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Politically Incorrect Statistics

Adi Wyner, Dean Foster, Shane Jensen, and Dylan Small at the University of Pennsylvania have started a new statistics blog, Politically Incorrect Statistics. My favorite entry so far compares string theory to intelligent design. While I’m linking, the Journal of Obnoxious Statistics looks like fun, although I haven’t read many of the 101 pages yet.


When I tell people about my work, by far the most common response is “Oh, I hated statistics in college.” We’ve been over that before. Sometimes someone will ask me to explain the Monty Hall problem. Anyway, another one I’ve been getting a lot lately is whether I watch the show Numbers. I’ve never seen […]


My friend Mark Glickman (I call him Glickman; Andrew calls him Smiley) has some fun statistical song parodies. When I was taking Bayesian Data Analysis in graduate school, he came in as a guest lecturer one day and sang them for our class. It was really fun–I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough silliness in […]

More on Matching

Dan Ho, Kosuke Imai, Gary King, and Liz Stuart have a new paper on matching methods for causal inference. It has lots of practical advice and interesting examples, and I predict that it will be widely read and cited. Check it out here. …and on a completely unrelated note, Happy Birthday, Mom!!


I don’t need art to be work-related. In fact, I generally prefer that it’s not. But there’s an exhibition at MOMA called SAFE: Design Takes On Risk, that looks pretty cool. Items range from practical (chairs with well-placed hooks to hide a purse) to pseudo-practical (suitcase-like containers to keep bananas from getting bruised) to borderline […]

Geek Alert

Last week I substitute professed a mathematical statistics course for a friend who was out of town. I was sort of dreading it: interpretation of confidence intervals, Fisher information, AND hypothesis tests, all in one class, less than 24 hours before the start of Thanksgiving break. I didn’t have high hopes for the enthusiasm level […]

More on Teaching

It’s College Week at Slate: Click here for the thoughts of several prominent academics on improving undergraduate education, sometimes with the aid of a magic wand. I of course first read “Learn Statistics. Go Abroad” by K. Anthony Appiah. I completely agree with Dr. Appiah’s view that many college graduates can’t evaluate statistical arguments, leaving […]

Como se dice “I hate statistics”?

As every statistician knows, many people hate our field. How many times have we all heard “You do statistics? I HATED that class in college!” (I remember one of my college professors complaining indignantly that no one would presume to tell an artist that he hated art.) There are all sorts of factors that probably […]

Hardly Statistical At All

I’m sorry. You come to this blog seeking deep thoughts and insight, and I give you links and rants. Or gratuitous plugs for things that appeal to me, which is what today’s post contains. There’s a new-ish magazine/literary journal called n+1. It’s full of deep thoughts and insight on various topics, from travel to domestic […]

Stat/Biostat Departments

I wish there were more connections between statistics departments and biostatistics departments. I’ve been working with survival data recently, and it’s made me realize another gaping hole in my statistical knowledge base. It’s also made me realize that I wish I knew more biostatisticians. And I’m one of the lucky ones, really, because Columbia has […]

The Bell Curve

I spent too much of one day last week reading this article and everything it links to. Charles Murray, one of the authors of The Bell Curve, also has a piece in the August 2005 issue of Statistical Science called “How to Accuse the Other Guy of Lying with Statistics” (part of a special section […]

President’s Invited Address

Rod Little gave the President’s Invited Address at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Minneapolis earlier this month. He was talking about the Bayesian/frequentist “schism” and resolved it in the following way: Bayesian methods are good for inference; frequentist methods are good for model assessment. I like that. (I’m not ashamed of being interested in the […]

Overheard in Harvard Square

Fall 2003, while the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs were both still in the playoffs. Girl on cell phone: But if the Red Sox and Cubs both go to the World Series, that means one of them will have to win. But that’s a probability zero event, so that would, like, unmake existence.

Bad Graphs

One of the links on this blog is to Junk Charts, which shows and discusses all kinds of good and bad graphics found in various news sources. It reminded me of one bad graph that was printed in Amstat News of all places, showing that statisticians (or at least statistics-related publications) aren’t immune to graphical […]

Terrorist Risk Revisited

There’s a fun little article in the Harvard Magazine on risk perception. David Ropeik and George Gray at the Harvard School of Public Health wrote a book Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World around You, which sounds interesting. The article also mentions a study by […]

20-minute wait on the GW…

How does the traffic reporter on the radio know how long the wait to get across a bridge or through a tunnel is? Do people collect data on this? Is the reported wait time merely a function of how long the “line” leading to said bridge or tunnel is? Or are other factors (maybe time […]

Statistical Crystal Ball

Dean Foster, Lyle Ungar, and Choong Tze Chua at the University of Pennsylvania have created a mortality calculator. It’s pretty cool–you enter all kinds of information about your health, habits, family history, etc., and it predicts how long you’ll live. Not to brag, but my predicted life span is 94 years, with upper quartile 103.99.

More on Software Validation

Andrew and I have both written here about our Software Validation paper with Don Rubin. The last thing to add on the topic is that my website now has newly updated software to implement our validation method (go down to Research Software and there are .zip and .tar versions of the R package). If the […]

Teaching Example

There was a fun little article in the New York Times a while back (unfortunately I can’t find it now and am missing some of the numbers, but the main idea still holds) about income differences across New York City’s five boroughs. Apparently the mean income in the Bronx is higher than in Brooklyn, even […]

Lying with Statistics

I hope I’m not just contributing to the gossip mill, but the latest post on the Freakonomics blog is kind scary.