Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here is an ongoing effort to collect proposals about reforming scientific publishing, as well as data-collection, data-handling, and data-analysis practices:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A simple visualization of the earthquakes in Japan

Because my brother and sister-in-law live in Sendai, Japan (and they're okay!), I've been a bit more focused on this recent disaster than I would be otherwise. Aside from the enormous first quake, there have been an amazing number of aftershocks, many of them quite large. To help myself visualize this, I created a graph (above; click for a larger version) that illustrates the magnitude of these earthquakes as a function of time, starting from the really big quake Friday afternoon until early-morning Sunday (Japan Standard Time). The y-axis is the moment-magnitude scale (MW), which is apparently the measure of choice among seismologists for measuring the intensity of earthquakes. The x-axis is time, with hourly increments. Each earthquake is a dot at a particular time and magnitude. The red line is at MW = 6.5, which the USGS uses as its cutoff for "significant" earthquakes. There are 178 earthquakes (!) represented in the graph over about 38 hours. I also added a trend-line (a 6th order polynomial; a sextic function) to help visualize the change in intensity over time.

The data are from the USGS website.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A cautionary tale from a statistics instructor

Imagine that, some time in the future, you have the worst insomnia anyone in history has ever experienced. So you sit on your favorite chair and turn on the TV to pass the time, in hopes of finding Ferris Bueller's Day Off playing on TBS; sadly, it isn't. While you flip through channels, you notice a commercial for insomnia treatment drugs. In the commercial, which features images of beautiful people sleeping restfully in beds with the finest fabrics, a voiceover says that Brand A and Brand B were compared to see which is more effective. The voiceover continues and says that these comparisons indicated that one of the brands is more effective, so effective in fact that the FDA says that anyone who ever has trouble falling asleep should take this drug now!

But it doesn't tell you which one works better.

After you throw a slipper at the TV, the voiceover then continues and says that the test of Brand A and Brand B was carried out on both men and women, and that the brands worked differently for men and women.

But it doesn't tell for which group the brands work better or worse. Just that the effectiveness of the brands differs for the groups.

After you throw your other slipper at your pet, you realize that you should write a note to that stats teacher you had years ago and apologize for saying that main effects and interactions are significant without saying anything more. And then you cry a little, wishing that the commercial were more informative. And eventually, finally, slumber ensues, but your dreams are filled with a voice saying the words significant effect ... and nothing else.

Please help your statistics teacher keep his or her slippers on, and from abusing any pets.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Maybe the brain is involved ...

From the Monday, February 16 New York Times:

Full speculation on the brain's possible involvement here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Diagramming Sarah Palin's utterances

This picture (click it for a full-size, easier-to-read version)

represents an attempt by Kitty Burns Florey (in an article on Slate) to diagram one of Sarah Palin's sentences from Palin's interview with Charles Gibson a few weeks back. The original: "I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people." I hope this kind of thing catches on; diagramming sentences for Mrs. DiPego back in 7th grade was no fun at all, but nowadays it feels to me like as much fun as Sudoku (you should read no irony in that statement; I mean it earnestly).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

So painfully dumb

Sarah Palin can't name a Supreme Court case besides Roe v. Wade.

And she can't name a single newspaper that she reads.

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Videos are linked because Facebook's note importer sucks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WTF?! Army unit to be stationed within the USA

This video

contains a report based on this ArmyTimes article, which is just plain scary. Is there really a need for trained killers to be patrolling US soil? Some quotes:

  • They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. ('Cause these happen all the time, right?)
  • Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area. (Isn't this what the National Guard is for?)
  • The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them. (Isn't beating people up what cops are for? And really good at?)
  • The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets. I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body. I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.” (Awesome, dude. Totally fucking awesome.)
Via Metafilter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin, foreign policy dim bulb

Anyone who has read snippets from or actually seen Sarah Palin's interview with ABC News's Charles Gibson must know by now that she's completely unqualified to be any kind of executive officer, much less Vice-President. Jack Shafer on Slate put it succinctly:

Without being smarmy about it or unfurling gotcha questions, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson demonstrated that he knows volumes more about national security and foreign policy than does Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
If you've not seen any of this, do yourself a favor and watch it, and then make sure that you make an informed choice in November, and do NOT vote for McCain-Palin.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mozart effect? Nah.

My friend and colleague Elizabeth Hellmuth (Lisa) Margulis had a nice press release from the University of Arkansas today. She briefly addresses some of the silliness about the so-called Mozart effect and how pleasure from listening to music both is and isn't like that derived from sex and chocolate (one, the other, or both).

I've written about stuff like the Mozart effect before (e.g., Baby Bee Bright), and this kind of thing deserves to be mocked, poked, and tortured at every chance. Nosing around the Web for Mozart effect and similar products turns up astonishing crap, like a book called the The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit by "music visionary Don Campbell" (those four words in quotes produce 57 hits when Googled); Mr. Campbell as pusher-of-the-Mozart-effect is briefly discussed here by a less credulous source. The CDs you can purchase to accompany the book have music that "has been specially selected, sequenced, edited, and mastered to realize the transformative powers found in Mozart’s compositions." The different CDs have different magical powers. One Strengthens the Mind. Another Heals the Body. Others are to Unlock the Creative Spirit and for Focus and Clarity. Awesome stuff!

Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain and reproductive rights

For those who are pro-choice and considering voting for McCain, please note the following from The New Republic:

Life Sentence
by Sarah Blustain
Stop kidding yourself: John McCain is a pro-life zealot.
Post Date Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moreover, say advocates, he is not open to dialogue. "Whether it's abortion care, birth control, or comprehensive sex education, McCain is not moderate or a maverick," says Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America and a key lobbyist on these questions. "We never ask--and we never hear pro-choice Republicans question--whether McCain will be with us on a vote. He's always on the wrong side."

read more