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“The real thing, like the Perseverance mission, is slow, difficult and expensive, but far cooler than the make-believe alternative.”

Good point by Palko. He’s talking about the Mars rover: There’s a huge disconnect in our discussion of manned space travel. We’ve grown accustomed to vague promises about Martian cities just around the corner, but in the real world, our best engineering minds have never landed anything larger than a car on Mars and this […]

She sent a letter pointing out problems with a published article, the reviewers agreed that her comments were valid, but the journal didn’t publish her letter because “the policy among editors is not to accept comments.”

The journal in question is called The Economic Journal. To add insult to injury, the editor wrote the following when announcing they wouldn’t publish the letter: My [the editor’s] assessment is that this paper is a better fit for a field journal in education. OK, let me get this straight. The original paper, which was […]

Is this a refutation of the piranha principle?

Jonathan Falk points to this example of a really tiny stimulus having a giant effect (in brain space) and asks if it’s a piranha violation. I don’t think it is, but the question is amusing.

Top 10 Ideas in Statistics That Have Powered the AI Revolution

Aki and I put together this listsicle to accompany our recent paper on the most important statistical ideas of the top 50 years. Kim Martineau at Columbia, who suggested making this list, also had the idea that youall might have suggestions for other important articles and books; tweet your thoughts at @columbiascience of put them […]

How to reconcile that I hate structural equation models, but I love measurement error models and multilevel regressions, even though these are special cases of structural equation models?

Andy Dorsey writes: I’m a graduate student in psychology. I’m trying to figure out what seems to me to be a paradox: One issue you’ve talked about in the past is how you don’t like structural equation modeling (e.g., your blog post here). However, you have also talked about the problems with noisy measures and […]

The Alice Neel exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This exhibit closes at the end of the month so I can’t put this one on the usual 6-month delay. (Sorry, “Is There a Replication Crisis in Finance?”, originally written in February—you’ll have to wait till the end of the year to be seen by the world.) I’d never heard of Neel before, which I […]

“Historians’ Fallacies” by David Hackett Fischer and “The Rhetoric of Fiction” by Wayne Booth

Blog commenters recommended these two books from me. I don’t have much to say about them, but I recommend them both, and they have interesting similarities. They were both written by young professors, Fischer in 1970 and Booth in 1961. Both are presented in a much more organized, structured way than I am used to […]

John Cook: “Students are disturbed when they find out that Newtonian mechanics ‘only’ works over a couple dozen orders of magnitude. They’d really freak out if they realized how few theories work well when applied over two orders of magnitude.”

Following up on our post from this morning about scale-free parameterization of statistical models, Cook writes: The scale issue is important. I know you’ve written about that before, that models are implicitly fit to data over some range, and extrapolation beyond that range is perilous. The world is only locally linear, at best. Students are […]

From “Mathematical simplicity is not always the same as conceptual simplicity” to scale-free parameterization and its connection to hierarchical models

I sent the following message to John Cook: This post popped up, and I realized that the point that I make (“Mathematical simplicity is not always the same as conceptual simplicity. A (somewhat) complicated mathematical expression can give some clarity, as the reader can see how each part of the formula corresponds to a different […]

The continuing misrepresentations coming from the University of California sleep researcher and publicized by Ted and NPR

Markus Loecher writes: Just when I had put the “Matthew Walker fake news” into a comfortable place of oblivion, NPR sends me this suggested story. How disappointing that NPR’s fact check is no better than other media outlets. Then again, it is a different TED talk. I [Loecher] am itching to look into the claims […]

Honor Thy Father as a classic of Mafia-deflating literature

In an article, “Why New York’s Mob Mythology Endures,” Adam Gopnik writes: [The Mafia] has supplied our only reliable, weatherproof American mythology, one sturdy enough to sustain and resist debunking or revisionism. Cowboys turn out to be racist and settlers genocidal, and even astronauts have flaws. But mobsters come pre-disgraced, as jeans come pre-distressed; what […]

“Test & Roll: Profit-Maximizing A/B Tests” by Feit and Berman

Elea McDonnell Feit and Ron Berman write: Marketers often use A/B testing as a tool to compare marketing treatments in a test stage and then deploy the better-performing treatment to the remainder of the consumer population. While these tests have traditionally been analyzed using hypothesis testing, we re-frame them as an explicit trade-off between the […]

Politics and economic policy in the age of political science

Reading the London Review of Books, I came across this interesting essay by historian Adam Tooze about the transition of Paul Krugman from 1990s snobby center-left academic economist to 2000s angry left-wing pundit. This is something that’s puzzled me for awhile (see for example here and here), and Tooze gives a plausible account of Krugman’s […]

Ira Glass asks. We answer.

This post is a rerun. I was listening to This American Life on my bike today and heard Ira say: There’s this study done by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine . . . they called up one thousand and one Americans. I do not understand why it is a thousand and one rather […]

“Reversals in psychology”

Gavin Leech writes: After reading your blog for about 6 years straight, I found I’d passively acquired a long list of psychology results to watch out for. But no one seems to have collated them, so I have, here. My friends, hypercritical nerds all, were on average surprised by 4 of these, so – despite […]

Against either/or thinking, part 978

This one’s no big deal but it annoys me nonetheless. From Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times: There will be academic case studies on the mania around GameStop’s stock. There will be philosophical debates about whether this was a genuine protest against hedge funds and inequality or a pump-and-dump scheme masquerading as a […]

Coronavirus baby bust

Philip Cohen shares the above image and writes: One thing we don’t yet know is how much of [the change in California] is driven by people moving around, rather than just changes in birth rates. California in 2019 had more people leaving the state (before the pandemic) than before, and presumably there have been essentially […]

This awesome Pubpeer thread is about 80 times better than the original paper

This came up already, but in the meantime this paper in the Journal of Surgical Research has been just raked over the coals, over and over and over again, in this delightful Pubpeer thread. 31 comments so far, all of them just slamming the original published paper and many with interesting insights of their own. […]

“Sources must lose credibility when it is shown they promote falsehoods, even more when they never take accountability for those falsehoods.”

So says Michigan state senator Ed McBroom, in a quote reminiscent of the famous dictum by Daniel Davies, “Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.” I agree with both quotes. It’s kind of a Bayesian thing, or a multilevel modeling thing. Lots of people make […]

“The Critic as Artist,” by Oscar Wilde

A commenter pointed us to The Critic as Artist, by Oscar Wilde. I’d never heard of this story before, so I clicked on the link and read it, and it was excellent. Some bits: Ernest: But, seriously speaking, what is the use of art-criticism? Why cannot the artist be left alone, to create a new […]

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