Dean Foster's Rants
And some rants by other people that I liked:
- Lovely rant by Schneier on the uselessness of TSA.
A few weeks ago, there was a cool graph showing Obama's intrade
futures price vs SP500. I took a stab at looking at this data for
by 471 class. So do you believe it is
real or not?
- The number of Israelis killed in road accidents since
independence in 1948 is greater than the number killed in wars and
terrorist attacks. In 2002, 522 Israelis were killed in road
accidents. 20,500 Israelis have been killed in wars and terrorist
attacks between May 1948 and May 2003, compared with 21,600 killed in
road accidents. (source)
So why do good numerate people worry more about my visiting Israel for
the terror than for the autos? (Aside: the number of death from cars in
Israel is about 1/2 that for a comparable number of Americans.)
Science presented a silly graphic a few years ago. So we (Robert Stine, Kate
Propert and I) wrote a comment on it,
which Science was unwilling to publish. The advantage of it now being
a web publication, is that the cool dynamic graphic works better than
it would in hard copy. Samantha Bee did a lovely piece using this
trick for the daily show (SC State Representative Tries To
Amend Constitution To Allow Free-Pour Bottles In Bars, season 9,
- I actual believe that cryptograph can solve some things. Bruce
Schneier used to believe, but his current book he loses the faith. Here is
my review of his book.
- Let me weigh in on the teaching of
evolution in our schools. I actually believe evolution is
the most beautiful and accurate theory ever created. But what is
taught in schools is more often the religion of evolution.
- Adi Wyner and I
worked on a blog on politically incorrect
statistics for awhile. Some more of our rants can be found there.
- A great rant from Bjorn
Lomborg: "If you reduce your child's intake of fruits and
vegetables by just 0.03 grams a day (that's the equivalent of half a
grain of rice) when you opt for more expensive organic produce, the
total risk of cancer goes up, not down. Omit buying just one apple
every 20 years because you have gone organic, and your child is worse
discussed this quote.)
- A nice tirade by Norvig against Chomsky.
- Dawkin's wrote this
rant for the Guardian that I
really wish I had written. He
points out that religion dehumanizes life in ways that can't be
matched by science. (I've mirrored this rant here.) (see also Salman Rushdie.)
McCloskey wrote a nice rant (ungated
version) against the
usual accedemic policy of getting letters for P & T.
- Emails sent to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) become the
property of the University of Pennsylvania unless they are
encrypted.1 Consider this
policy a first step towards Stallman's
And some articles that I like:
- Ok, let me put in some raves just for balance. Tom
Weller wrote a cool book called science made
stupid. (I now own two copies of which I'm very proud.)
- A nice article to make you feel better about having to resubmit
your research papers.
- So you have a cool new body fat scale (say
amazon) but is it calibrated? So does it have a bias for you
personally? One easy way to check is using pennies, a few liter
bottles and this page.
- Using randomized
trials in society is to my mind the single best advance we could
make. The article points out that the costs are much lower than many
people expect and the rewards can be extreme.
- Philosophers have written many papers about what is called the
"surprise quiz." I've only written one and its in the form of a
- I was very lucky to be born under ophiuchus, the 13th sign of the zodiac.
- There is lots of research that shows that the best way to learn
something is to struggle and mostly succeed. So for example, if you
want to learn vocabulary, reading with material just above your level
is prefect. (The idea behind AR for example.) So a perfect
application for this theory would be to learn IPA
to read texts in your native language written in this format. But on
the entire web, all I can find are the following 5
articles.. Too bad! (And even those five have been deleted. So the
link is via the very cool wayback machine.)
- This site has you
listen to various accents and see how they are recorded in a standard
notation. To get a handle on the IPA listen here.
- I like red wines. They are pretty good on a alcohol/calorie basis. They are even better
for overall health.
- The Washington Post ran an obit
on my dad. (cached) He wrote
a time line of his life a few years back
as an exercise for his memory (this was post bike accident).
- Ever wonder how many people play on a team? We put this list together.
- I love high dimensional spaces.
- My favorite wine glasses
are available from Robert Dane made them and has a gallery.
- I own all the books written by Terry
Pratchet. You should start too!
Finally some links that have pretty much been replaced by using google
tips for a healthier life.
- This is a stress
test which I heard about as a child. I'm amazed that so few
people know this research. Basically, changes in life are
stressful--AND stress leads to measurable health problems.
- A cute dot
counting test . It is supposed correlate with your math ability.
But no one knows why this should be.
- Religion, lack of control and seeing patterns: all here (ungated)
from the new scientist.
- Cute graphic showing
imigration to the US over 100 years.
- Have you ever wondered how to convert an amazon sales rank to
sales per week? Here is an answer.
- Gopen and Swan wrote a nice piece on writing: "The Science of
- XKCD is a nice cartoon which often has
nice jokes about linux and sometimes about statistics: boy friend, correlation, and null hypothesis.
The American Scientist has an article ("Animal Contests as Evolutionary Games")
on spiders that yeild to intruders. Very nice evolutionary game
- A nice
discussion of risk and the preception of risk. I'm not sure I
believe all his numbers.
- I mostly program in C++. But two other languages I use are Ruby
and R. It is nice to see that the poplularity of
both are now doing pretty well.
- My friend and colleague Mike Steele has an interesting twist on
the impending bird flu epedemic. Namely, what about the economy?
- Here is
a lovely article on procrastination. The author would encorage you to
put of reading it to work on better things. But your sufing the web
now aren't you? So give it a read!
- Lyle Ungar wrote up a way of saving wine that I
find very useful. Though now a days, we just put the wine in plastic
bottles that we can crumple to squeeze out all the extra air. Not as
pretty--but keeps out the O2 just as well.
- A nice deflator
which computes the value of US dollars over time. Useful when reading
- A cool science site is based on the idea of a the 3rd culture.
- cut-the-knot is a
wonderful web site for expository mathematics. Now I just have
to get him to add statistics and I won't have to teach any more!
- My favorite
weather view of philly (I also like this radar,
and this 10
(NYC: NOAA, uswx)
- For a nice discussion of the similarity between power laws and
log normals see this