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Comment Politics (Score 3, Funny) 98 98

Here we go... A relatively routine law enforcement matter is going to become a political pseudo-scandal. Scientists are evil and corrupt, so how can we trust them about climate change or evolution? Perhaps the drugs were being made at Obama's personal request. Why else would Lamar Smith be taking and interest?

Comment Part of the game? (Score 1) 152 152

Maybe companies like Comcast are fine with WiFi saturation. They have a monopoly on the cables in most localities, so if anyone is going to challenge them as a competitive ISP, they'll have to do it wireless. Too bad for them (and good for Comcast) if wireless connections are degraded to the point of uselessness.

Comment The perplexing thing (Score 0) 165 165

The perplexing thing about all of this "Obama == Hitler" spin is that (1) his main field before he got into politics was constitutional law (he taught it at the U. of Chicago), and (2) he's only got about 18 months left on his term of office. Does it make sense that he would push for greater domestic spying powers for the waning months of his own administration, when those same powers will accrue to whomever succeeds him for their full 4 or 8 years? Could there be something else going on?

Comment Re:A Computer (Score 1) 443 443

My first programming class: Punch cards. Punch your deck, take it to the input window, wait around an hour or two for it to run, pick up the printout at the output window, debug. Rinse, repeat until successful. The IDE was long nights at the computing center with a thermos of coffee. Finally getting a terminal and 300 baud modem at home was a really big deal.

Comment Re:LOL LOL OMG.. HAHAHAHA (Score 1) 553 553

So you're saying that interest rates are somehow being manipulated downward to hide the magnitude of the deficit? Since the deficit is a known quantity, why would anyone take that deal? In the sane world, creditors demand a premium for assuming greater risk. If there's a stronger economy out there offering a higher rate, they'll go there in a heartbeat.

Comment Re:I am a Republican voting Conservative. (Score 4, Insightful) 347 347

Republicans in power seems to be reflexively against anything "those liberals" are in favor of.

There's a lot of that going around, for sure, but the real issue is that science always has the potential of being disruptive to established economic interests. Whether it's Big Tobacco or fossil carbon, those interests are paying the GOP serious money for protection against these kinds of disruptions.

Comment Re:LOL LOL OMG.. HAHAHAHA (Score 3, Insightful) 553 553

The country is 18 trillion dollars in debt.

And yet investors all over the world are falling over themselves to loan money to Uncle Sam at virtually zero percent interest. If the size of the deficit were considered a big problem by serious money, interest rates would be very much higher than they are.

That said, it's been a long time (Eisenhower, maybe?) since having Republicans in the White House has been good for deficit reduction!

Comment Re:One word: Cloud (Score 4, Insightful) 246 246

I would agree with you, but what we have here is an opportunity to demonstrate our upstanding character to our peers by venting self-righteousness against someone of lesser moral virtue. Before you know it, we'll be arguing over which method of execution is most appropriate, and whether the boy's family ought to be punished as well. No punishment will be quite harsh enough to quench our indignation over what this evil, horrible boy has done. We're an angry mob, and we want everyone to see it because we imagine that it makes us look virtuous. It's the American Way.

Comment Re:Is the math not towing the groupthink? (Score 1) 208 208

The math works fine; the problem is choosing the appropriate method. My hunch is that the biggest mistake in the use of stats in the social sciences is failing to correct p-values for multiple comparisons. That is, if you're hypothesis is limited to predicting an association between two variables, then p-values are just fine. But if you sent out a questionnaire with 20 questions on it and compute all 190 pairwise correlations between them, you'll get around 9 or 10 "significant" (p 0.05) but meaningless associations just by chance. You can't (or shouldn't) cherry-pick these and write them up like they mean anything. Yet many people do just this, often not realizing how the hypotheses were selected (it can sometimes be subtle, or buried in the history of the project).

Comment Re:Even more obligatory (Score 1) 208 208

A useful exercise (if you can use basic statistics software) that illustrates this is to generate a bunch (say, 10 or 20) of series of random numbers and then compute the matrix of correlations (or t-values, if you prefer) between all of them. You'll find that roughly 5% of the correlations are "significant" at the p.05 level, even though the series are really random and independent. It's a trivial result and just what you'd expect by chance, but it does drive the point home that you can't rely on p-values alone if you're testing multiple hypotheses. In the latter case there are corrected measures available that take this into account.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982