Blog Archives

Timid medical research

Cancer research is sometimes criticized for being timid. Drug companies run enormous trials looking for small improvements. Critics say they should run smaller trials and more of them. Which side is correct depends on what’s out there waiting to be

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Posted in Science, Statistics

Commutative diagrams in LaTeX

There are numerous packages for creating commutative diagrams in LaTeX. My favorite, based on my limited experience, is Paul Taylor’s package. Another popular package is tikz-cd. To install Paul Taylor’s package on Windows, I created a directory called localtexmf, set

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Posted in Math

The mean of the mean is the mean

There’s a theorem in statistics that says You could read this aloud as “the mean of the mean is the mean.” More explicitly, it says that the expected value of the average of some number of samples from some distribution

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Posted in Statistics

Patches and specs

From Leslie Lamport: Every time code is patched, it becomes a little uglier, harder to understand, harder to maintain, bugs get introduced. If you don’t start with a spec, every piece of code you write is a patch. Which means

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Posted in Software development

Quintic root

Here’s a curious result I ran across the other day. Suppose you have a quintic equation of the form z x5 – x – 1 = 0. (It’s possible to reduce a general quintic equation to this form, known as

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Posted in Math

The most fearless and the most fearful people

While I was in Europe, someone commented to me that Americans are the most fearless and the most fearful people on Earth. We put men on the moon, and we walk around with hand sanitizer. We start bold business ventures

Posted in Uncategorized

Amazing approximation to e

Here’s an approximation to e by Richard Sabey that uses the digits 1 through 9 and is accurate to over a septillion digits. (A septillion is 1024.) MathWorld says that this approximation is accurate to 18457734525360901453873570 decimal digits. How could

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Posted in Math

Looking like you know what you’re doing

I’ve been in The Netherlands this week for a conference where I gave a talk on erasure coding. Last night after the conference, my host drove me and another speaker to Schiphol Airport. I’m staying in Amsterdam, but it was

Posted in Business

Independent decision making

Suppose a large number of people each have a slightly better than 50% chance of correctly answering a yes/no question. If they answered independently, the majority would very likely be correct. For example, suppose there are 10,000 people, each with

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Posted in Math

Making definitions

“The essential virtue of category theory is as a discipline for making definitions, and making definitions is the programmer’s main task in life.” From Computational Category Theory  

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Posted in Math, Software development

Where else you can find me

In addition to this blog, you can find me on Twitter and Google+. I occasionally blog at Symbolism, though that site is mostly a paste bin for the DailySymbol Twitter account. I’ll be speaking at the Snow Unix Event in

Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t be a technical masochist

There’s an old joke from Henny Youngman: I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places. Sometimes tech choices are that easy: if something is too hard, stop doing

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Posted in Software development

Intuitionistic logic in Gilbert and Sullivan

In a recent preprint, Philip Wadler introduces intuitionistic logic using the comic opera The Gondoliers. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, Casilda is told that as an infant she was married to the heir of the King of Batavia, but

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Posted in Math

On replacing calculus with statistics

Russ Roberts had this to say about the proposal to replacing the calculus requirement with statistics for students. Statistics is in many ways much more useful for most students than calculus. The problem is, to teach it well is extraordinarily

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Posted in Statistics

Nomenclatural abomination

David Hogg calls conventional statistical notation a “nomenclatural abomination”: The terminology used throughout this document enormously overloads the symbol p(). That is, we are using, in each line of this discussion, the function p() to mean something different; its meaning

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Posted in Statistics