Archive for London

reciprocal importance sampling

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2023 by xi'an

In a recent arXival, Metodiev et al. (including my friend Adrian Raftery, who is spending the academic year in Paris) proposed a new version of reciprocal importance sampling, expanding the proposal we made with Darren Wraith (2009) of using a Uniform over an HPD region. It is called THAMES, hence the picture (of London, not Paris!), for truncated harmonic mean estimator.

“…[Robert and Wraith (2009)] method has not yet been fully developed for realistic, higher-dimensional situations. For example, we know of no simple way to compute the volume of the convex hull of a set of points in higher dimensions.”

They suggest replacing the convex hull of the HPD points with an ellipsoid ϒ derived from a Normal distribution centred at the highest of the HPD points, whose covariance matrix is estimated from the whole (?) posterior sample. Which is somewhat surprising in that this ellipsoid may as well included low probability regions when the posterior is multimodal. For instance, the estimator is biased when the posterior cancels on parts of ϒ. And with an unclear fate for the finiteness of its variance, depending on how fast the posterior gets to zero on these parts.

The central feature of the paper is selecting the radius of the ellipse that minimises the variance of the (counter) evidence. Under asymptotic normality of the posterior. This radius roughly corresponds to our HPD region in that 50% of the sample stands within. The authors also notice that separate samples should be used to estimate the ellipse and to estimate the evidence. And that a correction is necessary when the posterior support is restricted. (Examples do not include multimodal targets, apparently.)

Kimono exhibition

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2023 by xi'an

Taking advantage of the 01 May break and a relatively low density of people in Paris, we went to the Musée du Quai Branly to see a soon to close exhibit on kimonos, with many pieces loaned from Japanese collections, through an exhibit designed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The collection is amazing, especially the most historical part, and illustrates the complex social codes behind this seemingly simple garnment, from a huge variety of materials and techniques, to the Edo era restrictions on whom could wear which type and which printing. And the subtle subversions from the merchant class (and actors, as for this 19th “I do not care” kimono that reminded me of a much more recent outcry!). Highly enjoyable (if slightly crowded!).

Estimating means of bounded random variables by betting

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2023 by xi'an

Ian Waudby-Smith and Aaditya Ramdas are presenting next month a Read Paper to the Royal Statistical Society in London on constructing a conservative confidence interval on the mean of a bounded random variable. Here is an extended abstract from within the paper:

For each m ∈ [0, 1], we set up a “fair” multi-round game of statistician
against nature whose payoff rules are such that if the true mean happened
to equal m, then the statistician can neither gain nor lose wealth in
expectation (their wealth in the m-th game is a nonnegative martingale),
but if the mean is not m, then it is possible to bet smartly and make
money. Each round involves the statistician making a bet on the next
observation, nature revealing the observation and giving the appropriate
(positive or negative) payoff to the statistician. The statistician then plays
all these games (one for each m) in parallel, starting each with one unit of
wealth, and possibly using a different, adaptive, betting strategy in each.
The 1 − α confidence set at time t consists of all m 2 [0, 1] such that the
statistician’s money in the corresponding game has not crossed 1/α. The
true mean μ will be in this set with high probability.

I read the paper on the flight back from Venice and was impressed by its universality, especially for a non-asymptotic method, while finding the expository style somewhat unusual for Series B, with notions late into being defined if at all defined. As an aside, I also enjoyed the historical connection to Jean Ville‘s 1939 PhD thesis (examined by Borel, Fréchet—his advisor—and Garnier) on a critical examination of [von Mises’] Kollektive. (The story by Glenn Shafer of Ville’s life till the war is remarkable, with the de Beauvoir-Sartre couple making a surprising and rather unglorious appearance!). Himself inspired by a meeting with Wald while in Berlin. The paper remains quite allusive about Ville‘s contribution, though, while arguing about its advance respective to Ville’s work… The confidence intervals (and sequences) depend on a supermartingale construction of the form

M_t(m):=\prod_{i=1}^t \exp\left\{ \lambda_i(X_i-m)-v_i\psi(\lambda_i)\right\}

which allows for a universal coverage guarantee of the derived intervals (and can optimised in λ). As I am getting confused by that point about the overall purpose of the analysis, besides providing an efficient confidence construction, and am lacking in background about martingales, betting, and sequential testing, I will not contribute to the discussion. Especially since ChatGPT cannot help me much, with its main “criticisms” (which I managed to receive while in Italy, despite the Italian Government banning the chabot!)

However, there are also some potential limitations and challenges to this approach. One limitation is that the accuracy of the method is dependent on the quality of the prior distribution used to set the odds. If the prior distribution is poorly chosen, the resulting estimates may be inaccurate. Additionally, the method may not work well for more complex or high-dimensional problems, where there may not be a clear and intuitive way to set up the betting framework.


Another potential consequence is that the use of a betting framework could raise ethical concerns. For example, if the bets are placed on sensitive or controversial topics, such as medical research or political outcomes, there may be concerns about the potential for manipulation or bias in the betting markets. Additionally, the use of betting as a method for scientific or policy decision-making may raise questions about the appropriate role of gambling in these contexts.

being totally off the radar… (No prior involved, no real-life consequence for betting, no gambling.)

matrix multiplication [cover]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2022 by xi'an

Nature snapshots [10 November]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2022 by xi'an

As I was reading Nature in a [noisy] train from Coventry to London, I came across

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