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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

Sharon Begley

Science journalism has changed a lot in the past thirty years. In the old days, the top science writers (with the exception of Martin Gardner, I guess), were explainers whose job was to report the breakthroughs or purported breakthroughs by purportedly brilliant scientists. There’s still room for this sort of science writing—for example, we want […]

Weights in statistics

Thomas Lumley writes: There are roughly three and half distinct uses of the term weights in statistical methodology, and it’s a problem for software documentation and software development. Here, I [Lumley] want to distinguish the different uses and clarify when the differences are a problem. I also want to talk about the settings where we […]

Megan Higgs (statistician) and Anna Dreber (economist) on how to judge the success of a replication

The discussion started with this comment from Megan Higgs regarding a recent science replication initiative: I [Higgs] was immediately curious about their criteria for declaring a study replicated. In a quick skim of the info in the google form, here it is: In the survey of beliefs, you will be asked for (a) the probability […]

“Maybe the better analogy is that these people are museum curators and we’re telling them that their precious collection of Leonardos, which they have been augmenting at a rate of about one per month, include some fakes.”

Someone sent me a link to a recently published research paper and wrote: As far as any possible coverage on your blog goes, this one didn’t come from me, please. It just looks… baffling in a lot of different ways. OK, so it didn’t come from that person. I read the paper and replied: Oh, […]

To all the reviewers we’ve loved before

This post is by Lizzie (I might forget to say that again, when I forget you can see it in the little blue text under the title, or you might just notice it as out of form). For the end of the year I am saluting the favorite review I received in 2020. This comes […]

“End of novel. Beginning of job.”: That point at which you make the decision to stop thinking and start finishing

From a book review by the great critic John Clute:   And here’s the part I want to focus on: “End of novel. Beginning of job.“ I’ve been thinking about that line a lot recently. (I read the above review when it came out, decades ago, and I never forgot it. I was able to […]

I ain’t the lotus

Some people wanted me to resolve this Minecraft dispute. But it’s so far outside my areas of expertise and interest that I have no plans to look into it. My reason for posting was that I thought it could interest some of the blog readership, not necessarily the same readers who are interested in posts […]

Update on IEEE’s refusal to issue corrections

This is Jessica. Below is an update from Steve Haroz on his previously shared attempt to get a correction to an IEEE published paper. A week ago, I wrote about IEEE’s refusal to issue corrections for errors we made in our paper, “Skipping the Replication Crisis in Visualization: Threats to Study Validity and How to […]

Red Team prepublication review update

A few months ago we wrote about the following project for prepublication review, as described by Ruben Arslan: A colleague recently asked me to be a neutral arbiter on his Red Team challenge. He picked me because I was skeptical of his research plans at a conference and because I recently put out a bug […]

The NeurIPS 2020 broader impacts experiment

This year NeurIPS, a top machine learning conference, required a broader impacts statement from authors. From the call:  In order to provide a balanced perspective, authors are required to include a statement of the potential broader impact of their work, including its ethical aspects and future societal consequences. Authors should take care to discuss both […]

What George Michael’s song Freedom! was really about

I present an alternative reading of George Michael’s 1990’s hit song Freedom! While many interpret this song as about Michael’s struggles with fame in an industry that constantly aimed to warp his true identity, it can also be interpreted as a researcher progressing in a field where data ownership and data ‘rights’ are still hotly […]

Deterministic thinking meets the fallacy of the one-sided bet

Kevin Lewis asked me what I thought of this news article: Could walking barefoot on grass improve your health? Some science suggests it can. . . . The idea behind grounding, also called earthing, is humans evolved in direct contact with the Earth’s subtle electric charge, but have lost that sustained connection thanks to inventions […]

Quine’s be Quining

Ron Bloom sends along the above and writes, “The rest of the article is just as crackling as is this paragraph.” OK, so I went and read the article (Two Dogmas of Empiricism, from 1951), and I don’t really get it. I like the above-quoted paragraph but I couldn’t get much out of the rest […]

Basbøll’s Audenesque paragraph on science writing, followed by a resurrection of a 10-year-old debate on Gladwell

I pointed Thomas Basbøll to my recent post, “Science is science writing; science writing is science,” and he in turn pointed me to his post from a few years ago, “Scientific Writing and ‘Science Writing,’” which stirringly begins: For me, 2015 will be the year that I [Basbøll] finally lost all respect for “science writing”. […]

Is causality as explicit in fake data simulation as it should be?

Sander Greenland recently published a paper with a very clear and thoughtful exposition on why causality, logic and context need full consideration in any statistical analysis, even strictly descriptive or predictive analysis. For instance, in the concluding section – “Statistical science (as opposed to mathematical statistics) involves far more than data – it requires realistic […]

Are female scientists worse mentors? This study pretends to know

A new paper in Nature communications, The association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance, by AlShebli, Makovi, and Rahwan, caught my attention. There are a number of issues but what bothered me the most is the post-hoc speculation about what might be driving the associations. Here’s the abstract: We […]

As a forecaster, how important is it to “have a few elections under your belt”?

Kevin Lewis pointed me to this comment from Nate Silver on a recent post: Having a few elections under your belt helps a *lot*. No matter how much you test things in the lab, there are some things you’re going to learn only by seeing how your forecast reacts to real data in real time. […]

Bees have five eyes

Just thought you’d want to know.

She’s wary of the consensus based transparency checklist, and here’s a paragraph we should’ve added to that zillion-authored paper

Megan Higgs writes: A large collection of authors describes a “consensus-based transparency checklist” in the Dec 2, 2019 Comment in Nature Human Behavior. Hey—I’m one of those 80 authors! Let’s see what Higgs has to say: I [Higgs] have mixed emotions about it — the positive aspects are easy to see, but I also have […]

Stan receives its second Nobel prize.

Aki writes: Nobel prize and other science prices are problematic and this is not endorsement of such prices, but this might be useful for someone who needs to tell (hype) about the impact of Stan (or just as another funny fact about Stan). Previously Stan was used in the the LIGO gravitational wave research awarded […]