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Comment Re:I'd hire him (Score 1) 368

As the saying goes, "the plural of anecdote is not data." Anecdotes by their nature are subject to sampling bias: an anecdote is not brought up unless it is somehow interesting. Taking a larger sample of anecdotes just inflates the sampling bias. You need to make sure your observations are representative, typically through taking a random sample or running a controlled experiment, to call it "data."

Comment Re:Congress Sucks (Score 1) 858

Health insurance is insurance. It survives because it takes calculated risks, and the general public is not a very good risk health-wise. The value and the problem with insurance is that it faces the reality that there are limited resources out there head-on. Now you may well be correct to say that using those resources for the benefit of only those who can pay is unfair, but what criteria do you use to ensure fair distribution?

The general public is a much better risk than the current system, which contains a disproportionate number of people who need more expensive treatments because they've been avoiding relatively cheap preventative care, or show up to the emergency room with no coverage at all. The health care reform prioritizes preventative care and universal coverage. You're right that the general public is a worse bet than only NBA players, but it's a much better bet than what we're covering now.

Comment Re:Supply and Demand (Score 1) 454

As a current PhD student (although not in astronomy), I think writing a dissertation is actually the most rewarding aspect of doing a PhD. First, during your PhD, you have a lot more freedom in determining the direction of your work than most researchers. As I understand it, funding agencies tend to require specific deliverables that constrain possible research questions after the PhD, but PhD research is much more open-ended. So a dissertation is an opportunity for a student to really spend some time thinking very carefully about something they care about.

However, this is only relevant if the student has the peace of mind to actually think carefully. I'm an American doing a PhD in the UK, and one of my main considerations for coming here was that UK PhD program(me)s are 3-4 years with no required courses. I did sit in on one course (for no credit) my first term, but was able to get started on my research right away, and will be submitting in December just over 3 years after starting. I've also been TA-ing (and tutoring, and marking) for one course, but it's been much less stressful than the American habit of throwing a grad student in front of 30 freshmen with little preparation.

Comment Re:Yes. (Score 1) 1127

Only a minority of men are involved in a disproportionate number of rapes. David Lisak has done some very eye-opening research, finding that most rapes are committed by about 5% of men, who rape again and again and again.

It turns out that if you ask these men questions like "Did you force someone to have sex with you, even though they didn't want to?" they are happy to say yes, and they think other men will too, and they don't think that forcing somebody to have sex is rape. When people talk about "rape culture," this is what they mean. Rapists don't think that they are doing anything unusual, because they get repeated cues from the men around them that rape is OK. The vast majority of men who laugh at rape jokes, or otherwise sexist jokes, are not actually believing the ideology behind it, but the 5% of men in the group see that laugh and think "that person is just like me, my attitudes and actions are not exceptional." Rape culture is real and has real, devastating consequences.

More to the point of TFA, or at least one of its points, when men overstep women's boundaries without actually raping them or sexually assaulting them, that reinforces the belief in the rape-y and assault-y minority of men that disrespecting women's boundaries is OK.

Comment Re:Yes. (Score 1) 1127

This study conducted in the late 90's found that about 17.6% of American women had experienced attempted or completed rape, with 13% experience completed rape (more summary stats here), and this study from 2007 found that 18% of American women had experienced rape. I'm not sure Rei's number of 1 in 4 came from (a different country perhaps?), but a rate of 1 in 6 is shockingly high.

Comment Re:Field dependent requirement (Score 1) 1086

Most (all?) modern approaches to artificial intelligence use calculus. If you're using a maximum likelihood statistical approach, you'll (usually) be differentiating the probability of the data with respect to your parameters to find a good local maximum. If you're taking a Bayesian statistical approach, you'll be integrating out your model parameters to get an average answer with respect to all models. If you're using a support vector machine, then you'll be using lagrange multipliers to minimize your error.

There are well-studied special cases that probably wouldn't take too much understanding of calculus, because you can just use existing code out of the box, but most applications are going to require at least a basic understanding of what you're differentiating with respect to or integrating out, and how that is actually implemented in your code.

Comment Re:Lovely (Score 1) 178

My main point was that there is a difference between radicals and partisans.

Women concerned about their rights? They make up more than 50% of the voting population. Why do I need to look out for their interests? You want the government looking out for women's rights... easy solution--every single woman show up to vote. That's it. If 90% of women showed up to vote in 2012 I can guarantee that their interests would get nearly exclusive attention from candidates. If 90% of Latinos showed up to vote you can guarantee that their interests would be represented.

Two points. First, since the US is a representative democracy with unlimited outside and unaccountable money, there is a strong selection process that filters out anybody who seriously challenges the status quo or does not have close personal ties to big corporations. Vote in Republicans, we get corporate bailouts with no accountability. Vote in Democrats, the "anti-Wall street" wing of the corporate party, and we get... corporate bailouts with no accountability. Vote in a Republican (at the state level), and you get a "universal health care plan" that still keeps individuals at the mercy of private insurance companies. Vote in a Democrat, and you get... a "universal health care plan" that still keps individuals at the mercy of private insurance companies.

Second, you don't have to be female, Black, Muslim, gay, or whatever for an equitable society to be in your own interests. For example, allowing women access to the workplace and empowering them helps grow the economy (and is a big part of why US GDP grew so well throughout the 80's and 90's despite flat real wages). Civil rights are not about charity for the oppressed group. A fair society is in everybody's best long-term interest. Our problem is that we often pursue short term gains.

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