Back up on that horse!

by Daniel on January 16, 2007

When you make a bad prediction, you need to be sure that you don’t lose your nerve. The best thing to do is to assess your new information, pluck up your courage, and make a brand new prediction about something else …

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Gary Farber Needs Your Help

by Belle Waring on January 16, 2007

Blogger Gary Farber is unfortunately going through another really rough patch, and I encourage generous CT readers to help him out. Non US-readers particularly are invited to marvel at the lack of a social safety net in our otherwise kick-ass nation.

One in Five Home Office Statistics Unreliable

by Maria on January 16, 2007

LOL, best headline so far this year. The story describes two related but not identical issues. First that the Home Office statistics function is doing a piss-poor job of managing the ‘data’ it uses to back up its policies, namely the unreliablility of data-sets used to report on ASBOs, and other crime, prisons and immigration data. Secondly, the story brings in some more recent HO blunders on tracking crimes committed by Britons abroad, which would seem to have more to do with international data-sharing on criminal records than the HO’s statistical function.

There is a related but unmentioned issue; recent and long overdue moves to make the UK’s Office for National Statistics an autonomous agency that is completely independent of government. Now, as far as I understand it, the NSO does not have responsibility for statistics related to criminal justice, and perhaps it never will. But the current shambolic state of affairs at the HO shows that the only policy numbers worth having are those prepared independently of the advocates of that policy. As we all know, the incentive to cook the books or ignore data that doesn’t support the minister’s/civil servants’ desired policy is just too strong.

Oatmeal Prospect Theory

by Kieran Healy on January 16, 2007

On the side of this box of McCann’s Oatmeal here it says: “Tip: Add liquid to oatmeal a few minutes before cooking. It will cook faster.” Now, I can see the benefits of doing this in terms of energy conservation. But the fact is, I’m not going to get my oatmeal any faster, am I? Sure, it’ll spend less time on the cooker, but the amount of time I spend preparing it will be the same, or maybe even longer.

This tip seems related to that recent finding that people were irrationally much more tolerant of an increase in shipping fees than the same-sized increase in the price of the good being shipped.