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Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

Frequency Domain Re:Great, now all we need to do... (239 comments)

Are fusion ramjets that magnetically scoop interstellar gas & dust implausible? Curse Larry Niven for making a mockery of my childhood dreams!

about a week ago
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A Ray of Hope For Americans and Scientific Literacy?

Frequency Domain Re:What other variable were examined? (668 comments)

The reason the story is interesting to non-statisticians is because anti-Tea Party stereotypes are proven wrong.

No, they're not. Bad analysis => cannot draw conclusions either way.

I have focused on Simpson's paradox in this thread because somebody else brought up controlling for education level, but it's not the only problem I noticed. I don't have any desire to go into a deep technical discussion of p-values and their interpretation, but I'll leave you with the thought that even with purely random data a proportion of them will be below your "critical threshold" alpha due to sheer chance - by definition alpha is the false positive rate for classifying effects as significant. If you try out a whole bunch of models at random, some of them will meet the alpha threshold even though they're not actually significant. The Yale professor strongly inferred that this was his methodology - he took a data set gathered for other purposes and tried things out until he got an interesting "significant" result. The fact that it's a "controversial" result is getting him lots of media attention. In the long run he may or may not turn out to be right, but this isn't good science.

Bottom line, since the analysis was done improperly (in several ways), you can't actually draw conclusions either way.

about 6 months ago
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A Ray of Hope For Americans and Scientific Literacy?

Frequency Domain Re:What other variable were examined? (668 comments)

What does this have to do with whether Tea Party sympathizers understand science or not? What is the precise benefit of controlling for years of education? Do we care whether Tea Party people have more or less science knowledge than non-Tea Party people with the same number of years of formal education? Why?

Because it is possible to have both of these statements be true at the same time: "Tea Party people on average know more science than non-Tea Party People" and "At every education level the Tea Party people know less about science than the non-Tea Party people". The correct conclusion would then be that if you want to know how much somebody knows about science, look at their education but then adjust downwards if they are Tea Party people. Note that I'm not saying that that is the case. I'm saying rather that we can't tell whether the Tea Party identification has a positive or negative effect because the stupid social scientist did an improper statistical analysis. The more dominant education is in determining the outcome, the more important it is that you take it into account when considering the impact of other factors.

Do you want to condemn the Tea Party as being above average, but less above average than some other group of people? Who? And why?

I'm not condemning anybody except the Yale professor. I'm just a professional statistician who refuses to get suckered into drawing a conclusion one way or the other at this point based on shoddy analysis, and I'm trying to alert other /.'ers to the fact that the impact could actually still go either way if what you and I both agree is a major factor, education level, is properly accounted for.

about 6 months ago
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A Ray of Hope For Americans and Scientific Literacy?

Frequency Domain Re:What other variable were examined? (668 comments)

Notwithstanding Simpson's Paradox, I'm still pretty sure science knowledge mostly comes from education.

Then you're not understanding Simpson's Paradox - this is exactly why you want to control for education.

Consider something floating on the water. Its movement will be a vector sum of wind effects and current effects. Suppose you happen to get a sample where the wind and the current are in opposite directions, and you try to estimate the effect of wind only, i.e., you leave current out of your model. At a minimum you will underestimate the impact of the wind, and if the current happened to be dominant in a large proportion of your sample you might even draw the false conclusion that free-floating objects move in the opposite direction from the wind! That's Simpson's Paradox - by omitting an important effect, you can actually end up drawing a conclusion that is the opposite of the truth.

about 6 months ago
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A Ray of Hope For Americans and Scientific Literacy?

Frequency Domain Re:What other variable were examined? (668 comments)

Why should you control for that? Where do non-white people and non-male people think science knowledge comes from?

Because of the potential for Simpson's Paradox.

about 6 months ago
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Aeromobil Flying Car Prototype Gets Off the Ground For the First Time

Frequency Domain Looks pretty (56 comments)

Pretty unstable, that is. The thing has almost no ground clearance, and seemed to really be wobbly on takeoff. I'd be pretty nervous for takeoffs and landings.

about 6 months ago
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Extreme Complexity of Scientific Data Driving New Math Techniques

Frequency Domain Re:We are the ones in need of a network (107 comments)

I find it hard to believe that our sciences are driving the math fields, as mature and well-developed as the math community is.

Reminds me of the anecdote about Prof. Rota when he was asked by a reporter why MIT didn't really have an applied math department. He responded, "We do! It's all of those other departments!"

about 6 months ago
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What's your favorite medium for Sci-Fi?

Frequency Domain Prefer books to movies (322 comments)

Most authors try to avoid gaping plot holes, while Hollywood seems to consider them mandatory.

about 8 months ago
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Obama Administration Overrules iPhone Trade Ban

Frequency Domain Re:Strangely... (397 comments)

Failure to negotiate a license and failure to negotiate for a license are two different things.

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Should More Math and Equations Be Used In the Popular Press?

Frequency Domain Re:Mathematics is taught in schools... (385 comments)

So if some author wrote an article discussing finer interpretations of the Bible, citing sections as quotes in the original Latin, Hebrew, or ancient Greek, and you couldn't understand them, that would be willful ignorance on your part?

about 9 months ago
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Man Campaigns For Addition of 'Th' Key To Keyboard

Frequency Domain Re:Why not promote a Dvorak keyboard instead? (258 comments)

Seriously, I still fail to understand why the Qwerty keyboard still is the norm, even in virtual keyboard in mobile devices.

Because of path dependence. Even if everybody agreed that Dvorak was so much better than Qwerty, and they don't, the transition cost of migrating to Dvorak by replacing all the hardware and software and retraining everybody is deemed not worth it. That's why it's often better to be first to market than to be technically superior -- if you can get a high enough early adoption rate your competitors will have a real uphill battle.

about 10 months ago
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Subversion 1.8 Released But Will You Still Use Git?

Frequency Domain Re:Both Have Their Purposes (378 comments)

For personal use I like Tower, but that's OS X only and costs $. SourceTree, in addition to being free, works on both Windows and OS X so that's what I recommend for my students.

about 10 months ago
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Goodbye, Lotus 1-2-3

Frequency Domain Re:How about cutting Notes? (276 comments)

The real irony was that Lotus killed off the Windows port of Improv because it was overtaking 1-2-3, which they regarded as their flagship product at the time. Improv was a dream to use and stood head and shoulders above Excel and other 1-2-3 knockoffs of the time. Every once in a while I dust off and fire up my old NeXT cube just to blow friends away with the fact that spreadsheets don't have to suck, and we've known how to do it right for over 20 years now. The closest modern equivalent is Quantrix, but that costs a small fortune so it's never going to see widespread adoption - besides which, it got really uglified when they ported it to Java.

about a year ago
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Can Older Software Developers Still Learn New Tricks?

Frequency Domain Doesn't look like they normalized their data (365 comments)

If the reputation scores weren't normalized by how long people have been active on the site, it invalidates the study's performance measure. It takes both good answers and time to accumulate high reputations.

about a year ago
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Most Projects On GitHub Aren't Open Source Licensed

Frequency Domain Re:No license (630 comments)

I have uploaded the meagre, puny code that I've written in a small number of projects without bothering with a license. I expect people to steal it and be quiet about it, because I am the noise floor of github.

Thus guaranteeing that nobody with a lick of sense in the corporate world will touch your stuff. If you didn't specify a license option of some sort, then (at least in the US) you hold copyright and anybody who uses your stuff without your explicit written permission is wide open to a law suit. A lot of folks think copyright is something you have to apply for, but registering a copyright is not necessary - that's merely a convenience to help support your claim if it ever gets contested.

1 year,5 days
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Ruby 2.0.0 Released

Frequency Domain Re:Review Ruby for the perl enthusiast please (121 comments)

Java still otherwise wants to follow the everything is an object model.

I don't think that means what you think it means.

The primitives do stick out like a sore thumb, you are right.

Who'da thunk this was such a hard concept? Look, if there are primitives in a language, then pretty much by definition not everything is an object.

about a year ago
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Ruby 2.0.0 Released

Frequency Domain Re:Review Ruby for the perl enthusiast please (121 comments)

And every primitive has a class version...

Which emphasizes the point - they are different things, or the duplication wouldn't be necessary.

...to which the primitives are automatically boxed when they need to be treated like objects.

Auto-boxing/unboxing is an unbelievably ugly kludge which exists specifically because Java distinguishes between primitives and objects. After enough programmers kvetched about the ugliness and extra code that was needed, Sun threw auto-boxing in somewhere around Java 1.4 or 1.5.

Languages with a true "everything is an object" model don't need such an awful hack. They also don't require umpteen implementations of containers or sorting (one for Objects and one apiece for each of the primitive types), with all the library bloat that entails. They don't need the programmer to be mentally tracking which elements are primitives and which are objects, and making sure to use the right constructs for each.

about a year ago
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Ruby 2.0.0 Released

Frequency Domain Re:Review Ruby for the perl enthusiast please (121 comments)

Java also sports the "everything is an object" mentality.

Say what?!?!?! Java explicitly distinguishes between primitives and objects! You can't send messages to primitives or literals in Java, only to objects and classes. Contrast with Ruby, where "5.times {p rand}" is a perfectly legitimate way to print five random numbers because the literal "5" is an Integer object which can respond to any message Integers implement.

about a year ago
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America's Real Criminal Element: Lead

Frequency Domain Re:Correlation, Causation, blah blah (627 comments)

Did you read the actual article?

You're actually suggesting slashdotters should read the article before commenting? What is wrong with you people!

about a year ago
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Perl Turns 25

Frequency Domain Re:Why perl? (263 comments)

A language in decline is dying. The data shows Ruby to be in a long decline, spanning several years. You're insane.

In an expanding market a given item can have a declining market share and still be experiencing growth. Apple sells more iPhones than ever even though its share of the smartphone market has declined. The same logic can apply to programming languages as well as commodities.

about a year ago

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