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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

Becker on Bohm on the important role of stories in science

Tyler Matta writes: During your talk last week, you spoke about the role of stories in scientific theory. On page 104 of What Is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, Adam Becker talks about stories and scientific theory in relation to alternative conceptions of quantum theory, particularly between Bohm’s pilot-wave interpretation […]

“Dissolving the Fermi Paradox”

Jonathan Falk writes: A quick search seems to imply that you haven’t discussed the Fermi equation for a while. This looks to me to be in the realm of Miller and Sanjurjo: a simple probabilistic explanation sitting right under everyone’s nose. Comment? “This” is a article, Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler […]

What to do when you read a paper and it’s full of errors and the author won’t share the data or be open about the analysis?

Someone writes: I would like to ask you for an advice regarding obtaining data for reanalysis purposes from an author who has multiple papers with statistical errors and doesn’t want to share the data. Recently, I reviewed a paper that included numbers that had some of the reported statistics that were mathematically impossible. As the […]

Authority figures in psychology spread more happy talk, still don’t get the point that much of the published, celebrated, and publicized work in their field is no good (Part 2)

Part 1 was here. And here’s Part 2. Jordan Anaya reports: Uli Schimmack posted this on facebook and twitter. I [Anaya] was annoyed to see that it mentions “a handful” of unreliable findings, and points the finger at fraud as the cause. But then I was shocked to see the 85% number for the Many […]

Combining apparently contradictory evidence

I want to write a more formal article about this, but in the meantime here’s a placeholder. The topic is the combination of apparently contradictory evidence. Let’s start with a simple example: you have some ratings on a 1-10 scale. These could be, for example, research proposals being rated by a funding committee, or, umm, […]

Back to the Wall

Jim Windle writes: Funny you should blog about Jaynes. Just a couple of days ago I was looking for something in his book’s References/Bibliography (it along with “Godel, Escher, Bach” and “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” have bibliographies which I find not just useful but entertaining), and ran across something I wanted to send you but I […]

“Thus, a loss aversion principle is rendered superfluous to an account of the phenomena it was introduced to explain.”

What better day than Christmas, that day of gift-giving, to discuss “loss aversion,” the purported asymmetry in utility, whereby losses are systematically more painful than gains are pleasant? Loss aversion is a core principle of the heuristics and biases paradigm of psychology and behavioral economics. But it’s been controversial for a long time. For example, […]

The causal hype ratchet

Noah Haber informs us of a research article, “Causal language and strength of inference in academic and media articles shared in social media (CLAIMS): A systematic review,” that he wrote with Emily Smith, Ellen Moscoe, Kathryn Andrews, Robin Audy, Winnie Bell, Alana Brennan, Alexander Breskin, Jeremy Kane, Mahesh Karra, Elizabeth McClure, and Elizabeth Suarez, and […]

Surprise-hacking: “the narrative of blindness and illusion sells, and therefore continues to be the central thesis of popular books written by psychologists and cognitive scientists”

Teppo Felin sends along this article with Mia Felin, Joachim Krueger, and Jan Koenderink on “surprise-hacking,” and writes: We essentially see surprise-hacking as the upstream, theoretical cousin of p-hacking. Though, surprise-hacking can’t be resolved with replication, more data or preregistration. We use perception and priming research to make these points (linking to Kahneman and priming, […]

A couple of thoughts regarding the hot hand fallacy fallacy

For many years we all believed the hot hand was a fallacy. It turns out we were all wrong. Fine. Such reversals happen. Anyway, now that we know the score, we can reflect on some of the cognitive biases that led us to stick with the “hot hand fallacy” story for so long. Jason Collins […]

Oh, I hate it when work is criticized (or, in this case, fails in attempted replications) and then the original researchers don’t even consider the possibility that maybe in their original work they were inadvertently just finding patterns in noise.

I have a sad story for you today. Jason Collins tells it: In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely describes an experiment to determine how much people cheat . . . The question then becomes how to reduce cheating. Ariely describes one idea: We took a group of 450 participants and split them into […]

My footnote about global warming

At the beginning of my article, How to think scientifically about scientists’ proposals for fixing science, which we discussed yesterday, I wrote: Science is in crisis. Any doubt about this status has surely been been dispelled by the loud assurances to the contrary by various authority figures who are deeply invested in the current system […]

Bayes, statistics, and reproducibility: “Many serious problems with statistics in practice arise from Bayesian inference that is not Bayesian enough, or frequentist evaluation that is not frequentist enough, in both cases using replication distributions that do not make scientific sense or do not reflect the actual procedures being performed on the data.”

This is an abstract I wrote for a talk I didn’t end up giving. (The conference conflicted with something else I had to do that week.) But I thought it might interest some of you, so here it is: Bayes, statistics, and reproducibility The two central ideas in the foundations of statistics—Bayesian inference and frequentist […]

My talk tomorrow (Tues) noon at the Princeton University Psychology Department

Integrating collection, analysis, and interpretation of data in social and behavioral research Andrew Gelman, Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University The replication crisis has made us increasingly aware of the flaws of conventional statistical reasoning based on hypothesis testing. The problem is not just a technical issue with p-values, not can […]

The p-value is 4.76×10^−264

Jerrod Anderson points us to Table 1 of this paper: It seems that the null hypothesis that this particular group of men and this particular group of women are random samples from the same population, is false. Good to know. For a moment there I was worried. On the plus side, as Anderson notes, the […]

“James Watson in his own words”

Here are some thoughts from the noted biologist and writer, collected by Lior Pachter. I’d seen a few of these Watson quotes before, but it’s kinda stunning to see them all in one place. Apparently he recommends never adopting an Irish kid. All right, then.

“And when you did you weren’t much use, you didn’t even know what a peptide was”

Last year we discussed the story of an article, “Variation in the β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine receptor genes is associated with different dimensions of human sociality,” published in PNAS that, notoriously, misidentified what a peptide was, among other problems. Recently I learned of a letter published in PNAS by Patrick Jern, Karin Verweij, Fiona Barlow, […]

Hey! There are mathematicians out there who’ve never read Proofs and Refutations. Whassup with that??

I ran into a colleague the other day who’d never read Proofs and Refutations (full title: Proofs and Refutations: The Logic of Mathematical Discovery). He’d never even heard of it!

“Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.”

This op-ed by Virginia Heffernan is about g=politics, but it reminded me of the politics of science. Heffernan starts with the background: This last year has been a crash course in startlingly brutal abuses of power. For decades, it seems, a caste of self-styled overmen has felt liberated to commit misdeeds with impunity: ethical, sexual, […]

Melanie Mitchell says, “As someone who has worked in A.I. for decades, I’ve witnessed the failure of similar predictions of imminent human-level A.I., and I’m certain these latest forecasts will fall short as well. “

Melanie Mitchell‘s piece, Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning (NY Times behind limited paywall), is spot-on regarding the hype surrounding the current A.I. boom. It’s soon to come out in book length from FSG, so I suspect I’ll hear about it again in the New Yorker. Like Professor Mitchell, I started my Ph.D. at […]