Monday, February 08, 2016

EYE CANDY: Jovan Rumble

I noticed pictures of Jovan Rumble in my Twitter feed. He is on twitter @jovan_rumble and also has  a Facebook page. He is available for stripograms and to entertain at private events, in the Birmingham (England) area. That's about all I know about him but what I see so far clearly qualifies him to be eye candy!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Science Publishes Article Calling For Elimination Of Racial Categories In Genetics Research

In an important article titled "Taking race out of human genetics" published in Science magazine today, a team of researchers argues that "the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way."

I have often taught classes which include the idea(s) that the identity characteristics of sex, gender, race, sexual orientation are socially constructed. This does not mean that these categories are not real, but that these characteristics are not innate, fixed, "natural" properties of human beings; instead the idea is that how we perceive and interact with people according to these categories is contested, time-dependent and malleable.

It's exciting to see a paragraph like this in the world's most prestigious scientific journal:
One reason is that phylogenetic and population genetic methods do not support a priori classifications of race, as expected for an interbreeding species like Homo sapiens (11, 18). As a result, racial assumptions are not the biological guide-posts some believe them to be, as commonly defined racial groups are genetically heterogeneous and lack clear-cut genetic boundaries (10, 11). For example, hemoglobinopathies can be misdiagnosed because of the identification of sickle-cell as a “Black” disease and thalassemia as a “Mediterranean” disease (10). Cystic fibrosis is underdiagnosed in populations of African ancestry, because it is thought of as a “White” disease (19). Popular misinterpretations of the use of race in genetics also continue to fuel racist beliefs, so much so that, in 2014, a group of leading human population geneticists publicly refuted claims about the genetic basis of social differences between races (20). Finally, the use of the race concept in genetics, an issue that has vexed natural and social scientists for more than a century, will not be obviated by new technologies. Although the low cost of next-generation sequencing has facilitated efforts to sequence hundreds of thousands of individuals, adding whole-genome sequences does not negate the fact that racial classifications do not make sense in terms of genetics.
Coincidentally enough, I actually m et one of the authors of this article (Professor Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania) when she visited my place of employment this week. On Tuesday February 2, she gave an impressive talk which summarized some of the key ideas in her latest book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century. The audience was enthralled and Prof. Roberts answered questions matter-of-factly and informatively.

 Overall, it is exciting to see the idea that race is NOT a human biological feature getting more attention.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Pres. Obama Invites L.A. Teen With Perfect AP Calc Score To White House Science Fair

Cedrick Argueta, 17, is in the news this week because the Lincoln High School senior was one of barely a dozen students to earn a perfect score on his Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam. This is quite an achievement, since over 300,000 students take the exam every year. Even President Obama noticed and invited Cedrick to the White House Science Fair.

The Los Angeles Times reports about the reaction to Cedrick's achievement:

Cedrick — a quiet, humble student who is quick to thank his teachers and parents for his success — said he'll join the president at the fair “if his offer still holds.”
The White House Science Fair, hosted by the president, features projects, designs and experiments from students across the country and celebrates students who excel in science, technology, engineering and math.
Cedrick's story has made headlines around the world since his score was announced by the Los Angeles Unified School District last week. He is the son of Lilian and Marcos Argueta, both of whom came to the United States as young adults — she from the Philippines, he from El Salvador. Lilian, a licensed vocational nurse, works two jobs at nursing homes, and Marcos is a maintenance worker at one of those nursing homes.
“I'm speechless,” Lilian Argueta said Sunday. “I can't believe this is happening.”
Lincoln High School Principal Jose Torres said Cedrick's achievement was inspiring.
I love this story! Lincoln High School is roughly 2 miles from my house and as a professor of Mathematics I interact with students who have taken AP Calculus exams before coming to my college. And I have taught the material on this exam to my students many times. That Cedrick got every single point on the exam is quite amazing, and inspiring!

Monday, February 01, 2016

EYE CANDY: Kyle Sellar

Kyle Sellars is a "South African dancer and fitness model" according to gay blog TowleRoad. He is active on Instagram (@pt_kyle94 ), where he posts pictures of himself that definitely qualify him to be considered Eye Candy. From his username, I would gather that he was born in 1994, but I have no way of verifying this speculation.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 AUS OPEN: Djokovic Beats Murray To Win 11th Major (6th Aussie Open Title)

As I predicted, World #1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia defeated World #2 Andy Murray of Great Britain 6-1 7-5 7-6(3) in the men's singles final of the 2016 Australian Open to win his 11th major title, and a record 6th Aussie Open title. Murray lost a record 5th Australian Open title (four to Djokovic and one to Federer.)

Djokovic's win means he now has 11 major titles, tying Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg's tally at #5 on the list of greatest men's single champions. He is behind Roger Federer (17), Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12). He is now 6-0 in finals at the Australian Open and ties Emerson for the most titles in Melbourne.

Djokovic is playing some of the best tennis of his career, and is dominating men's tennis in a way that has been seldom seen in the modern era. Since January 2015, he has a 92-5 record, which matches Roger Federer's 2006 season. In the last 12 months he has reached 17 consecutive tournament finals and has failed to win 3 of them (2015 French Open, 2015 Cincinnati Masters, 2015 Canada Masters). He has won 3 of the last 5 and 5 of the last 7 major tournaments. If he wins the 2016 French Open, he will complete the Nole Slam, and become the first male player to hold all major titles simultaneously in decades and if he's playing that well he just might go on to achieve the calendar grand slam as well.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

2016 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] vs Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1]
This is my prediction post for the men's singles final at the 2016 Australian Open. Last year, I incorrectly predicted Andy Murray would beat Novak Djokovic in the men's final but correctly predicted Serena Williams would beat Maria Sharapova in the women's final. This year, I predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also written a preview of this year's Women's singles final.

Men's Semifinals Review: How The Finalists Got Here
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Roger Federer (SUI) [3] 6-1 6-2 3-6 6-3.  With this win (that I predicted), Djokovic nudges ahead 23-22 in his career head-to-head with Roger Federer and with the trajectory of their careers in reverse directions it is hard to see that  there will be turning point in the Swiss Great's favor anytime in the near future. The first two sets were simply tennis at a level that we have not seen before. Djokovic was simply unbeatable, and Federer was lucky to come out of that first 54 minutes of this match with his dignity intact, despite managing to barely eke out 3 games to his opponent's 12. Federer did well to stay strong mentally on the court and when Novak's level dropped he was able to take advantage and snatch the third set. However, just a few errant shots in a service game in the fourth set and the World #1 was able to break and hold serve to close out the match and reach his 6th Australian Open final, where he is undefeated in his five previous appearances.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] d. Milos Raonic (CAN) [13] 4-6 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2.  Murray showed why he is currently the #2 player in the world by dismissing a energetic and energized Milos Raonic who served impeccably to gain a 2-1 sets advantage over him in the semifinal. Murray refused to panic and Raonic's large (6-foot-5) body let him down as he suffered a hip injury which hampered his movement midway through the fourth set and made the result not in doubt for much of the fifth set. (Murray raced out to a 5-0 lead but Raonic stiffened his resistance but still succumbed in the end). Raonic has nothing to be ashamed of and he has more information about what he needs to do to breakthrough to compete in the ultimate test against the very top echelon of men's tennis. I would be very surprised if we don't see him there within the next year or two.

Men's Final Preview: Who The Champion Will Be
Djokovic is playing in his 6th major final here in Melbourne, and he is currently undefeated at this stage of the tournament having beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008, Rafael Nadal in 2012 and Murray in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Last year's final was particularly rough, because despite playing much better tennis than his opponent for most of the first three sets, Murray managed to lose two of them and then lost the last set 6-0. In fact, with Djokovic posting a 21-9 head-to-head lead over Murray, including 10 of 11 matches since Murray's 2013 Wimbledon final win, the final set in their most competitive matches have often been blow-out victories for the Serb.

Surprisingly, in major finals, Djokovic only has a 3-2 edge, with a 3-0 lead in non-final grand slam matches (2015 French Open semifinal, 2014 US Open quarterfinal and 2012 Australian Open semifinal). Most people expect that Djokovic will simply run away with this match in 3-sets but I actually think it will be much closer than that. I think it will be an epic war of attrition, and there is a possibility (a small one, but the opening is there, as a result of Djokovic's shockingly bad performance in his 5-set win over Gilles Simon in the fourth round) that Djokovic could go off. Everyone expects him to win this match, he expects to win this match, and he probably will win this match. But if things don't go as planned (like he loses the first set), then I think it is very possible this men's final could be as surprising (and entertaining) as the women's final. That being said, Djokovic is 10-8 in major finals while Murray is 2-6 in major finals for a reason.
MadProfessah's pick: Djokovic.

2016 AUS OPEN: Kerber Shocks Serena To Win 1st Major Title

Defying my predictions and confounding history, Angelique Kerber outlasted Serena Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4 to win her first major title, at the 2016 Australian Open. Serena was aiming to match Steffi Graf's career total of 22 major titles while Kerber was aiming to become the first German player since Graf to win a major title. Serena was 21-4 in major finals and had only ever lost to three women in major finals (Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur). Kerber was match point down in the very first round of the tournament but after coming through that she was able to play her very best tennis calmly and effectively and after getting a dream draw was able to come back from a huge deficit against Victoria Azarenka and continue that momentum to reach her first major final against Serena and win it! Now that's two consecutive majors where we have had first time slam winners. First Flavia Pennetta did it in New York last September and now 28-year-old Kerber is the champion in Melbourne.

How The Match Was Won
Serena had not dropped a set going into her 7th Australian Open final, the first time she had ever done that, and since she had won all previous six finals in Melbourne this was viewed as a positive omen. However, what happened when the final began was that Serena started nervously and was broken quickly. This was a slight surprise, but since it had also happened against Maria Sharapova most fans didn't worry and fully expected Serena to right the ship quickly. She did come back and evened the set at 3-all. Then surprisingly, Serena got broken again and Kerber's improved serve was able to carry her to take the first set in the face of  nearly two dozen unforced errors from her opponent and (ominously) no aces.

Surprisingly, we then discovered that Serena has only won 2 of 6 grand slam finals where she loses the first set, although she had never previously lost a 3-set major final (8-0). So, the key thing to do is win the first set when playing Serena in a final (because it usually means that she is having a very bad day and may actually go down in straight sets).

Serena finally started serving a bit better in the second set, but she never really punished Kerber's second serve like it deserved. However, she was able to get a break early and rushed out to a 4-1 lead, which she was able to maintain to take the middle set 6-3. (Kerber did well to hold after being down 2-5, 30-all to force Serena to serve out the second set and earn the right to serve first in the 3rd.)

The third set was one of the most compelling sets of tennis on the women's game in a really, really long time. Kerber hit 12 winners and only 3 unforced errors while Serena hit 19 winners and 18 unforced errors. Serena fell down 0-2 but was able to battle back to even the score at 2-all and after Kerber held the two played an intense 10-minute, 5-deuce game that Serena lost to go down 2-4 in the final set. Kerber was again able to hold despite not serving well (she was 56% first serves in for the match and won 60% of first serves points and 58% of second serve points, all stats in which she surpassed Serena today.)

Amazingly, despite being down 2-5 in the final set, Serena was able to come back and get back on serve, and she had a game point serving at 4-5, 40-30 but she missed that first serve and hit a very weak second serve which Kerber pummeled down the line for a winner to get to deuce. After a long rally, Serena went for a crosscourt winner but hit the top of the tape and set up championship point. Serena lost this point on a volley error (it was an easy volley that sailed well over the baseline).

Overall, a really great match. Serena was nervous, and frankly had the wrong game plan to come to net in an attempt to win points. Kerber was too fast and her lefty spin makes volleying difficult and it showed with Serena only making 15 of 32 net points. However, I'm happy to see Serena so fot so early in the year and I'm confident that if she stays healthy all year Serena will still reach Steffi's total of 22 titles this year (and probably end her career with 24 or 25). It takes the pressure off the rest of her year, so she should be extra motivated to get 22 in either Paris, Wimbledon (more likely) or New York (in addition to more Gold in Rio).

Kerber will move up to World #2 when the rankings come out on Monday, bumping down Simona Halep to #3 and elbowing out Sharapova out of the Top 5 as Radwanska and Muguruza round out the top 5. Amusingly, Pennetta is still in the Top 10 at #7 even though she retired at the end of 2015! I think it will be tough to end the year at #2 but I do expect her to remain in the Top 5 and to see Azarenka return to the Top 5 by the end of the year.

2016 AUS OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs.  Angelique Kerber (GER) [7]
The women's final is now set at the 2016 Australian Open. Last year, I correctly predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year, I predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals, 2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also published a post predicting the men's singles final result.

Women's Semifinals Review: How They Got Here
Serena Williams (USA) [1] d. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] 6-0 6-4. As expected, Serena was not troubled by the wiliness of her Polish opponent and was even inspired to raise her  performance to another level and completely blew away the World #4 seed in the first set. The second set was a bit closer but the result was never really in doubt and now Serena has won all 9 matches she has ever played against Radwanska.

 Angelique Kerber (GER) [7] d. Johanna Konta (GBR) 7-5 6-2. This was the end of an excellent tournament by the Briton who had only been to the 4th round once before (in the previous major) in nine tries. She joins a list of other players who have had breakthroughs into the semifinals in Melbourne (Sloane Stephens in 2013, Genie Bouchard in 2014 and Madison Keys in 2015). Hopefully Konta will have a better post-breakthrough period than those players. For Kerber, her win here is a reward of her increased fitness and recognition of the great progress she has made in the last year and her consistency as a Top 10 player for the last four years. Kerber showed all that in her assured dismantling of her less experienced opponent, allowing her to make far too many mistakes to let the match ever be competitive.

Women's Final Preview: Who Will Win
Kerber and Serena have played 6 times before and Serena leads 5-1 in their head-to-head. However, this means that Kerber does possess a win over Serena (in the 2012 Cincinnati W&S Open) which should do something to calm the nerves of the German player appearing in her first major final and feeling the weight of an entire nation who have been waiting for an heir apparent to the great Steffi Graf. Graf looms large over the match because she is the reason why both players are here. Kerber treats Fraulein Forehand as role model and hopes to follow in her footsteps as a major champion. But Graf is also an inspiration for Serena as well, as she is attempting to match the German's gaudy total of 22 major titles with a 7th major title here in Melbourne to cement her claim to be the greatest player of all time.

Tactically, Kerber is extremely fit and as a lefty, possesses a spin that Serena rarely sees. However, there's a reason why Serena is playing for her 22nd major (21-4). She has only been beaten in a major by three people Venus Williams (twice), Maria Sharapova (2004 Wimbledon) and Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open). Very few players have won their very first major appearance, and it is unlikely indeed that Angie Kerber will join that group.
MadProfessah's pick: Serena in 2 sets.

Friday, January 29, 2016

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Mariah Carey Engaged To Aussie Billionaire

Mariah Carey is in the news this week because she has announced that she is engaged to an Australian billionaire, James Packer. Packer, 48, is the 4th richest man in Australia, worth at least $4.7 billion. Mariah is 45 years old and has two 4 1/2 year old twins (named Moroccan and Monroe). She is recently divorced from her second husband, Nick Cannon.

Hat/tip to People


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