1. 2012

    Our scientific community is in TROUBLE

    I was all set to write a lovely blog post about something sciency and then I saw this. It’s truly disturbing just how misguided some of the representatives who seek to control science funding and regulation in this country are.

    Slashdot pulled out this quote from Rep. Rohrabacher:

    My analysis is that in the global warming debate, we won. There were a lot of scientists who were just going along with the flow on the idea that mankind was causing a change in the world’s climate. I think that after 10 years of debate, we can show that that there are hundreds if not thousands of scientists who have come over to being skeptics, and I don’t know anyone [who was a skeptic] who became a believer in global warming.

    wtf I don’t even

    Yes, I did intentionally run off the end of a sentence there.

    OK, here’s my problem with this: not only does Rep. Rohrabacher not understand the science he’s talking about, but he’s making up false facts to support his opinion. If he can present valid sources to back up his story, then sure, I’ll listen, but I’m …

  2. 2012

    The win-more effect of indirect elections

    It’s Election Day (in the US), and I have a relevant post I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

    Suppose you have a binary experiment, one which has two possible outcomes with probabilities \(p\) and \(q = 1-p\). For example, voting. (Pretend there are only 2 parties) Overall, let’s say people vote Democrat with probability \(p\) and Republican with probability \(q\). Now suppose a large number \(N\) of people all go out to vote; what can you say about the results?

    In a statistical experiment like this, the possible results are drawn from a binomial distribution, in which the probability of getting \(n\) Democratic votes (and \(N - n\) Republican) is

    $$P(n) = \binom{N}{n}p^n q^{N-n}$$

    The probability that the Democrats will come out ahead is just the sum of all the probabilities for all the outcomes where \(n\) is more than half of the total vote: we start at \(n = \floor*{\frac{N}{2} + 1}\), which is the first integer greater than \(\frac{N}{2}\), and add up probabilities all the way to \(n = N\).

    $$P_D(N,p) = \sum_{n=\floor*{N/2 + 1}}^{N}\binom{N}{n}p^n q^{N-n} = 1 …
  3. 2012

    Letters to Congress

    I sent the following messages to my Congressional representatives today:

    • To Bob Casey (D-PA), who currently supports PIPA

      I’m writing to say that as a constituent, I strongly oppose the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), S. 968. While I understand the need to protect intellectual property rights, PIPA would remove essential checks on the enforcement of such rights, and would place too much power in the hands of copyright owners. I urge Senator Casey to reconsider his support for this bill, and specifically to vote against the upcoming cloture motion.

      (unfortunately I forgot to adjust this to account for the fact that the cloture vote has been postponed)

    • To Pat Toomey (R-PA), who currently opposes PIPA

      I’m writing to say that as a constituent, I strongly oppose the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), S. 968. I just wanted to express my thanks to Senator Toomey for understanding the dangers of this legislation and publicly opposing it.

    • To Glenn Thompson (R-PA), who is undecided

      I’m writing to say that as a constituent, I strongly oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), H.R. 3261. While I understand the need to protect intellectual property rights, SOPA would remove essential checks on the enforcement …

  4. 2008

    Subliminal messaging

    Seen the latest McCain commercial? The one that goes "Barack Obama is for higher taxes. John McCain is for workin' Joes." and so on, with monotonous (monorhythmic actually, it's just a beat) string music playing in the background. Take a closer listen to that music. Notice how all of the "McCain is for..." soundbites are set to lovely major chords whereas the "Obama is for..." bits have ugly dissonances in the background.

    Could that be turned into an ad for Obama just by switching the consonant and dissonant chords? If I get my hands on that video I have to try it.

  5. 2008

    the news is stupid

    So apparently all the news/fake news/crap on TV now is about this random plumber dude who said some random stuff to some random presidential candidate. Who I'm not going to give the distinction of naming.

    AAAAAHHHH who cares?! About all I can get out of this is the fact that the people reporting on world events are the kind of morons who will wake up one day and say "hey, let's sensationalize something totally useless today"


  6. 2008

    Let's call it the "Reacto-meter"

    You know that little audience reaction graphic that CNN puts on the bottom of the screen during debates? I want one.

    OK, backing up: as I understand it, CNN puts about 80 people in a room in Ohio to watch the debate and equips them with little dials which they can turn left and right to indicate, on a scale of 0 to 100 . . . something. I'm guessing the dial setting is supposed to correspond to how much people agree with or identify with what's currently being said, but it really didn't say; unfortunately CNN didn't give any vertical scale other than "+.....-" (Note to anyone who wants to do better-than-useless data analysis: this is a Very Bad Idea. Always label your axes.) Anyway, the graph at the bottom of the TV screen shows some sort of average opinion over the focus group, split up by party affiliation or gender or whatever.

    During the second presidential debate last night, I started thinking, why couldn't we the people pull this nifty trick for ourselves? It should be pretty easy to emulate CNN's dial gadget with a small Java applet to allow people to contribute their opinions over the internet. Of course, the UI …