September 10, 2014

7:57 PM | The Book Bucket Challenge
This idea came from a thing that is now really famous on Facebook and it is called #TheBookBucketChallenge. This is about making a list of 10 books that influenced you, that changed your way of thinking, that are the best … Continue reading →
4:17 PM | Apologies
On behalf of the M-Phi contributors, I want to sincerely apologize to our readers for the misguided and inappropriate post that was online at M-Phi for four days (now taken down, as well as all other posts referencing the Oxford events). The moderation structure of the blog was such that none of us could do anything to take it down, except for pleading with the author to do so.The structure and moderation of the blog will change completely now; Jeffrey Ketland will no longer be a contributor […]
3:40 PM | I expected better of Tim Radford
Tim Radford is a science writer who works for The Guardian newspaper. In fact many people consider him the best British science writer of the current crop, not without a certain amount of justification. Because of this I was, as … Continue reading →
1:54 PM | Se trovi cattivo questo mondo, dovresti vedere gli altri!
In effetti questa è (o dovrebbe essere) la versione estesa di una conferenza di Philip K. Dick alla convention fantascientifica di Metz, in Francia, nel 1977. Non sono riuscito a trovare trascrizioni dell'intervento realmente fatto dallo scrittore a Metz, ma il video (via Open Culture) è abbastanza differente (non troppo rispetto ai contenuti) rispetto al testo ( successivamente pubblicato sulla Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter #27.Innanzitutto Dick esprime l'idea […]

Susskind L. (1995). The world as a hologram, Journal of Mathematical Physics, 36 (11) 6377. DOI:

Bousso R. (2002). The holographic principle, Reviews of Modern Physics, 74 (3) 825-874. DOI:

Bekenstein J. (2008). Bekenstein-Hawking entropy, Scholarpedia, 3 (10) 7375. DOI:

1:24 PM | “It’s as if you went into a bathroom in a bar and saw a guy pissing on his shoes, and instead of thinking he has some problem with his aim, you suppose he has a positive utility for getting his shoes wet”
The notion of a geocentric universe has come under criticism from Copernican astronomy. . . . A couple months ago in a discussion of differences between econometrics and statistics, I alluded to the well-known fact that everyday uncertainty aversion can’t be explained by a declining marginal utility of money. What really bothers me—it’s been bothering […] The post “It’s as if you went into a bathroom in a bar and saw a guy pissing on his shoes, and instead […]
5:15 AM | Algorithmic representative democracy
Did you ever wonder why different states of the US have the numbers of representatives in congress that they do? It's supposed to be proportional to population but that's not actually true: for instance the ratio of representatives to population is about 40% higher in Montana than California. What formula or algorithm do they use to pick the numbers?This has varied over the years but, Wikipedia tells me, currently it's the Huntington–Hill method. One way of describing this is by a simple […]
4:27 AM | My love-hate relationship with forcing
Forcing is great. Forcing is an amazing method. If you can think about it, then you can probably force to make it happen. All it requires is some creativity and rudimentary understanding of the objects that you are working with. Forcing is horrible. If you can think about it, you can encode it into generic […]

September 09, 2014

10:14 PM | random generators… unfit for ESP testing?!
“The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.” When re-reading [in the taxi to Birmingham airport] Bem’s piece on “significant” ESP tests, I came upon the following hilarious piece that I could not let pass: “For most psychological experiments, a […]
9:01 PM | Pianeti da vendere
Il romanzo raccoglie cinque dei sei racconti di cui è costituita la serie originale, incentrata sulle avventure di Artur Blord, un imprenditore di una lontana colonia terrestre, con un grandissimo fiuto per gli affari che gli permette di intraprendere con successo quasi qualunque impresa. Blord costituisce in un certo senso una anomalia nella produzione di eroi di Van Vogt, non possedendo alcun superpotere (anche se questa mancanza verrà sopperita da alcuni dei comprimari).Il […]
8:51 PM | A break
This is a short note just to say that I will not be contributing posts to M-Phi for the time being.
8:47 PM | Orkney and beyond
I used to believe that planes always landed on runways. Orkney has a way of stopping you from taking things for granted. I was up to speak for the second time at the Orkney International Science Festival, which is organised by Howie Firth – one of the most enthusiastic men I have ever met. He […]
1:49 PM | Suspiciously vague graph purporting to show “percentage of slaves or serfs in the world”
Phillip Middleton sent this along, it’s from Peter Diamandis, who is best known for his X Prize, the “global leader in the creation of incentivized prize competitions.” Diamandis wrote: Phillip Middleton, Is technology making you work harder? Or giving you more time off? Seriously, it feels like it’s enabling me to work around the clock! […] The post Suspiciously vague graph purporting to show “percentage of slaves or serfs in the world” appeared first […]
12:18 PM | ABC@NIPS: call for papers
In connection with the previous announcement of ABC in Montréal, a call for papers that came out today: NIPS 2014 Workshop: ABC in Montreal December 12, 2014 Montréal, Québec, Canada Approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) or likelihood-free (LF) methods have developed mostly beyond the radar of the machine learning community, but are important tools for a […]
12:10 PM | Wife beating education for sports fan and everyone else
Do you know what I am doing this morning? I’m glued to ESPN talk radio, which is 98.7FM in the NYC area, although it is a national station and can be streamed online as well. Here’s a statement you might be surprised to hear from me. In the past decade, sports talk radio has become […]

September 08, 2014

10:14 PM | single variable transformation approach to MCMC
I read the newly arXived paper “On Single Variable Transformation Approach to Markov Chain Monte Carlo” by Dey and Bhattacharya on the pleasant train ride between Bristol and Coventry last weekend. The paper actually follows several earlier papers by the authors that I have not read in detail. The notion of single variable transform is […]
9:56 PM | My talk at the Simons Foundation this Wed 5pm
Anti-Abortion Democrats, Jimmy Carter Republicans, and the Missing Leap Day Babies: Living with Uncertainty but Still Learning To learn about the human world, we should accept uncertainty and embrace variation. We illustrate this concept with various examples from our recent research (the above examples are with Yair Ghitza and Aki Vehtari) and discuss more generally […] The post My talk at the Simons Foundation this Wed 5pm appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and […]
9:49 PM | Le leggende del castello nero e altre storie
Igino Ugo Tarchetti è stato uno dei rappresentanti della scapigliatura milanese, dedicandosi, lo scrittore, alla letteratura del fantastico e del gotico da una parte, e alla scrittura umoristica dall'altra.Come sta esplorando molto bene Splatter in una serie di articoli sul cinema horror, l'Italia ha sempre mostrato nel genere del mistero e della paura una certa interessante propensione. Non dimentichiamo, infatti, che uno dei romanzi gotici per eccellenza, Il castello di Otranto, […]
8:46 PM | Holiday part 2
Thank you very much for your support on the first Holiday post (check it here) and as I promised this the continuation. Not that many photos for this part, but hopefully you will like it, too. 1. We had a day … Continue reading →
2:37 PM | My talk with David Schiminovich this Wed noon: “The Birth of the Universe and the Fate of the Earth: One Trillion UV Photons Meet Stan”
This talk will have two parts. (1) Astronomy professor David Schiminovich will discuss the ways in which recent large-scale sky surveys that include billions of data points can address questions such as, What will happen to the Earth and other planets when the Sun becomes a white dwarf? (2) Statistics professor Andrew Gelman will discuss […] The post My talk with David Schiminovich this Wed noon: “The Birth of the Universe and the Fate of the Earth: One Trillion UV Photons Meet […]
1:00 PM | On deck this week
Mon: My talk with David Schiminovich this Wed noon: “The Birth of the Universe and the Fate of the Earth: One Trillion UV Photons Meet Stan” Tues: Suspiciously vague graph purporting to show “percentage of slaves or serfs in the world” Wed: “It’s as if you went into a bathroom in a bar and saw […] The post On deck this week appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.
10:59 AM | Reverse-engineering the college admissions process
I just finished reading a fascinating article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek about a man who claims to have  reverse-engineered the admission processes at Ivy League colleges (hat tip Jan Zilinsky). His name is Steven Ma, and as befits an ex-hedge funder, he has built an algorithm of sorts to work well with both the admission algorithms at […]

September 07, 2014

10:14 PM | independent component analysis and p-values
Last morning at the neuroscience workshop Jean-François Cardoso presented independent component analysis though a highly pedagogical and enjoyable tutorial that stressed the geometric meaning of the approach, summarised by the notion that the (ICA) decomposition of the data X seeks both independence between the columns of S and non-Gaussianity. That is, getting as away from […]
4:02 PM | Likelihood from quantiles?
Michael McLaughlin writes: Many observers, esp. engineers, have a tendency to record their observations as {quantile, CDF} pairs, e.g., x CDF(x) 3.2 0.26 4.7 0.39 etc. I suspect that their intent is to do some kind of “least-squares” analysis by computing theoretical CDFs from a model, e.g. Gamma(a, b), then regressing the observed CDFs against […] The post Likelihood from quantiles? appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.
3:02 PM | Esperimenti con l'inerzia
da Science Comics #2 - clicca sull'immagine per ingrandire
9:14 AM | ICM2014 — Bhargava, Gentry, Sanders
On my last day at the ICM I ended up going to fewer talks. As on the previous two days the first plenary lecture was not to be missed — it was Maryam Mirzakhani — so despite my mounting tiredness I set my alarm appropriately. I was a little surprised when I got there by […]
4:21 AM | Non-Digital Computers
Non-Digital Computers Non-Digital Computers This is the last installment of my many-part series on computers. Last time we used the notion of a Turing machine to define what a computer is. We discovered something surprising: that not all computers need to be … Continue reading → The post Non-Digital Computers appeared first on The Physics Mill.
3:07 AM | Some time in the past 200 years the neighborhood has changed
“In that pleasant district of Merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.  The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the […] The post Some time in the past 200 years the neighborhood has changed appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

September 06, 2014

11:56 PM | Holiday part 1
I was on holiday last weeks and some of you wanted to see some photos, so I posted some on Facebook in the new and special photo album: Holiday. So, I thought that it would be nice to share some photos … Continue reading →
10:14 PM | stop culling the Alps bouquetins!
I just learned today that about 300 bouquetins had been killed in the French Alps the past few days as an hasty and ungrounded measure against bovine brucellosis. I find it amazing that the local authorities can act with so little scientific justification and against European regulations that make bouquetins a protected species. In comparison, […]
6:11 PM | L'armata di Hot Dog
Necessaria premessa a L'armata di Hot Dog, Ivan lo scemo, pubblicato sul secondo volume dell'edizione Panini, inizia con un riferimento esplicito alla vicenda del Titanic: la mega astronave di viaggi spaziali turistici Titan parte nello spazio profondo e viene colpita da un asteroide vagante, non rilevato a causa di un'avaria negli strumenti, probabilmente causata da un ladro di diamanti che non aveva trovato nascondiglio migliore se non utilizzare uno dei contatori!L'ultima scialuppa del […]
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