From the category archives:


Deep learning goes mainstream

November 24, 2012

Another 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 […]

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To surprise of pundits...

November 7, 2012

Thanks, 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.

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Politics & Statistics

November 4, 2012

I'm a big fan of Nate Silver -- he consistently demonstrates that he is one of the best and brightest statisticians around. I like to say that statisticians (and risk managers) are professional skeptics; our job is to let data speak for itself, not to speak on its behalf. Nate Silver does that better than […]

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"And boy have we patented it!"

August 24, 2012

Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone, January 9, 2007: We've been innovating like crazy the last few years on this, and we've filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them. And they have. (Here are links to the title and post source videos)

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What a headline!

September 20, 2011

The title of this NYT article got my attention: Italy Rejects S.&.P. Downgrade. Why didn't the U.S. think of that?

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I'm speechless.

August 16, 2011

Only Michael Arrington would propose something as absurd as a "wealth tax" and then use Donald Trump to demonstrate why it's not a crazy idea. And only Michael Arrington would take Warren Buffet, one of our generation's most respected investors and philanthropists, to task for daring to ask the government to raise his taxes. And […]

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Not with a bang but a whimper

July 25, 2011

Old and busted: insightful tech journalism for a general audience New hotness: attacking brand new (prototype!) technologies that you don't understand

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Why the Mac App Store is a brilliant idea

October 20, 2010

Apple announced this afternoon that the App Store is coming to Macs - a brilliant move on their part. When the iPad was announced, I speculated that it would imitate the Dashboard of Mac OS. Instead, it pursued a "single serving app" model, with great success. So great, in fact, that now the tables have […]

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Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924 - 2010

October 18, 2010

Benoit 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.

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Kicking the oil habit

June 23, 2010

Jon Stewart is insightful as always:

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SIGTARP confirms: TARP an exercise in moral hazard

January 31, 2010

The Special Inspector General's report on TARP has been released from embargo. It concludes that TARP was unsuccessful, and even its (debatable) short-term corrections are overshadowed by the extent to which it has returned the economy to its previous bubble state -- "we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time […]

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Places I've been: the Big Well (and meteorite!)

January 29, 2010

Deep in southwestern Kansas, surrounded by miles and miles of absolutely nothing, is a giant stone-lined hole in the ground. It's not just any old hole, though -- it's the largest hand-dug well in the world. And according to the WSJ, it's about to acquire a world-class museum: The citizens of Greensburg are planning a […]

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The Burj Khalifa

January 4, 2010

It was announced at the official opening of the tallest building in the world that it will no longer be called the Burj Dubai, but rather the Burj Khalifa, a nod to the President of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa. One will of course recall that just a few weeks ago, Abu Dhabi rescued Dubai from […]

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"I" before "E" except after "Treasur"

December 11, 2009

From a WSJ opinion lamenting the state of Manhattan Chinese food (of all things): Walk through New York's Chinatowns—there are two—and you'd think that the Chinese don't know about fine dining. Here it's all about shared tables at food stalls and loud, crowded dining halls that feel trapped in an era when Mao was still […]

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Airbus Fixes Mandated

December 6, 2009

This article ran in the print version of the Wall Street Journal with the headline "Airbus Fixes Mandated." After reading it, I wondered "Airbus fixes mandated what?" But I was wrong. I read "Fixes" as a verb and "Mandated" as an adjective. The headline writer had intended for "Fixes" to be a noun and "Mandated" […]

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The regulation bubble

November 10, 2009

Breaking down Senator Dodd's financial reform bill.

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364 days ago?

November 4, 2009

In a cab last night, I heard a radio station broadcast a medly of "Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States" calls, followed by a heavily caffeinated announcing repeatedly that it has been one year since Obama was elected and soliciting comments from his audience. Yesterday was November 3. Obama was elected on […]

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Limbaugh totally would have said that

November 4, 2009

As much as I agree with Maureen Dowd's latest opinion (shocking, yes), this drives me crazy: If W. had gone to Dover in the middle of the night to salute the war dead, Limbaugh and Liz Cheney would have been gushing about his patriotism. But since it’s Obama who at last showed up there to […]

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Sounds like the melting pot needs a good stir

November 3, 2009

It's an extraordinarily sad state of affairs when you can come to this country at the age of 12 as a refugee, train as a gifted runner in San Diego junior high and high schools, attend UCLA as an incredible four-time All-American award winner, become a naturalized US citizen as you graduate college, compete in […]

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Nature abhors a Higgs

October 16, 2009

A few days ago, the NYT published a bizarre article which suggested - or rather, which discussed a paper that itself suggested - that the Large Hadron Collider was actually being sabotaged. By itself. From the future. (I promise you won't regret clicking that link. I've watched the video four times just writing this.) Confused, […]

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The most important news you will read this week

October 15, 2009

It was buried deep, deep in the Arts section of Tuesday's NYT, but nonetheless, sitting in an airport food court, I found it: ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ Sequel Lands in Britain Apparently it is not standard practice for British men and women to gather dressed in bathrobes and toting towels. When hundreds of fans thus clad assembled […]

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Lessons in diplomacy

September 27, 2009

When the world has just learned that its suspicions about your secret nuclear ambitions are frighteningly accurate, you should probably go ahead and flaunt ten days of missile testing.

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Iran has a secret nuclear plant

September 25, 2009

I am hardly surprised, and fervently hope this erodes any remaining legitimacy that the present Iranian government has managed to cling to. (Via everyone)

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Adventures in probability

September 17, 2009

Calculating the probability of the Bulgarian lottery drawing the exact same numbers in consecutive weeks.

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BMW's new concept

September 1, 2009

And speaking of progress, is anyone else incredibly excited by the Vision EfficientDynamics concept from BMW? Only a small fraction of these concept cars make it to productions with any semblance to the original design, but I still love to see them. Sure, the styling is extreme and the blue lighting is garish but... really, […]

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Why the administration may be missing its chance

July 18, 2009

From the LA Times, a remarkable transformation is taking place: And as hard-liners repeated their signature cries of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," Mousavi supporters overwhelmed them with chants of "Death to Russia" and "Death to China," referring to the two U.N. Security Council members that have shielded Iran from much tougher sanctions over […]

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On my lack of writing on Iran

June 21, 2009

An email I received which, I think, puts it succinctly: WRITE SOMETHING, ANYTHING, ABOUT IRAN.  GET YOUR READERS, AT LEAST, TO THINK ABOUT IT, IF NOT TO SHUDDER AT THE REINCARNATION OF HITLER'S BROWNSHIRTS AND MUSSOLINI'S BLACKSHIRTS. With apologies. I have been so engrossed by the situation that I have felt any writing inadequate to […]

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Slow news day?

June 17, 2009

The WSJ is reporting today on Nassim Taleb and Mark Spitznagel's new hyperinflation fund. It's basically the same story they reported two weeks ago when this news broke. And it's not a hyperinflation fund, anyway.

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Giving away $1 billion

June 4, 2009

Former Commerce Secretary and Blackstone co-founder Peter Peterson has written a piece titled "Why I'm Giving Away $1 Billion," which provides a summary answer in its subtitle: "The moment is overdue for us to become moral and worthy ancestors." He prefaces his complete argument by observing: But immediately I began wondering: what do I do […]

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Maureen Dowd should watch her language

May 18, 2009

Mark Liberman on Maureen Dowd's explanation of how another author's paragraph mysteriously wound up in her latest column: As a college professor, I've heard many excuses for plagiarism over the years, but I don't believe that I've ever heard one quite that lame.

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