The Selection of Facts by Siobhán Cronin

Sri Henri Ponicaré has some thoughts on the matter:

"... care of the beautiful leads us to the same selection as care for the useful"

"economy of effort ... is a source of beauty as well as a practical advantage"

"... what we must aim at is not so much to ascertain resemblances and differences, as to discover similarities hidden under apparent discrepancies" 

"... when a rule has been established, we have first to look for the cases in which the rule stands the best chance of being found in fault"

"... facts which occur frequently appear to us simple just because we are accustomed to them"

Oh, and my favorite:

"Trying to make science contain nature is like trying to make the part contain the whole"




Kepler preaches Copernican astronomy by Siobhán Cronin

"I admit a soul in the body of the sun as the overseer of the rotation of the sun and as the superintendent of the movement of the whole world....But just as it was not necessary to introduce a special soul into the threads of the belly; for it is sufficient for one common soul from the heart or liver to advance, through its own form or through heat, into the belly and to employ the faculties of its threads; so too in the world that form - of light, or heat, and thus too, if you will - from the soul of the sun, flowing out together with light and heat and penetrating even when light and heat are shut out, i.e., into the inner threads of bodies, seems to be sufficient; hence, just as the soul in the body has no power without the organ of the belly, so too the soul of the world has no power without these laws and without the geometrical lay-out of bodies". 

Kepler - Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, IV

by Siobhán Cronin

And just like that, it seems I've arrived at the place I had determined would be the starting point. The moment when I would begin to find words for it all. That it has arrived before I feel ready seems fitting. When has it ever felt "right" to jump into the mess of finding words for what it means to experience living?

When I was in elementary school, I played jump rope with the other girls before class and during recess. A rhythmic symbiosis. When it was your turn to turn the ropes, you had to make sure you struck the ground right below the jumper's feet. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. The sound became the pulse, and assurance for the jumper of the rope's lower bounds. Standing just outside the elliptical blender, you somehow would convince your body it was possible to enter, springing forward as a ball of scrunched limbs, to land in a huddled mass of hopping urgency, no longer singing the songs that accompany the ropes, but concentrating all your attention on the relationship of feet, ground, and that sharp spark of sound.

It meant something to me that you tried on my words to see if they conveyed your feelings. After all that's happened, I sometimes feel my relationship to the primacy of cells knowing things and delivering what they know to the poetic knowledge aquifers below the palace of words, is perhaps the only true relic I have of that other place I was living. That and the non-dualism. But to see you try on the words gave me a surge of energy, as I realized that how we love each other exists here too, in these attempts to write and read. And what a beautiful lineage these more formal attempts efforts belong to. A history of letters, e-mails, notes left on desks, promises scrawled in cards. 

I wrote for a year, but in hindsight I wasn't writing to you. I was writing to stabilize my mind which seemed to be reeling from the momentum of everything that was expanding in and around me. I wrote to map the terrain you and I would someday explore. The landscape that would become the catalyst for discoveries that we couldn't neatly parse into yours or mine. 



Waulking songs by Siobhán Cronin

Can we reclaim the stories that were cast aside in our fear-driven allegiance to patriarchal lineage?  How might our children build schools, civic institutions, and systems of technology if they were raised to waulk the tweed and improvise songs with their elders?

REVIEW: Swarm intelligence systems for transportation engineering: principles and applications by Siobhán Cronin

Dušan Teodorovic. Swarm Intelligence systems for transportation engineering: principles and applications. Transportation Research, 2008. 

This is one of the most comprehensive articles I have found that attempts to connect swarm intelligence heuristics to transportation systems. Most of the article is dedicated to introducing four multi-agent systems that leverage information sharing models to optimize search techniques, and I will recap those here. 

Ant Colony Optimization (ACO)
Ants leave pheromone trails, and an ant will use the strength of the signal to weight their choice of path, as well-trod paths traveled by ants heading to a food source have a stronger pheromone signal. Computational applications of this general approach can be observed in the ant system, ant colony system, and the max-min ant system.  The ant system has been used to solve the traveling salesman problem (TSP), and the article includes details on the algorithm. The author also shares his research on a model that blends ACO with fuzzy logic, which he calls the Fuzzy Ant System (FAS). This approach takes into account gradations like visibility and pheromone intensity. FAS seems to give you more knobs to turn to sensitize your model. The author goes on to spell out applications of ACO in transportation. 

Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO)

All the birds ("particles") start out flying randomly in search of food. They keep track of the best fitness value they have achieved thus far (pbest), while also memorizing the best fitness value of any other particle (gbest). In each moment, the particles adjust their flying to take into account pbest and gbest. Two promising transportation examples are given - PSO in highway incident detection (Srinivasan et al. 2003) and an application in a vehicle routing problem with time windows (Zhu et al. 2006). 

Bee Colony Optimization (BCO)

"Bees incrementally add solution components to the current partial solution and communicate directly to generate feasible solutions". The artificial bees in this model either fly forward (exploration) or backward (back to the hive to participate in the decision-making process). They then go back out to reinforce viable partial paths. 

Stochastic Diffusion Search (SDS)

I'm not sure why the author included this heuristic, since they didn't present the algorithm or any transportation applications. Maybe four seemed like a better number than three?


Random Forests by Siobhán Cronin

How it works (in a nutshell)

This ensemble method constructs decision trees during the training phase (searching over a random subset of available decisions) and outputs the mode or mean prediction of these individual trees. In this way, Random Forests build up a prediction by leveraging output from a suite of "weak" learners. The final estimate is gleaned from multiple models trained on random samples of the data, thereby reducing the risk of overfitting. 


  • Bioinformatics, including "classifying different types of samples using gene expression of microarrays data, identifying disease associated genes from genome wide association studies, recognizing the important elements in protein sequences, or identifying protein-protein interactions."[4]
  • Breast cancer prediction [5]


  • "Forests of trees splitting with oblique hyperplanes, if randomly restricted to be sensitive to only selected feature dimensions, can gain accuracy as they grow without suffering from overtraining" [1]
  • Reduces overfitting by training each tree independently, using a random sample of the data. [2]

Drawbacks [3]

  • While fast to train, Random Forests can be slow to generate predictions.
  • Will not perform well if we must extrapolate beyond the range of what is given by the dependent or independent variables.
  • The produced results can be difficult to interpret.
  • Performs less well than other algorithms (i.e. regressions) when the relationship between independent and dependent variables is linear. 


[1] Wikipedia
[2] Random Forests and Boosting
[3] When is a random forest a poor choice relative to other algorithms?
[4] Random Forests for bioinformatics
[5] Prediction of Breast Cancer using Random Forest, Support Vector Machines and Naïve Bayes