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Defining chaos

July 29, 2011

I'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 […]

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Suspicious poll distributions

September 25, 2009

I've covered Benford's method for first-digit fraud analysis before, and now Nate Silver has applied a similar method to polling results. He looked at the last digit of various polls (i.e. a 48% McCain, 49% Obama, 3% undecided poll would be recorded as an 8 and a 9) and compiled histograms of their frequencies. Following […]

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A response to randomness

July 12, 2009

In response to my post on the WSJ's recent randomness article, B emailed me the following (reproduced here with permission): The quoted WSJ article writes "We find false meaning in the patterns of randomness for good reason: we are animals built to do just that… Many studies illustrate how this basic aspect of human nature […]

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The subtleties of randomness

July 7, 2009

The WSJ has printed one of the best "fooled by randomness" pieces I've seen in quite a while, titled "The Triumph of the Random." This one uses streaks in sports as a central metaphor, with DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as exhibit A. It presents an immediate disclaimer: Recent academic studies have questioned whether DiMaggio’s streak […]

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Visualizing randomness

May 19, 2009

Daniel Becker's diploma dissertation was on the visualization of randomness - finding concrete ways to map the highly abstract idea of random behaviors and patterns. The resulting portfolio is fascinating, even for someone without a statistical background, in particular for the way in which it lends a semblance of order to these inherently chaotic processes. […]

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