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Air rage update

So. Marcus Crede, Carol Nickerson, and I published a letter in PPNAS criticizing the notorious “air rage” article. (Due to space limitations, our letter contained only a small subset of the many possible criticisms of that paper.) Our letter was called “Questionable association between front boarding and air rage.” The authors of the original paper, […]

Air rage rage

[cat picture] Commenter David alerts us that Consumer Reports fell for the notorious air rage story. Background on air rage here and here. Or, if you want to read something by someone other than me, here. This last piece is particularly devastating as it addresses flaws in the underlying research article, hype in the news […]

Bummer! NPR bites on air rage study.

OK, here’s the story. A couple days ago, regarding the now-notorious PPNAS article, “Physical and situational inequality on airplanes predicts air rage,” I wrote: NPR will love this paper. It directly targets their demographic of people who are rich enough to fly a lot but not rich enough to fly first class, and who think […]

Washington Post falls for that horrible air-rage study, and what gets me really angry about this

Someone just pointed me to this news article entitled, “Air rage incidents are on the rise. First-class sections aren’t helping,” which falls hook, line, and sinker for a notorious discredited study that appeared in PPNAS last year. I can hardly blame the Washington Post reporter for getting this one wrong, given that NPR swallowed the […]

Average predictive comparisons when changing a pair of variables

Jay Jones writes: I recently came across your paper on average predictive comparisons (Gelman and Pardoe, 2007) and can see many applications for this in my work (I’m an applied statistician working for Weyerhaeuser Company at our R&D center near Seattle). At the moment, I am using APC’s to help describe the results of a […]

More on that 4/20 road rage researcher: Dude could be a little less amused, a little more willing to realize he could be on the wrong track with a lot of his research.

So, back on 4/20 we linked to the post by Sam Harper and Adam Palayew shooting down a silly article, published in JAMA and publicized around the world, that claimed excess road deaths on 4/20 (“cannabis day”). I googled the authors of that silly JAMA paper and found that one of them, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, […]

What sort of identification do you get from panel data if effects are long-term? Air pollution and cognition example.

Don MacLeod writes: Perhaps you know this study which is being taken at face value in all the secondary reports: “Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals.” It’s surely alarming, but the reported effect of air pollution seems implausibly large, so it’s hard to be convinced of it by a correlational study alone, […]

The history of characterizing groups of people by their averages

Andrea Panizza writes: I stumbled across this article on the End of Average. I didn’t know about Todd Rose, thus I had a look at his Wikipedia entry: Rose is a leading figure in the science of individual, an interdisciplinary field that draws upon new scientific and mathematical findings that demonstrate that it is not […]

Journalists are suckers for anything that looks like science. And selection bias makes it even worse. But I was unfair to NPR.

Journalists are suckers. Marks. Vics. Boobs. Rubes. You get the picture. Where are the classically street-trained reporters, the descendants of Ring Lardner and Joe Liebling, the hard-bitten journos who would laugh in the face of a press release? Today, nowhere in evidence. I’m speaking, of course, about the reaction in the press to the latest […]

A message from the vice chairman of surgery at Columbia University: “Garcinia Camboja. It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

Should Columbia University fire this guy just cos he says things like this: “You may think magic is make believe but this little bean has scientists saying they’ve found the magic weight loss cure for every body type—it’s green coffee extract.” “I’ve got the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It’s […]

The treatment, the intermediate outcome, and the ultimate outcome: Leverage and the financial crisis

Gur Huberman points to an article on the financial crisis by Bethany McLean, who writes: lthough our understanding of what instigated the 2008 global financial crisis remains at best incomplete, there are a few widely agreed upon contributing factors. One of them is a 2004 rule change by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that […]

Controversy about average personality differences between men and women

Blogger Echidne pointed me to a recent article, “The Distance Between Mars and Venus: Measuring Global Sex Differences in Personality,” by Marco Del Giudice, Tom Booth, and Paul Irwing, who find: Sex differences in personality are believed to be comparatively small. However, research in this area has suffered from significant methodological limitations. We advance a […]

My proposal for making college admissions fairer

After reading the Rewarding Strivers book, I had some thoughts about how to make the college admissions system more fair to students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Instead of boosting up the disadvantaged students, why not pull down the advantaged students?

Here’s the idea. Disadvantaged students are defined typically not by a bad thing that they have, but rather by good things that they don’t have: financial resources, a high-quality education, and so forth. In contrast, advantaged students get all sorts of freebies. So here are my suggestions:

Will people really donate $200 after buying a $300 air conditioner?

Robert Frank defends carbon offsets at the sister blog. I’m sympathetic to much of Frank’s argument; in particular, the fact that Al Gore has a big house isn’t much of an argument against carbon offsets. (If the crops are failing and the flood waters are rising, it won’t be much help to stand on a street corner shouting: But Al Gore had a big house!)

But I’m not happy with the example that Frank chooses to illustrate his point. He writes:

Post-World War II cooling a mirage

Mark Levy pointed me to this. I don’t know anything about this area of research, but if true, it’s just an amazing, amazing example of the importance of measurement error:

The 20th century warming trend is not a linear affair. The iconic climate curve, a combination of observed land and ocean temperatures, has quite a few ups and downs, most of which climate scientists can easily associate with natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions or El Nino events.

But one such peak has confused them a hell of a lot. The sharp drop in 1945 by around 0.3 °C – no less than 40% of the century-long upward trend in global mean temperature – seemed inexplicable. There was no major eruption at the time, nor is anything known of a massive El Nino that could have caused the abrupt drop in sea surface temperatures. The nuclear explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki are estimated to have had little effect on global mean temperature. Besides, the drop is only apparent in ocean data, but not in land measurements.


Now scientists have found – not without relief – that they have been fooled by a mirage.

Gigerenzer: “The Bias Bias in Behavioral Economics,” including discussion of political implications

Gerd Gigerenzer writes: Behavioral economics began with the intention of eliminating the psychological blind spot in rational choice theory and ended up portraying psychology as the study of irrationality. In its portrayal, people have systematic cognitive biases that are not only as persistent as visual illusions but also costly in real life—meaning that governmental paternalism […]

13 Reasons not to trust that claim that 13 Reasons Why increased youth suicide rates

A journalist writes: My eye was caught by this very popular story that broke yesterday — about a study that purported to find a 30 percent (!) increase in suicides, in kids 10-17, in the MONTH after a controversial show about suicide aired. And that increase apparently persisted for the rest of the year. It’s […]

Latour Sokal NYT

Alan Sokal writes: I don’t know whether you saw the NYT Magazine’s fawning profile of sociologist of science Bruno Latour about a month ago. I wrote to the author, and later to the editor, to critique the gross lack of balance (and even of the most minimal fact-checking). No reply. So I posted my critique […]

“Six Signs of Scientism”: where I disagree with Haack

I came across this article, “Six Signs of Scientism,” by philosopher Susan Haack from 2009. I think I’m in general agreement with Haack’s views—science has made amazing progress over the centuries but “like all human enterprises, science is ineradicably is fallible and imperfect. At best its progress is ragged, uneven, and unpredictable; moreover, much scientific […]

Some thoughts after reading “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”

I just read the above-titled John Carreyrou book, and it’s as excellent as everyone says it is. I suppose it’s the mark of any compelling story that it will bring to mind other things you’ve been thinking about, and in this case I saw many connections between the story of Theranos—a company that raised billions […]