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Blog Profile / The Endeavour

Filed Under:Academics
Posts on Regator:971
Posts / Week:5.5
Archived Since:April 26, 2011

Blog Post Archive

Common sense and statistics

College courses often begin by trying to weaken your confidence in common sense. For example, a psychology course might start by presenting optical illusions to show that there are limits to your ability to perceive the world accurately. I’ve seen at least one physics textbook that also starts with optical illusions to emphasize the need […]

Prevent errors or fix errors

The other day I was driving by our veterinarian’s office and saw that the marquee said something like “Prevention is less expensive than treatment.” That’s often true, but certainly not always. This evening I ran across a couple lines from Ed Catmull that are more accurate than the vet’s quote. Do not fall for the […]

Sum of geometric means

Let xn be a sequence of non-negative numbers. Then the sum of their running geometric means is bounded by e times their sum. In symbols The inequality is strict unless all the x‘s are zero, and the constant e on the right side is optimal. Torsten Carleman proved this theorem in 1923.

Inverted sense of risk

Watching the news gives you an inverted sense of risk. We fear bad things that we’ve seen on the news because they make a powerful emotional impression. But the things rare enough to be newsworthy are precisely the things we should not fear. Conversely, the risks we should be concerned about are the ones that […]

Steep learning curves you wish you’d climbed sooner

I asked on Twitter today “What steep learning curves do you wish you’d climbed sooner?” Here’s a summary of the replies: R Version control Linear algebra Advanced math Bayesian statistics Category theory Foreign languages How to not waste time Women IgorCarron‘s response didn’t fit into the list above. He said “I wish I had known […]

Data science expiration date

About three years ago JD Long said I like the term “Data Scientist” for now. I expect that term will be meaningless in 5 years. Sounds about right.  

Radiation equipment

John Tukey said that the best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard. This morning I got to play in IsoTherapeutics‘ backyard. The most photogenic thing on the tour they gave me was their box for working with highly radioactive material with robotic arms. (There was nothing hot […]

Down to a science

Seth Juarez quipped in an interview that when people say they’ve got something “down to a science,” they probably don’t mean what they’re saying. Science is making guesses and testing to see whether they’re right.

Time exchange rate

At some point in the past, computer time was more valuable than human time. The balance changed long ago. While everyone agrees that human time is more costly than computer time, it’s hard to appreciate just how much more costly. You can rent time on a virtual machine for around $0.05 per CPU-hour. You could […]

Intuition and Data at KeenCON

I will be giving a talk “Bayesian statistics as a way to integrate intuition and data” at KeenCon, September 11, 2014 in San Francisco.

What would Dondald Knuth do?

I’ve seen exhortations to think like Leonardo da Vinci or Albert Einstein, but these leave me cold. I can’t imagine thinking like either of these men. But here are a few famous people I could imagine emulating when trying to solve a problem What would Donald Knuth do? Do a depth-first search on all technologies […]

Erasure coding write paper

Last year I worked with Hitachi Data Systems to evaluate the trade-offs of replication and erasure coding as ways to increase data storage reliability while minimizing costs. This lead to a white paper that has just been published: Compare Cost and Performance of Replication and Erasure Coding Hitachi Review Vol. 63 (July 2014) John D. […]

Do you like how your tools are shaping you?

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. — John M. Culkin Discussions about technology choices seldom consider who we become by using a tool. Different tools encourage different ways of thinking. Over time, different tools lead to different habits of mind.

Open source dissertation

Three cheers for Brent Yorgey! He’s finishing up his dissertation, and he’s posting drafts online, including a github repo of the source. Cheer 1: He’s not being secretive, fearing that someone will scoop his results. There have been a few instances of one academic scooping another’s research, but these are rare and probably not worth […]

Devnology podcast interview

When I was in Amsterdam earlier this year, Daan van Berkel interviewed me for the Devnology podcast. We talked about my winding career path, the overlap of math and computing, bringing math and computing closer together, formal methods, etc. The podcast was posted this afternoon here. Related post: Looking like you know what you’re doing

Twitter news

Starting next week, @MedVocab will post two tweets a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon (CDT). I’ve stopped posting to @DailySymbol. It was a fun experiment, but it was time to wrap it up. My most popular account, @CompSciFact, now has over 100,000 followers. It’s interesting how some Twitter accounts take […]

Panel discussion on writing for developers

AirPair is hosting a panel discussion entitled Developer Writing Tips & Tricks as part of AirConf on August 25. I’ll be one of the panelists. The AirConf events will be broadcast via G+ hangouts.

Engineering a waterpark

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

This weekend my family went to Schlitterbahn, a waterpark in New Braunfels, Texas. (The German-sounding name of the park and the city are evidence of the large number of Germans that settled in this part of Texas.) I thought about several engineering questions while we were there. Most of the rides involve sitting in an […]

Goldilocks software

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

Aaron Evans condensed a good deal of software engineering experience down to less than 140 characters: It’s amazing how much cleaner your code looks the third time writing it. First time, hack; Second over-engineer; Third = goldiloc...

Origins of category theory terms

2 months agoAcademics : The Endeavour

From Saunders MacLane: Now the discovery of ideas as general as these is chiefly the willingness to make a brash or speculative abstraction, in this case supported by the pleasure of purloining words from the philosophers: “Category” from Aristotle and Kant, “Functor’ from Carnap …, and “natural transformation” from the current informal parlance.

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