These links discuss contributions I have made to
various Wiki sites (Chance News and Wikipedia) as well as general discussion
about Wiki pages. Articles are arranged by date with the most recent entries at the top. You can find outside resources at the bottom of this page.
Chance News articles I have written
- Chance News 83. A bizarre anatomical correlation. When a topic carries strong emotions, often people forget to check their facts carefully.
- Chance News 82. Flood of data means flood of job opportunities. If you like working with data, you have great career opportunities ahead of you. "We are seeing an an explosion of data, Web traffic and social network comments, as well as software and sensors that monitor shipments, suppliers and customer." This means a big deal for the job market.
- Chance News 80. Winning the fight against crime by putting your head in the sand. Police Tactic: Keeping Crime Reports Off the Books, Al Baker and Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times, December 30, 2011. Police officers are joining just about every other profession in trying to skew the statistics to make themselves look good.
- Chance News 79. Fraud may just be the tip of the iceberg. Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology Research by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, November 2, 2011. A recently revealed case about fraud may point to a much larger problem.
- Chance News 78. Cheerful tweets in the morning. Twitter Study Tracks When We Are :) by Benedict Carey, The New York Times, September 29, 2011 If you read the mood of people on Twitter, they are happy in the morning, but then things go downhill.
- Chance News 77. What is the payoff for high tech education? In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores by Matt Richtel, New York Times, September 3, 2011. Technology has changed how we teach our children.
- Chance News 76. Dispute over statistics in social network analysis. Catching Obesity From Friends May Not Be So Easy. Gina Kolata, New York Times, August 8, 2011. Social network analysis has led to some rather intriguing findings about your health.
- Chance News 75. The perils of genetic testing. How Bright Promise in Cancer Testing Fell Apart by Gina Kolata, New York Times, July 7, 2011. We have seen a lot of advances in genetics recently, and there has been the hope that these would translate into better clinical care. But making the bridge from the laboratory to clinical practice has been much more difficult than expected. A program at Duke, for example, was supposed to identify weak spots in a cancer genome so that drugs could be targeted to that weak spot rather than just trying a range of different drugs in sequence.
- Chance News 75. In measuring hunger, quality may be more important than quantity. A Taste Test for Hunger Robert Jensen and Nolan Miller, New York Times, July 9, 2011. The traditional measure of global hunger is the number of calories consumed. If you consume less calories than you need, then you are classified as hungry. But this had led to some paradoxical results. There is an alternative way of measuring hunger.
- Chance News 74. Decling sperm counts? Maybe not. In Update on Sperm, Data Show No Decline, Gina Kolata, The New York Times, June 6, 2011. A meta-analysis published in 1992 showed a very scary trend. Sperm counts were dropping.
- Chance News 74. Credit rating companies rate your health. Keeping Score on How You Take Your Medicine by Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times - Well, June 20, 2011. Loan companies won't talk with you until they've checked your credit score with a credit rating company. Now your doctor might not talk with you until he/she has checked you out with the same credit rating company. It's not your ability to repay a loan that they are worried about. They want to know about adherence, your ability to take medicines regularly.
- Chance News 72. A nonsignificant result won't protect you in a court of law. Supreme Court Rules Against Zicam Maker, Adam Liptak, The New York Times, March 22, 2011. Matrixx Initiaves, Inc., et al. v. Siracusano et al., U.S. Supreme Court, 2011. Investors in a company called Matrixx Initiatives got angry when they weren't told about side effect reports for that company's biggest product, Zicam.
- Chance News 71. Getting what you pay for in college. Flurry of Data as Rules Near for Commercial Colleges Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, February 4, 2011. It costs a lot of money to go to college. If you are able to get a better job as a result, that is money well invested. But that is not always the case, and it may be that commercial colleges have more problems with this.
- Chance News 69. Research is slow. An AIDS Advance, Hiding in the Open,
Donald G. McNeil, Jr. The New York Times, November 27, 2010. The wheels of
research machinery turn slowly. A recent article in the New York Times
highlights some of the delays in obtaining data for a promising new drug for
prevention of AIDS.
Chance News 68. Facebook data on relationship breakups. Using Facebook
Updates to Chronicle Breakups, Nick Bilton, The New York Times Bits Blog,
November 3, 2010. David McCandless has a hobby that many would find odd, but
perhaps not too odd to readers of Chance News. "David McCandless, a
London-based author, writer and designer, is constantly playing with data
sets available online and translating heaps of code into well-designed
visual stories. Some of Mr. McCandless’s notable projects include
visualizing the billions of dollars spent by people and governments around
the world and visually explaining the different views of United States
politicians, divided by their political predilection." Facebook, a social
network site, has data on relationship status: single, in a relationship,
married, it's complicated, etc. With the help of Lee Byron of Facebook, he
produced the following graph on breakups by looking at changes in
Chance News 67. More fuel to feed the fiery controversy over mammograms.
Mammogram Benefit Seen for Women in Their 40s, Gina Kolata, The New York
Times, September 29, 2010. One of the most contentious debates in medicine
is whether mammograms are beneficial to women between 40 and 50 years old.
The first sentence in the latest article about mammography makes a bold
claim... "Researchers reported Wednesday that mammograms can cut the breast
cancer death rate by 26 percent for women in their 40s." ...and the second
sentence contradicts this claim. "But their results were greeted with
skepticism by some experts who say they may have overestimated the benefit."
Chance News 66, Getting caught in the wrong arm of a randomized trial.
New Drugs Stir Debate on Rules of Clinical Trials, Amy Harmon, The New York
Times, September 18, 2010. This is the story of two cousins, both with a
deadly disease and both enrolled in a clinical trial. One gets into the
treatment arm and does really well, and the other gets in the control arm
and does very poorly.
Chance News 66, All the news that the data tells us is fit to print.
Some Newspapers, Tracking Readers Online, Shift Coverage, Jeremy W. Peters,
The New York Times, September 5, 2010. Newspapers are not like other
businesses. "In most businesses, not knowing how well a particular product
is performing would be almost unthinkable. But newspapers have always been a
peculiar business, one that has stubbornly, proudly clung to a sense that
focusing too much on the bottom line can lead nowhere good."
Chance News 66, Too much data on the risks of BPA. In Feast of Data on
BPA Plastic, No Final Answer, Denise Grady, The New York Times, September 6,
2010. The more research there is in an area, the greater the chances of
reaching a consensus. That's seems intuitive enough, but for the case of BPA,
more data does not seem to help resolve this contentious area.
Chance News 66, Is the United States a religious outlier? Religious
outlier, by Charles Blow, The New York Times, September 4, 2010. The
following image was published on the New York Times website.
Chance News 66, Subverting the data safety monitoring board. Don't Mess
with the DSMB, Jeffrey M. Drazen and Alastair J.J. Wood. N Engl J Med 2010;
363:477-478, July 29, 2010. The Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) is
supposed to be an independent group charged with interim review of data from
a clinical trial to decide whether to stop a study early because of evidence
that continuation of the trial would be unethical. Trials are commonly
halted early because of sufficient evidence that a new drug is clearly
superior/inferior to the comparison drug, or because of serious concerns
Chance News 64, If you take away my time for your research, you owe me ten
bucks. $63,000 worth of abusive research . . . or just a really stupid
waste of time? Andrew Gelman on his Statistical Modeling, Casual Inference,
and Social Science blog. Two researchers, Katherine L. Milkman of the
University of Pennsylvania and Modupe N. Akinola of Columbia University,
wanted to use email to find out patterns in the responsiveness of professors
to a request for their time. They sent out emails to 6,300 professors asking
for an appointment for help in one of two possible time frames. When the
professors responded, they recorded the results and then canceled the
request for the appointment. Later they sent an email explaining that the
original request was part of a research study.
Chance News 61. Improving your odds at online dating. Looking for a
Date? A Site Suggests You Check the Data, Jenna Wortham, The New York Times,
February 12, 2010. A dating site, OkCupid, decided to help its users by
sharing statistics on its blog--statistics on what worked and what didn't.
"If you’re a man, don’t smile in your profile picture, and don’t look into
the camera. If you’re a woman, skip photos that focus on your physical
assets and pick one that shows you vacationing in Brazil or strumming a
Chance News 60. Baby Einstein wants data. ‘Baby Einstein’ Founder Goes
to Court, Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, January 12, 2010. "Baby Einstein"
is a series of videos targeted at children from 3 months to 3 years. They
expose children to music and images that are intended to be educational.
These videos were popularized in part by the so-called Mozart effect. The
use of such videos had been discouraged by the American Academy of
Pediatrics, but a series of peer-reviewed articles showed that exposure to
these videos could actually do more harm than good. So the owner of the
Einstein video series did what any red-blooded American would do. He sued
Chance News 60. Does corporate support really subvert the data analysis.
Corporate Backing for Research? Get Over It, John Tierney, The New York
Times, January 25, 2010. We've been warned many times to beware of corporate
influences on research, and many reserach journals are now demanding more,
in terms of disclosure and independent review, from researchers who have a
conflict of interest. But John Tierney has argued that this effort gone too
far. Conflict-of-interest accusations have become the simplest strategy for
avoiding a substantive debate. The growing obsession with following the
money too often leads to nothing but cheap ad hominem attacks.
Chance News 59. Calculating high school dropout rates. KC School
District's dropout rate doesn't add up, Michael McShane, The Kansas City
Star. The Kansas City, Missouri school district had some amazing statistics
to brag about. "The Kansas City School District recently announced a dropout
rate of 5.9 percent. Compared with the dropout rate of 41.2 percent reported
a year ago, it appeared as if the district was moving by leaps and bounds in
the right direction to correct the problem." These results, however, appear
to be incorrect.
Chance News 58. Statistics make you stingy. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl
WuDunn have recently published "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide," a book about the global oppression of
women, focusing on the sex slave trade, honor killings, rape as a wartime
tactic, lack of maternal health care. Though they often cite statistics
about the magnitude of these problems, they prefer to offer individual
stories. About halfway through the book (page 99), they explain why.
Chance News 58. The value of negative data. Little Benefit Seen, So Far,
in Electronic Patient Records, Steve Lohr, The New York Times, November 15,
2009. Study Raises Questions About Cholesterol Drug’s Benefit, Natasha
Singer, The New York Times, November 15, 2009. Seeking a Shorter Path to New
Drugs, Steve Lohr, The New York Times, November 15, 2009. Negative data,
data that disproves a commonly held belief about the superiority of a
particular medical treatment, is especially valuable from an economic
perspective, but doesn't get the respect it deserves.
Chance News 57. How anyone can detect election fraud
Chance News 57. Medicine by the numbers. Making Health Care Better,
David Leonhardt, The New York Times, November 3, 2009. Intermountain
Healthcare offers a course taught by Dr. Brent James that is very popular,
but also very surprising. "His four-month course is called the Advanced
Training Program, and it is a combination of statistical methods and
management theory applied to the practice of medicine. “I’ve wanted to go
for years,” Janet Porter, the chief operating officer of the Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute in Boston, told me later. For anybody interested in
improving the quality of health care, she said, the program is the
equivalent of Harvard."
Chance News 56. Minimizing the number of coins jingling in your pocket
Chance News 56. Learning by the petabyte
Chance News 56. Sneaking into a clinical trial
Chance News 55. Tennis challenges are underused
Chance News 55. Netflix data mining contest
Chance News 55. Adverse event or just a normal part of life
Chance News 54. Assigning points to books
Chance News 54. Measuring Emotion on the Web
Chance News 47. Too many data analyses spoil the design
Chance News 46. Does a screening test do more harm than good
Chance News 45. Most basketball statistics are worthless
Chance News 45. Is an intelligent mutual fund manager worth the cost
Chance News 44. Two media frenzies not supported by the data
Chance News 43, Second thoughts about a test of racial bias
Chance News 42, How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action
Chance News 42, Googling an epidemic
Chance News 41, Is the Bradley effect real?
Chance News 40, Are bad models to blame?
Chance News 39, A quantitative approach to art history
Chance News 38, The value of a joint replacement registry
Chance News 37, A microscopic pvalue
Chance News 33, High altitude effects on athletic performance
Chance News 32, What do economists know that lawyers don't
Chance News 31, Using Statistics to bust myths
Chance News 30, Excel 2007 arithmetic error
Chance News 28, Sloppy
Chance News 26, Excluding car bombs from a measure of sectarian violence
Chance News 24, The danger of providing expert witness testimony when you
are not an expert
Chance News 23, What can you do with 100 words?
Chance News 23, Can Google replace your doctor?
Chance News 23, Amazon's Statistically Improbable Phrases
Chance News 22, I wasn't making up data, I was imputing!
Chance News 20, A clumsy attempt at anonymization
Chance News 18, What does "unable to replicate" mean?
Chance News 16, Exponential decay in Biblical ages
Chance News 16, Use and Reliability of Internet information
Chance News 14, Single and not so carefree
Chance News 12, Can dogs sniff out cancer?
Chance News 11, Laughter in the Supreme Court
Chance News 6, Self Experimentation
Chance News 4, Racial profiling
Chance News 4, Can you get fired over the wording of a questionnaire
Chance News miscellaneous entries
- Chance News 78, Quotations
- Chance News 76, Quotations
- Chance News 75, Quotations
- Chance News 65, Quotations
Chance News 60, Quotations
Chance News 58, Quotations
Chance News 44, Forsooth
Chance News 41, Forsooth
Chance News 40, Quotations
Chance News 39, Quotations
Chance News 39, Forsooth
Chance News 27, Forsooth
Chance News 26, Quotations
Chance News 24, Forsooth
Chance News 23, Quotations
Wikipedia entries I have edited (these are very minor edits for the most part)
Browse other categories at this site
Browse through the most recent entries
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. This page was written by
Steve Simon and was last modified on