Apr 13

Sudden clarity about the null hypothesis

Can’t take credit for this realization (I studied at an “Orthodox” shop), and the “Clarance” wishes to be anonymous, so send all karma points to your favorite (virtual) charity.

Jan 13

Zero-information predictions for 2013

The embarrassing failure of experts to predict the future is well known and has been exhaustively cataloged by writers such as Nassim Taleb and Nate Silver. It often seems like the more someone knows about a subject, the worse they are at predicting what will happen in that area. In this spirit, I bring you seven predictions for the coming year, based on an absolute minimal amount of knowledge. Combined, I’ve spent less than one hour studying these topics, with the exception of bubbles in general. Here they are, we’ll see how well this exercise in ignorance holds up.

Prediction: The EU crisis will not be solved, more good money will be thrown after bad.
Source of prediction: The last three years. Also, bankers (for now) still rule the world.

Prediction: Bubbles will begin to burst. It could be the Higher Education Bubble, the Regulatory Complexity Bubble, the Government Money Printing (aka Fiat Currency) Bubble, or the closely related Global Debt Bubble.
Source of prediction: In Western, developed nations, all of these these have gone exponential. That never lasts because it can’t.

Prediction: Obamacare (officially know as PPACA, had to look that up), will begin to look like the Democrat’s Vietnam. Those who supported the legislation will need to make a quick u-turn or double down on their support, riding the increasingly unpopular, cost-overrunning quagmire into the depths of bureaucratic hell.
Source of prediction: I’m not a zombie.

Prediction: Speaking of soon-to-fail-in-its-intended-goals legislation, Dodd-Frank will have many nasty unintended consequences.
Source of prediction: It’s 8,800 pages long and still leaves lots of things to be worked out later by regulators.

Prediction: The meltdown at Fukushima will still be a problem at the end of the year.
Source of prediction: The most radioactive fish of all time (by a factor of 10) was just caught. The lovely, and glowing, Murasoi is shown at top.

Prediction: The Miami Heat will win the NBA. Oklahoma will peter out.
Source of prediction: I stopped watching the NBA a few years ago, but as I recall Miami is a good team, and no one plays pro basketball in Oklahoma.

Prediction: At this year’s Oscars, lots of pretentious, overwrought crap will get awards.
Source of prediction: Recent history, reading the nominee list, watching a trailer for Les Miz.

Dec 12

“We didn’t even bother to get the $7 coffee”

A couple weeks ago I highlighted the recommendation that researchers test their models (and the processes which generated them!) against random noise. This is an important “reality check” of their methods, to see how susceptible they are to detecting something in nothing. In the video above, Jimmy Kimmel gives a nice illustration of how this idea could be extended to a taste test, or any survey where participants are asked to differentiate between samples. Kimmel’s experiment also gives a nice illustration of how humans can be primed to find what we expect to find, even if it’s not there.

Oct 12

Comic with stats discussion

I recently finished work on the first issue of a graphic novel. It’s in the form of a fictional first person narrative. The story isn’t directly about statistics, but there are a few digressions on the subject. Here are some samples, make sure to click on the images for a larger view:

If you’re interested, head over to and pick up a copy. Here’s the order page. The comic comes with a full money-back guarantee, including shipping. You don’t even have to send back your copy to claim the refund.

Oct 12

If you choose an answer to this question at random, what is the chance you will be correct?

Image found out there on The Internets. If it doesn’t hurt your brain, you’re not thinking about it hard enough.