2022 01 21

I was listening to a podcast about the pandemic and one of the things the guest mentioned was how we, rich countries like the US with vaccine producing companies, should be scaling up production for global distribution. The lack of vaccines globally has been and continues to be a contributing factor to the persistance of the pandemic as it is allowed to spread more easily and through more populations to continually evolve into ever more variants of concern. I have no real knowledge in this area besides some pop science that I have read and listened to, but it does strike me that we haven’t scaled up the production to do that. An argument would be that it is too expensive to distribute, but its also expensive to continually exist in a pandemic. It is plausible that the vaccine producers don’t want the pandemic to end to continue taking profits, although I really hope that isn’t the case (unless there’s some moral argument to be made that existing in this situation is preferable to being without a pandemic, but I think you have a lot of work to do to make that case!).

Something that struck me that the guest also said was why can’t we ramp up production like we did in world war II? WWII was by many measures a war of logistics and of who could operate better supply chains overall. Manufacturing diverse military equipment and the necessary support supplies is extremely expensive yet we were able to do it successfully then. Can we learn from that to apply lessons to the future in scaling manufacturing in dire times? I’m really not familiar with what the current problems are that hold back scaling up vaccine supply, but I don’t believe that it’s too hard of a problem to solve.

I spent a lot of time today working out the derivation of this method of approximating kernel matrices. I feel like it shouldn’t have taken me so long and I think I might be able to learn from my experience today - namely stare less at the paper and give up on repeated re-readings, and try instead to write out what they are saying/doing on scratch paper. Doing this is ultimately what got me past my stuck points, but I probably spent a few hours being “stuck” today. So, clearly I have work to do in training my subconscious to recognize that when I’m feeling mentally blocked I need to shift my strategy. A good thing that I did was to write up several hundred words in my obsidian note file about the derivation. I think I need to run through it again as I don’t feel solid on it. This technique is useful for speeding up matrix multiplication with kernel matrices, which is something that comes up a lot in my research and the algorithms I work with so this is just a subtle component, but I want to spend the time really understanding even the littlest bits of what I’m doing. My hypothesis behind doing this is that having a really strong foundation of knowledge is key to making progress as it allows you to elevate your thinking more effectively since you’ve made the first principles more or less second nature.

I’ve still not really journaled about my daily progress at work and that is partially from feeling that it will cruft up my overleaf documentation, so maybe its fine to just talk about the key aspects here. I’m making weekly slide sets for my meetings with my advisors so that might be the more suitable place to put those updates for tracking too.

Daily Listening Today I got back into some Light Music which served as the popular music of much of the early to middle 20th century and its influence is still felt largely in film soundtracks - notably John Williams.

Daily Reading Still working on The Lathe of Heaven and its dream weirdness. I think I’m going to start reading Freedom’s Forge which is inspired by the above thoughts about WWII manufacturing. Learned about it from the recommendation of a friend. I typically read fiction before bed and nonfiction at other times of the day so I should have room for it. Don’t worry Mysterious Island, I’ll be back for you!