FFJM competition underway

The 2010-2011 FFJM competition has started. It is one of the main Mathematical Games competitions in France (the other being the Concours Kangourou, which gets hundreds of thousands of contestants every year and is mostly for school pupils). The FFJM competition claims 100,000 contestants from ten countries.

The first round of questions (in French) is online. For this round, there is no time limit and you can send in your answers by post.

One of the most interesting characteristics of this contest is that all age groups get the same questions: for example, 2nd-graders only need to answer the first 5 questions, 8th-graders need to answer the first 14 questions, and professionals must answer all 18 questions (the last questions being the hardest). In the semi-finals and finals, this is very nice: all contestants can talk about the questions, even if they are competing in different categories.

This is the first time in almost 10 years that I will be taking part. For people who feel like taking part, answers must be sent in by 1 January.

Toponymy and localisation

Cross-posted on the Statistifaction blog.

Master’s level students at ENSAE are required to work on an Applied Statistics project. Céline Duval, Pierre Jacob and myself are proposing a topic on correlation between toponymy (place names) and geographic localisation of French towns and cities (“communes”, of which there are 36,000). The idea is to detect which characteristics of a place name are informative of where in France that place is.

For example, some endings are very informative: on this map where every cyan dot represents one commune, place names ending in “-y” are mostly found in the North-East and place names ending in “-ac” in the South-West.

The following map shows that a “w” in a place indicates it lies in the North-East, and that a “k” indicates that it lies in the North-East or Brittany.

Just for fun, here is a map of place names which include one of the major rivers: Loire, Seine, Rhône, Saône, Garonne and Marne. Unsurprisingly, they align almost perfectly with the rivers.

Students interested in the project can contact Céline, Pierre or myself. People interested in the project might enjoy Keith Brigg’s pages on English place names.

Talk at Institut Jean Nicod tomorrow

I shall be giving a talk at the SIGMA seminar of the Institut Jean Nicod (Ecole Normale Supérieure) tomorrow.

Topic: “Phylogenetic models of language diversification”

Where: IJN/LSCP seminar room, 29 rue d’Ulm, Paris

When: Wednesday October 6th, 11:00-12:30

Language: English

Relevant papers:

The slides will be available on Slideshare tomorrow.