Presentations Do’s and Don’ts.

The university of Stanford has added ‘Mining Massive Datasets‘ as a new course to coursera, a website which offers free online courses.

Being capable of ‘Mining Massive Datasets’ is undoubtedly a handy skill-set. Also I highly approve of open-access courses; however when I watched their tutorial introductary presentation I bursted out with laughter in disbelief. Have a look yourself:

To me, clearly, Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman and Jeff Ullman, who present the course, could have done with some media counselling:
The background looks as if it was taken from a 90′s computer game. This is a computer science course, yes, but this does not mean the presenters need to be in a virtual server room. A real-life course room would have done the job.
Non of the moderators moves while presenting. Moving is natural, sitting stiffly not.
You should not change the position of moderators after a hard cut. This makes the presentation involuntary comical: Jure disappears and Anand pops up, surprise, surprise. You can make smooth transitions with overarching sound and close-ups.

Take this as an example for a good presentation; never mind the content:

Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman and Jeff Ullman have obviously made an effort to present their course: they made sure to have good sound and video quality. The shortcoming of their video is not the video quality but the presentation’s quality.

Disco Drosophila

Mark Jones and Keiran Foster from the Physics Department in Oxford helped me building a device which looks like a disco for fruit flies:

The video was made by my husband Christoph out of a recording I made. Keiran helped me by switching on and off the LED’s.

I will use the red and green LED‘s to depolarise genetically modified neurons in fruit flies. This technique is called optogenetics and was developed by Boris Zemelman and Gero Miesenböck. Gero’s name links to a TED talk of him about Optogenetics.

I call the disco device ‘song box’. This is because I will use it to record fly courtship song. In the video you can see a dark spot in the middle of the box - it is a highly sensitive microphone for recording fly courtship song. Male flies sing by extending and vibrating their wing. They do this when they see female flies. However they will not sit and wait on top of the microphone out of good will. I will restrain flies in a small chamber which fits on the microphone.

My first poster price

I won this year’s ‘best poster prize’ at the European Conference for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ECMTB). The poster’s title is ‘Decision making models of courtship song production in Drosophila melanogaster‘.


This is a picture of happy me, the poster winner’s diploma and my new friend, rubber plant.

The rubber plant and I befriended in the moment when I started feeling awkward being photographed standing alone in front of a wall holding up a sheet of paper. In that moment I embraced the rubber plant and we became friends…


Today I googled ‘symbols’ to help me out in my search for unused, maybe exotic symbols I could use for maths notation.

What I found was this:

Not helpful for maths notation, but fun. I scanned through John Atkinson’s website and he has some more great pieces. Check it out, it’s good.

Is maths poetry?


       1               1

       1             2              1

    1               3                3             1

              1               4               6               4              1

       1               5            10             10             5               1

     1                6              15             20             15            6               1

Is maths poetry? I would have immediately said ‘no’ only ten minutes ago, before I read this article. Not only would I have said ‘no’ but also ‘this question sounds rather smug, you know?’.

But actually the above pattern which is cited in this article by James Henle touched me and made me wonder and laugh even. Now I feel that, yes, maths can be poetry, because it can have the same effect as any poetry in any language.

book tip


the curious incident of the dog in the night-time‘ is the best book I have read for a while. This is why I decided to dedicate a post to it.

It’s the story of the Autistic boy Christopher J. F. Boon who tries to find out who killed the neighbour’s dog. The book is written in Christopher’s perspective, which is strikingly clear and honest to a point it hurts. Here is a short excerpt, to document what I mean:

These are some of my Behavioural Problems
A. Not talking for people to a long time (once I didn’t talk to anyone for 5 weeks) 
B. Not eating or drinking anything for a long time 
C. Not liking being touched
D. Screaming when I am angry or confused
E. Not liking being in really small places with other people
K. Not noticing that people are angry with me
L. Not smiling
M. Saying things that other people think are rude (People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown-up has made a fart. And you are not allowed to say “I don’t like you” unless that person has been horrible to you.)

This book is a novel. It’s fiction. I read it as a journey in an Autist’s mind and found that I could relate – not with all, but with some. It’s up to you to interpret this as the result of the great writing of the author Mark Haddon or me just being slightly autistic.

Either way, ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night-time‘ is worth reading.

Scroll Websites


I just fell in love with scroll websites. They are beautiful, diverse and fun.

Here are my favourite two examples:

Scroll for your health and Flat Design vs Realism

‘Scroll for your health’ convinced me through it’s simplicity and design. Above that I agree on peaches making one feel peachy.

‘Flat Design vs Realism’ is astounding to watch. It has it all: drama, game, soundtrack. I am pro flat. However I choose to play realism and lost – not on purpose but on lack of skill.

If you’re into exploring more scroll websites you find an selection here.

her 2.0

Last week I watched the film ‘her‘. It’s set in the future. Theodore, a guy in his 40s, falls in love with his new intelligent operation system. The film is actually pretty good and worth watching. The film’s humour is odd and unsettling which I find great.

The plot reminded me of ‘Cherry 2000‘ – an 80s movie. It depicts the future as lacking love as women became emancipated and bring their attorney to their first date to draw up a contract for a one-night-stand. Hence some men decide to ditch women completely and go for robots instead. In this future robots are dumb and easier than women. Admittedly Cherry 2000 is odd and unsettling too but lacks humour unfortunately.

For me the big difference between ‘her’ and ‘Cherry 2000′ is humour and wit: Samantha, the OS in ‘her’ has both of them, Cherry the robot in ‘Cherry 2000′ lacks both. Samantha is a character, Cherry an empty case.

‘her’ is the emancipation of artificial intelligence.