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Category: Statistics

The general theory, methods, and philosophy of the Science of Guessing What Is.

July 13, 2008 | No comments

Actual footage

UPDATE: Christian Toto, over at Pajama’s Media, has seen the HBO Generation Kill and says “The new HBO miniseries on Iraq is well-executed, but its anti-war bias is clear.” Make sure to also read the comments.

This tip in from Kyle Smith, from today’s New York Post. Since the subject came up yesterday about fictional accounts of military action, we have here, at, hundreds of actual scenes filmed by the soldiers themselves. Smith’s story is called Wartube.

Some examples. One:


I had no idea of this site before today. But I would imagine that whatever Hollywood offers, no matter how “gritty and realistic”, cannot compare to the actual real reality as delivered directly by the soldiers. Of course, the soldiers’ own story suffers only one flaw when compared to fictionalized accounts: no slow motion (joking, just joking).

July 8, 2008 | 4 Comments

Another increase in moronicity

This story has been making the rounds (I first heard of it from Roger Kimball’s blog). It’s so incredibly asinine that it deserves broad exposure.

The headline from England’s Telegraph is Toddlers who dislike spicy food ‘racist’. The article leads:

Toddlers who turn their noses up at spicy food from overseas could be branded racists by a Government-sponsored agency.

The National Children’s Bureau, which receives ?12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says “yuk” in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

The guide is 366 pages long! Yuk!

Nurseries are encouraged to report as many incidents as possible to their local council. The guide added: “Some people think that if a large number of racist incidents are reported, this will reflect badly on the institution. In fact, the opposite is the case.”

That is to say, nursery workers are encouraged to rat out small children to the local Party Leaders. No doubt horrific injustices like denying a love of curry will be noted on the tots’ permanent records. Can re-education day camps be far behind?

This reminds of a guy (whose name I expurgated from my memory) invited to campus when I was still at professor at Central Michigan. The topic was—what else?—diversity. This guy, who had many letters after his name, was touting a theory called micro-racism. These are racists acts that are so small that the person perpetrating them, and the person being disparaged, cannot see them. Only people specially trained could spot and analyze the atrocities.

Professors were told that when overhearing something shocking like—if you have a weak stomach, please do not read further—“Where are you from?”, we should recognize the ill intent behind the words and caution the student to modify his behavior.

That’s the only example of “micro-racism” that I can recall. Not too many examples were given. This of course makes it easy for the PC Police to label anything they want as “micro-racism.” Only an exceptionally dull person could not take any phrase whatsoever and twist it into an example of intolerance.

I don’t have the National Children’s Bureau’s guide, but I can only hope they include material on micro-racism.

July 4, 2008 | 9 Comments

At least they’re admitting it

Here’s the problem. You are a scientist, working on measuring the levels of aragonite in ocean water. It’s not very sexy and nobody beyond a small cadre seems to care. But it’s grant time and you and your team are “figuring out how to make the issue more potent” so that you can bring in the bucks.

How do you do it?

The first thing you should immediately consider these days is “turning up the heat on the issue through the media.” However, convening a press conference on “The Importance of Aragonite in Ocean Water” is unlikely to interest even the New York Times.

You need to be clever. Your job in “expanding awareness” has to start with a snappier moniker. You need a term that is “easy to comprehend” and, if you’re lucky, sounds “alarming.”

Renaming is thus “a critical step.”

So you ponder. Then you recall that aragonite levels are related to the amount of diffused carbon dioxide in ocean water. Some chemistry helps: when CO2 dissolves in water it lowers that water’s pH. And what is lowering pH sometimes called? Acidification!

Success! Not only is this a fantastically frightening term, it drives “home the idea that carbon dioxide [i]s a pollutant.”

Your next step is to find a PR firm whose specialty is to “link researchers with policy-makers and the media.” The good news is that there are no shortage of such places.

Of course, you have to be honest about “the” science and the uncertainties (as you understand them). But if you’re lucky, even the possibility, no matter how small, of risk will be enough to frighten Congress into action.

I think we can agree “the acidification story provides a model of how to get science on the congressional agenda.”

A fuller account of this fascinating and inspirational story may be found here (Nature magazine, again leading the way).

June 21, 2008 | 11 Comments

But you must hate us!

I am in Ithaca, New York, teaching a short course at Cornell University. Have you ever visited Ithaca? It was once voted the “most enlightened city in America” by the far-left magazine Utne Reader. Plenty of Volvos with “Impeach Bush” bumper stickers on them, a score of Tibetan bead shops in a desolate downtown area called the Commons, a own home-grown currency called “Hours” which is supposed to be more politically correct than greenbacks, and so on.

I was in a popular bar called the Chapter House (fantastic beer selection) and met a gentleman from England who was at Cornell taking a course from a well-known labor educator. This gentleman’s flight back home was canceled because of a thunderstorm. He is a union organizer for the Transit Workers in London. We had a nice chat over a few beers.

The bartender found out that my new friend was from England and asked him, “You must hate us over there.” By “us” he meant “Americana.” My friend said “No, we generally like Americans.” The bartender refused to accept this. “But you must hate us. Look at everything we have done!” My friend’s reply: “I was happy to come here. America is a great place.”

(By “we”, I assume the bartender did not include himself.)

This went back and forth a few times, my friend even describing a trip to Walmart to buy inexpensive jeans. The bartender lost heart and gave up. I felt sorry for him. There was nobody around to confirm his feelings of inferiority or to show him that he was not hated as he hoped he would be.

So the next time you are in Ithaca, please stop and tell somebody how much you dislike them. It will be sure to cheer them up.