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Simple Bayesian analysis inference of coronavirus infection rate from the Stanford study in Santa Clara county

tl;dr: Their 95% interval for the infection rate, given the data available, is [0.7%, 1.8%]. My Bayesian interval is [0.3%, 2.4%]. Most of what makes my interval wider is the possibility that the specificity and sensitivity of the tests can vary across labs. To get a narrower interval, you’d need additional assumptions regarding the specificity […]

Hey, you. Yeah, you! Stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and read this Stigler article on the history of robust statistics

I originally gave this post the title, “Stigler: The Changing History of Robustness,” but then I was afraid nobody would read it. In the current environment of Move Fast and Break Things, not so many people care about robustness. Also, the widespread use of robustness checks to paper over brittle conclusions has given robustness a […]

“Then the flaming sheet, with the whirr of a liberated phoenix, would fly up the chimney to join the stars.”

I’ve been reading a couple of old books of book reviews by Anthony Burgess. Lots of great stuff. He’s a sort of Chesterton with a conscience, for example in this appreciation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: As for Tom’s forgiving Christianity—‘O, Mas’r! don’t bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than […]

Updated Santa Clara coronavirus report

Joseph Candelora in comments pointed to this updated report on the Santa Clara study we discussed last week. The new report is an improvement on the first version. Here’s what I noticed in a quick look:

Updated Imperial College coronavirus model, including estimated effects on transmissibility of lockdown, social distancing, etc.

Seth Flaxman et al. have an updated version of their model of coronavirus progression. Flaxman writes: Countries with successful control strategies (for example, Greece) never got above small numbers thanks to early, drastic action. Or put another way: if we did China and showed % of population infected (or death rate), we’d erroneously conclude that […]

Resolving the cathedral/bazaar problem in coronavirus research (and science more generally): Could we follow the model of genetics research (as suggested by some psychology researchers)?

The other day I wrote about the challenge in addressing the pandemic—a worldwide science/engineering problem—using our existing science and engineering infrastructure, which is some mix of government labs and regulatory agencies, private mega-companies, smaller companies, university researchers, and media entities and rich people who can direct attention and resources. The current system might be the […]

My talk Wednesday at the Columbia coronavirus seminar

The talk will be sometime the morning of Wed 6 May in this seminar. Title: Some statistical issues in the fight against coronavirus. Abstract: To be a good citizen, you sometimes have to be a bit of a scientist. To be a good scientist, you sometimes have to be a bit of a statistician. And […]

Some of you must have an idea of the answer to this one.

Suppose I play EJ in chess—I think his rating is something like 2300 and mine is maybe, I dunno, 1400? Anyway, we play, and my only goal is for the games to last as many moves as possible, and EJ’s goal is to checkmate me in the minimal number of moves. Say I have to […]

Reverse-engineering priors in coronavirus discourse

Last week we discussed the Santa Clara county study, in which 1.5% of the people tested positive for coronavirus. The authors of the study performed some statistical adjustments and summarized with a range of 2.5% to 4.2% for infection rates in the county as a whole, leading to an estimated infection fatality rate of 0.12% […]

Best econ story evah

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes: Here’s a joke we used to tell about someone in econ grad school, a few decades ago. Two economists were walking down the street. The first one says: “Isn’t that a $20 bill?” The second one says: “Can’t be. If it were, somebody would have picked it up […]

Coronavirus: the cathedral or the bazaar, or the cathedral and the bazaar?

Raghu Parthasarathy writes: I’ve been frustrated by Covid-19 pandemic models, for the opposite reason that I’m usually frustrated by models in science—they seem too simple, when the usual problem with models is over-complexity. Instead of doing more useful things, I wrote this up here. In his post, Parthasarathy writes: Perhaps the models we’re seeing are […]

Tracking R of COVID-19 & assessing public interventions; also some general thoughts on science

Simas Kucinskas writes:


Somebody points me to this by Benjamin Morris. I haven’t read this so I have no idea, but it does seem to have a lot of statistics! The one part I’m suspicious of item 3(c), where he says, “The statistical community over-values Margin of Victory and under-values raw winning percentages.” As I wrote a few […]

Controversy regarding the effectiveness of Remdesivir

Steven Wood writes: There now some controversy regarding the effectiveness of Remdesivir for treatment of Covid. With the inadvertent posting of results on the WHO website. One of the pillars of hope for this treatment is the monkey treatment trial (the paper is here). As an experience clinical trialist I was immediately skeptical of […]

The return of the red state blue state fallacy

Back in the early days of this blog, we had frequent posts about the differences between Republican or Democratic voters and Republican or Democratic areas. This was something that confused lots of political journalists, most notably Michael Barone (see, for example, here) and Tucker Carlson (here), also academics such as psychologist Jonathan Haidt (here) and […]

No, they won’t share their data.

Jon Baron read the recent article, “Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area,” and sent the following message to one of the authors: I read with interest your article in JAMA. I have been trying to follow this issue closely, if only because my wife […]

10 on corona

Here are some things people have sent me lately. They are in no particular order, except that I put the last item last so we could end with some humor. After this, I’ll write a few more blog posts, then it’ll be time to do some real work. Table of contents 1. Suspicious coronavirus numbers […]

New York coronavirus antibody study: Why I had nothing to say to the press on this one.

The following came in the email: I’m a reporter for **, and am looking for comment on the stats Gov Cuomo just released. Would you be available for a 10-minute phone conversation? Please let me know. Thanks so much, and here’s the info: Here is the relevant part: In New York City, about 21 percent, […]

“I don’t want ‘crowd peer review’ or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It’s just too burdensome and I’d rather have a more formal peer review process.”

I understand the above quote completely. Life would be so much simpler if my work was just reviewed by my personal friends and by people whose careers are tied to mine. Sure, they’d point out problems, but they’d do it in a nice way, quietly. They’d understand that any mistakes I made would never have […]

Information or Misinformation During a Pandemic: Comparing the effects of following Nassim Taleb, Richard Epstein, or Cass Sunstein on twitter.

So, there’s this new study doing the rounds. Some economists decided to study the twitter followers of prominent coronavirus skeptics and fearmongers, and it seems that followers of Nassim Taleb were more likely to shelter in place, and less like to die of coronavirus, than followers of Richard Epstein or Cass Sunstein. And the differences […]