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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

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 […]

Just Filling in the Bubbles

Collin Hitt writes: I study wrong answers, per your blog post today. My research focuses mostly on surveys of schoolchildren. I study the kids who appear to be just filling in the bubbles, who by accident actually reveal something of use for education researchers. Here’s his most recent paper, “Just Filling in the Bubbles: Using […]

“Using prediction markets to estimate the reproducibility of scientific research”

A reporter sent me this new paper by Anna Dreber, Thomas Pfeiffer, Johan Almenberg, Siri Isaksson, Brad Wilson, Yiling Chen, Brian Nosek, and Magnus Johannesson, which begins: Concerns about a lack of reproducibility of statistically significant results have recently been raised in many fields, and it has been argued that this lack comes at substantial […]

Neuroscience research in Baltimore

Joshua Vogelstein sends along these ads for students, research associates, and postdocs in his lab at Johns Hopkins University:

Don’t miss this one: “Modern Physics from an Elementary Point of View”

I was googling *back of the envelope* for a recent post and I came across these lecture notes by Victor Weisskopf from 1969. I can no longer really follow this sort of thing—I really really wish this had been my textbook back when I was studying physics. If they’d taught us this stuff, I might’ve […]

3 postdoc opportunities you can’t miss—here in our group at Columbia! Apply NOW, don’t miss out!

Hey, just once, the Buzzfeed-style hype is appropriate. We have 3 amazing postdoc opportunities here, and you need to apply NOW. Here’s the deal: we’re working on some amazing projects. You know about Stan and associated exciting projects in computational statistics. There’s the virtual database query, which is the way I like to describe our […]

Here’s a theoretical research project for you

We were having a listserv discussion on the replication project in psychology and someone asked about the rate of replication failures of stunning claims at top journals, compared to run-of-the-mill claims at lower-impact journals. E. J. wrote: Boring research is more likely to replicate. I have no data to back this up, so let’s just […]

Mars Missions are a Scam

Dan Vergano, science reporter at BuzzFeed News and formerly of USA Today, writes: We wonder if you, or someone you’d recommend, might comment on a replication debate that is playing out in the journal Political Psychology. Essentially, a researcher at Fordham claimed pictures of eyes on mailers increased voter turnout in 2014. Two authors elsewhere […]

Cognitive skills rising and falling

David Hogg writes: I thought this was either interesting or bunk—using online games to infer how various kinds of cognitive intelligence vary with age. I thought it might be interesting to you on a number of levels. For one: Are there really categories of intelligence and can these map onto online games? For another: How […]

Low-power pose

“The samples were collected in privacy, using passive drool procedures, and frozen immediately.” Anna Dreber sends along a paper, “Assessing the Robustness of Power Posing: No Effect on Hormones and Risk Tolerance in a Large Sample of Men and Women,” which she published in Psychological Science with coauthors Eva Ranehill, Magnus Johannesson, Susanne Leiberg, Sunhae […]


Leonid Schneider writes: I am cell biologist turned science journalist after 13 years in academia. Despite my many years experience as scientist, I shamefully admit to be largely incompetent in statistics. My request to you is as follows: A soon to be published psychology study set on to reproduce 100 randomly picked earlier studies and […]


Reflecting on the recent psychology replication study (see also here), journalist Megan McArdle writes an excellent column on why we fall for bogus research: The problem is not individual research papers, or even the field of psychology. It’s the way that academic culture filters papers, and the way that the larger society gets their results. […]