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Top 5 literary descriptions of poker

Yesterday I wrote about Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, which gives one of the most convincing literary descriptions of poker that I’ve ever read. (Much more so than all those books and articles where the author goes on expense account to compete at the World Series of Poker. I hope to never see that again.) […]

Pocket Kings by Ted Heller

So. I’m most of the way through Pocket Kings by Ted Heller, author of the classic Slab Rat. And I keep thinking: Ted Heller is the same as Sam Lipsyte. Do these two guys know each other? They’re both sons of famous writers (OK, Heller’s dad is more famous than Lipsyte’s, but still). They write […]

Some Westlake quotes

Clint Johns writes: I’m a regular visitor to your blog, so I thought you might be interested in this link. It’s a relatively recent article (from 7/12) about Donald Westlake and his long career. For my money, the best part of it is the generous number of Westlake quotations from all sorts of places, including […]

Graphs of school shootings in the U.S.

Bert Gunter writes: This link is to an online CNN “analysis” of school shootings in the U.S. I think it is a complete mess (you may disagree, of course). The report in question is by Christina Walker and Sam Petulla. Gunter lists two problems: 1. Graph labeled “Race Plays A Factor in When School Shootings […]

In Bayesian inference, do people cheat by rigging the prior?

Ulrich Atz writes in with a question: A newcomer to Bayesian inference may argue that priors seem sooo subjective and can lead to any answer. There are many counter-arguments (e.g., it’s easier to cheat in other ways), but are there any pithy examples where scientists have abused the prior to get to the result they […]

American Causal Inference May 2020 Austin Texas

Carlos Carvalho writes: The ACIC 2020 website is now up and registration is open. As a reminder, proposals information can be found in the front page of the website. Deadline for submissions is February 7th. I think that we organized the very first conference in this series here at Columbia, many years ago!

Is it accurate to say, “Politicians Don’t Actually Care What Voters Want”?

Jonathan Weinstein writes: This was a New York Times op-ed today, referring to this working paper. I found the pathologies of the paper to be worth an extended commentary, and wrote a possible blog entry, attached. I used to participate years ago in a shared blog at Northwestern, “Leisure of the Theory Class,” but nowadays […]

Call for proposals for a State Department project on estimating the prevalence of human trafficking

Abby Long points us to this call for proposals for a State Department project on estimating the prevalence of human trafficking: The African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) is pleased to announce a funding opportunity available through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking […]

Will decentralised collaboration increase the robustness of scientific findings in biomedical research? Some data and some causal questions.

Mark Tuttle points to this press release, “Decentralising science may lead to more reliable results: Analysis of data on tens of thousands of drug-gene interactions suggests that decentralised collaboration will increase the robustness of scientific findings in biomedical research,” and writes: In my [Tuttle’s] opinion, the explanation is more likely to be sociological – group […]

Steven Pinker on torture

I’ve recently been thinking about that expression, “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.” Linguist and public intellectual Steven Pinker got into some trouble recently when it turned out that he’d been offering expert advice to the legal team of now-disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. I would not condemn Pinker for this. After all, everybody […]

Hey—the New York Times is hiring an election forecaster!

Chris Wiggins points us to this job opening: Staff Editor – Statistical Modeling The New York Times is looking to increase its capacity for statistical projects in the newsroom, especially around the 2020 election. You will help produce statistical forecasts for election nights, as part of The Times’s ambitious election results operation. That operation is […]

How to get out of the credulity rut (regression discontinuity edition): Getting beyond whack-a-mole

This one’s buggin me. We’re in a situation now with forking paths in applied-statistics-being-done-by-economists where we were, about ten years ago, in applied-statistics-being-done-by-psychologists. (I was going to use the terms “econometrics” and “psychometrics” here, but that’s not quite right, because I think these mistakes are mostly being made, by applied researchers in economics and psychology, […]


We’ve been talking a lot about football lately. I just wrote a football-themed post. It will appear in two weeks, that is, the morning of 26 Jan. Please send an appropriate picture of your cat and I can append it to the post? Thank you.

Four projects in the intellectual history of quantitative social science

1. The rise and fall of game theory. My impression is that game theory peaked in the late 1950s. Two classics from that area are Philip K. Dick’s “Solar Lottery” and R. Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa’s “Games and Decisions.” The latter is charming in its retro attitude that all that remained were some minor […]

Of Manhattan Projects and Moonshots

Palko writes: I think we have reversed the symbolic meaning of a Manhattan project and a moonshot. He explains: The former has come to mean a large, focus, and dedicated commitment to rapidly addressing a challenging but solvable problem. The second has come to mean trying to do something so fantastic it seems impossible. But, […]

Linear or logistic regression with binary outcomes

Gio Circo writes: There is a paper currently floating around which suggests that when estimating causal effects in OLS is better than any kind of generalized linear model (i.e. binomial). The author draws a sharp distinction between causal inference and prediction. Having gotten most of my statistical learning using Bayesian methods, I find this distinction […]

Exciting postdoc opening in spatial statistics at Michigan: Coccidioides is coming, and only you can stop it!

Jon Zelner is an collaborator who does great work on epidemiology using Bayesian methods, Stan, Mister P, etc. He’s hiring a postdoc, and it looks like a great opportunity: Epidemiological, ecological and environmental approaches to understand and predict Coccidioides emergence in California. One postdoctoral fellow is sought in the research group of Dr. Jon Zelner […]

No, I don’t think that this study offers good evidence that installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits.

In a news article on Vox, entitled “Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits,” Matthew Yglesias writes: An emergency situation that turned out to be mostly a false alarm led a lot of schools in Los Angeles to install air filters, and something strange happened: Test scores went up. By a lot. […]

The Generalizer

I just saw Beth Tipton speak at the Institute of Education Sciences meeting on The Generalizer, a tool that she and her colleagues developed for designing education studies with the goal of getting inferences for the population. It’s basically MRP, but what is innovative here is the application of these ideas at the design stage. […]

How to “cut” using Stan, if you must

Frederic Bois writes: We had talked at some point about cutting inference in Stan (that is, for example, calibrating PK parameters in a PK/PD [pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic] model with PK data, then calibrating the PD parameters, with fixed, non updated, distributions for the PK parameters). Has that been implemented? (PK is pharmacokinetic and PD is pharmacodynamic.) I […]