Nate Silver's new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don't, is, on the whole, an excellent overview of statistical thinking. I think most of my readers would enjoy it. However, it is plagued by some bizarre mistakes that left me unable to completely trust that every detail is correct. […]

# Math

## Deep learning goes mainstream

November 24, 2012Another day, another surprise from the New York Times! This time it's a front page article on "deep-learning," an integral part of my own work and something that defies many attempts at simple explanation. Sadly, that's also true of the Times article, which never actually explains what deep learning is! Indeed, the reader is left to wonder […]

## To surprise of pundits...

November 7, 2012Thanks, xkcd: As of this writing, the only thing that's 'razor-thin' or 'too close to call' is the gap between the consensus poll forecast and the result.

## Autoencoders go mainstream

June 27, 2012My inbox has been buzzing with links to an interesting new research paper from a team at Google led by Andrew Ng (of Stanford AI fame) and Jeff Dean. However, I'm receiving far more links to an NYT piece covering the research. It's great that the work is getting mainstream coverage, but somewhat unfortunate because […]

## High tech's hottest calling

January 26, 2012The NYT's Bits blog has a new post on "high tech’s hottest calling:" statistical analysis. The article isn't just about the jobs market, focusing as well on students' increased demand for statistics classes at top universities. The opening anecdote will be familiar to anyone in the field: “Most of my life I went to parties […]

## Have your math and eat it, too

January 11, 2012Here are two of my favorite things, unexpectedly combined: This is from the slideshow accompanying a brief NYT article on an unusual book called Pasta by Design. The book is about, yes, modeling pasta in Mathematica. (via FlowingData)

## Brilliant

November 27, 2011Six famous thought experiments, each presented in 60 seconds: Reminds me a bit of the Peabody and Sherman sketches from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show...

## Stat is magic

October 13, 2011I really love the latest post on Lessons from my Twenties, called Stat Is Magic. Sometimes, things are better left as magic.

## Elegance

September 19, 2011I'm a huge fan of Tom Lehrer and have mentioned him a number of times before. I just came across an interview with him from 2000 in which he discussed his dual life as a mathematician and performer. I especially loved this quote, on the concept of "elegance" in mathematics: I think the construction part, […]

## What's a 4?

September 19, 2011I'm starting to feel this way sometimes.

## Bayes, prior to reading

August 16, 2011I may have to go pick up this book, which was reviewed in the NYT last week, if only because it opens with a favorite quote from Keynes. Titled The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy (Wow, titles are getting […]

## Defining chaos

July 29, 2011I've been doing a lot of reading on chaos, in particular on the nature of chaotic systems. I was recently trying to explain to a friend why a dynamic system, which can be perfectly captured by a "deterministic" equation, can nonetheless exhibit chaotic behavior. His refusal at first to accept that fact reminded me of my […]

## Data science vs business intelligence

June 30, 2011Steve Miller has written a nice two-part piece on data science for Information Management. Part 1 overviews the topic, including links to many pieces that have been profiled on TGR. Part 2 is a more direct comparison of data science and "business intelligence," a somewhat lackluster (but growing) field of data analytics. One quote stood […]

## Lightning does strike twice

October 20, 2010Remember that Bulgarian lottery that happened in a bar that drew the same numbers in consecutive weeks? (TGR covered it extensively here and less extensively here.) Well, it turns out lightning does strike twice: the Israeli lottery had the same winning combinations come up just three weeks apart - though the numbers were drawn in a […]

## Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924 - 2010

October 18, 2010Benoit Mandelbrot had a greater academic impact on my life than perhaps any other person. I was deeply saddened to learn he had passed away. The NYT has prepared an obituary.

## Risk & risk management

June 30, 2010An overview of financial risk and the risk management process.

## What is data science?

June 3, 2010The latest in a series of articles on the topic, Mike Loukides of O'Reilly Radar asks, "What is data science?": We've all heard it: according to Hal Varian, statistics is the next sexy job. Five years ago, in What is Web 2.0, Tim O'Reilly said that "data is the next Intel Inside." But what does that statement […]

## Beware statisticians bearing gifts

May 24, 2010The NYT is running a great article about the influx of data in today's world. The prime argument borrows from Einstein's quote, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." I think this speaks volumes and should be heeded by the sites that persist in churning out infographics […]

## Alice in Numberland

March 9, 2010Fascinating... far from being a psychedelic tour of the imagination, one graduate student argues that Alice in Wonderland is actually a satire of Victorian mathematics: Yet Dodgson [Lewis Carroll] most likely had real models for the strange happenings in Wonderland, too. He was a tutor in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, and Alice’s search for […]

## The mathematician's lens

January 25, 2010A beautiful article in the NYTimes contrasts abstract mathematics with the chilling reality of the Mexican drug cartel wars: I was born in Mexico City, in a world that seems less and less familiar to me. I live now in the opposite corner of the continent. I am training to be a political scientist at […]

## 011110

January 11, 2010Today's date represents a binary string. So did yesterday's. So will November 1's. This is not news. But today's is a palindrome. This is slightly more newsworthy. Geeks, rejoice.

## More mainstream Bayesians

December 20, 2009The NYT recently ran an article on the math behind the recent and controversial mammogram advisory change. Unsurprisingly, it is heavily centered on a Bayesian argument. Of course, the key point here is not that the statistics dictated the change, but that budgets and political agendas dictated an acceptable level, which the statistics subsequently informed: […]

## Professor Risk

December 13, 2009David Spiegelhalter is the Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University. He has recently produced the following video to encourage better practices in the casual perception of risky behaviors: I think it's a brilliant video and would love to have been one of Professor Spegelhalter's students. I firmly believe that the study […]

## Parallel processing

December 11, 2009Via Spontaneous Symmetry, a fascinating story about parallel processing and the power of blogging: Normally, when [a mathematician] seeks a proof, he locks himself in a room with a chalkboard for long periods of time. He may consult his peers at his university, he may read books, he may look through papers, but the majority […]

## Great expectations

November 27, 2009I've previously covered the danger of attributing meaning to a forecast which is obviously based on little or no information. In that case, it was the manufacturing survey, which one might dismiss as a more obscure measure. Recently, however, Ken Houghton has written a pair of posts on inflation forecasts that bring me back to […]

## He clearly didn't give it 110%

November 17, 2009Silicon Alley Insider is running a series of posts called "15 _______ questions that will make you feel stupid." The blank has been filled twice with "Google interview" and most recently with "management consultant interview." I particularly enjoyed one of the Google questions: If the probability of observing a car in 30 minutes on a […]

## Choropleths in R (yes, "choropleths")

November 12, 2009Using R to recreate color-indexed maps of US unemployment data.

## Math is hard!

November 11, 2009Via Spontaneous Symmetry, it appears that some people are a bit rusty on their math. The town of Truro, MA recently voted on a proposed zoning measure which required a two-thirds approval to pass. Out of 206 people, 136 voted in favor - just shy of the required two-thirds. Or was it? The exact count […]

## Ten statisticians every psychologist should know

November 11, 2009Psychologist Daniel Wright has published a list of ten statisticians every psychologist should know. The list is comprised of The Founding Fathers: 1. Karl Pearson - who established statistics as an academic discipline 2. Ronald Fisher - who developed much of statistics' mathematical foundation, including ANOVA and maximum likelihood, and the importance of p-values 3. […]