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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday


  • YouTube - SpokenVerse's Channel

    Did someone say poetry? (tip to Jonothon who points out you can convert these to audio files at zamzar Actually there are dozens of tools for doing this, my favorite is MPEG Streamclip

  • The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful."
    So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don't have to settle for wrong models. Indeed, they don't have to settle for models at all.
    Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition. They are the children of the Petabyte Age.

  • Obama's "reset button" metaphor: which is more correct, "restart," "reboot," or "reset"? - Boing Boing

  • SEC debates restricting short sellers | U.S. | Reuters

    Short sellers are evil fucks, they are oh yes they are, or maybe not. (tip to Michael who is a trouble maker at heart.

  • Good Math, Bad Math : Can simulations replace animal testing? Alas, no.

  • Dyer: Obama's emission cuts amount to pragmatic suicide - Salt Lake Tribune

    The argument is that half a cake is not better than no cake at all, or that with compromise everyone loses, or sorry folks we're fucked.

    "We want to be in (the new UN climate pact), we want to be pragmatic, we want to look at the science," said Jonathan Pershing, the head of the U.S. delegation, during the talks on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Bonn last week. So how will the Obama administration reconcile political "pragmatism" with the scientific realities? "There is a small window where they overlap. We hope to find it," Pershing explained.

    But it doesn't really exist.

  • Brooks: The end of philosophy as we have always known it - Salt Lake Tribune

    I have no idea how this follows from what he wrote before.

    The evolutionary approach also leads many scientists to neglect the concept of individual responsibility and makes it hard for them to appreciate that most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself.



re: End of Theory - WIRED magazine

"The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all."

So, what we as individuals think we have learned over the years from careful examination of our interactions and surroundings, is now suspect because it is of course based on (compared to Google's data store) statistically insignificant population sizes of whatever.

Heavy sigh.

I'm so confused. When did correlation become causation? I missed the announcement. I never got the memo.

Hmmm. Or, is the primacy of correlation only really relevant to those mega theoretical disciplines which exist, afterall, in the same virtual realm as Google?

Maybe "correlation supersedes causation" only when counting the angels dancing on the head of that pin.

I didn't get the memo either, and although some may think causation is passé there is still one adage that always holds true--garbage in garbage out.

Short sellers are evil fucks, they are oh yes they are, or maybe not.

Why do you say that, Norm? (I asked innocently, noting that you didn't touch this last time.)

The End of Theory article reminded me tangentially to a writing problem I frequently face. Sometimes, I get an idea, and it's big, and bold, and (of course) brilliant. And the method of communicating it pops into my mind in its entirety, all at once. But while I am writing it, it is oozing away like a dream upon waking. And so what's left, while big and bold, doesn't seem brilliant at all.

And that's what seems to have happened here. I read the article, and had no idea what the point was.

And it was logically vague. One paragraph states that "correlation is enough". Next paragraph starts with this:

The best practical example of this is the shotgun gene sequencing by J. Craig Venter.

Then, very next paragraph:

If the words "discover a new species" call to mind Darwin and drawings of finches, you may be stuck in the old way of doing science. Venter can tell you almost nothing about the species he found.

So practical results are old fashioned? Out of date? The "old way"?

I don't know if there is a great idea behind this article, but I don't see it.


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