All posts by Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics Andrew lives in Durban, South Africa, with his wife and an extensive collection of used running shoes. He has a Ph.D. in Physics from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, but is currently masquerading as a Mathematician. He is interested in data analysis, automated FOREX trading, photography, cooking and running.

The Biggest Killer in Africa

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

Gorilla Fever

A few weeks ago, my wife developed a fever. Many people had colds and the flu at the time, so we were not too concerned. As it was a Friday afternoon, the best treatment seemed to be a quiet weekend of recuperation. She took the normal things: Vitamin C and aspirin. The fever waxed and waned over the course of the weekend, and I persuaded her to take Monday off work. She went to see her doctor, who confirmed that she had a bad case of the flu. The doctor thought that she was also a little anemic, so took blood samples which were sent off for testing.

By Monday evening, my wife was feeling pretty decent. The next morning she was feeling fine, so she went off to work. However, at some stage during the day the fever returned, much worse than before. She left work early. While she was on her way home, the doctor called to say that the results of the tests had come back and her red blood cell count was dangerously low. She was to be admitted to hospital immediately.

Sometime later that night, after a barrage of further tests, the hospital physician announced that she had malaria.

We live in South Africa, a few hundred kilometers from the nearest malaria area. However, two months earlier, my wife had been on a short trip to Uganda. The strain of malaria which she had contracted is not found in South Africa but is present in Uganda. Evidently, she picked it up during her trip (despite taking potent prophylactics), and it had remained dormant in her system until recently.

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Evolution of First Names: Unisex Names and Nicknames

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

In the two previous installments of our series on given names (Part 1 and Part 2),  we considered various aspects of the given name data from 1880 to the present day compiled by the Social Security Administration [1]. In this final article, we are going to have a look at the incidence of unisex names and nicknames.

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Evolution of First Names: Fashionable and Popular Names

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

It was recently suggested that a given name can be used to infer a range of personal characteristics, including age and ethnicity. This is certainly not unreasonable. Estimating age from a given name is (in some cases) quite reliable since names go in and out of fashion, and thus their prevalence varies with time.

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Evolution of First Names: Changes Over the Last Century

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

In a chapter of “Freakonomics” [1] entitled “Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?”, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner examine the influence that a given name can have on a child’s future, from their performance at school to career opportunities and beyond. Many parents believe that the name they choose for their child will have a significant influence on their future, and there is certainly data to support this idea. However, there is also evidence to the contrary. Levitt and Dubner cite the real example of two brothers named Winner and Loser. Loser turned out to be a success, while Winner was appreciably less fortunate. It is probably reasonable to conclude that a given name is only one of many factors which contribute to a child’s destiny.

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Why Is… Snot Salty? (And Other Interesting Questions)

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

Google Autocomplete dynamically offers suggestions as you type a search query. Many of these suggestions are spectacularly appropriate, and the system literally appears to read your mind. But where do these suggestions come from? And can we use them to get a general feeling for what people are thinking?

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Hot in the City: Urban Heat Islands and Lightning

Andrew B. Collier

Andrew B. Collier, Ph.D. Physics

Hot in the city, hot in the city tonight, tonight
Hot in the city, hot in the city tonight, tonight

Billy Idol, Hot in the City (1982)

Is there a reason to believe that cities are warmer than the suburbs and nearby countryside? Indeed, there is! The concept of an Urban Heat Island (UHI) has been around since the beginning of the 19th century when Luke Howard made temperature measurements in and around the city of London [1]. A UHI is an area centered on a metropolis, where the temperature is appreciably higher than the surrounding rural areas. There are two major contributors to this effect:

  1. differences in land surface materials (those in a city tend to store more heat), and
  2. waste heat and pollution associated with high population density, traffic and industry.

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