To every thing, there is a season

Most of us are aware of the seasonal cycle of influenza outbreaks, which for Americans peak in the winter. In a new paper, Micaela Martinez, PhD, a scientist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, makes a case that all infectious diseases have a seasonal element. The “Pearl” article appears in the journal PLOS Pathogens. [my emphasis] We all knew this, we just didn’t know we knew this.  Some folks are recognized as geniuses for explicating the obvious.  I’m look at you, Micaela Martinez. Tip from Austin Bay writing at the Instatpundit,  who, like the BlogFather himself, can … Continue reading To every thing, there is a season

Hunting the Wild Placebo

The New York Times’ Gary Greenberg asks “What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?” and gets some interesting answers.  Along the way, he tells the interesting history of the placebo and how it has become a standard in FDA=approved clinical trials.  My only question for the FDA is this:  if someone were to attempt to certify a placebo effect, what would you compare it to? Tip from Drudge, who, like a blind squirrel, occasionally finds a fresh nut, and never leaves a permalink. Continue reading Hunting the Wild Placebo

The Fourier Transform, explained beautifully

At the Better Explained blog, Kalid Azad hits another home run with An Interactive Guide to the Fourier Transform. Here’s a plain-English metaphor: What does the Fourier Transform do? Given a smoothie, it finds the recipe. How? Run the smoothie through filters to extract each ingredient. Why? Recipes are easier to analyze, compare, and modify than the smoothie itself. How do we get the smoothie back? Blend the ingredients. Here’s the “math English” version of the above: The Fourier Transform takes a time-based pattern, measures every possible cycle, and returns the overall “cycle recipe” (the amplitude, offset, & rotation speed … Continue reading The Fourier Transform, explained beautifully

Whether to ask the question invites an answer

The Justice Department and the Census Bureau are engaged in a kerfuffle over the 2020 Census.  It’s all about a question of citizenship: “What country are you a citizen of?”  With the inevitable congressional reapportionment that occurs based on the Census, this is a question that many states really don’t want to know the answer to. My take:  the Census Bureau has been crying poor for years now.  The Trump Administration should jawbone Congress into increasing the Bureau’s funding, but only if they ASK THE QUESTION (and report the answers). Update:  Now folks should really be worried.  Combine citizenship data … Continue reading Whether to ask the question invites an answer

Our National Blind Spot

Want to save the planet?  How about starting by saving the birds.  Here’s a Pareto graph that gives a strong hint of where to start: That’s right, get the cat population under control.  Eradicate feral cat colonies, and euthanize cat collections (oh, and institutionalize obsessive cat ladies).  The whole country needs to grow up and get that “cute little kitty” lie out of their heads, and replace it with something more realistic, like “bird murderer.” Tip from Bird Note, by way of Sarah Hoyt at the Instapundit. Update:  One Dallas suburb is infested with feral cats, protected by a well-connected … Continue reading Our National Blind Spot

Science is getting exciting!

Five very interesting articles recently popped up on the web, suggesting that current science is much more interesting than the average Joe might think: At FiveThirtyEight*, Christie Aschwanden’s Science Isn’t Broken gives a great exposition on scientific fraud, p-hacking, and why science is much more difficult than most folks realize. Robert Matthews, writing in UAE’s The National, says Lone researchers with radical ideas may hold the keys to science’s unanswered questions.  One of those “loners” is “Eleonora Troja, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who studies X-rays, had hoped for years to detect the light from a neutron-star … Continue reading Science is getting exciting!

When all you have is a hammer…

…everything looks like a nail. Daniel Lakens, the 20% Statistician, takes a rare but easy shot at statisticians and null hypothesis significance testing. Our statistics education turns a blind eye to training people how to ask a good question. After a brief explanation of what a mean is, and a pit-stop at the normal distribution, we jump through as many tests as we can fit in the number of weeks we are teaching. We are training students to perform tests, but not to ask questions He defines …the Statisticians’ Fallacy: Statisticians who tell you ‘what you really want to know’, instead … Continue reading When all you have is a hammer…

Seven Pillars

Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.  –Proverbs 9:1 I just finished Stephen Stigler’s The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom, and I’m daunted–and embarrassed that I waited so long to read it.  Stigler gives us a structure and taxonomy to statistical thinking* that gives us the “big picture” of statistics. Quite a difference from the descriptives-to-inference-to-models approach that most textbook authors follow.  This is making me rethink how I approach my introductory courses, especially those for statistics majors.  I’m starting with a baby step: adding the (inexpensive, paperbound) book as a required reading in my … Continue reading Seven Pillars