Institute for Exceptional Growth Companies website launched

Institute for Exceptional Growth Companies websiteBlue Mouse Monkey is excited to announce the launch of a new logo design and new website for IEGC, the Institute for Exceptional Growth Companies. This project is from the big-data folks behind (another Blue Mouse Monkey project) now at the University of Wisconsin Extension’s Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

We’re thrilled to help this cutting-edge group of researchers make their data and insights accessible to economists, governments, and businesses. IEGC is the national leader in business growth research, and they provide data about the US economy that has the scope and power to help us see our complex financial world in new ways.

Spirit of the Salmon website launched

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission sub basin plan map

Home page for the Spirit of the Salmon Plan Volume 2: Subbasin Plans, with interactive map of the Columbia River Subbasins

In Blue Mouse Monkey’s second major project for CRITFC, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, we are proud to announce the launch of the brand new Spirit of the Salmon website. The Spirit of the Salmon Plan, also known as Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, was written in 1995 to provide a roadmap for restoring declining salmon populations in the Columbia river basin. This website presents the entire original plan documents alongside 18 years of data and restoration success stories, and helps make visible CRITFC’s position as a thought-leader in ecosystem stewardship.

The website is really three sites in one, each representing a hefty volume in the Spirit of the Salmon Plan. The top navigation strip leads to the home pages of the three sites, and the lower strip serves as navigation within each of the sites. The first site is the 2013 update to the Spirit of the Salmon Plan, the second site is the original plan from 1995, and the third site is a subbasin-by-subbasin analysis.

CRITFC’s goal was to make the Spirit of the Salmon Plan documents available online in an approachable, interactive format, to make the information relevant and accessible to the general public. As the quote below demonstrates, salmon are the icon of the Northwest as they shape many of our policies, even for those people who may not actually eat them. We are all Salmon People, or Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum, and it’s important to understand the importance of salmon in our lives.

As CRITFC says,

In Sahaptin, the word for salmon used in sacred ceremonies is “wy-kan-ush.” Also in Sahaptin, the word “pum” means “people.” The tribal cultures in the Columbia River Basin could rightly be called Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum or “Salmon People” for how completely these sacred fish shaped their culture, diets, societies, and religions…Salmon have shaped the culture of the newcomers to this region just as they shaped tribal cultures before them. Salmon are the icon of this place. They are valued as food, as a resource, and as a representation of the wildness and wilderness for which the Pacific Northwest is known. They shape our land use policies and power grid. Whether they realize it or not, every single person in the Northwest is a Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum. We are all Salmon People. Let us all work together to protect and restore salmon—this fish that unites us.

I always knew there was a damn good reason to read good books!


An article in the November 2, 2013 issue of Science News. It’s so short I am copying the whole thing.

Reading high-brow literature may aid in reading minds

Immersion in fiction boosts social insights

By Bruce Bower

Think of it as the bookworm’s bonus: People who read first-rate fiction become more socially literate, at least briefly, a new study suggests.

Researchers randomly assigned nearly 700 volunteers to read excerpts of “literary” novels by recent National Book Award finalists and other celebrated authors, to read parts of fiction best sellers or popular nonfiction books, or to not read anything. Those who read literary works then scored highest on several tests of the ability to decipher others’ motives and emotions, say David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

One test asked volunteers to describe the thoughts or feelings of one or two individuals shown surrounded by various items in a series of images, based on written and visual clues. In another test, participants tried to match emotion words to facial expressions shown for two seconds on a computer screen.

By prompting readers to ponder characters’ motives and emotions, literary fiction recruits mind-reading skills used in daily encounters, Kidd and Castano propose October 3 in Science. The researchers don’t know whether regularly reading literary fiction yields lasting mind-reading upgrades.

Kaggle: what you can do with big data!

Kaggle website screenshotAs the grim news of the NSA’s data mining sinks in, I’d like to shift gears on that topic and highlight the up side of big data.

Kaggle is a website that hosts competitions for data prediction. Data wizards compete to come up with solutions — solutions that elude experts in all kinds of industries — and so far are beating the experts hands down.

When given the chance to play with data (and write algorithms to analyze it), data scientists are able to see solutions without being distracted by industry assumptions or specialist knowledge. As Kaggle’s Jeremy Howard says, “Specialist knowledge is actually unhelpful.”

Competitions include developing an algorithm to grade student papers, developing a gesture-learning system for Microsoft Kinect, and predicting the biological properties of small molecules being screened as potential drugs. Kaggle has approximately 95,000 data scientists worldwide, from fields such as computer science, statistics, economics and mathematics. The data scientists rely on techniques of data mining and machine learning to predict future trends from current data. Companies, governments, and researchers present data sets and problems and offer prize money for the best solutions.

As Howard says, “Winners of Kaggle competitions tend to be curious and creative people. They come up with a dozen totally new ways to think about the problem.” (New Scientist vol. 216, No. 2893)

Way cool!


MIT establishes Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST)

Photo: Andy Ryan

I’m excited that MIT is recognizing and supporting interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts and sciences with this new center. I’ve always advocated a breakdown of the artificial division between the two disciplines, the overly simplistic “right-brain” vs. “left brain” classifications of not only activities, but people. Creativity is enormous and comes in many forms. Cross-polinnation between arts and sciences can only be fruitful. I can’t wait to see what sort of projects, ideas and resources come out of CAST.

The grant will provide awards to faculty, researchers and curators seeking to develop cross-disciplinary courses, new research or exhibitions that span the arts, science and technology. Mellon funds also will supplement MIT’s existing Visiting Artists program. The goal will be to embed artists’ residencies in the curriculum and create a platform for collaboration with faculty, students and research staff in the development, display and performance of new and experimental artwork or technologies for artistic expression. In addition, the grant will support the participation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the activities of the Center.

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission website launched

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission website

Website for CRITFC, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Blue Mouse Monkey is proud to announce the launch of the new Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission website. CRITFC is an enormously influential organinization in the Pacific Northwest, charged with managing fish and watersheds, restoring salmon through innovative science and policy advocacy, protecting archeological sites and tribal fishing rights, and educating schoolchildren, scientists, and the public about the ecological and traditional importance of salmon to the region. Working with CRITFC was an eye-opening experience for me in understanding the relationships between traditional tribal culture, fish and watershed science, protection and restoration, and how these issues touch everyone in the Pacific Northwest in some way or other, even those who don’t eat salmon. As CRITFC notes, we are all “salmon people” or wy-kan-ush-pum.

Move over, Plato

math flow shapeGeometry’s answer to the atom: shapes that can’t be broken down into smaller shapes. These “edgeless” shapes are described rather as “flow”, and a unique flow pattern makes a shape an atom.

“Mathematicians are creating their own version of the periodic table that will provide a vast directory of all the possible shapes in the universe across three, four and five dimensions, linking shapes together in the same way as the periodic table links groups of chemical elements.

The researchers, from Imperial College London and institutions in Australia, Japan and Russia, are aiming to identify all the shapes across three, four and five dimensions that cannot be divided into other shapes.”

Calabi Yau

Calabi Yau

“The scientists will be analyzing shapes that involve dimensions that cannot be ‘seen’ in a conventional sense in the physical world. For example, the space-time described by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity has four dimensions – the three spatial dimensions, plus time.

String theorists believe that the universe is made up of many additional hidden dimensions that cannot be seen. They have already figured out how to turn flowing, higher dimensional shapes into differential equations. The Calabi-Yau manifold represents the 10 dimensions of string theory. A similar mathematical method is being used to search for unique shape “atoms”. There are hundreds of millions of potential shapes to examine, but researchers expect to find a few thousand atoms amongst them.”

They’re quite beautiful, but the static images are only part of the story. There are a few animations on the web of these shapes in motion. For shapes that are defined as “flow” the motion seems important. Yet no matter how we view these shapes, for our eyes they’re always going to be merely the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional plane. We aren’t going to experience them in five dimensions.*

math flow shapemath flow shape

* Bucket list:

1. Experience the Calabi Yau in all ten dimensions.

The Journal of Universal Rejection

NOTE: Blue Mouse Monkey did not make this website! In case you were wondering. Since this is how I format images of our sites on this blog when I showcase them.

NOTE: Blue Mouse Monkey did not make this website! In case you were wondering, since this is how I format images of our sites when I showcase them on this blog.

It looks like a real online scientific journal, with the bland, conservative layout, the excessive line length, the pre-digital font (probably Didot), and that blue bar down the side! Hilarious! (Both the straight-from-the-tube color and the pathetic attempt at adding a decorative element). Not that I don’t like Didot or pure deep blues, but the combination works uncomfortably well in this parody.

Then there’s the journal’s policy: “The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected.” There’s an editorial board of over 20 academics from institutions around the world to do that heavy lifting.

According to the Instructions to Authors, “The JofUR solicits any and all types of manuscript: poetry, prose, visual art, and research articles. You name it, we take it, and reject it. Your manuscript may be formatted however you wish. Frankly, we don’t care.”

You can subscribe to the JofUR for £120 per year. I’m guessing it’s pounds and not dollars because pounds look more exotic and academic and fancy.

The quarterly online archive goes back a couple of years, and each volume is labeled (empty). Except December 2010 (Vol 2, No 4), which is labeled (lost when server crashed – presumed empty).

But really, the best part is the Reprobatia Certa blog. JofUR  likes to share rejection letters. The reasons for rejection are numerous and unpredictable, and often quite funny, especially when the submitter replies:

Editor’s note: We received a submission from Noam Shabtai, The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.

Dear Noam,

We are rejecting your submission on the following grounds: (A) you are not Noam Chomsky, and (B) you live in Beer Sheva, but did not include any beer in your submission. I hope you can see how thorough and agonizing our decision process was.

Best regards,

Caleb Emmons, PhD
Journal of Universal Rejection

Dear Caleb,
I would like to thank you for the thorough review process, and for teaching me how to differ between right and wrong.
After revising the paper, it was submitted and accepted to the journal of universal acception (it is also known as the broadcast news on TV, in case you were wondering).

Best Regards,

I think I’ll send them some drawings. They probably don’t get much visual art. It might be refreshing for them to reject it.

The science and art of democratizing data

Data-visualization virtuosos Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg create a hybrid “artform” (for lack of a more inclusive term) out of data sets. Straddling the realms of science, design, art, and exploration, these graphics reveal interesting patterns in data.

“Data visualization has historically been accessible only to the elite in academia, business, and government. But in recent years web-based visualizations–ranging from political art projects to news stories–have reached audiences of millions. Unfortunately, while lay users can view many sophisticated visualizations, they have few ways to create them.

To “democratize” visualization, and experiment with new collaborative techniques, we built Many Eyes, a web site where people may upload their own data, create interactive visualizations, and carry on conversations. The goal is to foster a social style of data analysis in which visualizations serve not only as a discovery tool for individuals but also as a means to spur discussion and collaboration.”

Carbon footprint of a Big Mac, by Tim Fiddaman

Carbon footprint of a Big Mac, by Tim Fiddaman

Visualizing data that isn’t normally visualized, or is presented in a new way, tells us different stories about the world. From a kid counting all the socks in his household, to trends in editing wikipedia, to a “social network” of the characters in the bible, Many Eyes shows us new patterns that hadn’t been noticed before.

Wattenberg and Viegas now work with Google on a project called the Big Picture Visualization Group in Cambridge, MA, with the goal of making visualizations available to regular  people via Google.