Sebastian Pokutta's Blog

Mathematics and related topics

Archive for April 2009

Update: A Sneak Preview of Wolfram|Alpha

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Today, there will be a sneak preview of the much hyped Wolfram|Alpha search engine (see my preview post) at Harvard’s Berkman Center. The event will be broadcasted as live webcast at 3pm ET.

Tuesday, April 28, 3:00 pm
Austin East Classroom, Austin Hall, Harvard Law School
This event will be webcast live at 3:00 pm ET.
We have reached capacity for this event. You can RSVP to if you would like to attend the event in person but be seated in our overflow space.

Questions can be posted (live), on Twitter to BerkmanCenter (direct messaging or @replying) or via the live question tool.

References/see also:

  1. [Today] A Sneak Preview of Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine | Berkman Center.
  2. Wolfram Alpha Getting A Public Preview On Tuesday

UPDATE 29.04.2009: For those who missed it or had problems streaming it (which seems to have been quite a problem), the talk is now also available online for download or streaming-on-demand.

UPDATE 06.05.2009: And here, a video that shows the actual results of the search engine.


Written by Sebastian

April 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Tricki now online

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After a short pre-live test, Tricki is online now. It is a repository for problem solving techniques and nifty tricks in mathematics. Although it just went live and is based on the same principle as other wikis (and thus has to grow over time) it looks very promising already. You should definitely check it out!

Welcome to a brand new Wiki-style site that is intended to develop into a large store of useful mathematical problem-solving techniques. Some of these techniques will be very general, while others will concern particular subareas of mathematics. All of them will be techniques that are used regularly by mathematical problem-solvers, at every level of experience. We hope you will enjoy using the site and that many people will contribute to it. If you are new to the Tricki, then you may wish to begin by investigating the following links, which will take you to more detailed discussions of what the site is, what we hope it will eventually become, how to contribute, how to edit existing contributions, how to make comments, and more.

Written by Sebastian

April 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Music price discrimination at iTunes, Amazon, etc.

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Due to pressure from major music labels, iTunes, Amazon, Wal Mart and others recently announced to introduce variable pricing of music rather than one price for all (e.g. $0.99 in the iTunes store).

The core disagreement is that labels feel that flat rate pricing doesn’t capture enough margin for those hot tracks where users would pay more.

The new pricing scheme in the iTunes store offers songs varying from $1.29 for “hot tracks” to $0.69 for old songs. Given that this is an increase in price of roughly 30% for those hot tracks for which the music labels feel that they could extract higher margins one might wonder if this is indeed so. The bottom line is how elastic or inelastic the demand for music is or putting it differently: are you willing to pay $1.29 for Britney? The objective is to maximize unit_sales * unit_price. But it is not only about price elasticity. Also a psychological effect could play a role here: $0.99 is “just” cents whereas $1.29 looks differently. Thus one might wonder if the music industry, after having just discovered a sustainable new distribution channel, is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. And indeed, a recently conducted, preliminary short term study from billboard suggests that the ranking (a proxy for sales) for those songs with increased prices might decrease and thus eat into the additional 30% margin or even wipe it out. We should not jump to conclusions though: As the used data basis was rather small, the findings will have to be reconfirmed as soon as more reliable, long-term data is available. In any case, the quarterly results could reveal some surprises this time.

Written by Sebastian

April 14, 2009 at 11:45 pm

MIT World – more free lectures and videos

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Check out MIT World for more free lectures/videos from MIT. You will find some true gems there. From the website:

MIT World is a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT. MIT World’s video index contains more than 600 videos.

All time favorite #2 is actual a lecture from B. B. Mandelbrot — seems like mathematics is not too boring after all — beaten only by Friedman’s flat world.

Written by Sebastian

April 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Academic earth – Thousands of video lectures

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I just learned about Academic Earth a website that provides “thousands of video lectures from the world’s top scholars”. They indeed seem to offer a nice variety of lectures/courses and you might want to check it out.

Written by Sebastian

April 1, 2009 at 9:18 pm