changes (ahead)

In view or recents events & comments, some changes have been made or will be made shortly :

categories : Sanitized the plethora of wordpress-categories to which posts belong. At the moment there are just 5 categories : ‘stories’ and ‘web’ (for all posts with low math-content) and three categories ‘level1’, ‘level2’ and ‘level3’, loosely indicating the math-difficulty of a post.

MathJax : After years of using LatexRender and WP-Latex, we’ll change to MathJax from now on. I’ll try to convert older posts as soon as possible. (Update : did a global search and replace. ‘Most’ LaTeX works, major exceptions being matrices and xymatrix commands. I’ll try to fix those later with LatexRender.)

theme : The next couple of days, the layout of this site may change randomly as I’ll be trying out things with the Swift wordpress theme. Hopefully, this will converge to a new design by next week.

name : Neverendingbooks will be renamed to something more math-related. Clearly, the new name will depend on the topics to be covered. On the main index page a pop-up poll will appear in the lower right-hand corner after 10 seconds. Please fill in the topics you’d like us to cover (no name or email required).

This poll will close on friday 21st at 12 CET and its outcome will influence name/direction of this blog. Use it also if you have a killer newname-suggestion. Among the responses so far, a funnier one : “An intro to, or motivation for non-commutative geometry, aimed at undergraduates. As a rule, I’d take what you think would be just right for undergrads, and then trim it down a little more.”

guest-posts : If you’d like to be a guest-blogger here at irregular times, please contact me. The first guest-post will be on noncommutative topology and the interpretation of quantum physics, and will appear soon. So, stay tuned…

Snow leopard + wordpress + latex problem

Ever since I’ve upgraded to Snow Leopard I’ve been having problems with the webserver.

At first there were the ‘obvious’ problems : mysql-connection lost and php-error message. These were swiftly dealt with using the excellent Snow Leopard, Apache, PHP, MySQL and WordPress! advice from ‘tady’.

Right now, access to this blog is extremely slow (and often impossible), certainly via the admin-page. The problem appears to be that most of my CPU is used by lots of pdfetex-processes owned by www. Hence the conjecture that it is a problem with either LaTeXRender or WP LaTeX.

Anyone experiencing a similar problem, or knowing a trick to resolve it? Takk.

math2.0-setup : final comments

Last time I promised to come back explaining how to set-up LaTeX-support, figuring I had to tell you about a few modifications I had to make in order to get Latexrender run on my mac…

A few google searches made it plain how out of touch I am on these matters (details below). But first, there was this comment to this series by Link Starbureiy :

“I took part in Gowers’ blog discussion. My input was to move things over to Google collaboration tools, like Google Knol, and perhaps Google Sites. However, those tools for large-scale collaboration may not be the best solution anymore. I like the NSN idea, but worry about it’s very long-term stability. Would you consider porting the project over to the Google App Engine so that it can be played with in the orkut sandbox (http://sandbox.orkut.com)?”

I thought I made it clear from the outset that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life web-mastering a site such as NSN. All I wanted to show is that the technology is there free for the taking, and show that you do not have to be a wizard to get it running even on a mac…

I would really love it when some groups, or universities, on institutes, would set up something resembling this dedicated to a single arXiv-topic. Given our history, Antwerp University might be convinced to do this for math.RA but (a) I’m not going to maintain this on my own and (b) there may very well be a bandwidth problem if such a thing would become successful… (although, from past experiences and attempts I’ve made over the years, this is extremely unlikely for this target-group).

So please, if your group has some energy to spare, set-up your own math2.0-network, port it to Google Apps, Knol, Orkut or whatever, and I’d love to join and contribute to it.

As to LaTeX-support : this is trivial these days. First you need a working LaTeX-system on your virgin macbook. The best way is to download The MacTeX-2008 Distribution at work (it is a huge 1.19Gb download…). Next, install the fauxml-wordpress plugin (that is, download it to YourHome/Downloads and then drag the file faux-ml.php to the Library/WebServer/Documents/wp-content/plugins/ directory. Next, install likewise the WP-LateX plugin following the instructions, go to the configuring page and set the directory for latex and dvipng (if you follow my instructions they should be located at /usr/texbin/latex and /usr/texbin/dvipng), fill in the text color and background color you desire and clip your default latex-documentstyle/includepackages/newcommands section from your latest paper into the LaTeX Preamble window and believe me, you’re done!!!



Writing & Blogging

Terry Tao is reworking some of his better blogposts into a book, to be published by the AMS (here’s a preliminary version of the book “What’s New?”)

After some thought, I decided not to transcribe all of my posts from last year (there are 93 of them!), but instead to restrict attention to those articles which (a) have significant mathematical content, (b) are not announcements of material that will be published elsewhere, and (c) are not primarily based on a talk given by someone else. As it turns out, this still leaves about 33 articles from 2007, leading to a decent-sized book of a couple hundred pages in length.

If you have a blog and want to turn it into a LaTeX-book, there’s no need to transcribe or copy every single post, thanks to the WPTeX tool. Note that this is NOT a WP-plugin, but a (simple at that) php-program which turns all posts into a bookcontent.tex file. This file can then be edited further into a proper book.

Unfortunately, the present version chokes on LaTeXrender-code (which is easy enough to solve doing a global ‘find-and-replace’ of the tex-tags by dollar-signs) but worse, on Markdown-code… But then, someone fluent in php-regex will have no problems extending the libs/functions.php file (I hope…).

At the moment I’m considering turning the Mathieu-games-posts into a booklet. A possible title might be Mathieumatical Games. Rereading them (and other posts) I regret to be such an impatient blogger. Often I’m interested in something and start writing posts about it without knowing where or when I’ll land. This makes my posts a lot harder to get through than they might have been, if I would blog only after having digested the material myself… Typical recent examples are the tori-crypto-posts and the Bost-Connes algebra posts.

So, I still have a lot to learn from other bloggers I admire, such as Jennifer Ouellette who maintains the Coctail Party Physics blog. At the moment, Jennifer is resident blogger-journalist at the Kavli Institute where she is running a “Journal Club” workshop giving ideas on how to write better about science.

But the KITP is also committed to fostering scientific communication. That’s where I come in. Each Friday through April 26th, I’ll be presiding over a “Journal Club” meeting focusing on some aspect of communicating science.

Her most recent talk was entitled To Blog or Not to Blog? That is the Question and you can find the slides as well as a QuickTime movie of her talk. They even plan to set up a blog for the participants of the workshop. I will surely follow the rest of her course with keen interest!