Techniques for Organizing, Curating, and Presenting Content on the Web

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We live in a golden age of online research and communication. The number ways to obtain information, many of which I covered last week, is staggering. Of course, simply having information is not enough. We must also be able to effectively organize, synthesize, and present our findings.

For years, I used an almost embarassingly rudimentary tool for storing references – Microsoft Word. I would read an article, catagorize its content, summarize it, and provide a link in my document. This level of organization can be sufficient, but I found it less than ideal for several reasons. My work remained at a standstill until I could return to my computer and access Word. There was no way to peer into the articles without clicking on the links. All sorting had to be done by hand.

I researched several web-based alternatives and one service rose to the top – Diigo. With just a couple clicks, the Diigo browser applet can save an article to your personal online library. In addition, you can add your own summary, highlight sections that interest you, and attach comments. You have the option to tag your article manually or accept Diigo’s intelligent recommendations.

Unfortunately, the Diigo mobile app is buggy. For storing and reading articles on the go, I like Pocket. While alternatives like Readability and Instapaper are certainly adequate, I prefer Pocket’s clean interface and stable design. Like Diigo, Pocket allows article tagging. Reposting to Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Reddit, etc. is a breeze.

Because Pocket is better at logging and reading articles, while Diigo is better at annotating and sorting them, I bridge the two using a very cool application called If This Then That (IFTTT). Using a collection of simple “if this, then that” commands, you can create your own mobile recipes. For instance, you can command IFTTT to send you an email if your weather app says it is going to rain, or store results to a spreadsheet if certain items on Craig’s List go up for sale. My IFTTT recipe says that if I use the tag “diigo” on an article in Pocket, it will automatically appear in my Diigo library! For me, it’s a nice way to separate the “article search” and “deep research” aspects of the problem when I’m on the go.

If you are working with a group, there are a number of great options to help keep your content organized. One popular tool – if you’re willing to shell out a little coin – is Evernote. With Evernote, you and your collegues can create “notes,” which function a lot like Word documents.

Imagine attending a conference where interesting talks are happening simultaneously. Using Evernote, team members can attend different talks, summarize each in its own note, then tag and organize them into one or more “notebooks.” These can be shared privately with members of your network, quasi-publically with anyone possessing a generated link, or publically through social media sites. Evernote can also capture web articles, photos, handwritten notes, and offers attractive presentation capabilities.

If you’ve advanced to the task delegation stage, you may want to try BaseCamp. This service allows you to make to-do lists and assign who takes care of which item. Events and deadlines can be automatically linked to your personal calendar. BaseCamp also acts as a meeting point. It provides space to work collectively on documents. You can also schedule regular check-ins on topics of your choosing, like “What interesting things have you read in the last week?”

If you work within an organization, you may be able to disseminate your content through its blog, newsletter, website, or media team. For the less well-connected, you might try a personal blogging service like Tumblr, or one of the many image sharing sites like Pinterest. If you desire more control but don’t want to construct a website from scratch (like me), then creating a site through WordPress might be just the thing. Once you purchase your domain name and server space (from companies like BlueHost, pair Networks, etc.), all you have to do is install WordPress, select a theme, and customize using a large network of plug-in’s. One of the most useful is Yoast SEO, which optimizes your site for search engines.

Readership matters, and your content is more likely to be read if it contains images or videos. If you are unwilling to create your own, you can purchase some from sites like iStock and Shutterstock.

However, my preference is to avoid paying for images. The absolute best way to do this is through a copyright management system known as the Creative Commons (CC). People who are willing to let their images be used for free can assign to them a CC license that specifies how they may be used. You can then use Creative Commons Search to locate free images, music, and videos to incorporate into your own content.1You may notice that most of my banner images are taken from the Creative Commons and cited accordingly.

The popular photo sharing site Flickr has hundreds of millions of photos available under the Creative Commons. Pixabay has about a half million, but all can be used freely even for commercial applications. Personally, I have found it more efficient to search for images through Compfight, a web engine based off the Flickr API. In addtion to searching over the usual fields like keyword and text, Compfight also filters based on license, often the most useful field when assembling web content.

If all of this sounds like too much work and you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, you can try a service like, which uses a “selection engine” to scour the web for subject matter of your choosing. The real benefit of this service is that it curates your content for you, though you retain the ability to add information and edit the overall presentation. Once your content is conveniently organized, you can post it to all of your social media sites.

So in conclusion, these are some of the tools I prefer when organizing and presenting content on the web. No doubt I have missed many excellent alternatives, so if you have your own favorites, I invite you to share!


Featured image: “tech worker” by Wrote, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / bottom of image has been cropped from original

Notes   [ + ]

1. You may notice that most of my banner images are taken from the Creative Commons and cited accordingly.

Supercharge Your Internet Research with These Essential Tips

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Several years ago I found myself in a room with people on the forefront of the climate movement. Among their ranks were journalists, advocates, and members of nonprofit organizations. These science communicators had gathered to address an issue each of them had been grappling with – how do I find all of the information that I need and communicate it with the people that need to hear it?

The questions seemed so fundamental that I had assumed everyone in attendance already knew the answers. I didn’t, of course, because I was the outsider. As an astrophysicist, research for me is relatively straightforward. There are a limited set of journals that cover our field and a convenient web interface, NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), to search across their articles.1Friends in other fields have sung the praises of similar programs like EndNote and Mendeley.  The program not only links users to all references in an article’s bibliography, but also reports which papers ended up citing that article. Smart engines could even recommend other papers to read based on your selections.

I have found tracking down information online in the realm of climate/energy policy to be more difficult. There are many more organizations doing independent research or running their own initiatives. Think tanks, NGOs, and government agencies are more likely to publish and promote on their own websites than through peer-reviewed journals. The impacts of climate change are so vast that they cut across traditional academic disciplines. They influence weather, oceans, atmospheres, ecosystems, human health, urban development, energy systems, breakthrough technologies, and many more.

When information is so widely dispersed, and we lack smart engines to find them automatically for us, what should our information collection strategy be? I don’t profess to have the “right answer” to this problem, should one even exist. But I’ve spent enough time gathering suggestions from others and trying them out for myself that I felt compelled to report some of the strategies and sources that have worked for me.

Before I begin, I want to comment that you can’t put everything together overnight. I’ve found that so much of the process is just keeping your ear to the ground. When an article I’m reading references an organization with which I’m unfamiliar, I jot it down. I visit their website, make a note about their mission and, if they have them, subscribe to their newsletter and Twitter feeds. I use Twitter lists to tag the feeds and keep them organized.

A great first source for content is Google, which offers among the best suite of tools for aggregating real-time news. Through Google News, you can personalize your news feed to return only the topics and regions you are interested in. The service allows you to specify whether you want content rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, or always. Google Alerts goes a step further and contacts you when new information becomes available. Many news outlets offer the same capability.

If you are having difficulty deciding what’s important in the moment, the very cool newsmap may be the tool for you. Powered by Google’s search engine, newsmap visualizes the news by separating it into color-coded categories like World, National, Business, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, and Health. The color saturation reflects how old the story is, while the size shows how much it is being reported online. As with Google, you can filter by country and newsource. It’s a handy way to ascertain what’s hot right now.

Over time, or perhaps through a mentor, you may discover that your field has its own news/reference engines. Lawyers gather their research through the library database LexisNexis. Climate and energy folks have the Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources (GREENR). Environment & Energy Publishing reports all the top developments. The news and analysis website Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) provides the latest news regarding low carbon developments.

Another great way to be exposed to new content is through Flipboard2and Zite, which it recently acquired. After signing up, Flipboard presents you with an absurd number of topics to choose from. They range from the conventional (e.g. religion, technology, art) to the more specific (e.g. industrial design, startups, social justice). You select the topics that interest you and Flipboard scours the web to produce a curated magazine readable on most devices. You can also stumble upon new content using, well, StumbleUpon. It has the same idea, but rather than curating material, it randomly deposits you at relevant webpages until you press a button to “stumble” to the next one.  I have found a lot of really excellent content through this service.

Because the combined readership of an article or report is likely to possess more cumulative knowledge than the authors themselves, one should never discount the value of user comments. Sites like the New York Times and Ars Technica have great comment engines where user contributions can be elevated to “reader’s picks” or “editor’s picks”. It’s a great way to sample the wisdom of the masses and be exposed to a much broader perspective.

It literally took me years to assemble the repository of references I now possess. In the world of climate and energy policy, I found that information typically arrives in one of three forms – organizational reports, raw or lightly processed data, and independent projects.

Organizational reports are usually published by issue-focused research groups. For climate and energy, there are way more than I could name here. These include the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Brookings, Energy Innovation, and many more.

Two of my personal favorites are the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  These academic centers were created to conduct unbiased social science research on how people engage with climate change. They discovered that people are more concerned about “global warming” than “climate change.”  They reported what weathercasters think about climate change and its impact on weather, and questioned whether the level of sciencific consensus on climate change ought to be communicated numerically or non-numerically.

The second form information arrives in is raw or processed datasets. Government agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are great resources here, as they have tons of images, datasets, and visualization tools that let you tell your own story from primary sources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) also offer tons of data to play around with.

Some groups are content to curate data in very specific ways. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) categorizes state policies that promote renewable energy as either financial incentives or rules and regulations. Frack Track provides a self-described “geospatial policy tool” that analyzes and visualizes Pennsylvania’s new wave of gas development on the Marcellus shale. Wells, permitted sites, and locations of violations are provided on a map.

The third form is independent projects, a term that I’m admittedly using as something of a catchall. These include initiatives that aim to tell the story of climate change in unique ways. For example, for their project Atlantic Rising three friends started a journey to travel the 1-meter above sea level contour line to see what life would be like in a flooded world. They interacted with thousands of people in 22 countries gathering photos, film, and writings as they documented the changing lives of those along the rim.

Photographer John Weller believes the best way to protect the environment is by reminding people of nature’s visceral beauty. He spent a decade traveling to the rough waters of the Ross Sea, probably the last, undamaged ocean ecosystem left on earth. His stunning photographs of the region’s living creatures, both above and below the water, have been cataloged in the book The Last Ocean.

Finally, it is sometimes most useful to just speak to people personally. While conferences can be a great place to do this, these environments can be intimidating for newcomers to a field. There are some tricks you can employ to make this process go more smoothly, but I will reserve them for a future post.

Of course, simply having information is not enough. You must synthesize and deliver it to your audience in an effective way. This raises a whole new set of challenges that I will get into in my next post.


Featured image: “tech worker” by Wrote, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / bottom of image has been cropped from original

Notes   [ + ]

1. Friends in other fields have sung the praises of similar programs like EndNote and Mendeley.
2. and Zite, which it recently acquired

How Big Data is Transforming Science

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In the last 15 years, science has experienced a revolution. The emergence of sophisticated sensor networks, digital imagery, Internet search and social media posts, and the fact that pretty much everyone is walking around with a smartphone in their pocket has enabled data collection on unprecedented scales. New supercomputers with petabytes of storage, gigabytes of memory, tens of thousands of processors, and the ability to transfer data over high speed networks permit scientists to understand that data like never before.

Research conducted under this new Big Data paradigm (aka eScience) falls into two categories – simulation and correlation. In simulations, scientists assume a model for how a system operates. By perturbing the model’s parameters and initial conditions, it becomes possible to predict outcomes under a variety of conditions. This technique has been used to study climate models, turbulent flows, nuclear science, and much more.

The second approach – correlation – involves gathering massive amount of real data from a system, then studying it to discover hidden relationships (i.e. correlations) between measured values. One example would be studying which combination of factors like drought, temperature, per capita GDP, cell phone usage, local violence, food prices, and more affect the migratory behavior of human populations.

At Johns Hopkins University (JHU) I work within a research collective known the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES).  Our group specializes in using Big Data to solve problems in engineering and the physical and biological sciences. I attended the IDIES annual symposium on October 16, 2015 and heard presentations from researchers across a range of fields. In this article, I share some of their cutting edge research.



The United States spends a staggering $3.1 trillion in health care costs per year, or about 17% of GDP. Yet approximately 30% of that amount is wasted on unnecessary tests and diagnostic costs. Scientists are currently using Big Data find new solutions that will maximize health returns while minimizing expense.

The costs of health care are more than just financial. They also include staff time and wait periods to process test results, often in environments where every minute matters. Dr. Daniel Robinson of JHU’s Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics is working on processing vast quanties of hospital data through novel cost-reduction models in order to ultimately suggest a set of best practices.

On a more personal level, regular medical check-ups can be time consuming, expensive, and for some patients physically impossible. Without regular monitoring, it is difficult to detect warning signs of potentially fatal diseases. For example, Dr. Robinson has studied septic shock, a critical complication of sepsis that is the 13th leading cause of death in the United States, and the #1 cause within intensive care units. A better understanding of how symptoms like altered speech, elevated pain levels, and tiredness link to the risk of septic shock could say many lives.

Realizing this potential has two components. The first is data acquisition. New wearable devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, BodyGuardian, wearable textiles, and many others in development will enable real-time monitoring of a person’s vital statistics. These include heart rate, circadian rhythms, steps taken per day, energy expenditure, light exposure, vocal tone, and many more. These devices can also issue app-based surveys on a regular basis to check in on one’s condition.

Second, once scientists are able to determine which health statistics are indicative of which conditions, these monitors can suggest an appropriate course of action. This kind of individualized health care has been referred to as “precision medicine.” President Obama even promoted it in his 2015 State of the Union Address, and earned a bipartisan ovation in the process. A similar system is already working in Denmark where data culled from their electronic health network is helping predict when a person’s condition is about to worsen.

Dr. Jung Hee Seo (JHU – Mechanical Engineering) is using Big Data to predict when somebody is about to suffer an aneurysm. Because of the vast variety of aneurysm classifications, large data sets are critical for robust predictions. Dr. Seo intends to use his results to build an automated aneurysm hemodynamics simulation and risk data hub. Dr. Hong Kai Ji (JHU – Biostatistics) is doing similar research to predict genome-wide regulatory element activities.



The development of new materials is critical to the advancement of technology. Yet one might be surprised to learn just how little we know about our materials. For example, of the 50,000 to 70,000 known inorganic compounds, we only have elastic constants for about 200, dielectric constrants for 300-400, and superconductivity properties for about 1000.

This lack of knowledge almost guarantees that there are better materials out there for numerous applications, e.g. a compound that would help batteries be less corrosive while having higher energy densities. In the past, we’ve lost years simply because we didn’t know what our materials were capable of. For example, lithium iron phosphate was first synthesized in 1977, but we only learned it was useful in cathodes in 1997. Magnesium diboride was synthesized in 1952, but was only recognized as a superconductor in 2001.

Dr. Kristin Persson (UC Berkeley) and her team have been using Big Data to solve this problem in an new way. They create quantum mechanical models of a material’s structure, then probe their properties using computationally expensive simulations on supercomputers. Their work has resulted in The Materials Project.  Through an online interface, researchers now have unprecendented access to the properties of tens of thousands of materials. They are also provided open analysis tools that can inspire the design of novel materials.



Another area where Big Data is playing a large role is in climate prediction. The challenge is using a combination of data points to generate forecasts for weather data across the world. For example, by measuring properties like temperature, wind speed, and humidity across the planet as a function of time, can we predict the weather in, say, Jordan?

Answering this question can be done either by using preconstructed models of climate behavior or by using statistical regression techniques. Dr. Ben Zaitchik (JHU – Earth & Planetary Sciences) and his team have attempted to answer that question by developing a web platform that allows the user to select both climate predictors and a statistical learning method (e.g. artificial neural networks, random forests, etc.) to generate a climate forecast. The application, which is fed by a massive spatial and temporal climate database, is slated to be released to the public in December.

Because local climate is driven by global factors, simulations at high resolution with numerous climate properties for both oceans and atmospheres can be absolutely gigantic. These are especially important since the cost of anchoring sensors to collect real ocean data can exceed tens of thousands of dollars per location.



Housing vacancy lies at the heart of Baltimore City’s problems. JHU assistant professor Tamas Budavári (Applied Mathematics & Statistics) has teamed up with the city to better understand the causes of the vacancy phenomenon. By utilizing over a hundred publicly available datasets, they have developed an amazing system of “blacklight maps” that allow users to visually inspect all aspects of the problem. By incorporating information like water, gas, and electricity consumption, postal records, parking violations, crime reports, and cell phone usage (are calls being made at 2pm or 2am?) we can begin to learn which factors correlate with vacancy, then take cost effective actions to alleviate the problem.



As Big Data proliferates, the potential for collaborative science increases in extraordinary ways. To this end, agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are pushing for data to become just as large a part of the citation network as journal articles. Their new initiative, Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), is designed to enable biomedical research to be treated as a data-intensive digital research enterprise.  If data from different research teams can be integrated, indexed, and standardized, it offers the opportunity for the entire research enterprise to become more efficient and less expensive, ultimately creating opportunities for more scientists to launch research initiatives.

My personal research uses Big Data to solve a problem caused by Big Data. In a world in which researchers have more data as their fingertips than ever before, the uncertainty caused by small sample sizes has decreased.  As this so-called statistical noise drops, the dominant source of error is systematic noise. Like a scale that is improperly calibrated, systematic noise inhibits scientists from obtaining results that are both precise and accurate, regardless of how many measurements are taken.

In my dissertation, I developed a method to minimize noise in large data sets provided we have some knowledge about the distributions from which the signal and noise were drawn. By understanding the signal and noise correlations between different points in space, we can draw statistical conclusions about the most likely value of the signal given the data. The more correlations (i.e. points) that are used, the better our answer will be. However, large numbers of points require powerful computational resources. To get my answers, I needed to parallelize my operations over multiple processors in an environment with massive amounts (e.g. ~ 1TB) of memory.

Fortunately, our ability to process Big Data has recently taken a big step forward. Thanks to a $30 million grant from the state of Maryland, a new system called the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center (MARCC) has just come online. This joint venture between JHU and the University of Maryland at College Park has created a collaborative research center that allows users to remotely access over 19,000 processors, 50 1TB RAM nodes with 48 cores, and 17 petabytes of storage capacity. By hosting the system under one roof, users share savings in facility costs and management, and work within a standardized environment. Turnaround time for researchers accustomed to smaller clusters will be drastically reduced. Scientists also have the option of colocating their own computing systems within the facility to reduce network transmission costs.

The era of Big Data in science, which started with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in 2000, is now in full force. These are exciting times, and I cannot wait to see the fruits this new paradigm will bear for all of us.


Featured image: “server rack zoomed in” by CWCS Managed Hosting, used under CC BY 2.0 / image of server has been slightly windowed, “big data” words added


Debunking the Notion That Climate Scientists Are Just in it for the Money

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The principle of American democracy is rooted in the “marketplace of ideas,” a notion that public policies are best developed through the honest and open deliberation of a wide variety of ideas. But the “marketplace” has strained of late. Our national challenges have grown more complex and the voices opining on them more numerous. From health care to energy policy to net neutrality, resolving modern problems requires more than an application of philosophy – it demands scientific literacy and an understanding of our national scientific apparatus.

Unfortunately, instead of facilitating discourse there are many who are content to muddy the waters. One of the worst offenders is conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. During his June 22, 2011 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show he spoke once again on one of his “pet peeve issues,” climate change. Limbaugh, who has long rejected the consensus scientific conclusion that that Earth’s climate is changing and that human beings are responsible, was offering a new explanation for climate scientists’ behavior.

“They’ve been paid,” Limbaugh argued. “Their entire lifestyles, their standard of living depends on their grants that they get to conduct the studies, and they only get the money if they come up with the right result.”

One might be willing to dismiss such an inflammatory statement as isolated bloviation from one of media’s biggest loudmouths, if only it were an isolated incident. It is far from that. Similar statements have been made by authors, pundits, politicians, and even a handful of disgruntled scientists. In a speech to New Hampshire businessmen, former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry echoed Limbaugh’s remarks referencing “a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.”

Statements such as these are not only slanderous, they are dangerous. Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our generation. It promises to deliver a warmer climate, droughts, floods, food and water scarcity, rising sea levels, and the death of 25-50% of Earth’s species (just to name a few) if not properly mitigated.

It is for these reasons that the profoundly misleading assaults on scientists’ basic integrity are so worrisome. The need to restore public faith in our scientific institutions warrants a substantive clarification about both the roles scientists play in society and the actual manner in which their research is funded.

In general, there are two classes of scientist – public and private. Public climate scientists are employed by government institutions like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA’s premiere climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, explains how public scientists are compensated saying, “Our salaries do not depend on how much research the government funds. Government scientists get paid for working 40 hours week, regardless of how long they work.”

Furthermore, to prevent against politically motivated terminations public scientists receive considerable protection from being fired. In such an environment scientists have little to fear from publishing results that cut across the grain since neither their compensation nor their job security depends on it.

Private climate scientists, on the other hand, are often employed by universities and must actively seek their own research funding.  One common source is America’s collection of federal science agencies. There are many, but one of the most prominent is the National Science Foundation, an agency which supports about 20% of all federally funded basic research conducted in US universities.  Its funding process is typical of agencies of this kind, so it is worth examining its appropriations process in greater detail.

Scientists apply for research grants by first submitting a research proposal.  According to NSF criteria, successful proposals must demonstrate that their prospective research be of high academic quality, have high and hopefully broad significance, and preferably be transformative.  Proposals are merit-reviewed by a panel of independent experts in the field and the top submissions receive grants to continue their work.  This process is highly competitive.  Of the approximately 45,000 proposals received each year, the NSF only funds about 11,500.

One noteworthy observation is that a plausible alternative to the theory to human-driven climate change satisfies all of these criteria.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, between 97% and 98% of climate scientists actively publishing in the field currently agree with the conclusion that global climate change is occurring and is caused by human activity. Clearly, a plausible alternative would constitute a great scientific advancement, one which would likely have ramifications beyond climate science itself.  So not only are “climate skeptics” not penalized in the grant process, if their proposals demonstrate legitimate scientific merit they might actually receive preferential treatment.

There are other factors that weigh in a climate skeptic’s favor. First, any scientist who can debunk a scientific paradigm (as Einstein did with his general theory of relativity) in favor of a better theory will earn prestige and a likely place for his name in science textbooks.  This is a huge incentive to challenge the status quo.  Second, if a professor has tenure, then he needn’t fear reprisal from his employer for conducting controversial research.  Third, because review panels are comprised of a broad selection of experts, one can expect a representative plurality of opinions to be held by appropriators, which mitigates consensus groupthink.  Fourth, scientists are skeptical by nature.  They assume their knowledge is incomplete and are always acting to refine it. Scientists will tell you that one of the most exciting events for them is when an experimental result completely defies theoretical expectation.  It is in these moments that new truths are often revealed.  Scientists yearn for these moments. They do not penalize the search for them.

The final point I’ll make about the public grant process is simple common sense.  It’s functionally impossible for allocators to only fund “pro-climate change” research when the results of that research are unknown until it is conducted.  And even if you suspect incoming research proposals must tacitly accept anthropogenic global climate change a priori, meta-publication data gathered by Skeptical Scientist, an organization dedicated to explaining peer reviewed climate change research, reveals that approximately half of climate research papers do not explicitly endorse the consensus opinion, but rather function primarily as fact-finding missions.  Those missions in total have created the consensus opinion, but scientists did not have to assume it before receiving their funding.

The other method by which private scientists obtain research support is by courting private donors and corporations who have a vested interest in it.  For lots of basic research, this process of pitching for funds is a huge hassle.  As the Microsoft computer scientist and Turing Award winner Jim Gray once put it, “Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before one turns into a prince.”

Except in certain cases the prince comes to you. Mitigating climate change requires a reorganization of large sectors of our economy. Consequently, corporations that stand to suffer financially in the transition have a strong incentive to spread disinformation themselves or fund others willing to do so.

In such cases, the exact opposite of Limbaugh’s argument is proven true. Scientists willing to research alternatives to anthropogenic climate change often receive funding because they reject the consensus opinion. In fact, research from the Global Warming Policy Foundation has found that in an analysis of 900 papers supporting climate change skepticism, 90% of the authors were linked to ExxonMobil.

As Dr. Hansen argues, “Perhaps, instead of questioning the motives of scientists, you should turn around and check the interests (motives) of the people who have pushed you to become so agitated.”

Once the public understands the true manner in which climate science is funded, it will ultimately need to ask itself which is more likely – that A) 97% of all active climate scientists have independently come together to collectively pull the wool over the world’s eyes and perpetrate the greatest scientific hoax of all time for unclear motives or B) moneyed interests like oil and coal companies who stand to lose profit in a world that addresses climate change are spreading doubt and disinformation as a means to forestall action.

Given the current state of media in the United States, the condition in which we find ourselves is not altogether surprising. Thinner margins have driven many newspapers and other news outlets to lay off dedicated science reporters. In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, ratings reign supreme and viewers are more likely to tune into conflict and controversy than a nuanced discussion of the facts. Even when climate science is given the coverage it deserves, the media will often mistake journalistic balance with “hearing all sides of an issue.” Granting climate skeptics equal air time with members of the 97% majority is akin to presenting the opinions of an Auschwitz survivor alongside someone who argues the Holocaust never happened.

Ultimately, it will fall upon scientists to lift the haze of misunderstanding that surrounds their work. They will need to be more vocal in communicating not just the science, but the process of practicing science. Only when the public gains an understanding of the scientific process will the baseless claim of Limbaugh and his sympathizers be exposed be exposed as the myth that it is.


Featured image: “Dollar Sign in Space – Illustration” by DonkeyHotey, used under CC BY 2.0 / slightly modified and black borders added to original

Pro Wrestling

Ranking All 89 Matches in the G1 Climax 25

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Over the last month, I watched every match in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual round-robin tournament, the G1 Climax. This was arguably the undertaking of an insane person. If this is indeed the case, my ranking of every match in the tournament that follows is of little consequence. But for those that have partaken or will partake in G1 Climax 25, I think this may be useful.

The 2015 tournament featured Block A and Block B, each with 10 wrestlers who all faced each other once. That’s nine matches per person, or 90 in total (actually 89 when you discount Shinsuke Nakamua’s injury-based forfeit over Michael Elgin). There were five matches per night, spread over 18 nights. The night a match occurred has been placed in parentheses.

As the tournament progressed, I tried my best to assess how each match ranked in comparison to all the others. This was quite challenging for a number of reasons. First, my frame of mind changed from day-to-day, and even from hour-to-hour. A match I enjoyed on Wednesday night, I might have found dull on a Saturday afternoon. Second, since most of these were watched late at night, I got sleepy during parts, which affected both my immediate perception and…Third, my memory. As I write this, for example, I have no idea what happened in the Kojima vs. Anderson match. The best I could do is recall the feeling I had while watching it. If that didn’t work, I tried to figure out how good the match was relative to Kojima’s other matches, or Anderson’s other matches. Fourth, as impartial as I tried to be, I have my favorites. I am a huge fan of Kota Ibushi and Michael Elgin, for example. On the other hand, NJPW could have axed Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Yujiro Takahashi and my life would have been a better place. These biases have unquestionably crept into this ranking.

Of course, even if I had been able to watch every match with no bias and perfect mental and spiritual clarity, these are still going to be my opinions. I will not argue that my rankings are “correct” and everyone else’s are “garbage”, or any other Internet trolling thing of the sort. If you have AJ Styles vs. Tenzan at #42 rather than #62, hell, you might very well be right. Again, Mike Specian = imperfect.

With those disclaimers out of the way, I have separated the G1 Climax 25 matches into four categories. The first eight matches I deem as “absolute must-see”. Each of these is a legitimate match-of-the-year contender. You should go out of your way to see them. The second category is “don’t miss”. These are all very good to great matches that don’t quite reach the elite level. The third category offers solid efforts that aren’t a waste of your time, but which for the most part were not particularly memorable. The final category is the bottom-of-the-barrel fare. While there is some decent stuff in there, we only have so many hours in the day so…prioritize, I guess.


Match-of-the-Year Candidates

  1. Tanahashi vs. AJ Styles (17)
  2. Tanahashi vs. Ibushi (1)
  3. Ibushi vs. AJ Styles (5)
  4. Tanahashi vs. Shibata (13)
  5. Ishii vs. Elgin (18)
  6. Naito vs. Ibushi (11)
  7. Shibata vs. Ibushi (7)
  8. Elgin vs. Goto (16)


  1. Goto vs. Ishii (14)
  2. Nakamura vs. Goto (10)
  3. Goto vs. Okada (8)
  4. AJ Styles vs. Shibata (1)
  5. Nakamura vs. Okada (18)
  6. Anderson vs. Elgin (14)
  7. Naito vs. Tanahashi (5)
  8. Shibata vs. Naito (3)
  9. Okada vs. Ishii (12)
  10. Okada vs. Honma (4)
  11. Nakamura vs. Ishii (8)
  12. AJ Styles vs. Bad Luck Fale (15)
  13. Takahashi vs. Honma (18)
  14. Okada vs. Takahashi (14)
  15. Elgin vs. Honma (8)
  16. Ishii vs. Nagata (10)
  17. Naito vs. AJ Styles (7)

Pretty Good

  1. Honma vs. Ishii (16)
  2. Shibata vs. Makabe (5)
  3. Nagata vs. Kojima (14)
  4. Nakamura vs. Honma (14)
  5. Okada vs. Nagata (16)
  6. AJ Styles vs. Yano (3)
  7. Okada vs. Elgin (2)
  8. Anderson vs. Honma (12)
  9. Ishii vs. Anderson (5)
  10. Ibushi vs. Makabe (17)
  11. Okada vs. Anderson (10)
  12. Goto vs. Honma (6)
  13. Anderson vs. Nakamura (2)
  14. AJ Styles vs. Makabe (11)
  15. Nagata vs. Goto (18)
  16. Tenzan vs. Shibata (15)
  17. Yano vs. Shibata (11)
  18. Bad Luck Fale vs. Tanahashi (7)
  19. Kojima vs. Elgin (4)
  20. Anderson vs. Nagata (8)
  21. Tanahashi vs. Yano (9)
  22. Tanahashi vs. Makabe (15)
  23. Gallows vs. Naito (15)
  24. Yano vs Tenzan (5)
  25. Tanahashi vs. Tenzan (3)
  26. Nakamura vs. Nagata (4)
  27. Tenzan vs. Naito (17)
  28. Makabe vs. Gallows (13)
  29. Elgin vs. Nagata (12)
  30. Nakamura vs. Kojima (16)
  31. Okada vs. Kojima (6)
  32. Elgin vs. Takahashi (10)
  33. AJ Styles vs. Tenzan (13)
  34. Makabe vs Naito (9)
  35. AJ Styles vs. Gallows (9)
  36. Kojima vs. Anderson (18)
  37. Naito vs. Bad Luck Fale (1)
  38. Naito vs. Yano (13)
  39. Gallows vs. Yano (7)
  40. Ibushi vs. Tenzan (9)
  41. Takahashi vs. Kojima (8)
  42. Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale (9)
  43. Nakamura vs. Takahashi (12)
  44. Bad Luck Fale vs. Gallows (5)

Decent to “Just There”

  1. Bad Luck Fale vs. Makabe (3)
  2. Makabe vs. Yano (1)
  3. Anderson vs. Goto (4)
  4. Nagata vs. Honma (2)
  5. Ibushi vs. Gallows (3)
  6. Takahashi vs. Nagata (6)
  7. Goto vs. Kojima (12)
  8. Gallows vs. Shibata (17)
  9. Yano vs. Ibushi (15)
  10. Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale (17)
  11. Tanahashi vs. Gallows (11)
  12. Bad Luck Fale vs. Ibushi (13)
  13. Makabe vs. Tenzan (7)
  14. Kojima vs. Honma (10)
  15. Anderson vs. Takahashi (16)
  16. Ishii vs. Takahashi (4)
  17. Ishii vs. Kojima (2)
  18. Goto vs. Takahashi (2)
  19. Tenzan vs. Gallows (1)
  20. Bad Luck Fale vs. Tenzan (11)
Pro Wrestling

Ring of Honor Results, Spoilers and Live Impressions from July 25 TV Taping in Baltimore

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Ring of Honor taped four episodes of TV on Saturday, July 25, 2015 at the William J Myers Pavilion in Baltimore, MD. These tapings come hot off the heels of the Death Before Dishonor iPPV the night before. The crowd was into it. Attendence was about 70% that of the night before. Before the show, the Young Bucks, Moose, and Maria were available for autograph signings and photographs. Ring of Honor did not announce when they would be returning to Baltimore.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Jay Lethal retained the Television Championship against Hanson, but Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly are hot on his tail. The split between Adam Cole and The Kingdom seems official. Cole joined Kyle O’Reilly to reform Future Shock. They couldn’t grab the Tag Team Championsips from The Addiction, though, due to outside interference from Taven, Bennett and Maria. The Young Bucks defeated Roppongi Vice, but the Addiction jumped them afterwards. A big tag team war between the Young Bucks, reDRagon & Adam Cole vs. The Kingdom, the Addiction & Chris Sabin seems likely.

The Briscoes, ACH, War Machine, Moose, and Roderick Strong all picked up wins and gained momentum. Adam Page called out and laid out Jay Brisoce, signaling the start of a feud. Dalton Castle defeated Silas Young, but Silas wants another match where if he wins, he gets Dalton’s Boys. Caprice Coleman defeated Cedric Alexander after Moose interfered. Cheeseburger got revenge on Brutal Bob.


Dark Match: Mandy Leon beat Deonna Purrazzo.



Match 1: ACH vs. Watanabe – This was ACH’s fast sytle versus Watanabe’s strong style. They meshed well and the crowd was evenly split. ACH won with 450 splash in nine minutes. Solid opener.


Match 2: The House of Truth (Donovan Dijak & J. Diesel) with Truth Martini vs. War Machine – Jay Lethal was on commentary. This was a hard hitting, War Machine-style match. Their power won out in the end. They threw Dijak out of the ring and hit Fallout on Diesel for the pin in six minutes. Lethal and Hanson yelled at each other after the match to set up their ROH TV Title match later in the evening.


Match 3: Adam Page (with BJ Whitmer & Colby Corino) vs. G(?) Hughes – Page squashed him in one minute with the Vertebreaker. BJ Whitmer grabbed the microphone to a chorus of boos.


What? You don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say? Well too bad, because I’m the one with the microphone! Adam, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, that right there. This aggressiveness, this mean streak is what’s taking you to the next level. You proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the future of this company when you beat ACH at Death Before Dishonor. And now tonight he comes out and Ring of Honor gives him that ham and egger? Are you ready to make a statement? Are you ready to call out the man?


Jay Briscoe, get out here, get in this ring and man up!

Jay Briscoe was nowhere to be found. BJ antagonized Corino at the announce desk, yelling at him to do his job. Corino stood and removed his jacket, but Nigel McGuinness intervened and forced Corino to the back.


Let them fight! Let them fight!


Match 4: The Kingdom (Matt Taven & Michael Bennett) with Maria vs. reDRagon – Adam Cole was on commentary. This match featured fun, fluid action throughout, as you would expect from these two teams. When Kyle O’Reilly fell deep into the middle rope (like Ambrose does), Bennett struck him in the face from the floor. Taven climbed to the top turnbuckle and with Bennett hit Hail Mary on O’Reilly on the floor. With O’Reilly eliminated, they did the same to Bobby Fish in the ring to earn the pinfall in 14 minutes. Good match!

After the match, the Kingdom attempted another piledriver but Adam Cole stopped them. Michael Bennett asked Cole what he was doing. Kyle O’Reilly stumbles up besides Adam Cole. The men shake hands.


Future Shock! Future Shock!



Match 1: Silas Young vs. Dalton Castle – As Castle disrobed, Silas mumbled, “unbelievable”. Dalton immeidately attacked Silas with bad intent. Dalton got the pin in nine minutes with Fair Winds. Fun match!


Dalton, I’m getting damn, damn tired of this.


Shut up!


There ain’t gonna be any shutting up, because I say what I want to say because I’m a real man. I don’t worry if I offend somebody or if they think I’m a bad person. Dalton Castle, I don’t like what you do with these boys. I don’t like your lifestyle that you lead with them. These boys need to learn to be men.

You ain’t good enough to beat me on your own. You ain’t never beat me on your own. So one more shot, and when I beat you, I get those boys.




Believe me I’m gonna beat you. When I beat you those boys are going to be mine and I’m going to teach them how to be real men.


Silas wants boys!  Silas wants boys!


Bobby Fish came out for ringside interview with Kevin Kelly. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about.


Match 2: Moose (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. Will Ferrara – Moose won in three minutes with the big spear.


Match 3: Roppongi Vice vs. The Young Bucks – The Bucks won in 13 minutes with More Bang for Your Buck after hitting a bunch of superkicks. This was exactly what you would expect. It was a fun candy car crash with all the usual spots.

After the match, the Addiction with Chris Sabin jumped the Young Bucks from behind. They used atheltic tape to bind Matt Jackson to the top rope while they beat on Nick. They kicked Matt in the face and gut. The Addicition nailed the Indytaker on Nick as Nigel McGuinness looked on disappointed.


Internet-Exclusive Future of Honor Match – Nuclear Kaasarole (Chase Brown & Peter Kaasa) vs. Punisher Martinez & QT Marshall – This match had a different commentary team. Kaasa is a powerful dude who looks like a smaller Scott Steiner. The man definitely has talent. He performed a fallaway slam/moonsault combination and pinned QT after a senton.



Match 1: The Briscoes vs. The Bloodbound Warriors – Each team wrestled their own style. It was a fun Briscoes match, but nothing beyond that. The Briscoes got the pin in nine minutes after a Froggy Bow.

Adam Page came to the entrance ramp with The Decade.


There he is, Jay Brisoce! Two weeks ago I stood in that ring and called you out and you were nowhere to be found.   I don’t know if you’re going deaf or if you’re just stupid. What’s that motto? Man up? Maybe that don’t mean nothing. Maybe you’re another liar.


Yo, hold up, young boy. Listen to me, no offense brother, but I don’t even know who the hell you are. Hey, hey, pretty boy, I’ll tell you this. If you’re looking for a fight you don’t have to look too far, brother. We can do this right now.


No no no, Jay, you need to pump your brakes. This isn’t going to happen right here, not right now. But I have an idea. How about next week right here on TV we give you the opportunity to man up when you go one-on-one with Adam Page!


Oh, so that’s your name? Adam Page. Well next week you’re going to get your ass whoopped.


Match 2: Donovan Dijak (with Truth Martini and J. Diesel) vs Roderick Strong – This match featured a lot of good, back-and-forth strikes. Roddy looked no worse for wear after his 60-minute match the night before. In eight minutes, after trading some fun near falls, Strong hit the double-knee gutbuster/Sick Kick combination for the pin.

Jay Lethal immediately jumped into the ring as Dijak and Diesel held Strong. Lethal trashtalked Roddy, but as he turned his back to go for the Lethal Injection, Roderick fought out. War Machine ran out to support Strong and they run off the House of Truth. Roderick yelled to Lethal, “You can’t beat me!”


The generic ROH logo appeared on the big screen, which is usually indicitive of a jobber coming out. Instead, we got shocked!

Match 3: Future Shock (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. The Addiction (“Almighty” Christopher Daniels & Kazarian) for the ROH Tag Team Championships – The crowd popped HUGE when Future Shock came out. The fans remembered! After some back and forth mat wrestling, Future Shock hit the first tag team combo manuevers, indicating that they are still a cohesive unit! Adam Cole began to do the “Adam Cole, bay bay!” pose, but Kyle stopped him so they could pose together and yell, “Future Shock!”


Future Shock! Future Shock!

The Addiction worked over Adam Cole. Cole was denied the hot tag, had a small rally, but the Addiction maintained control. Eventually Cole locked Kazarian in the Figure 4. Kazarian reversed it, but O’Reilly jumped on Kazarian and applied the arm bar. Daniels jumped on O’Reilly with a crossface. Creative spot!

Kyle O’Reilly got the hot tag and locked Kazarian in the arm bar. When Daniels tried to break it up, O’Reilly locked him in the ankle lock! Future Shock hit Total Elimination. Kazarian kicked Adam Cole in the groin and suplexed him off the top.

O’Reilly interjected with an arm bar, which prompted The Kingdom to run down to the ring. Matt Taven kicked Kyle in the head, but in a dramatic move O’Reilly managed to get a quick roll-up on Daniels for a LONG count, but Taven was distracting referee Todd Sinclair. Kazarian broke up the pin attempt by kicking O’Reilly in the head. O’Reilly stumbled into the rope where Taven gave him another shot. Kazarian rolled O’Reilly up, grabbed the tights, but only a two count! This is getting really good.

Michael Bennett jumped onto the ring apron and excoriated Todd Sinclair for his slow count. Adam Cole walked over to Bennett and asked, “What are you doing!?” The Addication grabbed Cole and hit a suplex into a double-knee gutbuster for the three count in 13 minutes. Maria held O’Reilly’s leg impeding his ability to break up the pin. Really fun stuff! Well worth watching.

After the match, The Kingdom beat down Kyle O’Reilly which drew out Bobby Fish. Out came the Young Bucks! They went straight after The Addiction and the melee was on! The Bucks hit stereo superkicks and Topes. The Young Bucks and reDRagon cleared the ring. This looks to set up an 8- or 10-man tag with The Addiction, The Kingdom and/or Chris Sabin vs. reDRagon, the Young Bucks and/or Adam Cole.



Match 1: Adam Page (with BJ Whitmer & Colby Corino) vs. Jay Briscoe – Jay Briscoe extended his hand to Adam Page.


I’m Adam Page. I’m in the Decade and the Decade doesn’t shake hands.

Page slapped Briscoe in the face. Briscoe laughed and extended his hand again. Page slapped him again and we’re off! This match was wrestled with high intensity. After about a minute, Colby Corino grabbed BJ’s crutch and looked to hit Briscoe with it. Briscoe stalked Colby giving Page enough time to throw a chair in Jay’s face. The referee called for the bell after two minutes, giving the DQ victory to Briscoe.

The Decade filled the ring with chairs. Page gave Briscoe the Vertebreaker on the chairs. Mark Briscoe raced to the ring to drive the Decade off. Jay Briscoe recovered and took the microphone.


You must have a death wish, boy, because your ass is gonna die.


Cedric Alexander came to the ring with Veda Scott. His opponent Caprice Coleman followed.


           (to Caprice)
I am the only man in Ring of Honor to beat Moose…TWICE! Beating you does nothing for me, so we will make our exit. Have a good night. Enjoy the rest of your evening.


I’m sorry. I apologize. Maybe I should be talking to the one with the most hair on their chest. Hey, Veda! You’re going a great job winning matches for him! You’re doing a great job.

Match 2: Cedric Alexander vs. Caprice Coleman – After a competitive sequence, Veda grabbed Coleman’s ankle. Veda tried to further distract Caprice, which drew out Stokely Hathaway. Stokely grabbed Veda to remove her from ringside, which drew the referee’s attention. On the other side of the ring, Cedric obtained a wrench. Moose ran down and pulled the wrench out of Cedric’s hand. This distracted Cedric just long enough for Coleman to hit a massive top rope leg drop to earn the pin at the eight minute mark. The crowd led a Moose chant.


Match 3: Brutal Bob Evans vs. Cheeseburger – Bob dominated with Cheeseburger getting in a few hope spots. Bob set up a table on the outside and went to sidewalk slam Cheeseburger throught it from the apron. Cheeseburger floated back into the ring, and struck Bob in the face, driving him through the table! Bob was unable to make the 20 count. Your winner in six minutes is Cheeseburger! Bob’s protestations of “No! No!” elicited a sea of Yes! chants from the crowd.


Bobby Fish came to the commentator’s table for the main event.

Match 4: Jay Lethal (with Truth Martini) vs. Hanson for the ROH TV Championship – The crowd chanted for both men. After Hanson absolutely pummelled Lethal, Lethal hit a springboard dropkick, sending Hanson to the outside. Lethal hit three Topes sending Hanson over the barricade and into the front row.

Lethal grabbed Hanson’s beard and jumped over the top rope with it. Lethal blocked Hanson’s bronco buster with a foot to the groin. Lethal hit the Macho Man elbow but Hanson kicked out at one. Jay Lethal went for the Lethal Injection, but Hanson sidestepped and went for his own Lethal Injection! It was a little awkward, but he hit the elbow (as opposed to the cutter), which lit up the crowd!

Hanson performed a top rop moonsault but Lethal got his knees up. Lethal went for another Lethal Injection, but Hanson avoided it. Hanson immediately went for a spin kick, but Lethal ducked, hit a massive superkick followed by two Lethal Injections. Your winner in 11 minutes is Jay Lethal. This was another really good match. Jay Lethal is on such a roll lately. Hanson totally held up his end of the match.

Kyle O’Reilly ran to the ring and Bobby Fish joined him on the apron. Lethal held up both titles.


Your day is almost over.


Your day will never come!

Roderick Strong hit the ring. Lethal and Truth bailed.


Count the days. I’m going to embarrass you, Jay.


        (to Lethal)
You are not a finisher!


I am the greatest!

Pro Wrestling

Ring of Honor Results, Spoilers and Live Impressions from March 8 TV Taping in Baltimore

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Ring of Honor was live at the William J. Myers Pavilion in South Baltimore on Saturday night, March 7, 2015. The building was jam-packed, drawing a standing-room only crowd of nearly 1000. People were lined up down the street just to get in to see ROH film four episodes of TV. The production team set up the big video screen above the entranceway, which looked outstanding. The crowd was jacked and their enthusiasm did not flag throughout the night. I’m sure these episodes will come off great on TV. I have been to most of the ROH shows in Baltimore, and this likely stands as their biggest crowd yet.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Samoa Joe is back in a big way. He defeats Kyle O’Reilly and announces that he wants a shot at the ROH World Championship against Jay Briscoe at Supercard of Honor. Jay Briscoe retains his title against a challenge from Jimmy Jacobs. The IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles looked incredible in his victory over Mark Briscoe. BJ Whitmer is an awful human being as he makes Steve Corino’s son Colby into the Decade’s new young boy. In lieu of getting a Television Title match against Jay Lethal, Top Prospect winner Donovan Dijak opts to join the House of Truth. Dalton Castle looks impressive as an impromptu replacement, but Lethal remains champion. The Kingdom beat the Young Bucks. The Addiction beat ACH & Sydal. The Knights of the Rising Dawn begin interfering in matches. Elgin, Moose and War Machine (with the returning Raymond Rowe) pick up squash wins. Elgin is becoming even more of an ass. Roderick Strong beats Bobby Fish in a very enjoyable contest. Brutal Bob turns on Cheeseburger.


Match 1: The Addiction vs. Matt Sydal & ACH – Sydal makes a hot tag in the middle of the match and goes to town on the Addiction, earning a “this is awesome” chant. ACH gets a “holy shit” chant for his Fosbury Flop. Sydal is pulled to the outside by one of the Knights of the Rising Dawn. Kazarian puts Sydal in the torture rack, and then flips him over onto Daniels’s knees for the pinfall. This was a really fun opening match.


Jay Briscoe comes to the ring.


Baltimore, Maryland, you know, first thing’s first. I got to send out a big thank you to ODB for bringing this baby (Briscoe’s personal world championship belt) right here home. Thank you ODB, it’s greatly appreciated.

Now coming out the 13th Anniversary in Las Vegas, Nevada, a lot of people say I escaped by the skin of my teeth. People saying I got lucky. A lot of people saying I look vulnerable. You can call me lucky; you can call me vulnerable, but don’t forget to call me the champ.

And how the hell is anybody going to call me lucky? I mean seriously, it’s been over 2 years since I’ve been pinned in this ring. I have one of the biggest streaks of all time going right now, man. I’m trying to stay humble, I really try to stay humble man, but this roll that I’m on right now; I can’t help but feel I’m the baddest man in pro wrestling.

Samoa Joe comes out to a massive pop.


Welcome back! Welcome back!


Baddest man in pro wrestling…you know what? I’ll give you that. You are on a streak. And whoever says this man got lucky – you are out of your mind. I was the man a long time ago. But in my absense, two men manned up and showed the Ring of Honor fans what we’re all about. That was the Briscoes and namely, you. You went to Vegas against impossible odds with 4 guys in the ring at once and you came out victorious. You manned up and handled business.

And I’d be remiss to say when I look at you I see a little bit of myself, what it means to be a true champion. But if you’re going to call yourself the baddest man in pro wrestling, last time I checked you ain’t whipped my ass.




So I’ll tell you what. Supercard of Honor, let’s see if that claim is true. You versus me for the ROH World Championship.


Yes! Yes! Yes! Joe’s gonna kill you! Joe’s gonna kill you!

Samoa Joe and Jay Briscoe leave the ring. Jimmy Jacobs comes to the ring.


Jimmy Jacobs! Jimmy Jacobs!


Last I heard, you guys were chanting, “Joe’s gonna kill you, Joe’s gonna kill you” in anticipation for some match that two wrestlers just decided was gonna happen. Samoa Joe – a guy who was great, I mean, really great. He hasn’t been in this company for so long that the last guy he beat was Tyler Black. That’s how long it’s been. But he just asked Jay Briscoe for a Ring of Honor World Title shot and Jay’s like, “yes.” As if your mere presence grants you a World Title shot just blows my mind! Samoa Joe, you walked out of this company and that worked out so well for you.




I mean that. That’s real. And I mean this: while you walked out on this company, I was here in good times and bad, holding the fort down making sure there was a spot for you to come back to. Yes! Damn right! So before, Jay Briscoe, you just give away a title shot, I’m taking a title shot because I’ve earned a title shot. Nigel McGuiness, before you give away a title shot at Supercard of Honor to Samoa Joe, I’m taking a Ring of Honor World Title shot. Jay Briscoe, Nigel McGuiness, I know you’re both men. I know you’re men, so you’ll accept this. There’s something changing in the air, right now. There’s a feeling in the air that’s changing for Jimmy Jacobs and something’s got to give. Something’s gotta give and that’s the Ring of Honor World Championship.


Match 2 (TV Episode #1 Main Event): The Kingdom (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven) with Maria vs. the Young Bucks – The Bucks are super over. Maria grabs Matt Jackson’s leg from the outside leading to a beatdown. Finally Nick gets the hot tag and moonsaults to the outside. Taven dives over the top rope. As Young Bucks doubling-teaming begins, the crowd chants, “This is awesome.”

Another distraction from Maria allows Taven to hit a top rope swanton for a two count. Bucks come back with stereo superkicks, bucklebomb kick, swanton while opponent’s legs are hung over top rope. Crowd chants for the Young Bucks. Young Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver, but one of the Knights of the Rising Dawn pulls out referee Todd Sinclair. Bennett superkicks Matt Jackson in the back of the head and low blows Nick. Taven goes to the top rope and the Kingdom hits a Metlzer Driver of their own for the pin in 12 minutes. Entertaining match!

reDRagon emerge at the top of the entrance ramp to survey the ring.


Match 3: Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Fish – They trade stretches and strikes, then fight to the floor. Bobby Fish dominates Roderick for most of the match, though. Fish’s top rope moonsault earns a “this is wrestling” chant. The tide turns in Roderick’s favor following a superplex and double knee gutbuster. They trade strong-style elbows. Roderick flies off the ropes and connects with the Sick Kick followed by Death by Roderick. Crowd chants, “That was awesome.”


Top Prospect Tournament winner Donovan Dijak is in the ring. Truth Martini, J. Diesel and Jay Lethal come to the ring. Lethal is scheduled to defend his Television Championship against Dijak.


Donovan Dijak…today is the most important day of your entire life. There were eight men in the Top Prospect Tournament and you came out victorious. That says something about you. You are a star on the rise. But today you are across the ring from your Ring of Honor champion, Jay Lethal. Now in case you didn’t know, Ring of Honor is the greatest company in the entire world.




Jay Lethal is the greatest wrestler in Ring of Honor. Do the math, Dijak, because that means that Jay Lethal is the greatest wrestler in the entire world. I’m going to tell you straight up. If you wrestle Jay Lethal right now, you’re going to lose. Repeat: if you wrestle this man right now, you’re going to lose. This man has victories over Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Sting and Alberto el Patrón.

Now me on the other hand, Dijak, numbers don’t lie. I am officially the greatest manager in Ring of Honor today. Everybody who stands by my side shoots straight to the top. There are three types of wrestlers in this world – good wrestlers, great wrestlers and special wrestlers. This is the most important day of your life. This is what I’m offering you.


Truth Martini extends his hand.


Shake my hand and join the House of Truth.


The majority of the crowd wants him to do it. Dijak considers for a long while, and then shakes Truth’s hand.


You chose wisely.


Dalton Castle’s music hits. He comes to the ring doing his super awesome entrance with his two “boys.”


Salutations! I’m Dalton Castle. I’ve come to wrestle and these are my boys. I was stretching out my hammies to release my tension. You won the Top Prospect Tournament Champion and you’re gonna give that up? You know I was in that particular tournament for one particular reason – I want what you got (references the Television Championship).


One of Dalton’s boys gets on his hand and knees. Dalton sits on him and leans on the second boy as they combine to form a makeshift human chase lounge. The crowd is really into Dalton Castle.


So what do you say? Why don’t you be a man like me and put it on the line. Defend that title against me right now.


Yes! Yes! Yes!


The House of Truth goes to leave the ring.


Come on! Walk away! I’ll just have to go challenge Jay Briscoe. He’s a real champion…


Match 4: Jay Lethal defends the Ring of Honor Television Championship against Dalton Castle – Lethal is so angry that he pummels Dalton at the start. However, Dalton recovers and wrestles a really competitive match in which he got in his fair share of offense. He hits Fair Winds and a deadlift German suplex. With the referee distracted, Dijak pulls Castle out of the ring and connects with Feast Your Eyes. Castle stumbles into a Lethal Injection and is pinned in 6 minutes.

This segment was very effective. Dijak got over by being a monster and aligning himself with the HOT. Truth got over by making it happen. Lethal got over by winning. Dalton Castle got over just by being Dalton Castle. After the match, Castle got a standing ovation with streamers. The crowd chanted, “Please come back.”


Match 5 (TV Episode #2 Main Event): Jay Briscoe defends his Ring of Honor World Championship against Jimmy Jacobs – The story here is that Jimmy Jacobs hit Jay Briscoe with pretty much everything he had, but it just wasn’t enough. Jacobs hit a stunner off the corner of the barricade, sliced bread, spear and a top rope sliced bread, but still couldn’t put Briscoe away. Jimmy doesn’t know what to do, sulks around ringside and stares into the ROH title belt. Jimmy hits a running cutter off the rope, another sliced bread and locks in a guillotine. Briscoe powers up, but Jimmy rolls him up for a near fall. He gets a backslide for another near fall. Then Jay just grabs him and crushes him with a Jay Driller to get the pin in 12 minutes. As they shake hands, the crowd rises for a standing ovation chanting, “that was awesome.”


Match 6: Moose (with Veda Scott and Stokely Hathaway) vs. Caprice Coleman – Moose dominates until Caprice hits the heart punch. As Moose weakens, Caprice gets in some offense. Moose recovers enough to hit the standing top rope dropkick and spear for the win in 6 minutes.


Match 7: The Decade (BJ Whitmer & Adam Page) vs. Leon St. Giovanni & Shaheem Ali – This was a one minute squash. Whitmer held Leon face-up on his shoulder while Page ran towards him to deliver a cutter while Whitmer flipped him over.


Adam, we’ve been scouting the entire wrestling world looking for our next young boy, looking for your replacement. Do you think we’re going to find him amongst derelicts like these two? I gotta surprise for you. I have found our next young boy. I have found the perfect fit for the Decade, someone that’s more than capable, a second-generation kid. With our guidance he just might become a star here in Ring of Honor. Adam, he needs a big brother like you and he needs a father figure like me. Corino, I’m giving you the chance and the opportunity to be our next young boy!


Steve Corino stands up from the commentary position and glares at Whitmer.


No no, not you Steve, your son Colby Corino!


Colby Corino comes to the ring as his father looks on in disbelief.


Now I’m going to ask you – are you up for the challenge of being our next young boy?


Colby Corino hugs BJ Whitmer!


This has gone too far.



You haven’t seen anything yet, Steve.


Colby holds ropes for Whitmer and Page as they leave the ring. Jimmy Jacobs comes to the ring and tries to play peacemaker. He accompanies Steve Corino backstage.


Match 8: The House of Truth (J. Diesel & Donovan Dijak) vs. Brutal Burgers – The crowd is super into Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger wants Dijak and even gets a big DDT hope spot on him. Ultimately, Dijak kills him with a knee, throws him across the ring and finishes him off with Feast Your Eyes. Dijak scores the pin in 5 minutes.

After the match, Brutal Bob Evans embraces Cheeseburger, poses on the ropes, turns around and nails Cheeseburger with a huge shoulderblock.



Asshole! Asshole!


Match 9: Michael Elgin vs. Will Ferrara – Elgin uses his power and submission holds to stay in control pretty much the entire match. Elgin teases powerbombing Ferrara from the apron through a table to the outside, but returns him to the ring. He hits the bucklebomb, spinning powerbomb combo for the pin in 6 minutes.

Caprice Coleman checks on Ferrara. Elgin gives him a spinning powerbomb. He grabs Ferrara and powerbombs him again. Elgin gets some really good heel heat out of this.


Match 10: War Machine vs. Anthony Greene & Cam Zagami – This was Raymond Rowe’s first match back with War Machine since returning from injury. He gets a “welcome back” chant. War Machine wins easily in 3 minutes with a top rope leg drop from Hanson.



War Machine! War Machine!


             (returning to the ring)
I’m not done yet! At the 13th Anniversary, Nigel McGuiness said he was going to “punish me.” Well, the only thing I see fit to do is return the favor and punish Ring of Honor. Hanson, Rowe, you know, as a young kid my mom used to say something to me. It used to go, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” And you two are standing there as a team because of me. So how about you two fellas against me and I get the job done right now?


Match 11: Michael Elgin vs. War Machine – War Machine, being a good team, has the advantage for the majority of this short match, as they should. Elgin gets himself disqualified after hitting Rowe in the back with a chair. Hanson and Rowe are restrained by referees and officials as Elgin walks to the back holding the chair over his head. The crowd chants for War Machine.


Match 12: QT Marshall vs. ACH – QT looks good early, executing impressive power moves on the smaller ACH. In the end, though, this was just a nondescript enhancement match to put over ACH. He wins with the 450 splash in 5 minutes after Marshall misses one of his own.

BJ Whitmer returns to ringside with Adam Page and Colby Corino to address ACH.



You think you’re hot stuff don’t you? You think because you come out here with acrobatics and do a couple of flips and these people pop for you, that makes you the man? Let me smarten you up to something. I’m going to shoot straight with you, Albert. Nobody in the back likes you. Nobody respects you. But you are getting opportunities and chances that you don’t deserve. You’re getting opportunities that belong to a guy like Adam Page. You are having matches with AJ Styles and Alberto el Patrón and you failed, Albert. Yet each and every failure you come out with this false sense of bravado, this false confidence. But you know, deep down that every time your mother looks you in the eyes she sees nothing but a failure.


Colby attacks ACH from behind allowing BJ to take over. Page hits the vertebreaker. Steve Corino is very upset. Colby opens a bottle of water and hands it to Adam Page. The crowd boos them.


Match 13: (TV episode #3 main event) AJ Styles vs. Mark Briscoe – This match had a lot of fast, well-executed chain wrestling complemented with stiff strikes. They started off with periodic flurries of offense followed by working submissions. They fight on the floor and back into the ring. AJ outwrestles Briscoe and maneuvers him into the calf killer. Mark gains the advantage with redneck kung fu and a brainbuster. AJ responds with the Stylin’ DDT, but simultaneous clotheslines put both men down.

AJ hits the Pelé Kick on the apron, but Mark responds with the Cactus Jack elbow to the floor. He tries for the Froggy Bow but AJ gets his knees up. Like a flash of lightning, AJ is up with a brainbuster followed by the Styles Clash. He gets the pin in 16 minutes. For many in attendance, this was the best match on the show. Great stuff here. AJ Styles is mega-over.


Match 14: (TV episode #4 main event) Kyle O’Reilly (with Bobby Fish) vs. Samoa Joe – The crowd chants, “welcome back.” The first thing I noticed is that Joe appears to be in better shape than we last saw him in in TNA. They shake hands and we’re off. The match starts with back-and-forth wrestling. The men exchange go-behinds, wristlocks, arm bars, kicks, ducks, rolls-up and more.


This is wrestling!


Kyle jabs and Joe just slaps him right in the face. He sits Kyle in the corner and gives him two sets of Facewashes. Kyle wrenches Joe’s arm, so Joe clotheslines him to the floor. They exchange blows and take turns setting each other up for the running big boot near the guardrail.


Olé, Olé, Olé!!!


The men fight on the floor, but I can’t see how from my vantage point. Kyle torques Joe’s arm around the bottom rope. As Joe favors the arm, Kyle kicks him in the chest, returns to a wristlock and goes for a suplex, but Joe stops him. Kyle tries again, Joe stops him again. Joe jabs, slaps and elbows, but Kyle recovers with a knee to the chest that gets a one count.

Joe is facedown on the mat and Kyle controls him with a hammerlock. He supplements the hold with strikes and knees. Kyle’s back roundhouse kick gets a one count and he returns to a keylock. Joe surges back. His front roundhouse kick forces Kyle forehead-first into the mat. Joe follows with a clothesline, reverse atomic drop, big kick off the rope and his signature senton. Two count. Joe’s snap suplex compels Fish into the ring, but Kyle kicks out. Joe has his eye on Fish now.

Kyle tries for the Thesz press, but Joe turns it into a powerbomb. When Kyle kicks out, Joe rolls it into an STF. Kyle gets to the ropes, so Joe sets him up for the muscle buster. Kyle counters into a guillotine choke. Fish yells at the referee to ring the bell. Joe powers out so Kyle viscously elbows him in the face and transitions into an armbar from the same position. Again Fish tells the referee to ring the bell. Joe gets to the ropes and rolls to the outside.

From the apron, Kyle does his diving dropkick to the floor, shooting Joe into the barricade. Back in the ring, Kyle gets a two count with a suplex and transitions into an armbar. Joe gets a rope break so Kyle kicks him instead. Joe gets a second wind. He hits Kyle with a slap, slap, slap, but Kyle ducks the backslap. Kyle hit a kick, chop, knee, kick. Joe jumps the back roundhouse kick, but Kyle knees Joe in the face. Kyle tries the Dean Ambrose clothesline after bouncing off the middle rope, but Joe doesn’t go down. He tries again but Joe kicks him in the shoulder. Both men are down.


This is awesome! This is awesome!


Kyle and Joe charge and evade each other. Kyle runs at Joe in the corner, but Joe catches him with the STJoe. Joe is feeling it now. He destroys Kyle with knee strike after knee strike. He throws him into the corner and sets him up for the muscle buster. He connects and gets the pin in 17 minutes.


That was awesome! That was awesome!


It looks like Samoa Joe lives! This was a great match and ranks close to Styles/Briscoe as the best thing on the show, in my opinion. The men shake hands as the crowd chants for Joe.


It feels good to be back here at home. At the Anniversary Show I told you people that we started a movement. It’s a revolution. Tonight is an example of the new style of wrestling. (yelling) Tonight is an example and notice to the world that we are changing the game because we are Ring of Honor and goddammit we’re the best that there is!


Bobby Cruise announced that Ring of Honor returns to Baltimore on Saturday, July 25.


Is the Universe a Giant Fractal?

fractal universe

Fractals are objects that look the same on all scales.  I’m sure many of you have seen pictures or videos of fractals, but if you haven’t or if you would like a reminder, check out this visual representation posted on YouTube.  As a cosmologist who has studied the large scale structure of the Universe, I find the question of whether the Universe is itself a giant fractal pretty interesting.

Before we can dive deeper into this question, some background information is required.  The prevailing conclusion in cosmology is that the Universe originated in a Big Bang from which all matter and energy was set in motion.  Though it was initially very close to uniform, tiny quantum perturbations made certain sections of the Universe slightly more dense than others.  As gravity directed matter into these overdense regions structure slowly began to form.  After billions of years this structure evolved into a massive collection of filaments and voids.  The following video from the Millennium simulation displays a model of that structure on different length scales.

As the video shows, the Universe does appear somewhat similar on all scales except the smallest.  That the Universe fails being a fractal at small scales should be obvious.  After all, there are no galaxy-sized objects that look like glaciers, trees or chipmunks.  Therefore if the Universe does possess fractal-like properties they must break down at some point.  Above those scales, does the Universe look like a fractal?  If so, does that fractal go on forever?  If not, where does it cut off.  Why?  How do we know?

These are the questions I investigate in this post.  Fair warning: this is about to get pretty wonky.  Those valiant enough to proceed are encouraged to put on their math caps.

One way cosmologists quantify structure is through a statistic known as the two-point correlation function (2PCF).  The 2PCF measures the probability of finding two galaxies separated by distance r beyond what’s expected through random chance.

In three dimensions the two-point correlation function is often approximated as a power law,

(1)   \begin{equation*}  \xi(r) \propto r^{-\gamma}, \end{equation*}

where \gamma is a parameter whose value depends upon the particular distribution of galaxies. In two dimensions the 2PCF w(\theta) is a function of angle,

(2)   \begin{equation*} w(\theta) \propto \theta^{-(\gamma-1)}. \end{equation*}

Note that if we add the number of Euclidean dimensions1The Universe possesses 3 Euclidean, or topological dimensions.  This is another way of saying we live a three-dimensional Universe – up/down, left/right, in/out.  We distinguish between Euclidean and fractal dimensionality since the latter can take non-integer values and more accurately describes fractals’ more complicated geometric properties. to the exponent of the 2PCF we obtain the same number, 3-\gamma. This is known as the codimension. It turns out that if you have a random process with a power law correlation function, when you project it into lower dimensions the codimension does not change.

To put more substance behind this, let’s consider the two-point galaxy correlation function in greater depth.  To compute its value at any r we populate a simulated volume with uniformly distributed2In this context “uniformly distributed” means the random points must have the same distribution the observed galaxies would in the absence of large scale structure. The geometry of the survey must therefore be taken into account. No random points may be placed in locations where galaxies could not be observed. If the number of observed galaxies decreases with distance as with magnitude-limited surveys, so too must the number of randoms. random points.  We count the number of pairs of points separated by each distance r and use the results to populate a so-called randoms-randoms histogram.  We do the same for the galaxies to generate a data-data histogram.  The ratio of these histograms, which is a measure of probability above and beyond what one would expect through random chance, is the 2PCF.3For more on this see Landy, S. D., & Szalay, A. S. 1993, Astrophysical Journal, 412, 64.

As an example consider a three-dimensional Universe in which all the galaxies lie along a straight line.  We limit our focus to galaxies separated by a distance r by imagining a spherical shell of radius r.  The only data-data points would lie across the shell from each other, perhaps located at opposite poles.  The number of galaxy pairs would scale as 2\lambda\, dr where \lambda is the linear galaxy density.  The random points could lie anywhere within the spherical shell, contributing to a much greater number of pairs.  The number of these pairs would scale as 4\pi r^2 \rho\, dr where \rho is the volume density of the randoms.44\pi r^2 is the surface area of a sphere.  When multiplied by the infinitesimal thickness dr it becomes the volume of a very thin spherical shell.  The correlation function would then go as

(3)   \begin{equation*} \xi=\frac{2\lambda \, dr}{4\pi r^2 \rho \, dr} \propto \frac{1}{r^2}=\left( \frac{1}{r} \right)^{\gamma=2}. \end{equation*}

By a similar argument if all the mass in the Universe was on a plane, then the number of data-data pairs would go as 2\pi r \sigma\,dr where \sigma is the galaxy area density.5A plane (of galaxies in this instance) intersected with a spherical shell creates a circular ring.  The circumference of that ring is 2\pi r.  When multiplied by the ring’s thickness dr we get the area of the ring.  In this case the correlation function would go as

(4)   \begin{equation*} \xi=\frac{2\pi r \sigma\,dr}{4\pi r^2 \rho \, dr } \propto \frac{1}{r}= \left( \frac{1}{r} \right)^{\gamma=1}. \end{equation*}

The codimension of the linear Universe is 3-\gamma=1.  The codimension of the planar Universe is 2.

The reason this matters is that a random process (like the distribution of galaxies) with a power law correlation function has a lot in common with fractals.6Though it might seem counterintuitive, the distribution of galaxies is considered to be a random process.  That is, there could be an infinite number of different Universes that each have the same 2PCF.  This is analogous to many people rolling a die a large number of times.  Each person will roll numbers 1 through 6 in a different order even though the probability of rolling each number is identical for all of them.  In fact, simulating the positions of galaxies is sometimes referred to as rolling the dice.  To see how, let’s examine the concept of dimensionality a bit more rigorously.

Imagine intersecting familiar geometric objects with a sphere and then doubling the radius of the sphere. What happens? If the object is a line, the length of the line inside the sphere will double. This means it increases by a factor of 2^{D=1}. If the object is a flat plane, the area of the plane inside the sphere will quadruple. This means it increases by a factor of 2^{D=2}. In these examples the exponent D tells you the dimensionality of the object. A line is 1-dimensional. A plane is 2-dimensional.7I have taken the radius of the sphere to increase by a factor of 2, but note that the argument works for any factor f, e.g. changing the radius of the sphere from R to fR scales the area of the intersecting plane by f^{D=2}.

While lines and planes are relatively simple objects, the boundaries of fractals are not.  In fact, the length around a fractal shape depends upon how fine a ruler one uses.  For example, consider the images of the United Kingdom’s coastline below.  The shoreline appears jagged on all scales and can be approximated to be a fractal.  As the resolution of the ruler increases, so too does the length of the coastline.  And because fractals have infinitely dense structure, the closer you look the longer the edge gets.  For this reason the edges of pure fractals are often considered infinite in length.


When you intersect a fractal with a sphere and double its radius, the spatial content of the fractal doesn’t necessarily double or quadruple – it increases by a factor 2^{F_D} where F_D is known as the fractal dimension. And unlike in Euclidean geometry, the fractal dimension does not need to be an integer.8The fractal dimension is also a measure of the complexity of a fractal’s boundary. There are formal defintions of F_D, but those are omitted here.

It is somewhat comforting that F_D=1 for a straight line and F_D=2 for a flat plane, i.e. for simple cases the Euclidean and fractal dimensions are identical.  But if a line is somewhat curved, it will have a fractal dimension close to but greater than 1.  If a line is so tangled that it almost maps out an entire area, it will have a fractal dimension close to but less than 2. A similar logic applies to surfaces.  A slightly curved surface will have a fractal dimension somewhat larger than 2 while a surface so folded that it practically maps out the entire volume will have a fractal dimension somewhat smaller than 3.

The essential connection between these examples is that the codimension 3-\gamma and the fractal dimension F_D are actually measuring the same thing. A linear Universe has a codimension of 1 and the fractal dimension of a straight line is F_D=1. A planar Universe has a codimension of 2 and the fractal dimension of a plane is F_D=2.

This relationship is nontrivial. Dimensionality is a measure of how the spatial extent of a geometric form scales within a volume. The codimension is a measure of how objects are distributed relative to a purely random distribution. They are fundamentally different things, yet in the context of power law 2PCF they wind up being equal.

And while these are just the edge cases, this conclusion holds equally well for 1<\gamma<2.  In other words, if we know the two-point correlation function, we know the fractal structure of the Universe!

So if the Universe is indeed a fractal, what is its mass? The answer depends upon the radius R of the sphere within which we measure it. For a sphere centered on position x_0 we might use an equation like this,

(5)   \begin{equation*} m_R(x_0) = \int \rho(x) W_R(x_0-x) \, d^Nx, \end{equation*}

where \rho(x) is the density at position x, W_R(x_0-x) is a top-hat window function9The top-hat window function equals 1 when x is within a distance R of x_0 and equals zero otherwise. It exists to limit the integration to the interior of the sphere. and N is the dimensionality of the fractal10For conventional three-dimensional objects N=3. When integrating over surfaces we use N=2.. To find the average fractal mass within a radius R we would average m_R(x) over many positions.

Regardless of the particulars of the density function \rho(x), the mass of a fractal is proportional to length raised to the N^{\text{th}} power, or R^{F_D}. The mass density of a fractal therefore scales as

(6)   \begin{equation*}  \rho\left(R \right)=\frac{m_R}{V} \propto \frac{R^{D_F}}{R^3}=R^{D_F-3}. \end{equation*}

Experiments have shown that in our Universe,

(7)   \begin{equation*}  \xi\left(r\right) \propto \left( \frac{1}{r}\right)^{\gamma=1.8}. \end{equation*}

We might naively conclude from this that the fractal dimension of all space is D_F=1.2.  This lands close to the truth but misses an important point. When D_F<3, we have D_F-3<0. It therefore follows from equation 6 that as R \rightarrow \infty, \rho \rightarrow 0. In other words, the mean density of a fractal with D_F<3 is zero.

Our Universe has a nonzero density \rho, so something doesn’t quite fit. The explanation lies in the definition of the two-point correlation function. Recall that the 2PCF quantifies the probability of finding galaxies above what’s expected through random chance. If we represent the density of the Universe as the sum of a background component \rho_{bg} and a perturbative component \rho_{fr} above and beyond that of an expected background, we have

(8)   \begin{equation*} \rho(\mathbf{x})=\rho_{bg}+\rho_{fr}(\mathbf{x}). \end{equation*}

The density of the Universe is not what exhibits fractal properties. Rather, it is the density \rho_{fr}(\mathbf{x}) atop the background that does. Because \rho_{fr}(\mathbf{x}) is a perturbation from the mean, it has an expected value of zero when averaged over all space,

(9)   \begin{equation*} \langle \rho_{fr} \rangle_{\mathbf{x}} = 0, \end{equation*}

and thus satisfies the requirement that the mean density go to zero as R \rightarrow \infty.

I close with the following conclusion – the Universe does behave like a fractal as long as its two-point correlation function follows a power law relationship. Where the 2PCF fails to be modeled by equation 1, the equality between the codimension and fractal dimension no longer holds and the rest of the argument breaks down.11The approximation of the 2PCF as a power law works well for intermediate length scales. At small separations (e.g. the size of galaxies) the growth of structure is governed by factors far more complicated than simple gravity like supernovae, shockwaves, tidal forces, accretion disks, etc. At large separations parcels of matter are so distant that they have yet to have time to affect each other.


Featured image: “Stardust Memories” by Anua22a, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original
Britain fractal coastline imageoriginals left, middle and right made by Avsa mixed by Acadac, used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Universe possesses 3 Euclidean, or topological dimensions.  This is another way of saying we live a three-dimensional Universe – up/down, left/right, in/out.  We distinguish between Euclidean and fractal dimensionality since the latter can take non-integer values and more accurately describes fractals’ more complicated geometric properties.
2. In this context “uniformly distributed” means the random points must have the same distribution the observed galaxies would in the absence of large scale structure. The geometry of the survey must therefore be taken into account. No random points may be placed in locations where galaxies could not be observed. If the number of observed galaxies decreases with distance as with magnitude-limited surveys, so too must the number of randoms.
3. For more on this see Landy, S. D., & Szalay, A. S. 1993, Astrophysical Journal, 412, 64.
4. 4\pi r^2 is the surface area of a sphere.  When multiplied by the infinitesimal thickness dr it becomes the volume of a very thin spherical shell.
5. A plane (of galaxies in this instance) intersected with a spherical shell creates a circular ring.  The circumference of that ring is 2\pi r.  When multiplied by the ring’s thickness dr we get the area of the ring.
6. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the distribution of galaxies is considered to be a random process.  That is, there could be an infinite number of different Universes that each have the same 2PCF.  This is analogous to many people rolling a die a large number of times.  Each person will roll numbers 1 through 6 in a different order even though the probability of rolling each number is identical for all of them.  In fact, simulating the positions of galaxies is sometimes referred to as rolling the dice.
7. I have taken the radius of the sphere to increase by a factor of 2, but note that the argument works for any factor f, e.g. changing the radius of the sphere from R to fR scales the area of the intersecting plane by f^{D=2}.
8. The fractal dimension is also a measure of the complexity of a fractal’s boundary. There are formal defintions of F_D, but those are omitted here.
9. The top-hat window function equals 1 when x is within a distance R of x_0 and equals zero otherwise. It exists to limit the integration to the interior of the sphere.
10. For conventional three-dimensional objects N=3. When integrating over surfaces we use N=2.
11. The approximation of the 2PCF as a power law works well for intermediate length scales. At small separations (e.g. the size of galaxies) the growth of structure is governed by factors far more complicated than simple gravity like supernovae, shockwaves, tidal forces, accretion disks, etc. At large separations parcels of matter are so distant that they have yet to have time to affect each other.

Bicycle Tragedy Hits Close to Home

On Saturday afternoon a cyclist was struck and killed immediately across the street from my house. As someone who cycles almost every day through the exact same location, this has affected me greatly. It is worth noting that my neighborhood is normally safe for joggers and cyclists. It’s rare for 15 minutes to pass without at least one passing by. We have wide streets and a newly paved, dedicated bike lane. And still this.

A few minutes ago I went across the street to the site of the crash to join about 40 other cyclists who had arrived for a vigil. The only sound to break the silence was the ocassional sniffle. Then, as if to bring everything that was wrong about this situation into focus, a car traveling 20mph over the speed limit raced passed our location.

A man immediately screamed, “Slow down! You are part of the problem!” This worked him up enough to continue. “Each day, every day, all of us go through this! All of us know how close we’ve all come to being hit.”

I couldn’t agree more.

If anything is to come from this tragedy (aside from the sensationalism that it was a bishop who struck a bike-maker), it should be a discussion about the relationship between cyclists and drivers on city roads. More often than not I hear drivers complain about the aggressive nature of cyclists. They drive too fast. They veer into driving lanes. They ride on streets with little to no shoulder. They don’t care about cars.

Cyclists, however, are risking their lives whenever they climb onto a bicycle. We contend with shoulders that are often too narrow and in disrepair. Even those in good condition are often littered with broken bottles, slippery pebbles and roadkill.  Cars whiz by at terrifying speeds, sometimes coming within a few inches of clipping me.  Were I swerve at just the wrong time to avoid hazards like a slitted sewer grate or fruit fallen from a tree, I could die.

I have had cars drive across a bike lane to make a turn without even realizing I was there. Within the last month I almost crashed into a car door because a parked driver neglected to check her mirror before opening it into a bike lane.

I can’t say whether I’m in the minority, but I cannot recall ever having a conversation about the relationship between cars and bicycles in Driver’s Ed. This seems such a shame because the two sides so frequently seem to be at odds with one another. Motorists complain that cyclists are entitled and reckless. Cyclists complain that motorists are dangerous and oblivious.

Earlier today I was speaking with a very nice woman who lives just down the road from me. As discussion turned to the accident she commented about another local road, “I just can’t believe cyclists drive up Falls Road. It’s so dangerous. They shouldn’t do that.”

I replied, “I bike Falls all the time. If you look at the signage it is dedicated bike route.”

She said, “But it’s a two lane road with such a small shoulder. And there are so many turns. It’s too risky for bikes to be there.”

“Not if cars are going the speed limit. And cyclists try to avoid major roads when possible. They aren’t exactly fun be on. But in this case if you want to get beyond the beltway, you have maybe 4 roads total and 2 are them are so dangerous they shouldn’t even be attempted.”

I’m pretty sure this was news to her.

I will continue to ride my bike. Since I own no car, I have little other option. But every day I do so I am placing my life in the hands of drivers who may have no idea what being on a bike is like.  I can only hope that the hundreds of candles and flowers adorning a lonely brick fence on Roland Avenue this freezing cold night will start to tell that story.

Pro Wrestling

Can Anyone Stop World Wrestling Entertainment?


I was asked the following question on Quora:

Will there ever be a company that can dethrone World Wrestling Entertainment as the worldwide leader in the wrestling industry?

It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.

WWE possesses a number of institutional advantages that effectively preclude encroachment from competitors.  It is a publicly-traded, billion dollar company with a sizable amount of cash on hand.  It retains the ability to hire the best performers and staff.  Its revenue streams are relatively (for wrestling) diversified in that they profit from television rights fees, merchandise, movies, DVDs, books, magazines, its website, pay-per views and the WWE Network.  It would be difficult for any company starting from scratch to surpass that.

WWE is so entrenched as the “worldwide leader in sports entertainment” that when people think of pro wrestling, they think of WWE.  This is similar to people thinking of UFC when they think of MMA.  This is not a matter of WWE being a subset of pro wrestling – for many fans they are one in the same.  The last major competitor to WWE, WCW, went out of business in 2001.  For fans 18 and younger, this means WWE is pretty much the only wrestling company they’ve ever known.  Loyalty and familiarity will make it challenging for another company to usurp them.

Changing that mindset will take a tremendous amount of time, effort and money, all of which are unlikely to materialize.  As an example of this power, realize that WWE is able to leverage the infrastructure of cities to run their events.  If they need police escorts to get their buses from one place to another, they can get it.

WWE also possesses the most comprehensive pro wrestling video library in history.  In addition to its own conent, it also owns the footage from World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), the American Wrestling Association (AWA), World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and others.  This allows it to leverage and monetize the entire history of the business.  No company will ever be able to match that institutional advantage.

Some might argue that WCW almost unseated WWE and another company might be able to do so again.  However, the competition from WCW was unique and unlikely to be duplicated.  WCW started as part of the old territory system in which pro wrestling was mostly local to each region.  When Ted Turner’s WCW became the primary territory for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) it already had a huge, well-established fan base.  It entered as an equal to the then-WWF, which offered it a unique position that no other company will ever be able to hold again.

I would further contend that the only reason WCW even came close to unseating WWE was that it attracted “fad-fans” interested in the novelty of the New World Order (nWo), i.e. a group of WWE wrestlers invading WCW.  These fans spiked viewership numbers during the late 1990’s but have not returned since.

Even if a smaller promotion like Total Nonstop Action (TNA), Ring of Honor (ROH), Evolve or Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA) is able to grow its own fanbase, history has shown these will likely remain niche products designed for a very specific wrestling-centric (as opposed to a more general entertainment-centric) audience.  Top stars from those promotions will consistently migrate to WWE for greater money and international exposure.  Fans of these smaller companies tend to also be fans of WWE, so in a sense they cannot even be considered true competitors.

The only plausible scenario in which WWE disappears from prominence is a hostile takeover or a complete buy-out.  A company like Disney, for example, could decide that pro wrestling fits into its business model and offer WWE an offer too good to refuse, especially if WWE’s product begins to flounder significantly.  At this point WWE would be absorbed into a larger conglomerate whose new owner could do with it as it wishes.

However in the near term, I would rate the chance of Vince McMahon, who is WWE’s primary stockholder, agreeing to cede control of his life’s work to someone outside of his own family as next to nil.  For his family to do so also seems unlikely given how deeply entwined their lives are with their business.