Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nerd Nation: Natalie Portman, Danica McKellar, and Felicia Day

In their ground-breaking papers on the so-called “CSI Effect” Kim, Shelton, and Barak identified a general social “tech effect.” About 28% of Americans have bachelor’s degrees.  The master’s is the new bachelor’s.  Complain as we might about public education – including nominally private schools that lockstep along – the fact is that college and university education are the baseline for acculturation.  So, it is not surprising that droves of divas have degrees.  Competition being what it is, brainiacs nestle among today’s working actresses.

Padmè Amidala has an
Erdös number of 7
Natalie Portman (Princess Padmè Amidala in Star Wars; but a slew of credits, including producer and director) was co-author on two academic journal articles before she left high school.  Her real name is Hershlag. 
  • “A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar,” Ian Hurley, Natalie Hershlag, and Jonathan Woodward, The Journal of Chemistry Education., 1998, 75 (10), p 1270.
  • “Frontal Lobe Activation during Object Permanence: Data from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy,”  Gaudette T; Kagan J; Baird A.A; Walz K.A; Boas D.A; Hershlag N., NeuroImage Vol: 16 Issue: 4
Abstract - The ability to create and hold a mental schema of an object is one of the milestones in cognitive development. Developmental scientists have named the behavioral manifestation of this competence object permanence. Convergent evidence indicates that frontal lobe maturation plays a critical role in the display of object permanence, but methodological and ethical constrains have made it difficult to collect neurophysiological evidence from awake, behaving infants. Near-infrared spectroscopy provides a noninvasive assessment of changes in oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin and total hemoglobin concentration within a prescribed region. The evidence described in this report reveals that the emergence of object permanence is related to an increase in hemoglobin concentration in frontal cortex.

The OrgTheory blog here had a “nerd-off” between Felicia Day and Danica McKellar.  I am easily the last person in the world to have not watched Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, but I found Day because of The Guild.  I discovered the gamers while surfing for Dragons and Dungeons.  (The True Dungeons live action role-playing game - LARP – is played at Gen Con Indy and they use money-like tokens to keep track of potions, weapons, etc.  I wrote them up for the Numismatist.)   

Felicia Day did not take to being passed over for roles after being Vi in "Buffy" so she built her fan base from online social interaction.  Her production of The Guild was an award winner. (Here is her Codex award montage.)   The sociologists at OrgTheory were hot on Day.  Her homepage (here
Dragon Age
 recommends getting your facts about her career from Wikipedia and IMDB.  "Felicia Day had a dual major at UT Austin, mathematics and music, graduating at the top of her class with a concentration in violin performance." (She alludes to being a violinist in The Guild.)  Day immerses herself in the fantasy culture and appears as a guest of honor at cons.  Her coming appearances include:
  • San Diego Comicon: July 21th-24th
  • Chicago Comicon: Aug 12-14th
  • DragonCon Atlanta: Sept 2-5th
  • NYC Comicon: Oct. 13th-16th
  • Blizzcon Anaheim: Oct. 21rst-22nd
  • Long Beach Comicon: Oct. 29th-30th

Danica With Hair
We knew Danica McKellar from The West Wing where she played Elsie Snuffin,the half-sister of NATO brat and speechwriter-with-game Will Bailey.  When I read the “nerd-off” on OrgTheory, I traced her over the web and was deeply impressed.  McKellar majored in mathematics at UCLA.  She has an Erdös number of 4 for being a co-author on “Ashkin–Teller models on Z^2” by L Chayes ,  D Mckellar ,  B Winn, Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General Volume 31 Number 45 (1998).  You can read the paper on her website here. 
For a region of the nearest-neighbour ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller spin systems on Z^2, we characterize the existence of multiple Gibbs states via percolation. In particular, there are multiple Gibbs states if and only if there exists percolation of any of the spin types (i.e. the magnetized states are characterized by percolation of the dominant species). This result was previously known only for the Potts models on Z^2.
Danica McKellar also wrote three books, generally targeted to girls.  Note the different locations here at the Ann Arbor District Library.
  • Math Doesn't Suck, New York : Hudson Street Press, c2007. (Youth Y510 McK)
  • Kiss My Math, New York : Hudson Street Press, c2008. (Teen 510 McK)
  • Hot X: Algebra Exposed, New York : Hudson Street Press, c2010. (512 McK)
Also on Necessary Facts:




1 comment:

  1. Heh, it's kinda amusing and amazing, don't you think? Natalie Portman of Star Wars in a study involving neuroscience, near-infrared spectroscopy, and whatnot - science fiction meets real science! Seriously, that's very impressive!

    -George Melcher

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