Learning Deep

In the past four years, there’s been a lot of progress in the field of machine learning, and here’s a story seen from the outskirts.

Eight years ago, for a mock start-up project, we tried to do some basic headtracking. At that time, my professor Stéphane Mallat told us that the most efficient way to do this was the Viola-Jones algorithm, which was still based on hard-coded features (integral images and Haar features) and a hard classifier (adaboost.)

(I was thrilled when a few years later Amazon Firephone was embedding similar features; unfortunately, this was a complete bomb — better technologies now exist and will make a splash pretty soon.)

By then, the most advanced book on machine learning was “Information Theory, Inference, and Learning” by David McKay, a terrific book to read, and also “Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning” by Chris Bishop (which I never read past chapter 3, lack of time.)

Oh boy, how things have changed!

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Books I loved

With every year comes the occasion to read new books!

I’ve assembled a small collection of books that I love, so that you can discover them and share the love around! Since there are twelve months in a year, you’ll find twelve books. They are presented in no particular order, so that you can enjoy them at random, sitting in a couch sipping some wine.

martin-franck-cartier-bresson

Martine’s legs – Henri Cartier-Bresson (1967)

Ringolevio (Emmett Grogan)

Ringolevio is a sort of autobiography by Emmett Grogan, a leader of the Diggers in San Francisco just about when it was becoming cool (early 60s). It is a great book in that it is written with a punch, and has a deep sense of social awareness. It is quite fun to read Timothy Leary and other fake-prophets of the revolution getting thrashed.

Emmett wondered whether anything viable was going to come out of it: whether the powerless might for once obtain enough power to make some sort of relevant change in the society. He immediately dismissed as ridiculous the notion that everything would be all right when everyone turned on acid. It was noted that LSD was used during World War Two to solve naval tactical maneuvers, and they concluded that although the drug might facilitate understanding or the process of doing something, it offered no moral direction or imperatives.

There is no road (Antonio Machado)

This is my absolute favorite poem books. It is very short, and has the deepest thoughts ever assembled in a book. This book is a treasure, and I have offered it to people I care about. This book is often out of print, but don’t settle for a different collection, this one is really unique if you can find it, and by far the best translations I’ve found.

Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess what it is
– Antonio Machado

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Julia Language

A few years ago, I got interested in the then-nascent Julia language (julialang.org), a new open source language based on Matlab syntax with C-like performances, thanks to its just-in-time compiler.

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST, Chile) data being processed with Julia on super computers with 225x speedup

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST, Chile) data being processed with Julia on super computers with 200x speedup (from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1611.03404.pdf)

It now seems that the language is gaining traction, with many available packages, lots of REPL integration (it works with Atom+Hydrogen, and I suspect Jupyter gets its first initial from Julia and Python) and delivering on performances.

Julia is now used on supercomputers, such as Berkeley Lab’s NERSC, taught at MIT (by no less than Steven G Johnson, the guy who brought us FFTW and MEEP!), and I’ve noticed that some of the researchers from Harvard’s RoLi Lab I’ve invited to SPIE DCS 2018 are sharing their Julia code from their paper “Pan-neuronal calcium imaging with cellular resolution in freely swimming zebrafish“. Pretty cool!

Julia used for code-sharing in a Nature publication. I wish I could see that every day!

Julia used for code-sharing in a Nature publication. I wish I could see that every day!

I got a chance to attend parts of Julia Con 2017 in Berkeley. I was amazed by how dynamic was the the community, in part supported by Moore’s foundation (Carly Strasser, now head of Coko Foundation), and happy to see Chris Holdgraf (my former editor at the Science Review) thriving at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS).

Julia picking up speed at Intel (picture taken dusing JuliaCon 2017)

Julia picking up speed at Intel (picture taken dusing JuliaCon 2017)

I started sharing some code for basic image processing (JLo) on Github. Tell me what you think!

(by the way, I finally shared my meep scripts on github, and it’s here!)

Soft power

During the past twelve months, I become enamored with Middle-Eastern music who now wears many clothes, from electro to Queen-esque Arabic music.
Since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some offerings!

It seems that the best way to fight against the rampant islamophobia is to emphasize the beauty of the culture, and blend it with modern tunes. Youth will follow, and eventually replace the old patriarchy that has plagues so many Muslim countries.

Never underestimate the healing power of music
– Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon

Acid Arab is a French DJ band who mixes Arab tunes with electronic music. Their mix at the Sonar 2016 is an absolute masterpiece, blending fantastic rythms with melodies rarely heard in electronic music.

Mash’rou Leila is a Lebanese band, extremely popular in the Middle-East. It is very varied, and the singer Hamed Sinno has a Freddie Mercury-like persona, and brings lot of poetry. Shim El Yasmine is a song that talks about the odor of the jasmine of his partner at the time, who went on leave him to marry a woman, because society wouldn’t understand that love is love…

A week before I went to see them live at Slim’s in San Francisco, the band had been banned from el-Sisi’s Egypt, where people in the audience raised rainbow flags… Continue reading

Sexism in academia

This year, the recipients of the Nobel Prize were 100% men. That’s at the same sad and scary; sad because, and scary because it seems that things are not changing at the pace they should.movie_shade

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Irma

My family, living in Saint Martin (French West Indies) was hit by the Hurricane Irma on September 5th, 2017.

Today, after ten days without communications (but news here and there), I was finally able to talk with them, and it’s quite a relief to learn that they are safe now.

Sunset over Saint Martin after the storm (unknow credit)

Sunset over Saint Martin after the storm (unknow credit)

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ALS-U

Some may have been wondering what I have been up to lately!
At the beginning of the year, I started working on the ALS-U project, which is the  upgrade of the Advanced Light Source, the main synchrotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The goal is to improve the facility with a Diffraction-Limited Storage Ring (DLSR), in order to increase the brilliance of the beam, so as allow scientists from all over the world to perform the most precise experiments, allowing bright and full coherent beams with diameters as small as 10 nanometer, or twice the width of a strand of DNA. (here’s a report on all the niceties you can do with such a tool: ALS-U: Solving Scientific Challenges with Coherent Soft X-Rays)

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SHARP & MET5 – EUV Lithography at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Over the past four years, I’ve been working on two of the EUV tools at the Center for X-Ray Optics, and while I’m moving to new projects, it’s time I give some explanations about what these two projects are about, the SHARP EUV microscope, and the 0.5NA Micro-Exposure Tool (MET5.)

A 6" EUV photomask

A 6″ EUV photomask

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Qubit

I’ve run my first quantum computation!

Since I was working on the latest iteration of classical computer manufacturing techniques (EUV lithography), everyone asked me what were my thought on the future of Moore’s law, and what did I think about quantum computing. To the first question, I could mumble things about transistor size and the fact that we’re getting awfully close to the atomic size; to the latter question… I just had to go figure out myself!

Back in April, I’ve invited Irfan Siddiqi (qnl.berkeley.edu), founding director of the brand new Center for Quantum Coherent Science, and his postdocs at Berkeley lab to give a talk to postdocs, and last the lab announced the first 45-qubits quantum simulations on the NERSC… things are going VERY fast! (read the Quantum manifesto)

Kevin O'Brien on multiplexing qubit readouts

Kevin O’Brien on multiplexing qubit readouts

This is thanks to Rigetti, a full-stack quantum computer startup based in Berkeley (Wired, IEEE Spectrum).

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Energy Dominance

To say the least, the mood is not at its peak at the lab…

We have a new Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry (R), former governor of Texas –  who doesn’t seem to care much about science (e.g. he believe it’s fine to question climate change; at least there’s someone to tell him no, it’s not) and who is now on a crusade to ensure #energydominance, a concept that I try to comprehend, but really can’t.

Now see his incredible op-ed in Washington Times (the black mirror of the New York Post, I guess:), Paving the path to U.S. energy dominance:

Mr. Trump wants America to utilize our abundant domestic energy resources and technological innovations for good, both at home and abroad. […] An energy-dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and influence. Becoming energy dominant means that we are getting government out of the way so that we can share our energy wealth with developing nations. For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now.

Holy cow! That is a genius strategy!
Oh wait… what strategy? Selling coal and gas that will be worthless in three years?

Here’s what previous Secretary Moniz has to say:

Moniz: […] With some colleagues, we’re starting up a small non-profit in the energy space and this was also a question that we intended to look at.

However, a review of this type also needs to look at the emerging technologies. For example, the utility in Tucson recently announced a long-term, a 20-year purchase-power agreement for solar energy plus storage at a pretty attractive—stunning, actually in my view—price. They quoted less than 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including the storage.

Madrigal: Wow. [In Arizona, the average cost of electricity in March 2017 was 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity prices vary around the nation, but the U.S. average was 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in March 2017.]

Meanwhile, the office of science at the White House is now empty. zero. nicht. kaput.

It is quite incredible to hear that, while a mere six most ago it was populated by the finest people I know, like my (extended) friend Maya Shankar

imfine

Oh boy, the second half of the year starts even better than the first half.