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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

What is “blogging”? Is it different from “writing”?

Thomas Basbøll wrote: To blog is not to write in a particular style, or publish in a particular form. Rather, blogging is an experience that is structured by a particular functionality. . . . What makes it a blog is a structural coordination of the blogger and the audience. . . . Blogging, in my […]


Regarding this paper, Frank Harrell writes: One grammatical correction: Alvan Feinstein, the ‘father of clinical epidemiology’ at Yale, educated me about ‘trichotomy’. dichotomous = Greek dicho (two) + tomous (cut). Three = tri so the proper word would be ‘tritomous’ instead of ‘trichotomous’. Uh oh. I can’t bring myself to use the word “tritomous” as […]

“Statistics: Learning from stories” (my talk in Zurich on Tues 28 Aug)

Statistics: Learning from stories Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York Here is a paradox: In statistics we aim for representative samples and balanced comparisons, but stories are interesting to the extent that they are surprising and atypical. The resolution of the paradox is that stories can be […]

Hey! Free money!

This just came in: On Dec 27, 2017, at 6:55 PM, ** wrote: My name is ** and I am a freelance writer hoping to contribute my writing to I would be willing to compensate you for publishing. For my posts, I require one related client link within the body of my article, as […]

Last lines of George V. Higgins

Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years ends with this beautiful quote: “Everybody gets just about what they want. It’s just, they don’t recognize it, they get it. It doesn’t look the same as what they had in mind.” The conclusion of Trust: “What ever doesn’t kill us, makes us strong,” Cobb said. “Fuck Nietzsche,” Beale said. “He’s […]

Murray Davis on learning from stories

Jay Livingston writes: Your recent post and the linked article on storytelling reminded me of Murray Davis’s article on theory, which has some of the same themes. I haven’t reread it in a long time, so my memory of the details is hazy. Here are the first two paragraphs, which might give you an idea […]

Concerns about Brian Wansink’s claims and research methods have been known for years

1. The king and his memory There’s this stunning passage near the end of Josephine Tey’s classic The Daughter of Time. Most of the book is taken up with the main characters laboriously discovering the evidence that Richard III was not really a bad guy, he didn’t really kill those little princes, etc. Having made […]

“Write No Matter What” . . . about what?

Scott Jaschik interviews Joli Jensen (link from Tyler Cowen), a professor of communication who wrote a new book called “Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics.” Her advice might well be reasonable—it’s hard for me to judge; as someone who blogs a few hundred times a year, I’m not really part of Jensen’s target audience. […]

Return of the Klam

Matthew Klam is back. This time for reals. I’m halfway through reading his new book, Who is Rich?, and it’s just wonderful. The main character is a cartoonist and illustrator, and just about every scene is filled with stunning and hilarious physical descriptions. If I were writing a blurb, I’d call Who is Rich? the […]

Geoff Norman: Is science a special kind of storytelling?

Javier Benítez points to this article by epidemiologist Geoff Norman, who writes: The nature of science was summarized beautifully by a Stanford professor of science education, Mary Budd Rowe, who said that: Science is a special kind of story-telling with no right or wrong answers. Just better and better stories. Benítez writes that he doesn’t […]

Objects of the class “Verbal Behavior”

Steve Shulman-Laniel writes: My nominee for a new “objects of the class” would be B. F. Skinner’s “Verbal Behavior” — i.e., the criticisms of the thing are more widely read than the thing itself. Hmmm . . . I’ve heard of Skinner but not of “Verbal Behavior,” let alone its criticism. But the general idea […]

The Paper of My Enemy Has Been Retracted

The paper of my enemy has been retracted And I am pleased. From every media outlet it has been retracted Like a van-load of p-values that has been seized And sits in star-laden tables in a replication archive, My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in tables In the kind of journal where retraction occurs. Great, square […]

I’m with Errol: On flypaper, photography, science, and storytelling

[image of a cat going after an insect] I’ve been reading this amazing book, Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, by Errol Morris, who, like John Waters, is a pathbreaking filmmaker who is also an excellent writer. I recommend this book, but what I want to talk about here is one particular […]

Stranger than fiction

Someone pointed me to a long discussion, which he preferred not to share publicly, of his perspective on a scientific controversy in his field of research. He characterized a particular claim as “impossible to be true, i.e., false, and therefore, by definition, fiction.” But my impression of a lot of research misconduct is that the […]

“There was this prevalent, incestuous, backslapping research culture. The idea that their work should be criticized at all was anathema to them. Let alone that some punk should do it.”

[image of a cat reading a comic book] How did the outsiders upend social psychology? CATRON: We used basic reporting techniques. We’d call up somebody and ask them about thus-and-so, and they’d mention so-and-so, so we’d call so-and-so, and ask about thus-and-so. I’d say, “OK, you’re saying this but the first guy said this other […]

The four missing books of Lawrence Otis Graham

We keep some books in the bathroom that are good for reading in small bits. The other day I was flipping through The Best American Essays 1993 and came across the following passage that had originally appeared in New York Magazine: I’m a thirty-year-old corporate lawyer at a midtown Manhattan firm, and I make $105,000 […]

When people proudly take ridiculous positions

Tom Wolfe on evolution: I think it’s misleading to say that human beings evolved from animals. I mean, actually, nobody knows whether they did or not. This is just sad. Does Wolfe really think this? My guess is he’s trying to do a solid for his political allies. Jerry Coyne writes: Somewhere on his mission […]

Planet of the hominids? We wanna see this exposition.

It would be interesting if someone were to make an exhibit for a museum showing the timeline of humans and hominids, and under that showing children’s toys and literature, showing how these guys were represented in popular media. It probably already exists, right? P.S. I feel kinda bad that this bumped Dan’s more important, statistically-related […]

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 […]