Interactive introduction to neural networks

Posted on September 30, 2018 at 9:24 PM

Data analytics (i.e., new approaches of data exploration, sophisticated statistical analysis, and Machine Learning) is the vehicle of innovation for disciplines across the spectrum from business to engineering, from science to art. Literacy in these techniques is a skill that all employers and projects require to the point that a new profession has emerged to support the growing demand: the data scientist. In January 2018 data science was named the ‘best job in America’, a recognition that it has now received three years running. Despite the explosion in importance and popularity, the Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that there is a 50% gap between data scientist supply and demand.

Machine Learning understanding and capabilities are fundamental skills of data scientists. I’m passionately attempting to bring together data science with the Earth and Space Sciences, and am, therefore, crafting materials to introduce those from these disciplines who are not necessarily well versed in standard data science skills.

Part one of this series is an introduction to neural networks. I presented this material during a presentation at NASA and have made it freely and openly available on my GitHub site. At that link you will find the brief, high-level introduction to neural networks, and will be able to download the figures and the Jupyter Notebook script to step through explanations of neural network architecture and to develop an intuition for their operation.

Within the interactive notebook script you will find links to several other useful resources.

I hope this will allow you to discover the basics of neural networks and provide direction for you to further your understanding, apply Machine Learning, and embrace data science.


Speaking about the importance of space from a weird, world famous stage

Posted on January 6, 2017 at 9:00 PM

The world famous(!) NASA Hyperwall is more than just a Powerpoint presentation.

A Hyperwall presentation is a collision of captivating science stories and state-of-the-art data visualization. It’s professional show & tell. A forum for engaging the public in compelling science and opening a jargon-free dialogue between expert and layperson. (See more about the Hyperwall here)

I had the good fortune to be selected to give a Hyperwall talk at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2017 Fall Meeting and used that stage to speak to a topic near and dear to my heart and one that inspires me every day: Ushering in a New Frontier in Heliophysics with Data Science.

We are at a unique time in the study of our place in space. On one hand, we operate in the same paradigm that has guided the study of Heliophyics (the physics of our interaction with the Sun) for the past couple of decades, and on the other a rising dependence of our economic and social well-being on the space around us demands a shift. Everywhere in our society increased data volume and the advent of sophisticated and efficient methods to explore these data (i.e., data science) present new opportunities for discovery, and the time is ripe for these methods to shift how we study of the physics of space.

In this talk, I shed light on the solar-terrestrial connection, or space weather. I took the audience on a visual tour of the vast space weather system, extending from the Sun, through interplanetary space, to the Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere, and illustrated its complex and coupled nature. The presentation then turned to the effects of space weather on each of us, and its heightened importance in the digital age.

I set out to provide an understanding of space weather and inspire a passion for its study with cutting edge data-driven tools. This is my passion, and, I believe, a profound opportunity for our society to create a new frontier in the study of our interaction with the sun - a new frontier at the intersection of existing understanding and future innovation.


Shaking out 2017: Five albums, podcast episodes, and people that shook my world over the past 365 days

Posted on January 1, 2017 at 8:45 PM

Happy New Year!

Oh what a year it has been! Have we seen it all in 2017? Seems like we may have - the good (link), the bad (link), the very very ugly (link). We can’t possibly get into everything here, but we can talk about one of my all-time favorite things - year end lists. Is there anything better than looking back and figuring out the nuggets that spoke more clearly to you, elicited a more visceral response and emotional connection, and remained more present with you for an entire year than anything else? I also love revisiting those items and reflecting on how my interaction with them is different now than it was when I first encountered them. It feels like a conversation with myself about how I’ve grown over the year.

Here are three conversations I have had with myself in the form of best of lists as 2017 draws to a close.

Albums

It’s been a year of raw, introspective music, with many bands returning to the music scene with new albums full of self-evaluation and confrontation of personal demons. From Robin Pecknold’s exploration of self-doubt on Crack Up to the National’s dive into abandon and quiet contemplation on Sleep Well Beast, it was a thought-provoking year in music (If you know me at all, you know I believe Pecknold and the National’s Matt Berninger can do no wrong). On top of that the sheer quantity of music to ingest this year was completely overwhelming. Grab a cup of coffee, or something much stronger, and sit down with these five gems for a bit. (These blurbs are not particularly well written, but are an attempt to very briefly capture the emotion that I felt when spinning these records in 2017 - I hope it resonates with you and inspires you to contemplate how you interact with this wonderful music)

  • Fleet Foxes - Crack Up
    • How does Robin Pecknold keep reinventing the Fleet Foxes and creating records with an interplay of lyricism and folk compositions with such complexity that you simply can’t listen to anything else? This may even be their most layered set of songs to date.
  • Big Thief - Capacity
    • Folk rock at its finest. Spend some time with Adrianne Lenker’s gorgeous, delicate, and affecting work.
  • Laura Marling - Semper Femina
    • Marling captures an aspect of the ethos of 2017 with her exploration of relationships between women. She uses her masterful folk arrangements and beautiful voice to embody a shift in music away from, as she puts it, ‘innocent creativity’. Her perspective is worth reading about and this album is worth spin after spin.
  • Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder
    • Broken Social Scene are back with a record that both captures the essence of their sound (thank God) and embraces their message of communal uplift. It’s an album that must be listened to straight through; the whole is greater than any sum of the individual tracks.
  • The National - Sleep Well Beast
    • Believe it or not, this is the seventh National album. It struck me in this year of chaos and despair, sapping of quiet contemplation like many National records. Where this record departs from previous works is in the way it captures the searing energy and disruption that reign in their live performances. For those of you who have had the pleasure of seeing them in person will fall in love with this record.
  • Honorable mentions:
    • The Wild Reeds - Blind and Brave
    • (Sandy) Alex G - Rocket
    • LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
    • Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last
    • The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
    • Kendrick Lamar - Damn
      • This is everyone’s de facto number one this year, and with good reason. It’s a profound album. I simply didn’t spend enough time with it this year to put it on my list. There are layers of contradiction and dualism I still need to explore in that music.
    • Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors
    • The Shins - Heartworms

It’s worth mentioning that one of the most disappointing albums of the year, given what we have come to expect from them, was Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

Podcasts

People

These people are all profoundly incredible, thought-provoking, and are contributing to making this a world I’m excited to be a part of while there is so much going on that make it one I’m terrified of. I won’t say more about them other than to plead with you to spend some time getting to know these wonderful perspectives and their work.

  • Daniel Kahneman
    • No new work or achievement really anchored Kahneman to 2017, other than the release of Michael Lewis’ latest book on his work with Amos Tversky - The Undoing Project, but this is the year that I embraced his massively important body of work and let it impact my life. I believe studying his work should be compulsory. It is ever more relevant and compelled me to unapologetically place him among the people of the year in 2017.
  • Joi Ito
    • There’s very little Ito doesn't do - activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, director of the MIT media lab, a professor of the practice of media arts and sciences, professor of law at the Harvard Law School, board member of The New York Times Company, the Knight Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation - and there seems to be basically nothing that we shouldn’t trust him to do. He’s a thought leader in every sense of the title. His thoughts inspire, engage and sparks those paying attention to create alongside him. Oh and he originated my obsession with the MIT Media Lab.
  • Ava DuVernay
    • Duvernay’s art not only fosters beauty and evoke emotion, but also takes aim at society and fights against injustice that has become rampant. She crafts stories around ‘representations of family, representations of black womanhood, representations of good over evil’ and adds layers and dimensions to them for her audiences. I’m excited to experience her vision in 2018 and beyond.
  • Elizabeth Warren
    • Standing up for the middle class and the underprivileged in a time when its more popular to put your foot on their throats. Warren embodies the fierceness and fearlessness that our country, our world, and our humanity needs now more than ever.
  • Linda J. Spilker (Cassini project scientist)
    • The Cassini mission came to a riveting close this year, leaving behind a legacy of over achievement, three generations of inspired engineers and scientists, perhaps the most fascinating pictures ever to be taken in space - (https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/3120/cassinis-final-images/), and archives of data that will teach us about our own solar system and universal physical truths for decades to come. Linda is one of the inspiring scientists to be with the mission every step of the way.
  • Tim Ferriss
    • The French philosopher Peter Abelard once wrote, “The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” The right questions are everything. Ferriss is asking the best questions, and getting the best answers right now, deconstructing people from all spheres. His podcast and writing and the people he has introduced me to this year have challenged my thinking and changed my life.

Increasing public awareness of the space sciences and space weather

Posted on June 3, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Hi everyone

I wanted to pass along a quick note about a recent effort of mine to increase public awareness of the space sciences and the importance of studying heliophysics. I spoke about heliophysics, colloquially known as space weather, at the Ignite Boulder 29 event on May 19, 2016 (Ignite Boulder 29). You can see the talk here.

Our technologically dependent society is increasingly susceptible to the adverse effects of space weather, which makes it critical that we understand, and ultimately be able to predict, this weather. Such efforts are gaining recognition on the national and political stages, as evidenced by the release of a Space Weather Action Plan by the Executive Office of the President late last year. If you are interested in learning more about space weather research please check out the NASA Heliophysics Division or NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center websites.

The Boulder, Colorado weekly newspaper, The Boulder Weekly, published a piece on my talk and space weather in general. You can see the article here.