Archive for The New Yorker

my neighbourhood in the New Yorker

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2020 by xi'an

While I was reading (part of) a recent issue of The New Yorker over breakfast, I was surprised to find my neighbourhood city of Bourg-la-Reine (twin city, Kenilworth!) mentioned in a tribune! It was about interviewing the local authors of a boardgame called Kapital! which is presented there as a form of (French) anti-Monopoly, authors who were both CNRS researchers in sociology until they retired. And who produced (even) more militant ouput since then, including this boardgame. The (unintended?) fun in the tribune is the opposition between the May 68 style class warfare denounced by the authors and their apparently well-off conditions (no BBQ in the street there!).

classy New Yorker cover

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2020 by xi'an

in the name of eugenics [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2020 by xi'an

In preparation for the JSM round table on eugenics and statistics, organised by the COPSS Award Committee, I read the 1985 book of Daniel Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, as recommended by Stephen Stiegler. While a large part of the book was published in The New Yorker, in which Kevles published on a regular basis, and while he abstains from advanced methodological descriptions, focussing more on the actors of this first attempt at human genetics and of the societal consequences of biased interpretations and mistaken theories, his book is a scholarly accomplishment, with a massive section of notes and numerous references. This is a comparative history of eugenics from the earliest (Francis Galton, 1865) to the current days (1984) since “modern eugenics” survived the exposure of the Nazi crimes (including imposed sterilizations that are still enforced to this day). Comparative between the UK and the US, however, hardly considering other countries, except for a few connections with Germany and the Soviet Union, albeit in the sole perspective of Muller’s sojourn there and the uneasy “open-minded” approach to Lysenkoism by Haldane. (Japan is also mentioned in connection with Neel’s study of the genetic impact of the atomic bombs.) While discussing the broader picture, the book mostly concentrates on the scientific aspects, on how the misguided attempts to reduce intelligence to IQ tests or to a single gene, and to improve humanity (or some of its subgroups) by State imposed policies perceived as crude genetic engineering simultaneously led to modern genetics and a refutation of eugenic perspectives by most if not all. There is very little about statistical methodology per, beside stories on the creation of Biometrika and the Annals of Eugenics, but much more on the accumulation of data by eugenic societies and the exploitation of this data for ideological purposes. Galton and Pearson get the lion’s share of the book, while Fisher does not get more coverage than Haldane or Penrose. Overall, I found the book immensely informative as exposing the diversity of scientific and pseudo-scientific viewpoints within eugenism and its evolution towards human genetics as a scientific endeavour.

Insane craving for food

Posted in pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2020 by xi'an

Within a couple of weeks, I read two related US stories about ordering food from an insanely far destination, like hand-made frozen pizza from Napoli, Italia, or like one startup called Goldbelly ships frozen food made by some restaurants nationwide. (With a motto of Whatever [food] they dream of, wherever they are.) While I am not consistent in consuming non-local food and drinks, like my mass orderings of Italian wines and Darjeeling teas, and while I’d love to get a new taste of Toukoul’s Ethiopian dishes, a creamy sepia risotto from Da Franz, an okonomiyaki from any street stall in Osaka, and many many other dishes from all over the World, it sounds to me rather debatable to have a special single meal prepared on the other side of the World and delivered immediately to one’s table… Furthermore, one of the perks of dining at fine restaurants is exactly to dine at fine restaurants, not in one’s own room, and having starred chefs’ dishes ending up in reheated frozen plastic containers is certainly killing a major share of the experience.

a cartoon that could have been made for lockdown

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , on June 27, 2020 by xi'an