Peter Woit reports on the sympathy that well-known physicist Freeman Dyson has with crackpot theorists. The interesting part is that Dyson has positive feelings for these cranks, even while believing that their theories are completely wrong: In my [Dyson's] career as a scientist, I twice had the good fortune to be a personal friend of [...]
Phil points to this post by Brett Keller and writes: I [Phil] haven’t seen Hunger Games or read the book(s?). It’s sort of nice that people do this kind of thing but might be even nicer if they dedicated this sort of amateur data analysis to real-world problems. I dunno. I think it’s always good [...]
Jonathan Cantor pointed me to a new blog post by Stephen Dubner in which he expresses disagreement with what Kaiser and I wrote in our American Scientist article, “Freakonomics: What Went Wrong?”. In response, I thought it would be interesting to go “meta” here by considering all the different ways ways that I could reply [...]
Sophie Roell, who interviewed me for 5books (background here), reports that 5books has become a book. Or, to be precise, that they have released a collection of the 5books interviews as an ebook. Interviewees include me, some people I’d never heard of, and a bunch of legitimate bigshots such as Ian McEwen and Steven Pinker. [...]
Amy Hundley writes in the New Yorker about a notorious recent case of unacknowledged literary quilting: I [Hundley] was the editor at Grove/Atlantic to whom Quentin Rowan’s novel “Appearance and the Park” was submitted (“The Plagiarist’s Tale,” by Lizzie Widdicombe, February 13th & 20th). Widdicombe writes that the editor in question thought that “its plot [...]
I’ve had Love the Liberry on the blogroll forever. I hadn’t checked the site for awhile and was impressed to see that they’re still at it. Great stuff—don’t ever quit! P.S. It seems that there are other librarian blogs. Pretty scary, actually! One’s enough for me.
In old books (and occasionally new books), you see the word “Why” used to indicate a pause or emphasis in dialogue. For example, from 1952: “Why, how perfectly simple!” she said to herself. “The way to save Wilbur’s life is to play a trick on Zuckerman. “If I can fool a bug,” thought Charlotte, “I [...]
In her essay on Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind, Claudia Roth Pierpoint writes: The much remarked “readability” of the book must have played a part in this smooth passage from the page to the screen, since “readability” has to do not only with freedom from obscurity but, paradoxically, with freedom from the actual [...]
Back in the 1700s—JennyD can correct me if I’m wrong here—there was no standard style for writing. You could be discursive, you could be descriptive, flowery, or terse. Direct or indirect, serious or funny. You could construct a novel out of letters or write a philosophical treatise in the form of a novel. Nowadays there [...]
If an entire article in Computational Statistics and Data Analysis were put together from other, unacknowledged, sources, would that be a work of art?
Spy novelist Jeremy Duns tells the amazing story of Quentin Rowan, a young writer who based an entire career on patching together stories based on uncredited material from published authors, culminating in a patchwork job that Duns had blurbed as an “instant classic.” Rowan did not merely plagiarize to fill in some gaps or cover [...]
A friend/colleague sent me some comments on my recent article with Kaiser Fung on Freakonomics. My friend gave several reasons why he thought we were unfair to Levitt. I’ll give my reply (my friend preferred that I not quote his email, but you can get a general sense of the questions from my answers). But [...]
Someone sent me an email saying that he liked my little essay, “Descriptive statistics aren’t just for losers.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but it sounded like the kind of thing I’d say, so I searched the blog and found this post, which indeed I really like! I thanked my correspondent [...]
In which I compare “POLITICO’s chief political columnist” unfavorably to a cranky old dead guy and one of the funniest writers who’s ever lived
Neil Malhotra writes: I just wanted to alert to this completely misinformed Politico article by Roger Simon, equating sampling theory with “magic.” Normally, I wouldn’t send you this, but I sent him a helpful email and he was a complete jerk about it. Wow—this is really bad. It’s so bad I refuse to link to [...]
1. We Bayesian statisticians like to say there are three kinds of statisticians: a. Bayesians; b. People who are Bayesians but don’t realize it (that is, they act in coherence with some unstated probability); c. Failed Bayesians (that is, people whose inference could be improved by some attention to coherence). So, if a statistician does [...]
Logical reasoning typically takes the following form: 1. I know that A is true. 2. I know that A implies B. 3. Therefore, I can conclude that B is true. I, like Lewis Carroll, have problems with this process sometimes, but it’s pretty standard. There is also a statistical version in which the above statements [...]
A correspondent writes: I just want to spend a few words to point you to this book I have just found on Amazon: “Understanding The New Statistics: Effect Sizes, Confidence Intervals, and Meta-Analysis” by G. Cumming. I have been attracted by the rather unusual and ‘sexy’ title but it seems to be nothing more than [...]
Kaiser Fung tells what it’s really like. Here’s a sample: As soon as I [Kaiser] put the substring-concatenate expression together with two lines of code that generate data tables, it choked. Sorta like Dashiell Hammett without the broads and the heaters. And here’s another take, from a slightly different perspective.
I was trying to explain in class how a (Bayesian) statistician reads the formula for a probability distribution. In old-fashioned statistics textbooks you’re told that if you want to compute a conditional distribution from a joint distribution you need to do some heavy math: p(a|b) = p(a,b)/\int p(a’,b)da’. When doing Bayesian statistics, though, you usually [...]
At the sister blog.
I put it at the sister blog so the politics-haters among you could skip it. . . .
“She was forty years old when she died. It is possible that her art might have developed to include a wider area of human experience, just as possible that the chilling climate of the thirties might have withered it altogether. But what she actually wrote was greatly talented. She deserves a place, although obviously not [...]
I read the excerpt in n+1. As one would expect of DeWitt, it was great, while being nothing at all like her other book. THe new book reminded me a bit of Philip K. Dick. Here’s a brief excerpt (which is not actually particularly PKD-like) of the main character talking to himself: “I don’t have [...]
Today I was reminded of a riddle from junior high: Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant with peanut butter? A: Peanut butter that never forgets, or an elephant that sticks to the roof of your mouth. The occasion was a link from Tyler Cowen to a new book by Garry Kasparov [...]
I was thinking a bit more about Jonathan Rauch’s lament about the fading of the buggy-whip industry print journalism, in which he mocks bloggers, analogizes blogging to scribbling with spray paint on the side of a building, and writes that the blogosphere is “the single worst medium for sustained, and therefore grown-up, reading and writing [...]
Journalist Jonathan Rauch writes that the internet is Sturgeon squared: This is the blogosphere. I’m not getting paid to be here. I’m here to get incredibly famous (in my case, even more incredibly famous) so that I can get paid somewhere else. . . . The average quality of newspapers and (published) novels is far, [...]