When to be most careful about catching the flu?

Continuing on my blogification of Peter Norvigs excellent talk, the question is, when to watch out for the flu, e.g. if you live in Denmark?

1) Go to www.google.com/trends/
2) Type in the word "influenza"
3) Select your geographical region (Denmark in my case)
4) See data up to year 2008, to avoid the graph being squished by the outbreak of A(H1N1) (which leads to unusually many people talking about the flu)

Turns out the answer is: watch out in October and February.

Playing with GraphViz and MathGenealogy data

Math in Genealogy is a great project (donate online). Sven Köhler from Potsdam, Germany has written a python script for visualizing the database, which I'm going to try.

First step is to clone the git repo:

$ git clone git@github.com:tzwenn/MathGenealogy.git

His instructions are quite simple:

$ ./genealogy.py --search 38586  # 30 seconds
$ ./genealogy.py --display 38586 > euler.dot  # 0.1 seconds

Next step is to install e.g. GraphViz, which is needed to visualize the dot file as a graph. Go to the download page for GraphViz, and follow instructions for your OS.

This should install the commandline tool also. Now you can visualize Leonard Euler's supervisor family tree (direct descendants) like this:

$ dot euler.dot -Tpng -o euler.png

Looking at the database is easy. Every invocation of ./genealogy.py --search writes to a sqlite3 database file (genealogy.db).

$ sqlite3 genealogy.db

This opens up a prompt. Have a look at the schema of the database like this:

sqlite> .schema

And see what is inside the thesis table like this:

sqlite> select * from thesis;

Gregory Palamas 1363

This stuff blows my mind.

Gregory Palamas (1296–135), spelled Γρηγόριος Παλαμάς in greek, was a monk on Mount Athos, a place I've visited with my father two times. It is a beautiful peninsula in northern Greece, scattered with old monasteries. Furthermore, only men have been allowed on the peninsula for around a thousand years.

Simonopetra, Mount Athos.
Simonopetra, Mount Athos.

Palamas eventually became the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, which is a city I incidentally happened to live in from 1995-1996. Below is a picture of Gregory Palamas, in the form of an icon.

Gregorio Palamas
Gregorio Palamas

In his early youth, my father (Georgios Kefaloukos) was also a monk on Mount Athos. There he learned the art of icon painting, and could have painted one of Palamas, although I don't think he did. Below is a picture of my father taken on Mount Athos.

My Father, Georgios Kefaloukos on Mount Athos.
My Father on Mount Athos in 1966

When I first heard about the Math in Genealogy project, I was thrilled to find out that a Gregory Palamas, who lived long ago and was the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, apparently had a transitive relationship with people in science through an unbroken chain of mentoring (112861 "descendants" in total). I became curious, and wanted to find out which famous people he might be connected to.

While Palamas was the Archbishop of Thessaloniki he mentored Nilos Kabasilas (1298-1363), who later replaced him as Archbishop. Nilos in turn mentored Demetrios Kydones (1333-1397) and this lineage of mentoring continues in an unbroken line, through many scholars and countries, until we eventually arrive in Germany and at the famous mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauß in 1799.

Gauß himself mentored a few students, one of whom was Christian Ludwig Gerling (1788-1864), who went on to mentor Julius Plücker (1801-1868) and so forth. Again the chain of mentoring continues until we reach Marcos Vaz Salles, a Brazilian Tenure-Track Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen, which is the city I was born in... And here comes the surprising part, for me at least, because Marcos is now mentoring me, together with Professor Martin Zachariasen!

An unbroken line of guys mentoring guys:

  1. Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, lived c. 1135 – c. 1213 (Wikipedia)
  2. Kamal al Din Ibn Yunus
  3. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, lived 1201 – 1274 (Wikipedia)
  4. Shams ad-Din Al-Bukhari, Maragheh Observatory, lived 13th century (mcgill)
  5. Gregory Chioniadis, Ilkhans Court at Tabriz, 1296 (Wikipedia)
  6. Manuel Bryennios, lived c. 1275 – c. 1340 (Wikipedia)
  7. Theodore Metochites, 1315
  8. Gregory Palamas
  9. Nilos Kabasilas, 1363
  10. Demetrios Kydones
  11. Manuel Chrysoloras
  12. Guarino da Verona, 1408
  13. Vittorino da Feltre, Università di Padova, 1416
  14. Ognibene (Omnibonus Leonicenus) Bonisoli da Lonigo, Università di Mantova
  15. Niccolò Leoniceno, Medicinae Dr., Università di Padova, 1453
  16. Antonio Musa Brasavola, Medicinae Dr., Università degli Studi di Ferrara, 1520
  17. Gabriele Falloppio, Medicinae Dr., Università di Padova / Università degli Studi di Ferrara, 1547
  18. Hieronymus (Girolamo Fabrici d'Acquapendente) Fabricius, Medicinae Dr., Università di Padova, 1559
  19. Adriaan van den Spieghel, Medicinae Dr., Université Catholique de Louvain / Università di Padova, 1603
  20. Adolph Vorstius, Philosophiae Dr., Medicinae Dr., Universiteit Leiden / Università di Padova, 1619, 1622
  21. Franciscus de le Boë Sylvius, Medicinae Dr., Universiteit Leiden / Universität Basel, 1634, 1637
  22. Rudolf Wilhelm Krause, Medicinae Dr., Universiteit Leiden, 1671
  23. Simon Paul Hilscher, Medicinae Dr., Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, 1704
  24. Johann Andreas Segner, Magister artium, Medicinae Dr. Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, 1726, 1734
  25. Johann Georg Büsch, Magister, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 1752
  26. Johann Elert Bode, Handelsakademie Hamburg
  27. Johann Friedrich Pfaff, Dr. phil. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1786
  28. Carl Friedrich Gauß, Ph.D., Universität Helmstedt, 1799
  29. Christian Ludwig Gerling, Dr. phil., Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 1812
  30. Julius Plücker, Ph.D., Philipps-Universität Marburg, 1823
  31. C. Felix (Christian) Klein, Dr. phil., Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 1868
  32. Philipp Furtwängler, Ph.D., Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 1896
  33. Nikolaus Hofreiter, Dr. phil., Universität Wien, 1927
  34. Edmund Hlawka, Dr. phil., Universität Wien, 1938
  35. Hermann Adolf Maurer, Ph.D., Technische Universität Wien, 1965
  36. Hans-Peter Kriegel, Dr. rer. nat., Universität Fridericiana zu Karlsruhe, 1976
  37. Bernhard Seeger, Dr.-Ing., Universität Bremen, 1989
  38. Jens-Peter Dittrich, Dr. rer. nat., Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2002
  39. Marcos Antonio Vaz Salles, Ph.D., Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, 2008
  40. Me, getting mentored in 2013

Daniel Grosu, an Associate Professor at Wayne State University has managed to track the mentor lineage through Palamas and even further back to John Mauropous (990-1092), who was a scholar at the University of Constantinople. He was a Byzantine Greek poet, hymnographer and author of letters and orations, living in the 11th century AD. Other scholars have since then tracked the lineage further back to Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, an astronomer living in 12th century Persia. And that is where the tale ends. For now.

A new side to Bill Gates

I don't know why, but I really liked to read this post by Bill Gates. In an odd way it was heart warming :-)

Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett

Maybe I should start reading Bill Gates blog as well, just for more of that feel good vibe I got from reading the blog post. I not being sarcastic.

Everything is relative, especially the news value of things, so this is of course only news to me. Having been too busy with life to sit down and quietly read a post that is non-technical.

Surviving a startup with small children in the house

The question: Is it possible to be an entrepreneur while having small children and a wife? Here is what a bunch of entrepreneurs say about that:

Entrepreneur      Verdict

Jason Roberts
He says yes. Has three kids aged 6, 4 and 2 and several startups behind him or in the works, including AppIgnite.

Jason Calacanis
Los Angeles
He says yes, but not if it is your first startup. Has one kid, perhaps aged 2. Is a well-known entrepreneur with several startups behind him.

Gini Dietrich
She says no, has no children. Has at least two startups behind her.

Jessica Stillman
She says yes, if you are willing to give up a certain bond with your kids (between the lines, is it worth it?). The post is actually more a resume of what other people have said, so open it and follow the links.