Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Make Beliefs Comix

Dread Tomato Addiction by Tomato Addict
Dread Tomato Addiction Blog Comic
A few notes. If you want to use this, try a dry run first where you just test out the tools. I had problems with the delete tool, because I forgot I had it selected and deleted some work accidentally. Also don't click the "back" button to get back to editing after you try to send it, or you will lose the whole thing (my own fault for not reading!). The email-comic feature didn't work either (or maybe it is just slow), so I had to use a screen capture. Still fun to use though. Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Monday, January 26, 2009

No Virtue in Politeness

Found on Pharyngula:
I want my commenters to be uncivil. There is no virtue in politeness when confronted with ignorance, dishonesty, and delusion. I want them to charge in to the heart of the issue and shred the frauds, without hesitation and without faltering over manners. These demands for a false front of civility are one of the strategies used by charlatans who want to mask their lack of substance — oh, yes, it would be so goddamned rude to point out that a huckster is lying to you. I am quite happy that we have a culture of being rude to frauds here.

That was PZ Myers commenting earlier this month on the treatment given to certain people posting comments on his blog Pharyngula. He is right too. We know it is all too easy to be rude on the internet, because there are no consequences for bad behavior. Likewise there are no consequences for dishonesty and ignorance. However, there is credibility on the internet. Communities of readers build up knowledge and trust in each other. It's easy to be false on the internet, but building up credibility require time and consistency. It's not perfect, people can be fooled, but that is nothing new. Credibility is the virtue of the internet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Swoop Rabbit Swoop

Nature flying Rabbit hunting evolutionA note in Nature Alert [Subscribe at] brings attention to increased evolutionary pressures brought about by human predation. I am particularly alarmed by evidence given in the accompanying photograph. This rabbit hunter is not aiming for any normal ground-dwelling creature. Note the elevated position of his hunting weapon, he is clearly aiming at some airborne target; a newly evolved species of Coniculous lepin flappin! (OK, I didn't see it first, but I'm naming it anyway.)

running flying rabbit Jody MelansonHere is a close-up photo of Coniculous flappin in low-altitude flight.
[photo by Jody Melanson]

Rabbit wings natasha Leong copyrightHere is another example, this one shown with wings extended. It is not clear if this individual is of the same species or in another newly mutated offshoot.
[photo copyright Natasha Leong]

Of even greater concern: what might happen if the flight mutation should spontaneously develop in domesticated species ... such as sheep!

Finally, I apologize for my recent dry-spell in posting. A nasty flu bug had me out of action for a few days, and I'm still getting caught up.
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spoilers Ahead

stop spoiler alert Caution: This post contains spoilers about one of my favorite blogs. I've been wanting to write this post since November, and have held back for fear of letting the secret out of the bag. You might wonder how I can spoil a blog, but this one also requires an opinion about the blogger, an opinion that you might be better off forming for yourself without the influence of a confirmed tomato addict.
If you have some time, go check out Science and Math Defeated and form your own opinion. I'll put mine below the fold.

spoiler hyperperformance.comspoiler
[image somewhat pointlessly borrowed from]

In response to a post by Notedscholar, earlier today I inserted a comment at RationalWiki about this blog (SMD) being satire, a Poe if you like. The comment was soon removed. I really was not trying to be a saboteur, but after carefully digging into some of the posts and references on SMD I find them to be well researched, very cleverly thought out, purposefully crafted counter-arguments to the original statement. As Notedscholar (NS) this blogger plays the anti-science role and never comes out of character. Indeed, he cannot come out of character without defeating the purpose of the blog.

You might also note what NS does *not* say in replies to comments people post; compare what is refuted and what is allowed to stand. Each posts has a specific point to make, which might not be immediately obvious, except that is generally opposite of the initial statement. When someone refutes the statement and gets is wrong, or is right but incorrectly stated, NS shoots them down. When someone gets it right and makes the correct argument NS generally lets it stand *without* comment. NS could easily delete these posts, but instead leaves them (in my estimation) as the resolution to the original statement of the post.

Finally, look at the people who comment. These are not kooks; They are very smart people trying to point out the flaw in his argument. Some of them do, some of them don't. As I've read some people complain, NS is all over the internet posting on blogs and stirring up trouble, but the result is pro-science, and that is the ultimate purpose.

At least that is my opinion. I find Science and Math Defeated to be enormously entertaining, often laugh-out-loud funny, and filled with razor sharp wit. If some people (very smart people!) get their shorts in a knot over it, it is either because they have become a bit too rigid in their thinking to appreciate the greater point being made, or have become too complacent their own views to bother to understand what is being said being said and why it is correct [double emphasis on the why]. NS claims that he is always correct, and he is; you just have to consider what he writes from the proper perspective. Understanding the perspective of this blog can help people be just a little bit smarter, if they make the effort.

Felis sum et ad furandum veni Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No More Number Six

Patrick McGoohan PrisonerPatrick McGoohan has passed away. More at IO9.

The Prisoner is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and there has never been anything else like it. If McGoohan were a football player (either kind) his jersey would almost certainly be retired in honor, never to be used again. Therefore, I humbly suggest the number 6 be retired from all future use. Really. Once we get over not having 6-packs (oops) 5+1-packs it will hardly be any bother at all.

Star Trek MontalbanAck! Richardo Montalban too! So much for that Star Trek 19 script I was working on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Worry - Accept Uncertainty

I found an interesting blog post ...
... and I have to say I am all for their #1 piece of advice:

1. Learn to accept uncertainty

People who worry a lot don’t like uncertainty in their lives and because they cannot control the dangers in life for themselves and their loved ones they worry even more. You have to accept uncertainty in your life. Accept the fact that you love someone enough, including yourself, to worry about them, but you cannot control what may or may not happen.

That right. Uncertainty. It's about the only thing in life you can count on so we may as well get used to it. (For that matter, you could be like me and make a career of it.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Law of Large Numbers is Alive and Well

I originally wrote this for the newsletter of a local statistics professional group in late August, 2002. Writing "Time to Play" reminded me of this, and after finally discovering the archived-archive where it was hiding, I have dusted it off to present as a bit of recycled writing. The only trouble was I couldn't decide which of my blogs to put it on; Science and Math, or Math and Games? Since I'm facing a bit of a time crunch this week anyway, I'll post it to both. Problem solved! (but I'll try not to make a habit of it.)

Law of Large Numbers is Alive and Well
at 2002 GENCON Games Fair

“All these people came here to play games?” said one astonished worker to another, as they walked through the midst of several thousand people at the 35th GENCON Games Fair, all busily rolling dice or shuffling cards for a dazzling variety of games. I almost trailed them to see if I could overhear more comments, but I needed to get back to my own session. However, I did continue to think about this pair, and about why people like games.

My own exploration of probability began with the boardgame Risk when I was young, and soon I was writing my own simulation programs on an Apple II+. I was fascinated by the thought of enumerating all the possible outcomes and determining the best strategy for winning the game. This self-study soon expanded to include most of my favorite games, got me hooked on computers, and eventually led me to the study of statistics and a career. I still like to study my favorite games; I love to play them, disassemble the rules, study the probabilities, put them back together again, then go play some more.

Looking over the GENCON crowds gathered in the Midwest Center, I have to believe that there are lots of people out there who are quite interested in probability, and whether they know it or not, interested in statistics too. Some of the people I spoke to are very knowledgeable of the probabilities involved in a game. Furthermore, THEY THINK IT’S FUN.

Now, when was the last time your heard someone describe their college stats class as fun? How many times have you seen people get the “your-a-WHAT” look on someone’s face when you tell them of your profession? I have personally met at least half a dozen people still in statistical-shell-shock, twenty or more years after taking an intro level stats course. How many people have you met that would consider statistics to be fun?

I am very happy being a statistician, but I sometimes think that as a profession, we haven’t done a very good job of selling ourselves. Too many people have the impression that statistics has to be dull, boring, or cryptically complex. Too many people think that statistics are something they can’t understand. It doesn’t have to be that way. I think statisticians need to try harder to increase awareness of what we do, what it’s good for, and how it can be of benefit. I think it’s very important to reach out and find ways to attract new people to our profession, and to let them know that it offers excellent opportunities.

There are plenty of people who are interested. There are plenty of people who grasp the basic concepts. I know there are, because I just saw thousands of them at GENCON. All of them were shuffling cards or rolling dice, all of them putting the Law of Large Numbers to the test, and all of them loving it.
Update - Six Years Later: The need for statistics education has not gone away. There is more and more information being presented to us every day, and our ability to process all that information is limited. A working knowledge of math and statistics is a crucial skill nowadays. I don't mean that every person needs to understand high level probability theory (heck - I don't understand all that stuff - at least not very well), but I do mean that every person needs to be educated as a consumer of information. They need to know what the numbers mean, and when they don't mean anything at all. They should have a basic understanding of how numbers are presented (descriptive stats), what they represent (estimation), and how decisions are made on this basis (inference).
I should add for the benefit of students interested in math and statistics at more than a basic level; there are a lot of jobs available to you even as an undergraduate; there are a graduate statistics programs desperate for good students and willing to pay you to go to school; there is a rich field of careers in math and stats to look forward to, and finally - if you work it right - it might be a lot of fun.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Future Famous Quotations

Just a few sayings that I want to be remembered long after I am gone.

If the answer is not apparent,
then you may not be considering the right question.

If another person disagrees with your answer,
then they might not be considering the same question.

Argument over whether the answer is "true" or "false" is irrelevant if the correct answer is "blue".

When asking a group of people if they think the answer is "true" or "false", someone will almost certainly answer "blue".

If you never fail at what you do, then you never know if you might have done it better.

What words do you want to be remembered for?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Richard Simmons and the PE Crusade

In an effort to scare off both my readers support a really good cause, I'd like to draw your attention to the PE Crusade. All the colorful one asks is a moment of your time to send the following message to your congressman:

On behalf of Richard Simmons and the nation's children, I respectfully ask that Physical Education be included in the reauthorization of the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT as an optional multiple measure, or implemented through the passage of the FIT KIDS ACT. Healthy minds and healthy bodies are key to our childrens' and our nation's future. The longer this takes, the unhealthier our kids become.

Here's that link again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

Over at WebLogAwards you can vote for the best Science Blog of the Year. I wasted no time in voting for my fav --> Improbable Research. The best part is that you get to vote once a day! So get busy and get voting for your favorite.

It seems that Pharyngula is getting most of the attention again this year. I wish that guy PZ would quit hogging all the fame and glory. ;-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

A matter of some Gravity

From Cosmic Variance - There may be a new explanation for gravity:

Gravity Emerges…From Neutrinos?

(But this fails to take into account donutons, so it can't possible be correct.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Statistics on Blogs of Note

So what happens when a virtual tidal wave of internet traffic strikes your blog? Why, you blog about it of course!

My other blog (GBR ) was the "Blog of Note" for December 23rd, 2008. On a scale of events for a new blogger like me, this goes beyond exciting and well into the frightening zone. Here is what my traffic looked like on GBR the week before -
- and for comparison this blog (DTA) for the same period.
The traffic is about the same, and nothing too exciting. It had been slowly been building up to this since I started these blogs back in September (2008). DTA got a bump around the 14th with traffic coming in from another blog where I had been commenting (Science and Math Defeated, IIRC).

Then on the afternoon of the 23rd I had two comments, which I thought was great. I replied, then noticed my hit count was 400 for the day and climbing fast. For reference, I only had about 500 total hits (since September) as of that morning. Something was up. A check on StatCounter showed me I was getting a huge amount of traffic from Blogs of Note. Here's the GBR chart -
- and again for reference the chart for the same period for DTA.
It just happened that my lead post on GBR for the 23rd had a link to DTA, so you can see a bit of a click-thru effect here. I don't make a habit of linking to myself (outside the blog roll anyway) because I want each blog to stand on it's own, but in this case it was good luck because DTA picked up a few readers too.

Here is the continuous chart for GBR, Dec 12 through Dec 31 -
- and the same for DTA.

I anticipate that my GBR traffic will fade a bit when it slips off the "last ten" page, but I'll likely get a small but steady flow from people looking at the older "noted" blogs.

Wow. It's been quite a ride. I can't tell you exactly why my blog was selected, but I'm sure it helped that I occasionally post in the Blogger help forums, giving the folks at blogger an excuse to look at what I'm up to. Google Analytics tells me I've got 100+ readers for GBR now, so the pressure to perform is on. I'll try not to let anyone down.