But can we judge that through modern eyes? Maybe a good subject for a seminar?

]]>That’s more generous than I could honestly say about Sedaris. And Ulam’s weapons work doesn’t endear him to me. I guess it’s a lose-lose situation for me.

]]>I find David Sedaris cloying.

I can’t unremember that one of my mentors who had collaborated with Ulam on set theory was very bitter about Ulam’s H-bomb breakthrough.

]]>Stan, though…well, just look at his Wikipedia page. He wasn’t nearly as prolific as Gelman in terms of number of papers — a measly 150 — but there’s the Borsuk-Ulam theorem, the Mazur-Ulam theorem, the Kuratowski-Ulam theorem, the Ulam spiral, the Ulam conjecture in number theory, the Ulam conjecture in graph theory, Ulam’s game, the Ulam matrix, and on and on. Just playing the odds, surely one of these would be interesting to hear about.

Or he could tell us about his collaboration/feud with Edward Teller. “If you’re walking down the street and you run into a Hungarian going the other way, hit him in the face as hard as you can. He’ll know why.” Ulam knew the Hungarian Martians so maybe he can confirm or debunk whether the Hit the Hungarian principle is actually a good one.

Ulam, easily..

]]>“Hugh began with warblers and meadowlarks. He sketched some cardinals and blue tits for color and was just wondering if it wasn’t too busy when she asked if he could add some owls. It made no sense nature-wise—owls and songbirds work different shifts, and even if they didn’t they would still never be friends.”

OK–but Ulam can measurably and definitely out-cardinal this. He gets my vote.

]]>I did not know Ulam developed the Monte Carlo method “The modern version of the Markov Chain Monte Carlo method was invented in the late 1940s by Stanislaw Ulam, while he was working on nuclear weapons projects at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Immediately after Ulam’s breakthrough, John von Neumann understood its importance and programmed the ENIAC computer to carry out Monte Carlo calculations.” (Wikipedia)

In fact, I’d assumed the Monte Carlo method was an old method, seldom used in practice before computers due to the tediousness of the calculations.

So that’s a vote for Ulam, although there’s no joke here.

I’m irritated at people who get irritated at Sedaris for changing some of the details in his stories. I’d always assumed Sedaris was writing fiction — perhaps inspired by actual events, but not particularly tied to the actual facts.

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