What I’m Reading: March 2016

The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit. Alas, we are outnumbered.

It won’t help with the asymmetry thing much, but I love this site. I plan on using it early and often.

Oh wait, here’s some more on bullshit and academic infighting, along with a proposal to call the study of bullshit “Taurascatics“. I’m in.

And one more thing about bullshit and rage….for anyone who is overwhelmed or perplexed by the current state of politics, I read this blog post once a month to keep myself grounded: The Toxoplasma of Rage.  It’s a great reminder that your ingroup is persecuting my ingroup, and that you really need to stop. My ingroup is far too busy enumerating the faults of your ingroup to have time to deal with this crap.

On a lighter note, did you know James Garfield came up with his own proof of the Pythagorean theorem during a discussion with congress? I am wondering how many current members of Congress could actually define the Pythagorean theorem.

My book for the month (well, one of them) is Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin. Basically it’s about how to estimate complicated problems. A little repetitious, but an interesting mental exercise book so far.

These are some interesting numbers on growing American commute times.  Apparently I spend 20.8 days a year commuting. I resent the “wasted life” part though. Between the train and the bus I get a lot of reading and thinking done. That’s pretty much what I would have done with that time if I had my druthers anyway.

This was an interesting piece about how to make science fairs better. I like the idea of a myth busters style fair. That could get fun.

There’s an interesting Vox piece about health/science journalism and how it’s a good way of losing friends. I liked the piece, but I think she left out the issue of policy recommendations. It’s one thing to talk about evidence for a problem, and it’s another thing to talk about policy recommendations. Very often we see people start with the former, end with the latter, then claim all criticism is because people “don’t like evidence”.  At work when this happens, we have one doctor who will immediately announce “you realize we just all wandered in to an evidence free zone right?”. I like him.  Anyway, describing a problem and prescribing solutions are two different things, and if you mix them up you are DEFINITELY going to lose some folks.

And speaking of evidence and policy, here’s an interesting one on weird statistical methodology in a nutrition paper.

Finally, here’s an interesting deep dive in to social psychology’s replication problem, what it means, and how seriously we should take it.