December 1, 2017


  • Testing drug sniffer dogs: “The dogs are mainly used to confirm what we already suspect,” says Fulmer. “When the dogs come out, about 99 percent of the time we get an alert. And it’s because we already know what’s in the car; we just need that confirmation to help us out with that.”  At least with the biosecurity beagles at Auckland Airport, there’s no incentive on the handler’s part for false positives.
  • Security researcher Matt Blaze talks to US Congress about voting security: “The most reliable and well-understood method to achieve this is through an approach called risk-limiting audits. In a risk limiting audit, a statistically significant randomized sample of precincts have their paper  ballots manually counted by hand and the results compared with the electronic tally. …The effect of risk-limiting audits is not to eliminate software vulnerabilities, but to ensure that the integrity of the election outcome does not depend on the herculean task of securing every software component in the system.” 
  • The Grattan Institute (in Australian) has a report (PDF) on adverse events in hospitals: Strengthening safety statistics: how to make hospital safety data more useful.  Peter Davis has an opinion piece in the Dominion Post on what NZ could do
  • Statistical population genetics of New York rats: they stick to their neighbourhoods, just like the humans. Sarah Zhang in the Atlantic.
  • ProPublica found that Facebook won’t let you target ads based on race, or even on ethnicity — but it will let you target “African American” under “Behaviors”, sub-category “Multicultural Affinity”.   Facebook said “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.” The last five words of that sentence are interesting — they don’t actually add anything, but they kind of sound like they do.

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

See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


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