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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

I owe it all to my Neanderthal genes

Yesterday I posted a methods-focused item at the Monkey Cage, a follow-up of a post from a couple years ago arguing against some dramatic claims by economists Ashraf and Galor regarding the wealth of nations. No big deal, just some standard-issue skepticism. But for some reason this one caught fire—maybe somebody important linked to it, […]

A new idea for a science core course based entirely on computer simulation

I happen to come across this post from 2011 that I like so much, I thought I’d say it again: Columbia College has for many years had a Core Curriculum, in which students read classics such as Plato (in translation) etc. A few years ago they created a Science core course. There was always some […]

“Cancer Research Is Broken”

Michael Oakes pointed me to this excellent news article by Daniel Engber, subtitled, “There’s a replication crisis in biomedicine—and no one even knows how deep it runs.” Engber suggests that the replication problem in biomedical research is worse than the much-publicized replication problem in psychology. One reason, which I didn’t see Engber discussing, is financial […]

Avoiding model selection in Bayesian social research

The other day I happened to come across this paper that I wrote with Don Rubin in 1995. I really like it—it’s so judicious and mature, I can’t believe I wrote it over 20 years ago! Let this be a lesson to all of you that it’s possible to get somewhere by reasoning from first […]

Why I don’t believe Fergus Simpson’s Big Alien Theory

It all began with this message from Christopher Bonnett: I’m a observational cosmologist and I am writing you as I think the following paper + article might be of interest for your blog. A fellow cosmologist, Fergus Simpson, has done a Bayesian analysis on the size of aliens, it has passed peer-review and has been […]

Should I be upset that the NYT credulously reviewed a book promoting iffy science?

I want to say “junk science,” but that’s not quite right. The claims in questions are iffy, far from proven, and could not be replicated, but they still might be true. As usual, my criticism is the claim that the evidence is strong, when it isn’t. From the review, by Heather Havrilesky:

Gresham’s Law of experimental methods

A cognitive scientist writes: You’ll be interested to see a comment from one of my students, who’s trying to follow all your advice: It’s hard to see all this bullshit in top journals, while I see that if I do things right, it takes a long time, and I don’t have the beautiful results these […]

Statistics is like basketball, or knitting

I had a recent exchange with a news reporter regarding one of those silly psychology studies. I took a look at the article in question—this time it wasn’t published in Psychological Science or PPNAS so it didn’t get saturation publicity—and indeed it was bad, laughably bad. They didn’t just have the garden of forking paths, […]

Bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt. I was ungeneralizable to myself.

One more rep. The new thing you just have to read, if you’re following the recent back-and-forth on replication in psychology, is this post at Retraction Watch in which Nosek et al. respond to criticisms from Gilbert et al. regarding the famous replication project. Gilbert et al. claimed that many of the replications in the […]

At this point, even Tom Cruise is skeptical about claims of social priming. (Click to find out why)

The blogger known as Neuroskeptic writes: Can the thought of money make people more conservative? The idea that mere reminders of money can influence people’s attitudes and behaviors is a major claim within the field of social priming – the study of how our behavior is unconsciously influenced by seemingly innocuous stimuli. However, social priming […]

You’ll never guess what David Cox wrote about the garden of forking paths!

Erikson Kaszubowski writes: I have recently read

Hierarchical models for phylogeny: Here’s what everyone’s talking about

The other day on the Stan users list, we had a long discussion on hierarchical models in phylogeny that I thought might be of general interest, so I’m reconstructing it here. It started with this question from Ben Lambert: I am hoping that you can help me settle a debate. My collaborators and I have […]

You’ll never guess what I say when I have nothing to say

A reporter writes: I’m a reporter working on a story . . . and I was wondering if you could help me out by taking a quick look at the stats in the paper it’s based on. The paper is about paedophiles being more likely to have minor facial abnormalities, suggesting that paedophilia is a […]

One thing I like about hierarchical modeling is that is not just about criticism. It’s a way to improve inferences, not just a way to adjust p-values.

In an email exchange regarding the difficulty many researchers have in engaging with statistical criticism (see here for a recent example), a colleague of mine opined: Nowadays, promotion requires more publications, and in an academic environment, researchers are asked to do more than they can. So many researchers just work like workers in a product […]

Kéry and Schaub’s Bayesian Population Analysis Translated to Stan

Hiroki ITÔ (pictured) has done everyone a service in translating to Stan the example models [update: only chapters 3–9 so far, not the whole book; the rest are in the works] from Marc Kéry and Michael Schaub (2012) Bayesian Population Analysis using WinBUGS: A Hierarchical Perspective. Academic Press. You can find the code in our […]

Scientists Not Behaving Badly

Andrea Panizza writes: I just read about psychologist Uri Simonson debunking a research by colleagues Raphael Silberzahn & Eric Uhlmann on the positive effects of noble-sounding German surnames on people’s careers (!!!). Here the fact is mentioned. I think that the interesting part (apart, of course, from the general weirdness of Silberzahn & Uhlmann’s research […]

Rapid post-publication review

A colleague points me to a published paper and writes: Do you believe this finding? If your biology isn’t strong enough to pass judgement — mine certainly isn’t — can you ask somebody who knows? My reply: 4 groups with a total n=71? No way. The topic is too sad for me to mock on […]

Gathering of philosophers and physicists unaware of modern reconciliation of Bayes and Popper

Hiro Minato points us to a news article by physicist Natalie Wolchover entitled “A Fight for the Soul of Science.” I have no problem with most of the article, which is a report about controversies within physics regarding the purported untestability of physics models such as string theory (as for example discussed by my Columbia […]

Recently in the sister blog

How essentialism shapes our thinking. I think this idea, that people are natural “essentialists”—has important implications for both statistics and political science. In politics, there are these ideas that people have about Democrats, or Republicans, or Muslims, or various other groups. In statistics, as regular readers know, I continue to fight against discrete thinking, the […]

1 cool trick for defining conditional probability

Hi, this one comes up from time to time so I thought I’d devote a whole post to it. The question is: what is conditional probability? And here’s what I wrote: Everyone agrees that P(A,B) = P(A|B)*P(B). The question is, what comes first? In traditional probability textbooks, P(A,B) is defined first, then P(A|B) is defined […]