Archive for April, 2017

Perhaps it’s not the mean but the variance!

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Why are only two of the world’s top 100 chess players women?
There may be many factors at play here – including social expectations etc, as well as possible gender differences in average measures of either ability or interest. But it’s also possible that a large part of the explanation is just a matter of variance (ie of spread of the distribution of ability or attitude).
As Larry Summers was criticized for pointing out, having one group dominate the top tier is not necessarily evidence that either they are better “on average” or there must be some kind of unfair selection process. The group with higher average of some measure may be under-represented at both extremes if it is more tightly concentrated. And the fact that variations on the y-chromosome may be less likely to be balanced by a partner could be a source of greater variability of some characteristics in males.
Of course, even if this is true, the apparent excess of males at the top may be more visible than the corresponding excess at the bottom, and that may both give mediocre males false confidence and discourage some females from even trying. So it is always worthwhile to counter these effects.

Source: Why are only two of the world’s top 100 chess players women? | Aeon Essays


Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Stephen Downes comments on critique of post-modernism with reference to whether or not it is a “fact” that tennis balls don’t fit into wine bottles.

Despite the failure of a particular bit of language to unambiguously cover all aspects of a situation, It seems likely to me that there are nonetheless real facts about tennis balls and wine bottles. The “proof” of this is in the fact that we would be at least as surprised (though perhaps less entertained) to see a tennis ball in a bottle as a model ship – and so would immediately look for the illusion or trick that needs to be excluded in order to “save” the statement. (This process is a large part of what Imre Lakatos is on about in his book ‘Proofs and Refutations’ which deals with the same phenomenon in Mathematics.) Yes, language is an inadequate tool for expressing the full content of human understanding, and human understanding may be an inadequate tool for capturing the true nature of reality, but I think it is a mistake to infer from those sad facts that no such reality exists.

Why DT tweets nonsense in the middle of the night

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

I like to think of Donald Trump as just obsessively glued to his computer in the middle of the night much like the fat boy he speculated was responsible for the DNC hacking (though more devoted to taking offense and picking fights than to picking digital locks). But that’s not entirely right.

The method in his madness (as described in Bradley Eversley’s answer (on Quora) to Why do you think Trump always sends disturbing or controversial tweets in the middle of the night? ) is to always find something to grab attention at the beginning of the news day (and the more outrageous the better for this purpose)  as a distraction from whatever more really serious allegations are being made against him or damage he is about to do.

Update: And here’s a related quote from an article by Stephanie Hayes in the Atlantic:

As a Time interviewer aptly summarized during a recent chat with the president: “Whatever the reality of what you are describing, the fact that [the facts] are disputed makes them a more effective message, that you are able to spread the message further, that more people get excited about it, that it gets on TV.”

Why Were We All Surprised?

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Source: Statistician Nate Silver says conventional wisdom, not data, killed 2016 election forecasts

Actually, I suspect that many people were confusing chances of winning with expected share of the vote. Perhaps not consciously, but not surprising as we are so often presented with percentages as representing the latter. So seeing the number 70 associated with Hillary naturally created a false sense of security in her supporters.