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Archive for May, 2008

Department of Meta

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 25, 2008

Nowadays, polls are so common that a telephone poll was done recently to estimate how often individuals are surveyed (the answer was about once per year).

Written by Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman.

Also read Lance Fortnow, a Northwestern University professor of theoretical computer science, complaining about this issue and the related matter of self-selected sample bias.

Meta-curiosities aside, Gelman’s statement is part of a very interesting blog post (and follow-up) about whether or not it is rational to vote given the low probability of one vote being decisive.

Gelman and his colleagues blog at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, one of the most consistently-educational and useful academic discipline blogs. Although some of the posts discuss very specific issues in applied statistics and are not intended for lay audiences (I don’t know R, although I hope to learn one day, so I have to skip the posts about statistics coding), Gelman often links to and explains his own research. The papers analyzing voting, districting, party affiliation, and other political issues are especially interesting (and timely, considering that we’re approaching a potentially historic presidential and general election season in the US), and he also throws in posts about methodology/philosophy in statistics and social sciences for variety. A new book summarizing his applied research on US elections and voting behavior, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State (see here also), is due to be published this fall.

P.S.: Thanks to Eli for pointing out in an unrelated conversation a few months ago that meta is Greek for “after”.

Posted in Politics, Random Thoughts, Science | 2 Comments »

Remark of the Week: “Peak Oil” Edition

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 18, 2008

There is also every reason to believe that gas prices will be lower in the future than they are now, in spite of the peak oil rhetoric.

Steven Levitt, the Alvin H. Baum Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and author of Freakonomics, discussing a scheme through which Chrysler pays for some of its customers’ gasoline. Here is more of Levitt criticizing the “peak oil” assertions.

Posted in Economics, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Remark of the Week: “Peak Oil” Edition

Agreement with Me and Gintis RE: Krugman

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 18, 2008

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers wrote:

Obama is an historic opportunity for the Dems of FDR proportions, a chance to remake the political landscape for a generation or more. And people like Krugman and his proxy Hillary, who want only political war, narrow short term score settling, are the alternative. If the Dems don’t nominate Obama, and go for Hillary…they will have shown themselves to be as corrupt, opportunistic, hypocritical, and small minded as the Republicans.

I say this as a life long Democrat who in 40 years of voting has only voted once for a Republican (who was running against Phil Gramm for congress)… [emphasis added]

Compare this with what I wrote about UMass professor Herbert Gintis, discussing Gintis’ critical review of Paul Krugman’s latest book:

[In contrast to Krugman, Gintis] is however, an insightful and fair-minded thinker who has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t care about developing good rhetorical points for political debates, but rather about studying social problems such as poverty and poor schooling so that these problems can actually be ameliorated.

Posted in Economics, Politics | 1 Comment »