More information doesn’t have to make you more certain

FiveThirtyEight recently posted a piece called “The Impeachment Hearings Just Confirmed Voters’ Preexisting Opinions”: the same wave of new information has just made everybody more convinced of what they already thought: One explanation of this phenomenon is “motivated reasoning”: a person finding data more reliable and arguments more convincing if they fit with what the … More More information doesn’t have to make you more certain

10 percent liable

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

You’ll never believe what weird trick fixes p-values

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

If you have a question, someone else probably has it too…

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…

Broadcasting beliefs

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

Your Advertisement Here!

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!

The class size paradox

Today’s post is a short paradox about averages, and how they don’t always match expectations. Imagine you’re a freshman college student, happily confident of a personalized education—after all, your college boasts an average class size of a mere 10 students per course. But when you arrive, most of your classes have far more students than … More The class size paradox