This post is a shallow dive into Milwaukee, it's makeup and it's voting trends. It's a mirror of sorts for me. I am from Milwaukee and I so badly want to internalize its struggles and needs, and try to help.

What changed between 2012 and 2016? Which voters changed their party and which sat it out? Where are these voters located? This essay tries to answer these questions and shine a light on this great city. There are some surprising results.

Back in 2012 President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin over Mitt Romney by 213,019 votes and won the state by about 7%. In Milwaukee, President Obama won by 177,514 votes.read more

There are lots of fun ways to play with your phone: Angry Birds, Snapchat, Facebook, Face-swapping. Maybe you like to play with sensors? Anyone? Anyone? Well, in this post I will share some Python code and a video of how you can stream your Android's accelerometer data to your laptop and then visualize it. In fact, you can do this with any of the sensors in the unit, the accelerometer, gyroscope or the magnetometer.read more

Derek Zoolander famously was not an ambiturner. He had to go through a hero's journey to be able to turn both left and right. In this post we will take a hero's journey to identify right and left turns from running data using only GPS measurements.

In my last post I described an algorithm to reduce the number of points on a 2D curve that preserves the basic network structure of the curve. This algorithm, the Ramer-Douglas-Peucker (RDP) algorithm helps us to identify abrupt changes in a curve, where abrupt is subjective and up to the user to decide upon.

In this post I present a novel and simple approach to answering the following question: Did I take a left or right turn and how did I take that turn? Smoothly? Roughly? Constantly? The method presented here is new and remarkably simple compared to other methods in the literature. Most methods I saw relied on accelerometer data which needed heavy machinery such as Kalman filters to make similar determinations.

Calculus III to the rescue

The basic vector description of the plane and 3D space always seems like a bore when teaching. It's hard to get students to be fired up about vector addition and the algebraic structure of euclidean space. So finally, here is an interesting application of the dot product and cross product that goes beyond the ubiquitous force equations from physics.

Consider the map below. Let's assume we have identified the turning points from the RDP algorithm as described in my previous post. Identifying whether it is a right or left turn is extraordinarily simple. Given any three points on a plane we can find the angle that subtends the middle point with our friend the dot product,

On the map above we will have something like this,

If the angle is between 0 and 180 it is a right turn and if it is between -180 and 0 it is a left turn. But to solve for the angle we have to use the function which only has values in a range for a range of 180. This is where the vector cross product saves the day. The 2D cross product is simply the determinant. If the determinant is negative, the angle is between 0 and 180, if the determinant is positive it is between -180 and 0. Thus, left turns and right turns.

Finally, our algorithm is the following:

Apply the RDP to the dataset of lat/lon's. This leaves us with a network G of vertices and n-1 edges.

For i in range(1,n-1) form vectors for the i-1, i, and i+1 vector (as shown above) and compute .

Calculate the determinant and determine left turn or right turn.

That's it!!!!! Glorious, glorious Calc III. Here is a map of run I took in Gedera and the results of the algorithm applied. The run starts with the left-most point. This algorithm resulted in 100% accuracy.

Type of turn, angle
Right turn, 36.9872677438
Left turn, -27.8188864289
Right turn, 55.4872049488
Left turn, -114.980809001
Right turn, 148.508392832
Right turn, 113.14225291
Right turn, 163.80922161
Left turn, -150.035986035
Right turn, 175.043761198
Right turn, 161.791261833
Right turn, 83.6023186647
Right turn, 109.851066119
Left turn, -126.533104243
Right turn, 116.820422235
Left turn, -97.4253631752
Right turn, 160.584337619
Right turn, 93.0049662148
Left turn, -164.456048578
Right turn, 139.971999906
Left turn, -142.289251078
Left turn, -165.463072689
Left turn, -143.612951911
Right turn, 119.067520889
Left turn, -155.864187354
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Sometimes it may be necessary to simplify a set of points into a network. It may be for qualitative reasons such as determining intersection points and conduits of a network. It may also be for quantitative reasons like shrinking a dataset and speeding up computations. In this post I will go over a case study of GPS data and how I to turn this data into a smaller and more usable dataset.read more

"I can't leave until I make a shot." You'll hear this all the time on a basketball court. Growing up I had a friend that was annoyingly loyal to this behavior. Why? Sure, we all want to make another shot, but is there a more profound reason? The research of Daniel Kahneman gives a possible explanation: The Peak-End rule.

Kahneman is a Nobel-prize winning psychologist famous for being one of the founders of behavioral economics, and, in one of my favorite books, Thinking Fast and Slow, espousing a view of human behavior antithetical to many previously held notions.read more

Recent advances in data acquisition in the NBA allow us to gain insight into the sport and it's players, and, we can use this data to play with Python's visualization abilities. In this post data from the current season is used to see just how dominant the Golden State Warriors are; Fivethirtyeight's ELO rankings help to make an interactive graph (not usable on a mobile device); shot charts from stats.nba.com help to build a 3D visualization of a player's shots; and, we will look for any changes in Stephen Curry's play that may explain his explosive 2015-2016 season.read more

This past month I taught a course, "Paradoxes & Infinities," in Hong Kong through the Center for Talented Youth, a gifted & talented program through Johns Hopkins University.

My lasting impression, a few days after completion, is that there still are some great ways to teach advanced math to advanced students. The organization and the logistics of the program itself had some some issues; but these were not negative enough to mollify my experience.

The course is an intensive three week program. The curriculum is math and logic based with paradoxes as the connective tissue. In order to discuss many paradoxes one needs to have a basic understanding of set theory (Russell's paradox), probability (Monty Hall paradox) and sequences (Achilles & the Tortoise) with some other topics sprinkled in. We also studied cardinality, symbolic logic, game theory, combinatorial games and the structure of the real numbers. Each day I, or my TA Raymond, would present brain teasers and puzzles. The combination of all these topics and activities lead to lots of fun but was, at times, a bit overwhelming.read more

What is the safest way to get from point A to point B? A simple question with a not so simple answer. What does it mean to be safe? Is it the feeling of safety or actually being safe? How are of either of these measured? Most importantly, If I've had too much too drink, what is my safest way home?

We begin to answer these abstract questions in a very tangible environment. Classic 1980's arcade games. I love the 80's.

Ms. Pac Man

In 1981 Ms. Pac Man was released forever giving people like me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In the figure to the left, the small yellow boxes are pills Ms. Pac Man eats for points, and the 4 super pills allow Ms. Pac Man to eat the ghosts. The 4 tunnels on the left and right edges, "wrap" the board. For example, if Ms. Pac Man enters the tunnel in the top left she will come out on the top right.read more

When I decided to move to Israel the most frequent question, asked overtly or discretely, was "Is it safe?" The undertone was always that Israel is not and I may be a bit crazy for going. This post will examine how safe Israel is using the USA as the default comparison. There are so many ways to measure safety. Feeling safe is much different than actually being safe. What it means to be safe is not clear. However, there are some basic metrics we will explore here.

The first thing that comes to mind is homicide. The following graph comes from the world bank. The USA is, at all times, at least twice as dangerous than Israel for homicides. read more