skipping one of the lectures to get ice cream with his mother.After dinner, armed with chopsticks and equipped with Harry Potter glasses, he dodged professors and practiced karate kicks, but he paused to say, “I love math.”last_img read more

Combatting Johnsongrass

first_imgApart from its resistance to herbicides, the naturalization of Johnsongrass across much of the U.S. has also allowed the plant to develop attributes — such as cold and drought tolerance, resistance to pathogens and the ability to flourish in low-fertility soils — that make it particularly difficult to control. “The close relationship between sorghum and Johnsongrass poses both a challenge and an opportunity,” said Paterson, who is housed in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The two species are so closely related that no herbicides distinguish between them, making control of Johnsongrass in or near sorghum fields especially difficult. “Regardless, the lessons we learn from Johnsongrass may lead to strategies to improve sorghum and other major crops.” A team of researchers led by faculty at the University of Georgia have received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find new ways of combating Johnsongrass, one of the most widespread and troublesome agricultural weeds in the world. But the researchers also hope that learning more about the fundamental structures that give Johnsongrass its unusual resilience will pave the way for new genetic tools to improve useful plants, such as sorghum, a close relative of Johnsongrass that is grown widely for food, animal fodder and as a source of biofuel. Native to the Mediterranean region, Johnsongrass has spread across every continent except Antarctica. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s as a forage crop, but it quickly spread into surrounding farmland and natural environments, where it continues to cause millions of dollars in lost agricultural revenue each year, according to the USDA.center_img This information may lead to new management strategies that target and curb its growth, providing farmers with a more robust toolkit to combat the invasive plant. Over the course of their five-year project, the researchers will work to develop a better understanding of the weed’s capabilities and the underlying genes that make Johnsongrass so resilient. “Weeds like Johnsongrass are a major challenge for agricultural producers around the world,” said Andrew Paterson, Regents Professor, director of UGA’s Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory and principal investigator for the project. “To make matters worse, widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has been associated with a dramatic increase in herbicide-resistant weeds. With 21 genetically similar but different types of Johnsongrass known to be resistant to herbicides, it will only become more problematic in the future.” Other researchers working on this project include Jacob Barney, Virginia Tech; Jeff Dahlberg, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; C. Michael Smith, Kansas State University; Wesley Everman, North Carolina State University; Marnie Rout, University of Texas, Temple; and Clint Magill and Gary Odvody, Texas A&M University.last_img read more

NAFCU monitoring CHOICE Act mark-up, flood insurance hearing, more

first_img continue reading » NAFCU tomorrow will monitor the House Financial Services Committee mark-up of the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), slated for 10 a.m. Eastern, and will make credit unions aware of any legislative updates to the bill affecting the industry.The CHOICE Act contains numerous NAFCU-sought measures, including Durbin interchange amendment repeal and other Dodd-Frank Act reforms. Two separate hearings were held on the bill last week; one which often cited the Dodd-Frank’s impact on the current regulatory environment and credit unions.NAFCU encourages credit unions to reach out to their members of Congress and seek support for repealing the Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin amendment through NAFCU’s Grassroots Action Center.In hearings this week:The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday will examine the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Slated for 10 a.m. Eastern, the hearing includes witnesses from the Association for State Floodplain Managers and others. 9SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Equity performance squeezes Spanish pension fund returns in Q1

first_imgAt the end of March, total assets under management for Spain’s occupational pension funds stood at €35.3bn, a 1% reduction over the year.Figures from Mercer’s Pension Investment Performance Service (PIPS) backed up INVERCO’s findings, showing that Spanish pension funds lost 1.4% over the first three months of 2018. The PIPS survey covered a large sample of pension funds, most of them occupational schemes.According to the survey, equities as a whole incurred losses, with euro-zone equities down 2.9% and non-euro-zone holdings losing 3.3%.Non-euro-zone fixed income lost 3%, but euro-denominated debt delivered a 0.3% gain over the quarter. Non-eurozone assets as a whole were hit by the strengthening euro, Mercer said.The survey also showed that alternatives made a median loss of 0.4% while real estate was down by 0.1% over the quarter.In terms of asset allocation, domestic assets continued their gradual decline to 53.2% of portfolios at the end of March, according to INVERCO. Non-domestic assets continued to rise, from 29.6% at end-December 2017 to 31.3% three months later.Over the same period, average allocations to fixed income decreased slightly to 47%, while equities weightings rose to 34.6% on average.Spanish government bonds still made up the biggest single component of pension portfolios at 23.9%, with a further 13.8% in domestic corporate bonds.Xavier Bellavista, principal at Mercer, said: “The equity allocation is generally similar to what it was at end-2017, but it is remarkable that it has reached its highest since the period before the financial crisis in 2008.”According to Bellavista, Spanish pension funds maintain a percentage allocation in equity assets similar to those of pension funds in other European countries, but weightings are significantly different for bonds and alternatives.He said that within the fixed income allocation there had been a shift from domestic towards non-domestic assets.Bellavista added that Spanish funds were “still at the discussion stage” when it came to allocating more to alternatives. Poor first-quarter equity performance in 2018 has squeezed average returns from Spain’s occupational pension funds to 0.5% for the 12 months to end-March 2018, according to the country’s Investment and Pension Fund Association (INVERCO).This compared with a 3.2% return for the calendar year 2017, and a 5.6% return for the 12 months to end-March 2017.INVERCO said that equity markets had experienced pronounced corrections in the first three months of this year, prompting losses on pension fund portfolios with bigger equity exposures.This caused the average annualised returns for Spanish occupational funds to drop to 0.8% for the three years to 31 March 2018, and 4% over five years.last_img read more

Novatek expands LNG projects’ resource base

first_imgRussia’s largest independent natural gas producer Novatek has expanded its resource base for implementing its new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects. The company said on Friday its two units, Arctic LNG-2 and Novatek-Yurkharovneftegas obtained new license areas in the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas.Arctic LNG-2 won the bid for a geological survey, exploration and hydrocarbons production license for the subsoil area including the Shtormovoye field, for a term of 30 years.The license area is located on the Gydan peninsula and is partly offshore in the Gydan and Ob bays in the Kara Sea bordering the company’s Utrennee field and contains estimated hydrocarbon resources of 7,932 mmboe according to the Russian resource classification.Novatek-Yurkharovneftegas won the bid for a geological survey, exploration and a 27-year hydrocarbons production license for the subsoil area including the Verhnetiuteyskoye and the West-Seyakhinskoye fields.The license area is located on the Yamal peninsula in close proximity to the South-Tambeyskoye field and contains estimated hydrocarbon resources of 8,747 mmboe according to the Russian resource classification.last_img read more

Twisters Sectional 60 Champs

first_imgThe Oldenburg Academy Twisters won their very first Sectional Title over the Weekend with a 53-37 victory over The Rising Sun Shiners.  This is the 13th season of boys basketball at Oldenburg Academy.  This year is their first winning season.  They ended the regular season at 10-9.The Twisters won three games at The South Decatur Sectionals including a 78-62 1st Round  win against Hauser on Tuesday night.  They followed that up defeating Jac-Cen-Del 61-55 in the Sectional Semi-Finals on Friday night.  OA captured The 1a Sectional 60 Crown on Saturday Night beating Rising Sun.The Twisters will be playing at The Martinsville Regionals this Saturday to battle The Clay City Eels in Game 2.  The Tipoff will be around Noon.  Game 1 will be The Greenwood Christian Cougars squaring off against The Indy Metropolitan Pumas starting at 10.Listen to WRBI for our Regionals Doubleheader starting with The Greensburg Pirates going up against The Silver Creek Dragons at The Washington Regionals starting at 10.  WRBI’s Countdown To Tipoff will be around 9:20.A special thanks to Jonathon Maple at Oldenburg Academy for the pics.Congrats to The Twisters and Coach Moorman from The Sports Voice-Country 103.9 WRBI!last_img read more

Messi: Break could help us in title push

first_img read also:Messi trains under Setien’s guidance after surprise claim Talking to Sport, Messi admitted that: “Maybe this pause in play will end up benefiting us, but let’s see if the competitions we’re in can get started again first. “Then we will be able to see the level we are at or how far we can go once we get started again.” FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmail分享 Barcelona captain, Leo Messi, is upbeat on their season prospects once it resumes. La Liga stopped in March due to the pandemic after Barça had moved back to the top of La Liga, although the sensations from the team’s previous games were not especially good. In Europe, they had drawn with Napoli and they had to beat them at Camp Nou to reach the last eight of the Champions League (the game didn’t go ahead as planned in the end).Advertisement Promoted Content8 Things You Didn’t Know About CoffeeHow They Made Little Simba Look So Lifelike in ‘The Lion King’Who Earns More Than Ronaldo?10 Places On Our Planet Where The Most People Live10 Body Features That Are Extremely Rare But Very Remarkable8 Scenes That Prove TV Has Gone Too FarTop 7 Best Car Manufacturers Of All Time7 Black Hole Facts That Will Change Your View Of The Universe7 Facts About Black Holes That Will Blow Your MindBest & Worst Celebrity Endorsed Games Ever MadeWhich Country Is The Most Romantic In The World?Lil Nas X’s Hit Song Is Becoming The Longest #1 Song Ever Loading… last_img read more

Rayo Vallecano players skip training over pay dispute

first_imgRelatedPosts Italy introduces compulsory virus testing for travellers from France Nigeria records new COVID-19 infections, more deaths as figures rise to 57,242 I was in best of forms before Tokyo Paralympics was postponed — Powerlifter Ejike Team members of Spanish second division side Rayo Vallecano refused to turn up for the first day of group training, a club source said on Monday.The refusal was due to a dispute with the club hierarchy over a pay cut for staff and players. Every club in Spain’s top two divisions held group training on Monday for the first time since play was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.However, Rayo Vallecano’s players were given an individual programme to follow at home, the source added.In May, Rayo Vallecano joined a large number of Spanish clubs in introducing a temporary pay cut underwritten by the government, known as an ERTE, after the season was provisionally suspended.Coach Paco Jemez criticised the pay cut, however, arguing that it was not necessary as the club was in a healthy state financially.Jemez called for all non-playing staff to receive their full wages during the period. Reuters/NAN.Tags: CoronavirusPaco Jemezpay cutRayo Vallecanolast_img read more

MBB : Faster start important for Syracuse as it enters third-round game with Kansas State

first_img Comments Published on March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm PITTSBURGH – Dion Waiters has a feeling Syracuse won’t come out sluggish on Saturday.After three tough contests in a row, he sees an attitude change in his teammates. The opening minutes against Kansas State, he believes, are going to go the Orange’s way.‘I feel as though we’re going to come out ready,’ Waiters said. ‘I can see it in everybody’s face. Everybody, the way they’re talking about it. We’re going to come out to a great start tomorrow.’If the top-seeded Orange (32-2) starts out hot against the No. 8 seed Wildcats (22-10), it will be a break from Syracuse’s recent trend. SU has trailed at halftime in two of its three postseason games, and in its last game of the regular season against Louisville, the Orange didn’t lead until almost 13 minutes in. That stretch has led to three single-digit wins and Syracuse’s second loss of the season.But Syracuse expects that to change at 12:15 p.m. in the Consol Energy Center on Saturday.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘It’s definitely important,’ forward James Southerland said. ‘If we throw the first punch, basically, I feel like we’ll have them on their heels, and we’ll be ready instead of giving them confidence by letting them throw the first punch.’Syracuse hasn’t thrown the first punch since Feb. 25, when it ran out to a 14-point halftime lead against Connecticut.The flatness to start games cost the Orange a shot at the Big East tournament title. Cincinnati buried eight 3-pointers and took a 34-17 lead after 15 minutes of action. Thursday, it nearly cost SU a birth in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.No. 16 UNC Asheville jumped out to a 34-30 halftime lead while Syracuse’s offense sputtered.C.J. Fair made it clear that underestimating the undersized Bulldogs had nothing to do with it.‘We didn’t take them lightly,’ he said. ‘We just came out a little sluggish against them.’Part of the issue has been the early struggles by seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine. Head coach Jim Boeheim said after the loss to Cincinnati those seniors have determined Syracuse’s success for most of this year.Joseph is 3-of-18 with just 10 points and seven rebounds in the first halves of the last four games. Jardine hasn’t scored in three of those four halves and has just two points, six rebounds and eight assists.The seniors have been able to turn it on after halftime, but Jardine knows they’ll have to show up for the entire game if SU hopes to move on to the Sweet 16.‘We can’t allow that to happen as we advance in the tournament,’ he said. ‘We got to bring it for 40 minutes. The guys are looking to us to bring that intensity and bring that sense of urgency to the basketball game on both ends of the floor.’The explanations for SU’s slow starts have varied. Waiters said it was partly just misfortune, good shots simply weren’t falling. Southerland thought it was a lack of defensive awareness and pointed to Cincinnati’s eight first-half 3s as an example. He also added SU has had a lack of communication on the floor.But whatever has ailed the Orange at the start of games, it feels confident it will come out strong against Kansas State.Especially after a slow start almost sent it home early Thursday.‘Yesterday we got our jitters out,’ Fair said. ‘Tomorrow’s a new day. Everybody’s just got to keep being aggressive like they’ve been. Our shots are going to fall. I’m still confident in each one of my teammates to come out there and play well.’zjbrown@syr.educenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

LIVE BLOG: Wisconsin vs. Indiana

first_imgWelcome to the Herald Sports live blog! I’m Mike Fiammetta, and I’m here at the Kohl Center with Herald Sports editor Elliot Hughes.We’re set for what’s sure to be a fantastic night of hoops as the No. 25 Badgers (16-5, 5-3) are set to host the No. 16 Indiana Hoosiers (16-4, 4-4) in a conference battle with plenty at stake in the Big Ten race.Wisconsin is coming off a strong performance on the road Sunday that resulted in a 67-63 win over Illinois. Point guard Jordan Taylor continued his stellar play of late, dropping 19 points while pulling down nine rebounds and dishing out five assists. Taylor’s improved play since the non-confernese season and early Big Ten play has been vital to the Badgers, who are now riding a 4-game win streak.Indiana, meanwhle, has seen its fortunes fade in January, where the Hoosiers are 3-3. Despite losing three of their last four games, the Hoosiers do have a tendency to be somewhat tricky on the road. IU is 3-3 on the road this season, though the Badgers have, as usual, been hard to beat here at the Kohl Center. Despite losing two games at home earlier this season, Wisconsin has rebounded with a 10-3 home record.Tonight’s matchup will be a a battle of clashing strengths, as Wisconsin boasts the Big Ten’s (and the nation’s, at that) stingiest scoring defense at 49.6 points allowed per game. Indiana, meanwhile, is the conference’s top scoring offense (No. 15 in the country) at 79.8 points per game.Anyway, thanks for joining us on the live blog below (we’ll also be on Twitter @BHeraldSports) and have a great Thursday night.<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=cb9541f7ae” >Wisconsin vs. Indiana</a>last_img read more