spots, variational inference, bad sci-fi

After the #GaiaDR2 week and all the knock-on consequences, I'm starting to feel a little strung out this week! But I pulled it together for Stars meeting at Flatiron. Brett Morris (UW) was in town, and he talked about the degeneracies between transit depths and star spot statistics and other observables. He is generalizing the star surface model to properly capture those uncertainties. That's important for downstream inferences.

David Blei (Columbia) graced us with his presence. He categorized inference problems into a nested classification, with Gibbs-like problems in the center and fully implicit (you can do simulations but nothing else) problems on the outside. We have problems across this spectrum. He talked about how variational methods capitalize on optimization advances to deliver posterior approximations; this has limitations, but it is far faster than MCMC in most high-dimensional situations. He talked about many other things as well, and we looked at points of contact for collaborations. We are interested in scaling up things we did in the million-source TGAS to the billion-source Gaia DR2.

Late in the day, Rabbi Dan Ain (Because Jewish) and I did an event with Brian Sheppard (Seton Hall) at Caveat NYC, using the (bad) 80s film Short Circuit as our jumping-off point. It was ill-attended, but seriously fun.

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