Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

These are the statistics papers you just have to read

Here. And here. Just kidding. Here’s the real story. Susanna Makela writes: A few of us want to start a journal club for the statistics PhD students. The idea is to read important papers that we might not otherwise read, maybe because they’re not directly related to our area of research/we don’t have time/etc. What […]

In search of the elusive loop of plagiarism

OK, here’s a research project for you. From this recent blog comment, I learned about Mustapha Marrouchi, a professor of literature who has plagiarized from various writers, including the noted academic entertainer Slavoj Zizek. Amusing, given that Zizek himself has been caught plagiarizing. Zizek copied from Stanley Hornbeck. Did Hornbeck plagiarize from anyone else? Probably […]

Discussion with Steven Pinker connecting cognitive psychology research to the difficulties of writing

Following up on my discussion of Steven Pinker’s writing advice, Pinker and I had an email exchange that cleared up some issues and raised some new ones. In particular, Pinker made a connection between the difficulty of writing and some research findings in cognitive psychology. I think this connection is really cool—I’ve been thinking and […]

Sorry, but I’m with Richard Ford on this one

I just read the new Colson Whitehead book, the one where he plays poker? I like it at first, he had some great bits, but then it got boring. And, really, is there any gimmick less appealing, at this point, than “author/journalist goes and tries his luck at the World Series of Poker”? I don’t […]

The plagiarist (not; see correction below) next door

In a comment on this chess-related post, Matt Gaffney pointed me to this wonderful page full of chess curiosities by Tim Krabbé. My nederlands is not what it used to be, but Krabbé has posted lots of material in English so that’s no problem. I started reading his “Open chess diary” (i.e., blog), it’s updated […]

Another benefit of bloglag

In the classic Philip K. Dick novel, The World Jones Made, the main character has the ability to see the future, in particular he knows what will happen a year in the future, with this window moving forward relative to present time. Sounds cool, huh? But that’s not the character’s perception; instead: It’s not so […]

“Surely our first response to the disproof of a shocking-but-surprising claim should be to be un-shocked and un-surprised, not to try to explain away the refutation”

I came across the above quote the other day in an old post of mine, when searching for a Schrodinger’s cat image. The quote came up in the context of a statistical claim made by a political activist which was widely promoted and discussed but which turned out to be false. As I wrote at […]

What to do in 2015: Your statistics diary

For the last two weeks of our class on statistical communication, I gave my students the following assignment: Every day, you will write an entry in your statistics diary. Just set up a text or Word file and add to it each day. The diary entries can be anything. They can be short slice-of-life observations […]

Relaxed plagiarism standards as a way to keep the tuition dollars flowing from foreign students

Interesting comment thread at Basbøll’s blog regarding the difficult position of college writing instructors when confronted with blatant student plagiarism. Randall Westgren writes: I believe the easiest part of the patchwriting [plagiarism] phenomenon to understand is why writing instructors are leading the charge. Professor Howard is caught between a herd of high-value (i.e. full-tuition and […]

Sometimes you’re so subtle they don’t get the joke

T. A. Frail writes: When Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, wrote that Who’s Bigger? ‘is a guaranteed argument-starter,’ he meant it as a compliment. In all seriousness, I wish people would read what I wrote, not what they think I meant! My quote continued: This book is a […]

Defense by escalation

Basbøll has another post regarding some copying-without-attribution by the somewhat-famous academic entertainer Slavoj Zizek. In his post, Basbøll links to theologian and professor Adam Kotsko (cool: who knew there were still theologians out and about in academia?) who defends Zizek, in part on the grounds that Zizek’s critics were being too harsh. Kotsko writes of […]

Saying things that are out of place

Basbøll points us to a column by Michael Shermer, a journalist and self-described skeptic who’s written a lot about skepticism, atheism, etc. Recently, though, Shermer wrote of an event that “shook [his] skepticism to its core”—it was a story about an old radio that didn’t work, then briefly started to work again, then stopped working. […]

Steven Pinker on writing: Where I agree and where I disagree

Linguist and public intellectual Steven Pinker recently published an article, “Why Academics Stink at Writing.” That’s a topic that interests me! Like Pinker, I’ve done a lot of writing, both for technical and general audiences. Unlike Pinker, I have not done research on linguistics, but I’ll do my best to comment based on my own […]

Who should write the new NYT chess column?

Matt Gaffney gives these “three essential characteristics” for writing “a relevant, interesting weekly chess column” in 2014: 1. It must be written by someone who is deeply involved in the chess world. Summaries of information that is already available online won’t cut it anymore. And since newspapers can’t afford to send columnists around the world […]

How to read (in quantitative social science). And by implication, how to write.

It all started when I was reading Chris Blattman’s blog and noticed this: One of the most provocative and interesting field experiments I [Blattman] have seen in this year: Poor people often do not make investments, even when returns are high. One possible explanation is that they have low aspirations and form mental models of […]

“Patchwriting” is a Wegmanesque abomination but maybe there’s something similar that could be helpful?

Reading Thomas Basbøll’s blog I came across a concept I’d not previously heard about, “patchwriting,” which is defined as “copying from a source text and deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another.” (See here for further discussion.) As Basbøll writes, this is simply a variant of plagiarism, indeed it’s […]

Illegal Business Controls America

The other day I wrote: After encountering the Chicago-cops example I was going to retitle this post, “The psych department’s just another crew” in homage to the line, “The police department’s just another crew” from the rap, “Who Protects Us From You.” But, just to check, I googled that KRS-One rap and it turns out […]

Ray Could Write

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. . . . You were silly like us; your gift survived it all: For chess makes nothing happen: it survives In the […]

Hoe noem je?

Haynes Goddard writes: Reviewing my notes and books on categorical data analysis, the term “nominal” is widely employed to refer to variables without any natural ordering. I was a language major in UG school and knew that the etymology of nominal is the Latin word nomen (from the Online Etymological Dictionary: early 15c., “pertaining to […]

Statistical Communication and Graphics Manifesto

Statistical communication includes graphing data and fitted models, programming, writing for specialized and general audiences, lecturing, working with students, and combining words and pictures in different ways. The common theme of all these interactions is that we need to consider our statistical tools in the context of our goals. Communication is not just about conveying […]