September 19, 2017


  • During the Cold War, there were a few occasions where a nuclear war could easily have started if one person hadn’t got in the way. One of those people was Stanislav Petrov. He died this week.
  • I saw a pharmacy in Ponsonby advertising “Ultrasound bone density screening for all ages”. There’s no way screening for osteoporosis makes sense ‘for all ages’, even if it was free (which it isn’t).
  • As I’ve mentioned a few times, the UK has an independent Statistics Authority whose chair is supposed to monitor and rebuke misuses of official statistics. The chair, Sir David Norgrove, criticised Boris Johnson over the £350m “savings” from Brexit he has kept repeating. We don’t have anything similar, sadly.
  • If you’re interested in the history of data journalism, you could do worse than reading Alberto Cairo’s PhD thesis. Dr Cairo is a former data journalist, current professor of visual journalism at the University of Miami, and one of next year’s Ihaka Lecture speakers here in Auckland.
  • Janelle Shane has a blog with examples of neural networks generalising from a wide range of inputs (recipes, hamster names, craft beers). Her current post is on D&D spell names, and shows the importance of a large input set for these networks: would you prefer your character to cast “Plonting Cloud” or “Wall of Storm”?
  • Kieran Healy, of Duke University, has an online book Data Visualization for Social Science. Yes, if you think you recognise the name, it’s him.
  • The American Statistical Association and the New York Times are partnering in a new monthly feature, “What’s Going On in This Graph?”

Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient

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  • avatar

    Small correction – Stanislav Petrov died back in May. His birthday was almost two weeks ago and that is when one of his friend called and learned a sad news. Linked article about Petrov feat was published this week.

    3 months ago