Archive for American elections 2016

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by xi'an

““This is absolutely the stupidest thing ever,” said Antar Davis, 23, a former zookeeper who showed up in the elephant house on Friday to take one last look at Maharani, a 9,100-pound Asian elephant, before the zoo closed.” The New York Times, Dec 29, 2018

“The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America [and] ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice.” The Guardian, Jan 4, 2019

“I know more about drones than anybody,” he said (…) Mr. Trump took the low number [of a 16% approval in Europe] as a measure of how well he is doing in the United States. “If I were popular in Europe, I wouldn’t be doing my job.”” The New York Times, Jan 3, 2019

““Any deaths of children or others at the border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally.” The New York Times, Dec 30, 2018

graph of the day & AI4good versus AI4bad

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2018 by xi'an

Apart from the above graph from Nature, rendering in a most appalling and meaningless way the uncertainty about the number of active genes in the human genome, I read a couple of articles in this issue of Nature relating to the biases and dangers of societal algorithms. One of which sounded very close to the editorial in the New York Times on which Kristian Lum commented on this blog. With the attached snippet on what is fair and unfair (or not).

The second article was more surprising as it defended the use of algorithms for more democracy. Nothing less. Written by Wendy Tam Cho, professor of political sciences, law, statistics, and mathematics at UIUC, it argued that the software that she develops to construct electoral maps produces fair maps. Which sounds over-rosy imho, as aiming to account for all social, ethnic, income, &tc., groups, i.e., most of the axes that define a human, is meaningless, if only because the structure of these groups is not frozen in time. To state that “computers are impervious to the lure of power” is borderline ridiculous, as computers and algorithms are [so far] driven by humans. This is not to say that gerrymandering should not be fought by technological means, especially and obviously by open source algorithms, as existing proposals (discussed here) demonstrate, but to entertain the notion of a perfectly representative redistricting is not only illusory, but also far from democratic as it shies away from the one person one vote  at the basis of democracy. And the paper leaves us on the dark as to whom will decide on which group or which characteristic need be represented in the votes. Of course, this is the impression obtained by reading a one page editorial in Nature [in an overcrowded and sweltering commuter train] rather than the relevant literature. Nonetheless, I remain puzzled at why this editorial was ever published. (Speaking of democracy, the issue contains also warning reports about Hungary’s ultra-right government taking over the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.)

March(es) for Science

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2017 by xi'an

Today there are around 500 marches for Science organised around the World (incl. on in Kangerlussuaq, Qeqqata, Greenland!). Primarily to protest the unprecedented attacks of trumpism on science, scientific values, and scientists, and not only through budget cuts, agency closures, public data erasures, but also denegation of scientific expertise and data to advance financial and partisan interests against climate, water preservation, minorities rights, women equality, and international relations. Being now at a remote retreat in Northern Wales, I will walk virtually at the Cardiff March for Science.

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on January 28, 2017 by xi'an

“President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order (EO) proposing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. The unrealistic conditions required for discontinuing the suspension make it very likely that this EO will turn into a permanent ban. We, the undersigned academics and researchers from a variety of fields of study, backgrounds, and personal convictions, would like to voice our concern and strongly oppose this measure on three grounds:

1.  This Executive Order is discriminatory. The EO unfairly targets a large group of immigrants and non-immigrants on the basis of their countries of origin, all of which are nations with a majority Muslim population. This is a major step towards implementing the stringent racial and religious profiling promised on the campaign trail. The United States is a democratic nation, and ethnic and religious profiling are in stark contrast to the values and principles we hold.

2.  This Executive Order is detrimental to the national interests of the United States. The EO significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research. US research institutes host a significant number of researchers from the nations subjected to the upcoming restrictions. From Iran alone, more than 3000 students have received PhDs from American universities in the past 3 years. The proposed EO limits collaborations with researchers from these nations by restricting entry of these researchers to the US and can potentially lead to departure of many talented individuals who are current and future researchers and entrepreneurs in the US. We strongly believe the immediate and long term consequences of this EO do not serve our national interests.

3.  This Executive Order imposes undue burden on members of our community: The people whose status in the United States would be reconsidered under this EO are our students, friends, colleagues, and members of our communities. The implementation of this EO will necessarily tear families apart by restricting entry for family members who live outside of the US and limiting the ability to travel for those who reside and work in the US. These restrictions would be applied to nearly all individuals from these countries, regardless of their immigration status or any other circumstances. This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.

These bans, as proposed, have consequences that reach beyond the scope of national security. The unethical and discriminatory treatment of law-abiding, hard-working, and well-integrated immigrants fundamentally contravenes the founding principles of the United States.

We strongly denounce this ban and urge the President to reconsider going forward with this Executive Order.”

Academics against immigration executive order

the incredible accuracy of Stirling’s approximation

Posted in Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , on December 7, 2016 by xi'an

The last riddle from the Riddler [last before The Election] summed up to find the probability of a Binomial B(2N,½) draw ending up at the very middle, N. Which is

\wp={2N \choose N}2^{-2N}

If one uses the standard Stirling approximation to the factorial function,

log(N!)≈Nlog(N) – N + ½log(2πN)

the approximation to ℘ is 1/√πN, which is not perfect for the small values of N. Introducing the second order Stirling approximation,

log(N!)≈Nlog(N) – N + ½log(2πN) + 1/12N

the approximation become


which fits almost exactly from the start. This accuracy was already pointed out by William Feller, Section II.9.

statistics snapshots from Nature

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2016 by xi'an

Two snapshots from the October 27 issue of Nature, one reporting on David Cox receiving the first “Nobel in Statistics” Prize and one about the @ScientistTrump parody site, where being Bayesian sounds like a slur..!