Mathematical Instruments: Nuit Blanche

September 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

This is the first post in a new series, in which we will let bloggers tell you a little bit about themselves. We call it “Mathematical Instruments” because we see blogging as a valuable addition to the toolbox for research and education. But it is still fairly new and sometimes gets overlooked or dismissed by people who don’t know what to use it for.

The idea of these short interviews is that we can learn a little more about how this instrument can be used, and meet some of the people who are already using it.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

Nuit Blanche: Igor Carron

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) people can find you on?

It’s called Nuit Blanche. I also occasionally write on Robust Mathematical Modeling, Wondering Star, and “Where are the clouds?”.

Nuit Blanche mainly focuses on new emerging fields such as compressive sensing and low rank matrix factorization, and really everything that provides an insight on how to deal with very large datasets and complex problems. I also use Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

All these platforms are not a place to find me but rather they are means to start a conversation with some of the best minds in the world. Most interesting discussions happen by direct emails or as a result of retweets on Twitter, comments on the blog or on Google+ and, most of all, in the discussions taking place on the LinkedIn groups dedicated to compressive sensing and advanced matrix factorization. Both groups feature more than 1400 and 230 professionals from all walks of engineering and science ranging from the oil or the financial industry, to large internet companies to biology, optical engineering, physics all the way to theoretical computer science and mathematics. We have a pretty unique discussion that I do not think is occurring in the walled garden of specialties favored in academia.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background?  Any scientific education?

On the interwebs, nobody knows you are a dog. Let’s just say I hold a Ph.D in engineering and I have mostly lived in the U.S. and Europe. I did my undergrad in France where there is much emphasis on math as a selective process. I think it’s a mistake for no other reasons than it selects people who tend to believe Mathematics as a canned process.

Philosophically, my motto is: “We don’t have much time, I want to see mesmerizing technology in my lifetime.”

For instance, through our discussions, I want to see if “These technologies do not exist” and if “Imaging with Nature” is even possible. I have been proven wrong twice on the “technologies do not exist” list since it was started. I want to see more…

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

The first two mathematically inclined blogs I took heart to follow were those of Andrew Gelman and Terry Tao. I must have started reading them a year into each of them had started.

When did you start blogging?

2003, the year the Columbia crashed over Texas.

Why did you start?

Nuit Blanche stands for restless night in French. Let’s just say that most entries were written in the middle of the night because I could not get to sleep. Since then, most entries are posted at 12 am Texas time. As the readership increased I noticed entries were always posted at midnight for someone…Blogging came as a way to decrease my ignorance on the subject of compressive sensing. I figured that asking and answering dumb questions in a public forum was the best way for others not to ask them. I eventually figured that it provided a community service of sorts. I eventually noticed that these discussions eventually had an impact on how some papers were written and that some people got to talk to each other as a result. That singlehandedly blew my mind, I did not realize that a blog could be an agent of change.

What do you write about?

I blog about the whole spectrum of issues related to compressive sensing, how to deal with ever increasing data flood, how we can have better sensors and much more.

What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?

I’d be a Billionaire.

What does the internet need more of?

Better search engines on what is said on blogs. These blogs are having the best discussions in the whole world and nobody is paying attention on how to mine this unique resource. Like they say in Texas, it’s a damn shame.

Mathematicians on the web have…

…an ability to be agents of change.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Too numerous to list. A few of them are listed on the right hand side of Nuit Blanche.

(published under creative commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

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