In World War II, allied forces faced an unusual statistical puzzle: to make good strategic decisions, they needed to know roughly how many tanks Germany was building every month, but they had very limited evidence whether that number was small or large. One clue was that captured tanks had serial numbers on some of their … More German tanks and Doomsday
Last month, this New York Times headline caught my eye for three reasons: Netherlands Was 10 Percent Liable in Srebrenica Deaths, Top Dutch Court Finds Reason #1: Having lived in the Netherlands, headlines about Dutch affairs usually stick out to me. Reason #2: I’d just been reading The Themis Files, a fiction series in which … More 10 percent liable
Okay, I’m taking a quick break from my regular posts because I can’t stop geeking out about this recent XKCD comic: If you already know about clickbait (likely) and p-values (less likely), you may not need the joke explained to you. But there’s something deep going on here too, tying into the themes of probability … More You’ll never believe what weird trick fixes p-values
I often tell my students, “When you have a question, ask, because you’re probably not the only one who’s wondering.” I heard the same thing when I was a student, but I still felt embarrassed to ask. What if I really was the only one? Wouldn’t I be slowing down class to ask? If no … More If you have a question, someone else probably has it too…
I have the perfect cure for hiccups: chug five or six swallows of water while plugging your ears. (So in addition to the water, you need either someone to hold your ears for you, or a straw to drink through while you hold your own ears.) This technique has never failed me or Clara, and we’ve used … More Broadcasting beliefs
On billboards, during movie theater previews, among those ads for lawyers and ESL teachers on public transit—I love coming across instances of the “Your advertisement could be here!” filler that advertising companies use when their advertising space goes unfilled. For one thing, I’m tickled by the meta-ness of advertising for advertising. For another, some of the more creative … More Your Advertisement Here!
This is my take on a classic probability paradox, the case of Sleeping Beauty. Along the way I’ll explain what I think is wrong with a classic rule of inference, Bayes’ Rule, and what needs to be done to fix it, but I hope you enjoy the paradox even if you don’t have a background in … More The Sleeping Beauty Paradox