Thursday, August 20, 2009

World Mosquito Day

It is true, there is such a day. Ross spent months, years even bent over a microscope, with only buzzing mosquitoes and whimpering natives--feverish volunteers for his grand experiment--for company. In this narrow blinkered world, you start believing the myths you tell yourself to egg you on. One dapple-wing on the microscope and then another and another and another, four in all from his set of ten now offered up clues to the mode of transmission. To mark this moment and in keeping with the tradition of hubris that is the hallmark of European discovery, he declared Mosquito day.

By coincidence I've just finished reading The Calcutta Chromosome. Central to the story, which might be described as historical science-fiction, a medical mystery with traces of Sherlock Holmes, is Ross, and this discovery on August 20th. Coincidences weave through the plot and I'm not entirely sure, if having read the book, I might not now be part of this bizzare tale. There are many reviews on the web, I think the general consensus is that the author was in a hurry to finish the book. I give seven out of nine dapple-wings to this highly entertaining story.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Differential geometry

Many of us across diverse application domains--data mining, handwriting recognition, computer vision, medical image analysis--are finding that we need at least a passing familiarity with differential geometry. Differential geometry supplies tools to do computations and analysis in nonlinear spaces or manifolds.

In medical imaging, the nonlinear manifolds might be the shape spaces of continuous curves or surfaces, or it might be the space of positive definite matrices used in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). In computational geometry, it might be the space of 3D rotations SO(3) and in data mining, the working assumption is that the ubiquitous high dimensional data actually reside in tractable lower dimensional spaces--in nonlinear manifolds.

Some of these useful tools from differential geometry are tangent spaces, geodesics, exponential maps and inverse exponential or log maps.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Afternoon tea in London

Lazy afternoons and tea--my two favorite things. And the English have combined these and made it an institution. So naturally when I was in London last week, I stopped by for tea. Sketch is an ultra trendy place in Mayfair--but how does this compare with an English afternoon in Dubai or Paris? Dubai--I was there in April--was most English. I don't know, it might have been the unhappy brown skinned waitstaff in full livery that reminded me of that very English place, the Viceroy's lodge in Fort William!