Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

Sharon Begley

Science journalism has changed a lot in the past thirty years. In the old days, the top science writers (with the exception of Martin Gardner, I guess), were explainers whose job was to report the breakthroughs or purported breakthroughs by purportedly brilliant scientists. There’s still room for this sort of science writing—for example, we want […]

What we did in 2020, and thanks to all our collaborators and many more

Published or to be published articles: [2021] Reflections on Lakatos’s “Proofs and Refutations.” {\em American Mathematical Monthly}. (Andrew Gelman) [2021] Holes in Bayesian statistics. {\em Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics}. (Andrew Gelman and Yuling Yao) [2021] Reflections on Breiman’s Two Cultures of Statistical Modeling. {\em Observational Studies}. (Andrew Gelman) [2021] Bayesian statistics […]

Le Detection Club

I just read this BD. It was great, reminded me a bit of Knives Out.

“End of novel. Beginning of job.”: That point at which you make the decision to stop thinking and start finishing

From a book review by the great critic John Clute:   And here’s the part I want to focus on: “End of novel. Beginning of job.” I’ve been thinking about that line a lot recently. (I read the above review when it came out, decades ago, and I never forgot it. I was able to […]

What George Michael’s song Freedom! was really about

I present an alternative reading of George Michael’s 1990’s hit song Freedom! While many interpret this song as about Michael’s struggles with fame in an industry that constantly aimed to warp his true identity, it can also be interpreted as a researcher progressing in a field where data ownership and data ‘rights’ are still hotly […]


If you can argue that knuckleheads are rational And that assholes serve the public good, But then turn around and tell us we need you To nudge us as you know we should; If you can be proud of your “repugnant ideas” And style yourself a rogue without taboo, If you assume everyone is fundamentally […]

IEEE’s Refusal to Issue Corrections

This is Jessica. The following was written by a colleague Steve Haroz on his attempt to make corrections to a paper he wrote published by IEEE (which, according to Wikipedia, publishes “over 30% of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields.”) One of the basic Mertonion norms of science […]

“It’s turtles for quite a way down, but at some point it’s solid bedrock.”

Just once, I’d like to hear the above expression.. It can’t always be turtles all the way down, right? Cos if it was, we wouldn’t need the expression. Kind of like if everything was red, we wouldn’t need any words for colors.

Basbøll’s Audenesque paragraph on science writing, followed by a resurrection of a 10-year-old debate on Gladwell

I pointed Thomas Basbøll to my recent post, “Science is science writing; science writing is science,” and he in turn pointed me to his post from a few years ago, “Scientific Writing and ‘Science Writing,’” which stirringly begins: For me, 2015 will be the year that I [Basbøll] finally lost all respect for “science writing”. […]

Best comics of 2010-2019?

X linked to this list by Sam Thielman of the best comics of the decade. The praise is a bit over the top (“brimming with wit and pathos” . . . “Every page in Ferris’s enormous debut is a wonder” . . . “An astounding feat of craftsmanship and patience” . . . “never has […]

Here’s why rot13 text looks so cool.

To avoid spoilers, I posted some text in rot13: V yvxrq gung ovg arne gur ortvaavat jurer Qnavry Penvt gnyxrq nobhg tbvat gb gur raq bs gur envaobj jurer gurer vf gehgu, naq gura jnvgvat sbe gur riragf bs gur fgbel gb trg gurer. Guvf frrzf gb zr gb qrfpevor n ybg bs jung erfrnepu […]

Fiction as a window into other cultures

tl;dr: more on Updike. In our recent discussion of reviews of John Updike books, John Bullock pointed us to this essay by Claire Lowdon, who begins: In the opening scene of Rabbit, Run (1960), John Updike’s second published novel, the twenty-six-year-old Harry Angstrom – aka Rabbit – joins some children playing basketball around a telephone […]

Quino y Mafalda

Obit by Harrison Smith, full of stories: She was a wise and idealistic young girl, a cartoon kid with a ball of black frizz for hair, a passionate hatred of soup and a name, Mafalda, inspired by a failed home appliance brand. Although her creator, a cartoonist known as Quino, drew her regularly for just […]

“Pictures represent facts, stories represent acts, and models represent concepts.”

I really like the above quote from noted aphorist Thomas Basbøll. He expands: Simplifying somewhat, pictures represent facts, stories represent acts, and models represent concepts. . . . Pictures are simplified representations of facts and to use this to draw a hard and fast line between pictures and stories and models is itself a simplified […]

“this large reduction in response rats”

Spell check doesn’t catch all the typos.

Bill James is back

I checked Bill James Online the other day and it’s full of baseball articles! I guess now that he’s retired from the Red Sox, he’s free to share his baseball thoughts to all. Cool! He has 8 posts in the past week or so, which is pretty impressive given that each post has some mixture […]

Coronavirus dreams

I had a dream last night that I was at a conference, then I was going to the basement of the conference building to the supermarket, then I was at my mother’s house and she told me I needed more ingredients for dinner, so I went back to the basement, but the stairs didn’t go […]

Where are the collaborative novels?

Someone asked me the other day whether a corporation could run for president. I said no. The closest to that would be The Space Merchants. And that that made me think . . . where are the collaborative novels? I’m not talking about ghostwriters, or about that book by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (which […]

Who was the first literary schlub?

We were talking about Ted Heller / Sam Lipsyte (also here), whose books feature a similar lovable-loser character, someone who’s basically a good person but has some larceny and lust in his heart and can’t always be relied on to do the right thing. More of a Jerry Seinfeld than a Philip Marlowe or Humphrey […]

“No one is going to force you to write badly. In the long run, you won’t even be rewarded for it. But, unfortunately, it is true that they’ll often let you get away with it.”

Basbøll says it well. Relatedly, see here. Writing is hard.