Blog Archives

Problematic presentation of probabilistic predictions

November 22, 2016
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Problematic presentation of probabilistic predictions

Theoretically, people should not be surprised by the results of the 2016 election; several credible forecasters predicted that it would be a close race.  But a lot of people were surprised anyway.  In my previous article I explained one reaso...

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Why are we so surprised?

November 14, 2016
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Why are we so surprised?

Abstract In theory, we should not be surprised by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but in practice we are.  I think there are two reasons: in this article, I explain problems in the way we think about probability; in the next ar...

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Election day, finally!

November 9, 2016
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Election day, finally!

Abstract: I defend my claim that voter suppression is 1000 times worse than voter fraud, and furthermore, that voter suppression introduces systematic bias, whereas fraud introduces noise.  And from a statistical point of view, bias is much worse ...

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The Alien Blaster Problem

October 31, 2016
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The Alien Blaster Problem

Last week I posted the Alien Blaster Problem:In preparation for an alien invasion, the Earth Defense League has been working on new missiles to shoot down space invaders.  Of course, some missile designs are better than others; let's assume that each design has some probability of hitting an alien ship, x.Based on previous tests, the distribution of x in the population of designs is roughly uniform between 10% and 40%.…

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Socks, skeets, space aliens

October 25, 2016
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Socks, skeets, space aliens

In my Bayesian statistics class this semester, I asked students to invent new Bayes theorem problems, with the following criteria:1) A good Bayes's theorem problem should pose an interesting question that seems hard to solve directly, but2) It should be easier to solve with Bayes's theorem than without it, and3) It should have some element of surprise, or at least a non-obvious outcome.Several years ago I posted some of my…

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Why is my cat orange?

October 21, 2016
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Why is my cat orange?

One of the students in my Bayesian statistics class, Mafalda Borges, came up with an excellent new Bayes theorem problem.  Here's my paraphrase:About 3/4 of orange cats are male.  If my cat is orange, what is the probability that his mother w...

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Millennials are still not getting married

October 14, 2016
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Millennials are still not getting married

Last year I presented a paper called "Will Millennials Ever Get Married?" at SciPy 2015.  You can see video of the talk and download the paper here.I used data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) to estimate the age at first marriage ...

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Bayes’s Theorem is not optional

September 26, 2016
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Bayes’s Theorem is not optional

Abstract: I present a probability puzzle, the Rain in Seattle Problem, and use it to explain differences between the Bayesian and frequentist interpretations of probability, and between Bayesian and frequentist statistical methods.  Since I am try...

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Blow it up and start again

September 16, 2016
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Blow it up and start again

The president of Olin College, Rick Miller, spoke recently at the Business Innovation Factory.  Here's the most-tweeted quote from the talk: "The only way to change education is to blow it up and start again."I agree, and I saw an example recently...

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Sleeping Beauty and the Red Dice

September 2, 2016
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Sleeping Beauty and the Red Dice

In response to my previous article on the Sleeping Beauty Problem, I got this comment from a reader:The late great philosopher David Lewis was a halfer. I'd be interested in any reactions to his paper on it: http://fitelson.org/probability/lewis_s...

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