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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

The lawsuit that never happened (Niall Ferguson vs. Pankaj Mishra)

In searching for the immortal phrase, “piss-poor monocausal social science,” I came across this amusing story of two public intellectuals discrediting each other. But then this made wonder . . . did the lawsuit ever happen? Here’s what the headline said: Niall Ferguson threatens to sue over accusation of racism Historian claims writer Pankaj Mishra […]

How to interpret inferential statistics when your data aren’t a random sample

Someone named Adam writes: I’m having a bit of a ‘crisis’ of confidence regarding inferential statistics. I’ve been reading some of the work by Stephen Gorard (e.g. “Against Inferential Statistics”) and David Freedman and Richard Berk (e.g. “Statistical Assumptions as empirical commitments”). These authors appear to be saying this: (1) Inferential statistics assume random sampling […]

The Xbox before its time: Using the famous 1936 Literary Digest survey as a positive example of statistical adjustment rather than a negative example of non-probability sampling

In this article from 2017, Sharon Lohr and J. Michael Brick write: The Literary Digest poll of 1936 is a byword for bad survey research. Textbooks have long used it as a prime example of how sampling goes bad . . . The story of the 1936 poll is well known. Ten million ballots were […]

“Using Benford’s Law to Detect Bitcoin Manipulation”

Economist Gary Smith sends along this post with the above title and the subtitle, “Market prices are not invariably equal to intrinsic values.” Here’s Smith: For a while, there was a popular belief among finance professors that the stock market is “efficient” in the sense that stock prices are always correct — the prices that […]

Can statistical software do better at giving warnings when you apply a method when maybe you shouldn’t?

Gaurav Sood writes: There are legions of permutation-based methods which permute the value of a feature to determine whether the variable should be added (e.g., Boruta Algorithm) or its importance. I couldn’t reason for myself why that is superior to just dropping the feature and checking how much worse the fit is or what have […]

Thoughts on “The American Statistical Association President’s Task Force Statement on Statistical Significance and Replicability”

Megan Higgs writes: The statement . . . describes establishment of the task force to “address concerns that a 2019 editorial in The American Statistician (an ASA journal) might be mistakenly interpreted as official ASA policy. (The 2019 editorial recommended eliminating the use of ‘p

“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 […]

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 […]

“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 […]

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 […]

Get this man a job at the Hoover Institution!

Paul Alper shares this charming/horrifying news story: Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg who destroyed more than 500 doses of covid vaccine is a flat-Earther Steven Brandenburg, the Wisconsin pharmacist who is charged with destroying nearly 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine, also believes the Earth is flat and that the sky is not real . . […]

Evidence-based medicine eats itself in real time

Robert Matthews writes: This has just appeared in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine. It addresses the controversial question of whether lowering LDL using statins leads to reduced mortality and CVD rates. The researchers pull together 35 published studies, and then assess the evidence of benefit – but say a meta-analysis is inappropriate, given the heterogeneity of […]

Guttman points out another problem with null hypothesis significance testing: It falls apart when considering replications.

Michael Nelson writes: Re-reading a classic from Louis Guttman, What is not what in statistics, I saw his “Problem 2” with new eyes given the modern replication debate: Both estimation and the testing of hypotheses have usually been restricted as if to one-time experiments, both in theory and in practice. But the essence of science […]

Wow, just wow. If you think Psychological Science was bad in the 2010-2015 era, you can’t imagine how bad it was back in 1999

Shane Frederick points us to this article from 1999, “Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance,” about which he writes: This is one of the worst papers ever published in Psych Science (which is a big claim, I recognize). It is old, but really worth a look if you have never read it. […]

The University of California statistics department paid at least $329,619.84 to an adjunct professor who did no research, was a terrible teacher, and engaged in sexual harassment

I have one of the easy jobs at the university, well paid with pleasant working conditions. It’s not so easy for adjuncts. Ideally, an adjunct professor has a main job and teaches a course on the side, to stay connected to academia and give back something to the next generation. But in an all-too-common non-ideal […]

This system too often rewards cronyism rather than hard work or creativity — and perpetuates the gross inequalities in representation …

This post is by Lizzie. I started this a while ago, but Andrew’s Doll House post pushed me to finally get it up on the blog. The above quote comes from a recent article on the revelation that the person Philip Roth decided should write his authorized biography has a history of sexual harassment accusations […]

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