Thursday, 21 February 2008

On the Move

I mentioned earlier this week that I had been invited to blog elsewhere, and it's now been sorted out, and I even have my first post up.

My new virtual residence is at the Nature Network, the network that Nature (the journal) has developed to create a community of scientists who can complain amongst each other that they don't get enough funding. I've kept the name, so pop along and see what develops:

Deep Thoughts and Silliness

Now at Nature Networks.

I probably won't post here any more, but I might use BPSDB if I feel like a particularly virulent rant against pseudo-science.

I guess I'll be able to claim that I write for Nature now.
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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

My Phrase for the Day

I wasn't going to post on this here, lest find myself turning into Denyse O'Leary, but yesterday I posted at BPSDB about Le Canard Noir having his website closed down because he was rather critical of someone.

But, I wanted to point out Dr.* T's post on the matter, where he presents Netcetera, Le Canard Noir's former web hosts, with an award for Spineless Caitiffery.

Spineless Caitiffery.

Wonderful. Try it out. Roll it around the tongue a few times. And then look at Dr.* T's post to find out what the hell it means.

By the way, buy my book. Read more!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Ooh, how dare thay!

This might mean war

A couple of years ago a physicist at the university complained to me that he was in a building called Physicum, but that I was in the building next door, called Exactum. He really didn't appreciate the implication that they were inexact. I, with my statistician's had on (it's shaped a bit like a pith helmet), found this hilarious.
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Monday, 18 February 2008

This is how Birthdays should be

As it's already been revealed, I turned 38 today. And what a great day it's been!
This morning I was awarded the Bob O’Hara Award for Excellence in Blogging on Pseudoscience. The prize is that I'm allowed to post on the BPSPB webpage. I know, I know you're all envious. Later, I was invited to join another blog swarm, of which more later (if it happens). Even the editor of Heredity wanted to send me a birthday present (although I'll have to write an essay about it later).

Even lunch was exceptional. I chatted to a colleague about such things as making swords and using pizza to demonstrate theorems. We ended up working out how to use spaghetti to solve the travelling salesman problem.

Even The Beast has been great. This morning he enjoyed the wildlife outside, and after I fed him this evening, he demanded a heavy fussing session. What more could one ask for in life?

Oh, yes. This

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Saturday, 16 February 2008

ID Does Predict Something

Well, that was a shock. About a month ago, Bill Dembski put up a post on his blog saying that he had some ID predictions, but what about other people? This generated a lot of discussion (over 200 comments), but little in the way of predictions. And we were all left wondering if Bill actually had any.

It turns out he did, and he revealed them this week. Bizarrely, he did this after being prodded by a couple of sock-puppets. And the predictions were...

(1) ID predicts that although there will be occasional degeneration of biological structures (both macroscopic and microscopic), most structures will exhibit function and thus serve a purpose. Thus most organs should not be vestigial, and most DNA should not be “junk DNA.” ...

Ah, this old canard. Afarensis has had a go at this one, and it also has a potted rebuttal in the Index To Creationist Claims. But I think there is one point worth adding. We're told that ID only asks whether there is a designer, but it says nothing about the identity or properties of the designer (which is good. They'll be embarrassed when they find out Ididit). But this prediction about junk DNA assumes a rather pragmatic designer who wouldn't put something into their design unless it was functional. What if the designer was slightly odd, and just wanted to throw something in for the hell of it. Perhaps the designer just wants to say 'Alu to us all. This is only really an ID prediction if one makes articular assumptions about the designer. For example, that it doesn't care what colour the wheel should be.

(2) Many systems inside the cell represent nanotechnology at a scale and sophistication that dwarfs human engineering. Moreover, our ability to understand the structure and function of these systems depends directly on our facility with engineering principles (both in developing the instrumentation to study these systems and in analyzing what they do). Engineers have developed these principles by designing systems of their own, albeit much cruder than what we find inside the cell. Many of these cellular systems are literally machines: electro-mechanical machines, information-processing machines, signal-transduction machines, communication and transportation machines, etc. They are not just analogous to humanly built machines but, as mathematicians would say, isomorphic to them, that is, they capture all the essential features of machines. ID predicts that the cell would have such engineering features; by contrast, Darwinian theory has consistently underestimated the sophistication of the machinery inside the cell.

Somewhere in there there might be a prediction.

Ah, found it. It's that "machines" in the cell and human-built machines have the same essential properties. Like being designed by humans, or having their primary structure determined by DNA. Any questions?

The analogy between the different types of machine is just that - an analogy. It isn't perfect - human designed machines aren't coded by DNA, and aren't parts of structures that start dividing and reproducing. A problem, then, is how do we know when the analogy has gone too far? If we take Dr. Dembski at face values, it never does.

(3) Conservation of information results (also referred to as No Free Lunch theorems, which are well established in the engineering and mathematical literature — see indicate that evolution requires an information source that imparts at least as much information to evolutionary processes as these processes in turn are capable of expressing. In consequence, such an information source (i) cannot be reduced to materialistic causes (e.g., natural selection), (ii) suggests that we live in an informationally open universe, and (iii) may reasonably be regarded as intelligent. The conservation of information counts as a positive theoretical reason to accept intelligent design and quantifies the informational hurdles that neo-Darwinian processes must overcome. Moreover, ID theorists have applied these results to actual biological systems to show that they are unevolvable by Darwinian means. ID has always predicted that there will be classes of biological systems for which Darwinian processes fail irremediably, and conservation of information is putting paid to this prediction.

OK, Dembski works on evolutionary information, so I guess we should have expected this. But it's not clear what the NFL theorems have to do with conservation of information - they say that blind search does not better than any other search strategies when averaged over all fitness surfaces, but some of those fitness surfaces will look very strange. And in reality, evolution works on a small set of such surfaces, which similar properties (I'm in a bit of a rush, so I won't dig out any links just now). Dembski did produce one manuscript claiming conservation of information, but his proof was to assume "for consistency's sake" that p1 <>2, and then prove log(p1) <>2). I never did get an explanation for what he meant by "for consistency's sake".

So, there you go, about we would expect 0 out of 3. Of course, I'm biased, so Iäm suer the UDites will score differently. Read more!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Fame, Journals, and Blinding

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a paper on the (possible) effect of double blinding on the bias against female authors. The paper had stirred up a few other comments, which got me thinking a bit more about why I'm a bit sceptical about double-blind reviews. Then I started thinking too hard, and ended up playing around with a simple model.

It's generally agreed that there is a bias towards better-known authors, so that a well-known author is more likely to have a manuscript recommended for acceptance than someone unknown. The argument for double-blinding is that it removes this bias, because the referee doesn't know who the author is. The problem with this is that it is often possible to guess who the author is (hell, it's sometimes possible to guess who a reviewer is) - a study 10 years ago (Cho et al. 1998) found that reviewers could work out the identity of the authors in about 40% of cases.

Presumably the authors who are recognised are the better known ones. We therefore have a situation where fame (whatever it is exactly) affects both whether a paper will be recommended for acceptance, and also whether the authors will be recognised. What effect does this have on the pattern of acceptance? Rather than just indulging in arm-waving, we can build a model, and indulge in arm-waving with numbers!

The model is simple, but hopefully captures the main points. Each author of a manuscript (for simplicity I will assume that each paper only has one author) has a fame. If the author's identity is known to the reviewer, then the probability of acceptance increases with their fame (the solid black line below).

If the reviewing process is double binded, then the probability that the author is recognised increases with the fame (the red dotted line). Note that it starts from a lower point, but increases more rapidly. if the author's name is not recognised, then the probability of acceptance is equal to the minimum probability. This is the the solid red line.

The technical details are below, for those who care. I have also scaled the probabilities of acceptance, so you can see them.

What does this show? Well, if you're a nobody, then the double-blind process means that you do as well as anyone else who isn't recognised, i.e. all but the famous. The famous do well under both systems, as they're recognised anyway. The people who lose out are those in the middle: the ones who are just starting to make a name for themselves, but are yet to be well known. With single blinding, their fame is enough that it helps them. Under double-blinding, though, they are not famous enough that they are recognised, so they are treated the same as a novice.

What this suggests, then, is that double blinding doesn't remove the biases: it just shifts them. So, the very famous actually do better under double blinding, as do the very obscure. Playing around a bit with the model suggests that the general result is robust, but it depends on the probability of recognition starting lower and having a steeper slope.

This is a model, using numbers that were plucked out of the air. But how does it compare to reality? My guess is that the effects are not as severe as shown here, but what is needed is data which can be used to estimate the parameters of the model. In the mean time, I'm not going to submit to any double-blind journals until I have my FRS.

The Maths
Fame, f, is uniformally distributed between -1 and 1. The probability of acceptance for a fame f, pa(f), is modelled like this:

if the identity of the author is known, otherwise it is the minimum value. If the manuscript is double-blind reviewed, then the probability that the reviewer correctly recognises the name of the author, pr(f), is

If a manuscript is reviewed double-blind, the probability that it is accepted is proportional to

pr(f)pa(f) + (1-pr(f))pa(-1)

The final probabilities are normalised, so that they sum to 1, by dividing by the sum of the probabilities.

Cho, M.K. et al. (1998) J. Am. Med. Assoc. 280, 243–245.

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Saturday, 9 February 2008


Things are getting interesting over at Uncommon Descent at the moment. DaveScot is trying out a bit of implicit racism, by pointing out that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. Whilst this is going on another poster there, who goes by the moniker "" has decided to practice his quote-mining.

He found this paper in Nature:
Georgy Koentges (2008). Evolution of anatomy and gene control. Nature 451, 658-663. doi:10.1038/451658a

and decided to "blog" about it. This consisted of excerpting a few quotes, without any commentary or indication where he had cut the text. In all he took about 20% of the full article so it looks like he's breaching copyright, the naughty boy. This might be excusable if he's accurately representing the article. Well, let's take a look and see (you can guess the result, can't you?). (or 'Noel' as I'll call him) starts off badly. This is the first quote:

Since Darwin we know that we must explain organisms not only in mechanistic terms (of mutation, selection and adaptation on the population level) but also in historical terms, as ‘descent with modification’, evolution in phylogeny. Because phylogeny is the outcome of developmental processes in populations, all heritable morphological changes derive from developmental changes in molecular control hierarchies and networks.

The start is from the third paragraph of the paper:
Since Darwin we know that we must explain the elephant not only in mechanistic terms (of mutation, selection and adaptation on the population level) but also in historical terms, as 'descent with modification', evolution in phylogeny. Molecular changes hundreds of millions of years ago constrain the possibility of change here and now. Not everything is possible, and evolutionary history is as much a story of constraint as functionality. Leonardo's 'flying machines' didn't just fail because bodies of a human size and weight fall under physical scaling laws limiting how big muscles could become. The evolutionary history that led to our present body size also stops us acquiring wings, either now or any time soon.

OK, so he's changes "the elephant" into "organisms", which is forgivable as "the elephant" only makes sense with the first two paragraphs. But where is the "Because..." sentence? Oh, the middle of the next paragraph.

So it goes on.. Noel picks out sentences and makes small changes as he sees fit. We can see his intentions when, for example, he takes this sentence:
This idea has been refined over the years in cogent discussions of 'evolvability', but there are few specific examples in metazoans where we can assign major structural changes to specific gene-regulatory causes.

and changes it into this:
There are few specific examples in metazoans where we can assign major structural changes to specific gene-regulatory causes.

Hey, let's leave out the positive work that's been done, and leave the negative in. Another nice example. Noel writes:
Recent studies on vertebrates suggest that only a fraction of ‘ultra-conserved’ CRMs are active and absolutely required for the animal to survive. Some CRMs might modulate the activities of others, so their effects might not be apparent.

Oh noes!! We poor biologists are clueless about how ‘ultra-conserved’ CRMs are conserved. But in the original the first sentence is followed by
As CRMs were assayed at only a few embryonic time points, the absence of regulatory information cannot be construed as a lack of function. It is not clear when, and in which cell types, organ-system specific CRMs are expected to be active, so inferences from such studies should be treated with great caution.

The sentence Noel leaves us with is further down the paragraph, in a discussion of the effects of deleting CRMs - it's explaining why we might not see a big effect if we do simple knock-out experiments. (Ha! It implies that development is not be irreducibly complex, so I can see why he might want to leave that out).

I could give more other examples, but I think the point is clear. Noel has picked out the comments about how we are uncertain, whilst ignoring all the parts which explain what has been done, or pointing to areas of future research. The whole article is actually positive, in that it's showing the sorts of things that could be done in the near future, with as the new technology and levels of inquiry they allow become applied to evo-devo. But UDites only get a partially copied, mis-represented version of the paper, which might interest Nature's Lawyers as well.

Ah well, it could be worse for Noel. He might have used the "Blogging About Peer-Reviewed Research" icon.

EDIT: 1. Added Mister DNA's spiffy graphic, 2. The original post has been on a heavy diet: it's only a third the size it was, and makes even less sense. Some of the quotes highlighted above have disappeared. So now this post makes even less sense.
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Friday, 8 February 2008

Another trailer!

This might be another film worth watching:

I think the lead actor ended up with his own game-show, or talk-show or something, where he was always introduced with a huge cry of "Here's Johnny!!".

(HT: Henry)
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Sunday, 3 February 2008

Politicians Object to Surveillance State Shock

Hand up, who can smell the double standard on this one?

BBC NEWS | UK | Probe into police 'bugging' of MP

An MP is unhappy that his discussions with a constituent was being bugged. Hey, it's all part of the War On Terror, designed to Keep Us Safe.

I think an argument can be defended that this sort of surveillance is a good idea, in which case MPs shouldn't be exempt - the security services are no doubt picking up all sorts of information that is more important personally than anything the MP could say (I'm sure the only reason they can have such a grand building is that they pay for its upkeep with money from betting and insider dealing). I'm sure politicians don't like being spied upon, so perhaps they should indulge in a bit of empathy with the rest of us.

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Saturday, 2 February 2008

Was the Intelligent Design Challenge Intelligently Designed?

A couple of days ago, Ian Musgrave put up The Intelligent Design Challenge at The Panda's Thumb. He gave 6 DNA sequences, and the challenge was to work out which ones were designed by humans. What I thought was interesting about this was not so much finding the answer, but working out what Ian Musgrave was trying to show, and whether the intelligent design community would pass the test he was really setting. Or indeed if they even spotted it.

The reaction of the professional IDers was, apparently, to not enter. Bill Dembski posted the challenge at Uncommon Descent, but went no further (at least publically). Casey Luskin, attack-mouse of the Disco Institute (Casey, any chance of you sending mea signed photo I can put up here?) told us in the UD thread

Dembski’s methods of design detection can discriminate between informational patterns that are produced by chance/law, or alternatively were produced by intelligence. When there is real design to be detected, Dembski’s methods of design detection can work regardless of whether the designer was human or non-human.

and then complained that the other sequences might be of non-human design, so the method won't work. Of course, he doesn't actually try to apply the method, and then note that there might be false positives. Neither are apparently prepared to use Dembski's explanatory filter for anything other than making divine coffee.

One of the amateur IDers, Patrick, did some detective work. He discovered that four of the six sequences are found in the synthetic bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium. The rest of the UD crowd are ecstatic and declare victory. Oh, and complain about how it's an awful challenge. Even funnier, when Musgrave clarifies the challenge, they really pile on, claiming total victory using an appalling cricket analogy (my conclusion is that Patrick didn't read the final delivery and was undone by the wrong'un).

Now, before Musgrave reveals all, I'll try and make an intelligently designed prediction, based on my extensive research (5 minutes BLASTing the sequences). BLAST is an algorithm for efficiently searching DNA sequences for close matches - you give it a sequence, and it tells you what sequences are similar. There is a huge database called GenBank, which should contain all publically available sequences. If you plug in Ian Musgrave's sequences in (as the ironically named Teleological has also done), you find that the same four sequences as Patrick are in there as coming from the synthetic bacterium. But, the final sequence, number 6, is also found in a natural M. genitalium, so it isn't artificially designed. Nobody at UD seems to have noticed this yet.

Two points amused me. Firstly, I was not surprised that there was a little trap - what's the point in setting a challenge like this if you make it easy? The second one is the way Patrick found the solution. Before his post, DLH had pointed to Venter's work on making an artificial bacterium. Patrick acknowledges that he has to use extra information to decide which is designed, and indeed argues that he needs to have this extra information. In other words he needs to know the identity of the designer. This is not good because ID claims that it is possible to detect design without knowing anything about the designer. There is a strong insistence that one shouldn't say anything about the identity of the designer. A cynical interpretation of this is that it is an attempt to avoid admitting that the designer is their Christian God, so that ID is creationism, and hence religion. So, Patrick has demonstrated an important point - in practical design detection one immediately tries to use as much information as one has about the putative designers. And why not?

Oh, silly me. Politics. Read more!

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Big Grant Deadline Today!

Today is the deadline for applications to the Finnish Academy, so scientists all over the country are busy writing abstracts and trying to find an amusing acronym for their project. The bad news for them is that they are up against fierce competition.

Yes, the beast will soon send off the description of his project on Integrated Pest Management For The Removal of the Coarse-haired Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) from Finland.

35% is a reasonable proportion of the grant for me to charge as an overhead, don't you think?
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Monday, 28 January 2008

Not a bluff

I got home late today (I might blog about why later), and found two postcards from the post office through my letterbox. For those of you who don't know, if the Finnish post office can't deliver a package, they put a postcard through your letterbox telling you to pick it up.
Anyway, I was expecting one package, with some books in it (CRC Press/Chapman and Hall was having a sale). But two? Anyway, I wandered down to the post office, just before it closed and picked the up. One was large and light, the other smaller but heavier and presumably contained the books. How wrong I was! The larger package was full of statistical goodness, and clear air. The smaller package had several copies of the February issue of Bluff Europe, evidently a poker magazine (and not as exciting as Buff Europe...). I don't even play poker - it's too close to work.
So, if anyone in Helsinki wants some hot tips from Sammy Farha - the coolest man in poker (huh? I thought that was someone else), just get in contact with me. You too can follow Phil Hellmuth's Fantasy Final Table!

Me? I'm just a lawnmower. You can tell me by the way I walk.
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Friday, 25 January 2008

Must See Film!

I wonder if this film is any good:

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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Gender Differences: Need More Data!

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research
I was asked about this last week by a colleague, and now it's hit the blogosphere, so I thought I would publicly leap into a dispute about sexism in science. And make a plea for people to actually look at their data.

This was all started by a group of biologists who have been working at NCEAS on publication biases in ecology (the biggest bias is, of course, that not enough of my papers get accepted straight away). They managed to get their latest results published in TREE.

The received wisdom is that there is a bias against women in science. One area where this might be seen is in acceptance of papers for publication – referees and editors might have a bias (conscious or subconscious) against women. If this is true, the proportion of papers published by women should be higher in journals where the gender of the author is not known.

For this and other reasons there have been suggestions floating around that journals shift to a system of double-blind reviews. At the moment most journals have single blinding: the authors' identities are known to the referees, but the referees' identities are not revealed to the authors (unless the referees wish to do so). In double blinding, the referee doesn't know the identity of the author. Hence, any bias due to gender of the author should be removed. So, if a journal shifts from single blinding to double blinding, the proportion of papers by female authors should increase.

In 2001 the journal Behavioural Ecology moved to double blinding. But did this change the proportion of female authors? Or, more exactly, was there a bias against women that was removed? After all, the proportion of female authors might be changing in the rest of science – the null expectation is that the change in Behavioural Ecology should be the same as in similar journal, rather than there should be no change. So, the group gathered data on the number of papers by male and female first authors from before and after Behavioural Ecology switched to double blinding for five similar journals too. And then they compared the change in proportion of female authors in Behavioural Ecology to that in the other journals.

Err, no.

What they did was to compare the change in the proportion of female authors in each journal to zero. They found was that Behavioural Ecology and Biological Conservation. had increases that were significantly different, but not the other journals. They therefore concluded that there was an effect of double blinding, and that the increase in Biological Conservation must have been due to other factors. Oddly, though, at no point did they seem to make a direct comparison. It is not clear that they looked at the data either. Had they done so, they would have seen this:

The lines show the change from before Behavioural Ecology went double blind to afterwards. The vertical lines are the standard errors. Behavioural Ecology is the thick black line. We see that the proportion of female authors increases in all of the journals, but also that it is greatest in Behavioural Ecology. But is that increase significantly (in any sense) greater than in the other journals? Well, comparing it to zero obviously inflates the estimate of significance, because the other journals are all also increasing.

We can get an idea about if the data show anything with a more focussed analysis. This is also simplified, but I an ignoring some variation, and a more sophisticated analysis (=too much hassle to explain) comes to the same conclusion (and yes, for those who have read the paper, so does including the "don't knows").

What we can do is calculate the difference between the before and after proportions of female authors for the “control group”, and estimate the distribution of differences that would be expected if there was no double blinding implemented. Then we can ask if the difference in the proportion for Behavioural Ecology falls so far outside this distribution that it would be unlikely to explain the change.

These are the differences:

JournalPercentage BeforePercentage AfterDifference (%)
Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology25.126.31.3
Animal Behaviour27.431.64.2
Biological Conservation13.820.66.8
Journal of Biogeography14.416.52.0
Landscape Ecology19.523.43.9

For the journals in black, the mean difference is 3.65%, with a standard deviation of 2.15%. If these were exact, then there would be a 95% chance that the change for another, similar, journal would be between -0.6% and 7.9%. So, Behavioural Ecology is right on the edge.

But it assumes that the variance is known. In reality it is estimated, and only estimated from 5 data points (i.e. not a lot). If we take this into account, we find that the prediction for a journal would fall between -2.3% and 9.6% (with 95% probability). Now Behavioural Ecology is reasonably well inside the limits. Even someone wanting to do a one-sided test will find it inside.

So, the analysis shows little evidence for any effect of double blinding. But there are a couple of caveats, which could have opposite effects. The first is simply that there is not a lot of data – only 6 data points. We would really need more journals to be able to come to any conclusion. In particular, there may have been some other changes at Behavioural Ecology that could have had an effect.

The second caveat is more subtle. Suppose you were a journal editor, and you introduce a rule that authors have to admit that statisticians are the highest form of life in their acknowledgements. After a couple of years, you notice that the proportion of authors called Fisher has increased. You wonder if this is because of the new rule. So, you compare it with other journals, and find no increase. You therefore declare that Coxes appreciate statisticians, but other people don't. But what about all those other effects you didn't see? What about the changes in numbers of Boxes, Coxes, and Nelders? Humans are very good at detecting patterns, but very bad at judging whether they are random. And using the same data from which you spotted a pattern to assess whether it is real is naughty – of course you're going to see an effect, because you've already noticed it in the mass of all possible things that could happen. Now, I don't know if the authors are guilty here – they don't say how they came to decide to examine this particular aspect of the data, but the introduction is a bit arm-wavy about the effect of double-blinding on sex ratio.

Of course, the solution to both caveats is simple – get more data. Anyone fancy trawling through the literature this weekend?

EDIT: Oops. I should have hat-tipped Grrlscientist for her post, which encouraged me to write this. Hedwig - I'm sorry. Please don't set Orpheus onto me...

BUDDEN, A., TREGENZA, T., AARSSEN, L., KORICHEVA, J., LEIMU, R., LORTIE, C. (2008). Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23(1), 4-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.07.008
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Monday, 21 January 2008

Damn Lies in So Many Languages

The ISI Glossary of Statistical Terms

Isn't this just great? You too can find out what the Afrikaans is for heteroscedasticity.

Seriously, this is the sort of resource that is really useful for a small number of people. The web is ideal for it. If only it was easy to find with Google.

I wanted to use the site to find out what the Finnish for "ordinal regression" is. Of course, it's one of the few terms they don't have. So, please tell me! Or tell me what it is in any other language that might be useful - help the ISI!

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Monday, 14 January 2008

The Truth Revealed

On the way home this evening I was musing about quantum mechanics. Now, I know little more than a layman, but I know enough to be aware that nobody really understands it. It struck me that it must have destroyed several promising academic careers - for someone with an analytical mind, it looks like something that you don't understand, but if you just learn a little ore, and try to put the different bits together then eventually the penny will drop, and it will all become clear.

In reality, of course, what happens is that you get sucked into it more and more, until you realise that there is no way you or anyone else will understand it. If you're lucky, that's after you have retired from a successful career as a theoretical physicist. But then the truth hit me...

One of the points they make about quantum mechanics is that it happens at very small scales, so we can never see it directly. Hence, they have to use instruments to measure the effects. With these, all sorts of bizarre and counter-intuitive result are found. But they are never observed directly. Perhaps this is no accident. Perhaps it was designed.

Here's my just-so story theory. Everyone knew that physicists were the only real scientists, finding Great Truths, and telling us that philately will get us nowhere (*). So, as a joke some poor technician decided to set up the latest instrument they were toiling away at to produce non-sensical results. The experiment was performed, and the results published. Thus was quantum mechanics began.

Of course, the technician couldn't admit to it, but that didn't matter. He just persuaded his friends and colleagues to play along with the joke, and build ever bigger instruments to produce nonsense and allow them to laugh behind the backs of these great Nobel-winning scientists. Then, someone must have mockingly suggested digging out the inside of a Swiss alp. And they even fell for that.

So, now we have a whole subject that makes absolutely no sense, because it is a fiction brought about by a conspiracy of instrumentalists. They can't admit it, because they have invested too much in the scam (as, come to that, have several governments). Instead, they go on building their machines to produce random results, safe in the knowledge that whatever odd squiggle is seen as an output, some theoretical physicist will be able to explain it with some weird theory (just stringing us along, eh?).

Of course, biologists would never fall for something like this, would they? After all, what could we be given by a technician? A machine that magically produces all the DNA we want? Who would fall for that?

(*) There. Two obscure references for the price of one.
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Friday, 11 January 2008

Dyed in a blogging accident

This post is for the dyslexic xkcd fans.

At the moment, Google gives about 1,650 hits for "died in a blogging accident", but it seems nobody has yet changed colour as a result of a mishap whilst posting their thoughts to the web.
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Thursday, 10 January 2008

Black Hole Found by Finns

A Finnish team makes the news:
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Huge black hole tips the scales

Yes, I was the one who told the where to find Scunthorpe. Read more!

Monday, 7 January 2008

The On-Flight Service Was Terrible

Finally, a good reason to work/live in a skyscraper.

I must admit to occasionally wanting to stand outside the World Trade Centre in Helsinki and throw paper aeroplanes at it. Read more!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Testing, testing

OK, this is a test to see if my €7 was well spent....

Do we get an equation here?

As you can see, it's a mean equation.

EDIT: Grrr.... OK. Let's see what happens with a picture:

OK, now let's try some graphics

Hmmm, no Turner prize for me, eh?

EDIT: OK, there should be an equation there now. Which means I have a workaround. I'll explain more later, once I've got some feedback from the guys who took my €7 from me...
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