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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

Maybe this paper is a parody, maybe it’s a semibluff

Peter DeScioli writes: I was wondering if you saw this paper about people reading Harry Potter and then disliking Trump, attached. It seems to fit the shark attack genre. In this case, the issue seems to be judging causation from multiple regression with observational data, assuming that control variables are enough to narrow down to […]

“From that perspective, power pose lies outside science entirely, and to criticize power pose would be a sort of category error, like criticizing The Lord of the Rings on the grounds that there’s no such thing as an invisibility ring, or criticizing The Rotter’s Club on the grounds that Jonathan Coe was just making it all up.”

From last year: One could make the argument that power pose is innocuous, maybe beneficial in that it is a way of encouraging people to take charge of their lives. And this may be so. Even if power pose itself is meaningless, the larger “power pose” story could be a plus. Of course, if power […]

It is somewhat paradoxical that good stories tend to be anomalous, given that when it comes to statistical data, we generally want what is typical, not what is surprising. Our resolution of this paradox is . . .

From a blog comment a few years ago regarding an article by Robert Kosara: As Thomas and I discuss in our paper [When Do Stories Work? Evidence and Illustration in the Social Sciences], it is somewhat paradoxical that good stories tend to be anomalous, given that when it comes to statistical data, we generally want […]

The Westlake Review

I came across this site one day: The Westlake Review is a blog dedicated to doing a detailed review and analysis of every novel Donald Westlake published under his own name, as well as under a variety of pseudonyms. These reviews will reveal major plot elements, though they will not be full synopses. People who […]

Irwin Shaw, John Updike, and Donald Trump

So. I read more by and about Irwin Shaw. I read Shaw’s end-of-career collection of short stories and his most successful novel, The Young Lions, and also the excellent biography by Michael Shnayerson. I also read Adam Begley’s recent biography of John Updike, which was also very good, and it made be sad that probably […]

An improved ending for The Martian

In this post from a couple years ago I discussed the unsatisfying end of The Martian. At the time, I wrote: The ending is not terrible—at a technical level it’s somewhat satisfying (I’m not enough of a physicist to say more than that), but at the level of construction of a story arc, it didn’t […]

Classical statisticians as Unitarians

[cat picture] Christian Robert, Judith Rousseau, and I wrote: Several of the examples in [the book under review] represent solutions to problems that seem to us to be artificial or conventional tasks with no clear analogy to applied work. “They are artificial and are expressed in terms of a survey of 100 individuals expressing support […]

From Whoops to Sorry: Columbia University history prof relives 1968

I haven’t had much contact with the history department here at Columbia. A bunch of years ago I co-taught a course with Herb Klein and some others, and the material from that class went into my book co-edited with Jeronimo Cortina, A Quantitative Tour of the Social Sciences. More recently, I’ve had some conversations with […]

A quote from William James that could’ve come from Robert Benchley or S. J. Perelman or Dorothy Parker

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s a William James quote that could’ve been plucked right off the Algonquin Round Table: Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.

A collection of quotes from William James that all could’ve come from . . . Bill James!

From a few years ago, some quotes from the classic psychologist that fit within the worldview of the classic sabermetrician: Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain. A great many people think they are thinking […]

Design top down, Code bottom up

Top-down design means designing from the client application programmer interface (API) down to the code. The API lays out a precise functional specification, which says what the code will do, not how it will do it. Coding bottom up means coding the lowest-level foundations first, testing them, then continuing to build. Sometimes this requires dropping […]

Reality meets the DeLilloverse

From 2009: “They thought ASU’s brand was too strong to compete with. Incarnate Word is now part of the Communiversity @ Surprise, a newly opened one-stop learning center for higher education in the northwest Valley.” I guess my statistics textbooks probably read like parodies of statistics textbooks, so from that perspective it makes sense that […]

Journals for insignificant results

Tom Daula writes: I know you’re not a fan of hypothesis testing, but the journals in this blog post are an interesting approach to the file drawer problem. I’ve never heard of them or their like. An alternative take (given academia standard practice) is “Journal for XYZ Discipline papers that p-hacking and forking paths could […]

Storytelling as predictive model checking

[cat picture] I finally got around to reading Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike, and it was excellent. I’ll have more on that in a future post, but for now I just went to share the point, which I’d not known before, that almost all of Updike’s characters and even the descriptions and events in […]

I’m thinking of using these as the titles for my next 97 blog posts

Where do you think these actually came from? (No googling—that would be cheating.) P.S. Anyone who wants to know the answer can google it. But there were some great guesses in the comments. My favorite, from Frank: I’ve got to go with “before the colon” in questionable social science papers, e.g: “Don’t make me laugh: […]

When do stories work, Process tracing, and Connections between qualitative and quantitative research

Jonathan Stray writes: I read your “when do stories work” paper (with Thomas Basbøll) with interest—as a journalist stories are of course central to my field. I wondered if you had encountered the “process tracing” literature in political science? It attempts to make sense of stories as “case studies” and there’s a nice logic of […]

Comment of the year

In our discussion of research on the possible health benefits of a low-oxygen environment, Raghu wrote: This whole idea (low oxygen -> lower cancer risk) seems like a very straightforward thing to test in animals, which one can move to high and low oxygen environments . . . And then Llewelyn came in for the […]

Objects of the class “George Orwell”

image George Orwell is an exemplar in so many ways: a famed truth-teller who made things up, a left-winger who mocked left-wingers, an author of a much-misunderstood novel (see “Objects of the class ‘Sherlock Holmes,’”) probably a few dozen more. But here I’m talking about Orwell’s name being used as an adjective. More specifically, “Orwellian” […]

Christmas special: Survey research, network sampling, and Charles Dickens’ coincidences

image It’s Christmas so what better time to write about Charles Dickens . . . Here’s the story: In traditional survey research we have been spoiled. If you work with atomistic data structures, a small sample looks like a little bit of the population. But a small sample of a network doesn’t look like the […]

How to include formulas (LaTeX) and code blocks in WordPress posts and replies

It’s possible to include LaTeX formulas like . I entered it as $latex \int e^x \, \mathrm{d}x$. You can also generate code blocks like this for (n in 1:N) y[n] ~ normal(0, 1); The way to format them is to use <pre> to open the code block and </pre> to close it. You can create […]