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Donald J. Trump and Robert E. Lee

The other day the president made some news by praising Civil War general Robert E. Lee, and it struck me that Trump and Lee had a certain amount in common. Not in their personalities, but in their situations. Lee could’ve fought on the Union side in the Civil War. Or he could’ve saved a couple […]

John Le Carre is good at integrating thought and action

I was reading a couple old Le Carre spy novels. They have their strong points and their weak points; I’m not gonna claim that Le Carre is a great writer. He’s no George Orwell or Graham Greene. (This review by the great Clive James nails Le Carre perfectly.) But I did notice one thing Le […]

Pushing the guy in front of the trolley

So. I was reading the London Review of Books the other day and came across this passage by the philosopher Kieran Setiya: Some of the most striking discoveries of experimental philosophers concern the extent of our own personal inconsistencies . . . how we respond to the trolley problem is affected by the details of […]

Going beyond the rainbow color scheme for statistical graphics

Yesterday in our discussion of easy ways to improve your graphs, a commenter wrote: I recently read and enjoyed several articles about alternatives to the rainbow color palette. I particularly like the sections where they show how each color scheme looks under different forms of color-blindness and/or in black and white. Here’s a couple of […]

(from Yair): What Happened in the 2018 Election

Yair writes: Immediately following the 2018 election, we published an analysis of demographic voting patterns, showing our best estimates of what happened in the election and putting it into context compared to 2016 and 2014. . . . Since then, we’ve collected much more data — precinct results from more states and, importantly, individual-level vote history records […]

What are some common but easily avoidable graphical mistakes?

John Kastellec writes: I was thinking about writing a short paper aimed at getting political scientists to not make some common but easily avoidable graphical mistakes. I’ve come up with the following list of such mistakes. I was just wondering if any others immediately came to mind? – Label lines directly – Make labels big […]

Neural nets vs. regression models

Eliot Johnson writes: I have a question concerning papers comparing two broad domains of modeling: neural nets and statistical models. Both terms are catch-alls, within each of which there are, quite obviously, multiple subdomains. For instance, NNs could include ML, DL, AI, and so on. While statistical models should include panel data, time series, hierarchical […]

Abortion attitudes: The polarization is among richer, more educated whites

Abortion has been in the news lately. A journalist asked me something about abortion attitudes and I pointed to a post from a few years ago about partisan polarization on abortion. Also this with John Sides on why abortion consensus is unlikely. That was back in 2009, and consensus doesn’t seem any more likely today. […]

Alternatives and reality

I saw this cartoon from Randall Munroe, and it reminded me of something I wrote awhile ago. The quick story is that I don’t think the alternative histories within alternative histories are completely arbitrary. It seems to me that there’s a common theme in the best alternative history stories, a recognition that our world is […]

My talks at the University of Chicago this Thursday and Friday

Political Economy Workshop (12:30pm, Thurs 23 May 2019, Room 1022 of Harris Public Policy (Keller Center) 1307 E 60th Street): Political Science and the Replication Crisis We’ve heard a lot about the replication crisis in science (silly studies about ESP, evolutionary psychology, miraculous life hacks, etc.), how it happened (p-values, forking paths), and proposed remedies […]

Vigorous data-handling tied to publication in top journals among public heath researchers

Gur Huberman points us to this news article by Nicholas Bakalar, “Vigorous Exercise Tied to Macular Degeneration in Men,” which begins: A new study suggests that vigorous physical activity may increase the risk for vision loss, a finding that has surprised and puzzled researchers. Using questionnaires, Korean researchers evaluated physical activity among 211,960 men and […]

Hey, people are doing the multiverse!

Elio Campitelli writes: I’ve just saw this image in a paper discussing the weight of evidence for a “hiatus” in the global warming signal and immediately thought of the garden of forking paths. From the paper: Tree representation of choices to represent and test pause-periods. The ‘pause’ is defined as either no-trend or a slow-trend. […]

Data quality is a thing.

I just happened to come across this story, where a journalist took some garbled data and spun a false tale which then got spread without question. It’s a problem. First, it’s a problem that people will repeat unjustified claims, also a problem that when data are attached, you can get complete credulity, even for claims […]

“Did Jon Stewart elect Donald Trump?”

I wrote this post a couple weeks ago and scheduled it for October, but then I learned from a reporter that the research article under discussion was retracted, so it seemed to make sense to post this right away while it was still newsworthy. My original post is below, followed by a post script regarding […]

“In 1997 Latanya Sweeney dramatically demonstrated that supposedly anonymized data was not anonymous,” but “Over 20 journals turned down her paper . . . and nobody wanted to fund privacy research that might reach uncomfortable conclusions.”

Tom Daula writes: I think this story from John Cook is a different perspective on replication and how scientists respond to errors. In particular the final paragraph: There’s a perennial debate over whether it is best to make security and privacy flaws public or to suppress them. The consensus, as much as there is a […]

“MRP is the Carmelo Anthony of election forecasting methods”? So we’re doing trash talking now??

What’s the deal with Nate Silver calling MRP “the Carmelo Anthony of forecasting methods”? Someone sent this to me: and I was like, wtf? I don’t say wtf very often—at least, not on the blog—but this just seemed weird. For one thing, Nate and I did a project together once using MRP: this was our […]

Scandal! Mister P appears in British tabloid.

Tim Morris points us to this news article: And here’s the kicker: Mister P. Not quite as cool as the time I was mentioned in Private Eye, but it’s still pretty satisfying. My next goal: Getting a mention in Sports Illustrated. (More on this soon.) In all seriousness, it’s so cool when methods that my […]

Horse-and-buggy era officially ends for survey research

Peter Enns writes: Given the various comments on your blog about evolving survey methods (e.g., Of buggy whips and moral hazards; or, Sympathy for the Aapor), I thought you might be interested that the Roper Center has updated its acquisitions policy and is now accepting non-probability samples and other methods. This is an exciting move […]

When we had fascism in the United States

I was reading this horrifying and hilarious story by Colson Whitehead, along with an excellent article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker (I posted a nitpick on it a couple days ago) on the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era in the United States, and I was suddenly reminded of something. In one of the political […]

Name this fallacy!

It’s the fallacy of thinking that, just cos you’re good at something, that everyone should be good at it, and if they’re not, they’re just being stubborn and doing it badly on purpose. I thought about this when reading this line from Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker: [Henry Louis] Gates is one of the […]