Poking the Sloth

by Kieran Healy on July 17, 2007

I was going to pass over this, but I am a shallow person. Fresh from “schooling me”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/07/15/dept-of-being-savaged-by-a-dead-sheep/ on the treatment of outliers, Megan McArdle has expanded her ambition and now “takes Cosma Shalizi to task”:http://www.janegalt.net/archives/009901.html for his “bizarrely beside the point” “views”:http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/495.html on the heritability of IQ, the statistical estimation and interpretation of _g_, and his failure to understand the analytical methods of “the serious IQ guys.” Megan may not be aware that I “taught”:http://www.stat.cmu.edu/~cshalizi/754/ “Cosma”:http://www.santafe.edu/profiles/?pid=236 “what little”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/prob-notes/ he “knows”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/research/ about statistics. He’s also much nicer than me. So she’ll have no trouble disposing of him.

_Update_: Yeah, on second thoughts I should have just passed over this.

Book title bleg

by Eszter Hargittai on July 17, 2007

The edited volume on research methods that I mentioned earlier is shaping up nicely and I’ll be shipping it off soon. However, I’m still not sure about the title and subtitle, and was hoping for some input from anyone who’s willing to give it some thought. This is what I’m working with now:

Research Methods from the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Research

However, having “research” in there twice doesn’t seem right. Any thoughts on either the first or the second part?

As a reminder, the chapters in this book provide helpful behind-the-scenes accounts of doing empirical social science research for a wide range of methods such as use of large-scale data sets, interviews, observations, experiments and historical documents. The unique contribution of this collection is that it provides readers with a realistic idea of what to expect when embarking on empirical investigations by offering richly detailed descriptions of the logistics of individual research projects. The volume draws on the experiences of recent successful dissertation writers and young scholars doing cutting edge research in their respective social scientific fields.

If someone comes up with a title I end up using, I’ll happily send the person a copy of the book and will think of some additional gesture of gratitude. (CT mug anyone?:) Thanks!


by Kieran Healy on July 17, 2007

As “Atrios points out”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2007_07_15_archive.html#162127958575664769 the Pope is indeed a Primate as well as a primate. This reminds me of watching RTE news years ago reporting on the death of “Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach”:http://www.answers.com/topic/tom-s-cardinal-fiaich, Primate of Ireland. The newscaster asked some talking head whether he preferred to remember the Cardinal as a man or a primate. I know which PZ Myers would pick.

Against the Copernicans

by Brian on July 17, 2007

“John Tierney”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17tier.html?8dpc=&_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all today writes about Richard Gott’s Copernican principle. He has a little more on “his blog”:http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/07/16/how-nigh-is-the-end-predictions-for-geysers-marriages-poker-streaks-and-the-human-race/#more-103, along with some useful discussion from “Bradley Monton”:http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/fac/monton.html. The principle in question says that you should treat the time of your observation of some event as being a random point in its duration. Slightly more formally, quoting Gott via “a paper”:http://spot.colorado.edu/~monton/BradleyMonton/Articles_files/future%20duration%20pq%20final.pdf Monton wrote with Brian Kierland,

bq. Assuming that whatever we are measuring can be observed only in the interval between times tbegin and tend, if there is nothing special about tnow, we expect tnow to be located randomly in this interval.

As Monton and Kierland note, we can use this to argue that the probability that

bq. tfuture is between _a_ and _b_ times tpast

is 1/ ( _a_ + 1) – 1 / ( _b_ + 1), where tpast is the past duration of the event in question, and tfuture is its future duration. Most discussion of this has focussed on the case where _a_ = _b_ = 39. But I think the more interesting, or at least easy to interpret, case is where _a_ = 0 and _b_ = 1. In this case we get the result that the probability of the entity in question lasting longer into the future than its current life-span is 1/2.

As a rule I tend to be very hostile to these attempts to get precise probabilities from very little data. I have a short argument against Gott’s Copernican formula below. (Against the general version, not for any particular values of _a_ and _b_.) But first I want to try a little mockery. I’d like to know anyone who would like to take any of the following bets.

[click to continue…]