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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

“Figure 1 looks like random variation to me” . . . indeed, so it does. And Figure 2 as well! But statistical significance was found, so this bit of randomness was published in a top journal. Business as usual in the statistical-industrial complex. Still, I’d hope the BMJ could’ve done better.

Gregory Hunter writes: The following article made it to the national news in Canada this week. I [Hunter] read it and was fairly appalled by their statistical methods. It seems that they went looking for a particular result in Canadian birthrate data, and then arranged to find it. Figure 1 looks like random variation to […]

2 econ Nobel prizes, 1 error

This came up before on the blog but it’s always worth remembering. From Larry White, quoted by Don Boudreaux: As late as the 1989 edition [of his textbook, Paul Samuelson] and coauthor William Nordhaus wrote: “The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function […]

They want “statistical proof”—whatever that is!

Bert Gunter writes: I leave it to you to decide whether this is fodder for your blog: So when a plaintiff using a hiring platform encounters a problematic design feature — like platforms that check for gaps in employment — she should be able to bring a lawsuit on the basis of discrimination per se, […]

“Psychology’s Zombie Ideas”

Hey, psychologists! Don’t get mad at me about the above title. I took it from a post at Macmillan Learning by David Myers, who’s a psychology professor and textbook writer. Myers presents some “mind-eating, refuse-to-die ideas” that are present in everyday psychology but are contradicted by research: 1. People often repress painful experiences, which years […]

Econ grad student asks, “why is the government paying us money, instead of just firing us all?”

Someone who wishes anonymity writes: I am a graduate student at the Department of Economics at a European university. Throughout the last several years, I have been working as RA (and sometimes co-author) together with multiple different professors and senior researchers, mainly within economics, and predominantly analysing very large datasets. I have 3 questions related […]

Battle of the open-science asymmetries

1. Various tenured legacy-science yahoos say: “Any idiot can write a critique; it takes work to do original research.” That’s my paraphrase of various concerns that the replication movement makes it too easy for critics to get cheap publications. 2. Rex Douglass says: “It is an order of magnitude less effort to spam poorly constructed […]

Problem of the between-state correlations in the Fivethirtyeight election forecast

Elliott writes: I think we’re onto something with the low between-state correlations [see item 1 of our earlier post]. Someone sent me this collage of maps from Nate’s model that show: – Biden winning every state except NJ – Biden winning LA and MS but not MI and WI – Biden losing OR but winning […]

More on that Fivethirtyeight prediction that Biden might only get 42% of the vote in Florida

I’ve been chewing more on the above Florida forecast from Fivethirtyeight. Their 95% interval for the election-day vote margin in Florida is something like [+16% Trump, +20% Biden], which corresponds to an approximate 95% interval of [42%, 60%] for Biden’s share of the two-party vote. This is buggin me because it’s really hard for me […]

FDA statistics scandal update

The other day we reported on the director of the FDA who got embarrassed after garbling some statistics at a news conference. At the time, I wrote: The commissioner of the FDA might well too busy to be carefully reading the individual studies. I assume the fault is with whatever assistant prepared the numbers for […]

Hilarious reply-all loop

Fun stuff. Step 1: Receiving a spam email with lots of random strangers in the cc list. Step 2: A long series of replies-to-all saying Unsubscribe, Please remove my e-mail address, Unsubscribe me please, UNSUBSCRIBE, etc. Step 3: Replies-to-all to those responses, saying Unsubscribe me too, etc. Then, the inevitable . . . Step 4: […]

“MIT Built a Theranos for Plants”

This news article by Tom McKay is hilarious: The prestigious multidisciplinary MIT Media Lab built a “personal food computer” that worked so poorly that demos had to be faked Theranos-style . . . According to Business Insider, the project—a plastic hydroponic grow box filled with “advanced sensors and LED lights” that would supposedly make it […]

Their findings don’t replicate, but they refuse to admit they might’ve messed up. (We’ve seen this movie before.)

Ricardo Vieira writes: I have been reading the replication efforts by the datacolada team (in particular Leif Nelson and Joe Simmons). You have already mentioned some of their work here and here. They have just published the #7 installation of the series, and I felt it was a good time to summarize the results for […]

Heckman Curve Update Update

tl;dr: “The policy conclusion we draw from our analysis is that age is not a short cut for identifying where governments should, or should not, invest. There are many well‐studied interventions for children that are worthy candidates for public funding based on efficiency considerations. However, the same is also true of many interventions targeting youth […]

Himmicanes again

Gary Smith gives a clear non-technical explanation of why not to take that himmicanes study seriously. Further background here.

Getting all negative about so-called average power

Blake McShane writes: The idea of retrospectively estimating the average power of a set of studies via meta-analysis has recently been gaining a ton of traction in psychology and medicine. This seems really bad for two reasons: 1. Proponents claim average power is a “replicability estimate” and that it estimates the rate of replicability “if […]

Updates of bad forecasts: Let’s follow them up and see what happened!

People make bad forecasts, then they move on. Do the forecasts ever get fixed? Do experts learn from their mistakes? Let’s look at three examples. 1. The economist who kept thinking that the Soviets were catching up Paul Samuelson: Yes, the above graph was from 1961, but “in subsequent editions Samuelson presented the same analysis […]

Getting negative about the critical positivity ratio: when you talk about throwing out the bathwater, really throw out the bathwater! Don’t try to pretend it has some value. Give it up. Let it go. You can do this and still hold on to the baby at the same time!

But maybe it’s all OK? Most of this post is a pretty negative review of a recent book, about which I will apply the well-known saying, “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” That said, the part […]

The flashy crooks get the headlines, but the bigger problem is everyday routine bad science done by non-crooks

In the immortal words of Michael Kinsley, the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal. I was reminded of this principle after seeing this news article about the discredited Surgisphere doctor (see here for background). The news article was fine—it’s good to learn these things—but, as with pizzagate, evilicious, and other science […]

BMJ FAIL: The system is broken. (Some reflections on bad research, scientism, the importance of description, and the challenge of negativity)

tl;dr It’s not the British Medical Journal’s “fault” that they published a bad paper. I mean, sure, yeah, it’s 100% their fault, but you can’t fault a journal for publishing the occasional dud. And there’s not really a mechanism for retracting a paper that’s just seriously flawed, if no fraud is suspected. So the system […]

Recently in the sister blog

Generic language in scientific communication: There is increasing recognition that research samples in psychology are limited in size, diversity, and generalizability. However, because scientists are encouraged to reach broad audiences, we hypothesized that scientific writing may sacrifice precision in favor of bolder claims. We focused on generic statements (“Introverts and extraverts require different learning environments”), […]