Thursday, September 22, 2022

What's in a name? When Omicron isn't Omicron

Tracking and Communicating About Variants

Say the words “Alpha”, “Delta”, or “Omicron” today and virtually the whole world knows what you are talking about: a variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.

This universal awareness is the result of a phenomenally successful choice by the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide Greek letter names to the major variants of the virus that have evolved over the course of the pandemic (WHO variants page). Providing these names avoided a choice between the inaccessible and confusing Pango nomenclature (e.g. “B.1.1.7”, "B.1.351", "B.1.617.2"), and inaccurate and stigmatizing place names (“e.g. “UK variant,” “South African variant,” “Indian variant,”).

Between mid-2020 and the end of 2021, 10 major variants had been named.

No new major variants have been named since Omicron was named in November 2021.

However, this lack of new names is not because no new major variants have emerged. Rather, they’re all lumped into “Omicron” now. And this mistake can be traced back to the initial naming of Omicron.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Elizabeth Warren should be the next President of the United States

Since the primaries are starting soon, I'm going to make my case for Elizabeth Warren, the person I think would make the best next President of the United States.

Warren grew up in a relatively poor Republican family in Oklahoma. Through hard work, she made her way up from a commuter school to teach at Harvard Law School, during a time of few such opportunities for women.

As a professor, Warren challenged her own conservative misconceptions about poverty and discovered they were wrong, and the evidence made her change her mind. A rare thing!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hopes and Warnings for the Next Four Years

Hopeful Reminder

While the GOP has complete control of the government right now, this control is weak. They lost seats in both the House and Senate in this cycle. The presidency was won by the slimmest of electoral margins, by a madman who the GOP hopes they can control but likely won't be able to, with not even a plurality of voters in support and historically low approval going into office.

Warning for What May Come

This situation means there will be a very strong temptation for the GOP to do whatever is necessary to hold on to power in the coming elections. We've already seen willingness to shed norms in the name of holding on to power over the last decade:
Each of these actions, in the moment, made some tactical sense from their perspective. However, each one has also chipped away at the foundations of the republic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Open Letter to the Electors of the Electoral College

I am taking the extraordinary measure of writing to you today because, as an Elector in the Electoral College, you have the great honor of participating in a solemn Constitutional duty. I am sure you appreciate the awesome power you hold in your hands, no matter how much the rest of us typically take your role for granted.
Frankly, I am afraid. I am afraid for our country, our ideals, our future. I have been observing Donald Trump for years, and his words and actions, especially since the start of the current campaign, are deeply, deeply troubling to me. Please understand, this is my own assessment as an attentive, informed citizen, and this isn’t about ideology. If the candidate who won was Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or John Kasich or Jeb Bush, I would not be writing this letter.
I know you have been paying as much attention to the campaign as I have, so I won’t rehash it here. Instead, I will just point to several things to consider:
·         Large number of voters for Donald Trump believe he is unqualified, and are scared or concerned about him
·         Lack of action to atone and unify from unprecedented divisive campaign
·         The rash of reports of bigotry incidents in Donald Trump’s name
·         Selection of a prominent white nationalist and anti-Semite as White House Chief Strategist
·         Threats of legal action against those who speak ill of him, and unusually limited press access
·         Russian interference and secret back-channel communications
·         Unnecessary FBI interjection within weeks and days of the election
One of the reasons the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College was to prevent unqualified individuals from reaching office. I urge you to consider, for yourself, for our country: Do you really, truly trust Donald Trump to be President?
If your answer is a resounding yes—then I wish I had your confidence, and I hope that at least you will use whatever weight you have available to make sure that Donald Trump does not become what many of us fear he could be, and to call on him to be a better leader.
If you hesitated at all, then I strongly urge you to vote differently. While I hope that you might look to the strong recommendations of our newspaper editorial boards, conservative thinkers, economists, and national security experts and vote for Hillary Clinton, I do understand if that is a bridge too far for you. In that case, I would urge you to vote for another individual, anyone, who you believe to be better suited for President—perhaps someone who could be a consensus moderate. If Donald Trump’s electoral votes drop below 270, Congress will pick from the top three candidates that the Electors have voted for.
I am aware that asking you to do this may place you at personal risk. I also understand that succeeding may lead to some chaos. I do not take these things lightly. However, I firmly believe that the future of our country is in peril if Donald Trump is inaugurated in two short months, and your vote may be the only chance to stop it from happening.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I do not envy the decision before you, but I trust you as a fellow American.

Nicholas C. Bauer, PhD

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tau (τ) > Pi (π): The circle constant you knew is all wrong

Happy Tau Day! What is tau (τ), you ask? Tau is twice the value of the famous mathematical constant pi (π), 6.28... Hence, 6/28 is "Tau Day" in echo of celebration of "Pi Day" on 3/14.

As it turns out, we've been mythologizing exactly the wrong circle constant, and τ is the more natural choice. Of course, the math works out either way, since you just need a factor of two to convert between them. So why would you choose τ over π? Why should you choose τ over π?

Monday, May 5, 2014

FCC Proceeding 14-28 "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet" Will Do Neither

Dear FCC:

I am a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University and an avid user of the Internet. Maintaining a free and open Internet is necessary for the innovation which drives our economy and shapes our future. Before this proposed regulation and related decisions, the Internet was a set of interconnected networks which end users purchased access to, consumers and businesses alike. What each customer paid for was for a certain amount of bandwidth and usage, and data located at any point of the Internet was directly accessible from any other point on the Internet in a fair manner.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to remove misspelled words from the Windows 8 spell-check dictionary

Every once in a while you accidentally add a word to the spell-check dictionary you didn't mean to, or maybe later you found out that it wasn't spelled the way you thought. But how do you fix your mistake?

Turns out it's quite easy to do.