Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Our Edwin Steiner is the current leader in the CERN-Kaggle TrackML challenge

Seven weeks ago, I invited the TRF readers to join the TrackML challenge organized by CERN and Kaggle.com. You are expected to write some code that tracks particles at the LHC. The reason why I invited the readers is that this category includes some smart folks – and I wanted to watch a familiar friendly name that quickly becomes the leader in a very big leaderboard.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the current leaderboard shows 490 participants or teams. And the top five of them are shown in the screenshot above (click the image to zoom in).

Note that the medal winners will win $12k, $8k, and $5k, respectively (the numbers add up to $25).

After the first submission, Edwin – a complete newbie at Kaggle.com which makes it even more impressive – was the #2 and followed the user name outrunner. Both only had one submission – all the users beneath them have many more. Some theoretical arguments (involving cherry-picking and overfitting) as well as experience indicate that the users with many submissions tend to see a deterioration of the score when the leaderboard is switched from the "public" part of the dataset to the "private" one.

So this should be good news for outrunner and Edwin, too.

Already the public leaderboard above shows that only outrunner and Edwin are competing for the gold medal right now. The other participants differ from outrunner and Edwin in the same way in which the computers of early 1980s differed from those in the early 1970s (it is a metaphor for the scores; Edwin's first score was just 0.7556). The whole world – or at least our part of it – was eagerly waiting for Edwin's second submission. Outrunner still has one submission only but an hour ago, Edwin submitted his second submission. And the result? Outrunner was just outrun!

Edwin Steiner. Don't be misled by the brain size which may be just an artifact of the photograph.

So at this moment, Outrunner is using the wrong form of the verb-turned-noun as his nickname. Edwin is on his way to win the challenge. But it's too early to celebrate: the contest will be over in six weeks (August 13th). Edwin is confident that his medal won't be stolen and its quality won't be reduced by the switch from the public dataset to the private one.

But he is worried that his main nemesis already knows how to obtain a better score. But does he or, less likely, she? That's the $4k question. ;-) Even if Outrunner improves his or her score, it's not the end of the hopes because, as Edwin says, "Es kommt der Tag". Or, more precisely, "Aber es ist noch nicht aller Tage Abend!"

(Edwin, I am also uncertain about the English translation. But the Czech counterpart is almost certainly "Nechval dne před večerem" or "don't praise the day before the evening". Simply: Don't judge prematurely, OK? I found a proverb that is appropriate for Edwin's avatar: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.)

OK, once outrunner's bragging turns out unrealistic, I will write several blog posts inviting TRF readers to cure all forms of cancer, land on some additional celestial bodies, and outline the algorithm to complete the theory of everything. With Edwin's precedent, the solutions should be straightforward.

By the way, I think that if the winners' and frontrunners' solutions are helpful for the experimental particle physics, they should get far more than $12k or $8k – at least something comparable to an annual salary of the CERN professionals who didn't do quite as well. If that is going to be the case, I encourage Mr Milner or someone else to multiply the prize by a factor of 10.

It's great to see such achievements by someone named Steiner. Before Edwin, I only knew Mrs Steiner from My family, a story by Ivan Mládek. It's about people falling from the windows.

In the famous "A Midsummer Night's Dream Band", they had to deal with a death. The musicians didn't call a physician to confirm the death and impatiently organized a funeral. The dead man fell from the fourth floor, he hit the sidewalk, and he was alive afterwards. In most cases, it tends to be the other way around. An alive person falls out of the window, hits the sidewalk, and then he's dead. But it doesn't always have to be like that.

I used to live in an apartment building in Prague-Žižkov. A certain Mrs Steiner lived in the third floor. Everytime she drank a little bit, she jumped from the window. The only reason she survived was that she always landed on a pedestrian. She has jumped on me once, too. It seems that she hasn't changed her old habits yet. I recently walked around that building and a notice over there says: "Beware of falling Mrs Steiner."

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