Below is a personal quotation collection consisting of quotations and verbatim exchanges, famous only among our friends, that were pithy or otherwise memorable enough to be written down in the hope of not forgetting them. Some seem to be deep truths, some delusions, some outright lies. Although the intention is generally to follow Stan Macks guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim”, this compendium uses light editing for clarity.  A more standard compendium of truly famous quotations about uncertainty can be found here.  Both of these pages are parts of a series of sites related to uncertainty.

 You should get that looked at.

       −Alex Wimbush, in response to Enrique Moralles-Dolzs comment “I’m a hypochondriac.”

19 April 2024

While consecutive instances of the letter zed have inexplicably come to denote the sound of snoring, they also show up with surprising frequency in words that were coined in the United States.  Perhaps the most famous is jazz, a world-renowned form of music that emerged out the African-American communities of New Orleans from the late nineteenth century.  It is widely believed that the word jazz evolved out of jasm which meant vitality or energy and not what youre thinking about you little....  [...] The Jazz Age that followed spawned several zed heavy words like snazzy, pizzaz, Twizzlers, and future astronaut Buzz Aldrin. [...] More that twenty years before jazz entered the lexicon, American English also gave us razzle dazzle, razmataz, and almost certainty blizzard.  They have ten zeds between them.  And in the years since, American English has rolled out buzz cut, ZZ Top, and most recently rizz, a slang form of the word charismatic which today is appropriately popular with Gen Z.  [...] That said, theres at least one for which America cant take credit, and that word is drizzle which emerged in England many centuries ago and hasnt stopped emerging since.

    −Laurence Brown, 4 Ways American English is Pretty Weird, Lost in the Pond

8 March 2024

Inaction is the worst decision.

    −Diego Melgar, in What’s the one thing you can do to survive a tsunami? Cascadia subduction zone, PBS Terra, advocating advance planning for, and immediate reaction to, an earthquake/tsunami [you can start your own planning in the United States with NOAA's Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper below]

30 January 2024

Any religion that expects you to abandon your children—please question your god.

    −Celia LeBaron, adult child of the murderous radical Morman cult leader Ervil LeBaron, recounting her mother moving away without her in the documentary film Daughters of the Cult, episode 4, The Hit List

released on Hulu 4 January 2024

I don’t think you should have the slightest qualms about using AI to help with your writing.  This use is necessarily interactive, and, when used well, it represents a scholarly and intellectual activity as serious and profound as any today.  Even if you got help with some turns of phrase, you are still responsible for the content’s correctness, coherence, and completeness.  The assistance AI gives helps you get over writer’s block and suggests better phrasing and more vivid verbs.  No one blinks anymore at using calculators for numbers, computers for simulations, spelling and grammar checkers for text, reference managers for citations, or Google for facts.   In the not-too-distant past, we judged students on spelling, decimal places, and footnotes.  AI empowers students, but it also frees professors to look at the meaning and importance of their students submissions.   Improving the quality of writing helps both you and your reader—and your reviewers—and it improves science literature immeasurably.  In five years this won’t even be an issue.  You’ll be penalised for not knowing how to wrangle the AI to get the best out of it.

13 December 2023

If this manuscript is considered for publication, please do not use me as a reviewer anymore.

    −Reviewer for an engineering journal (impact factor 2.6) driving home their negative assessment of the submitted manuscript

12 December 2023

LinkedIn:   🕓 Daniel is waiting for your response.  Daniel invited you to connect 1 week ago
Daniel:  Im finally giving in to LinkedIn after years of pointless contrarianism. I hope all is well with you.
Scott:  Um, welcome I guess.  But thats funny, I have been thinking that its high time for me to withdraw from the internet which has become more and more a cesspool under the devilment of troll farms, scammers, and the pointlessly evil Musk.   A long time ago, Donald Knuth retired from emails by saying 15 years was a long as anyone should have to have email.

8 December 2023

“Although a Jewish facility was not targeted, solely due to ironic misidentification, this is yet another reminder to maintain security protocols, remain vigilant of suspicious activity and to report same promptly to the appropriate authorities.

    −Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, in response to the news that an Indianapolis woman had admitted to crashing her car on purpose into what she thought was an Israel schoolbut was actually used by the antisemitic Radical Hebrew Israelites, called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its antisemitic, anti-white, anti-LGBTQ, xenophobic and misogynistic ideology.  The woman exemplifies yet again how resolute and shameless bigotry in Indianapolis is enfeebled and self-defeated by profound stupidity that scatters it into diffuse violence and pain but mutes its injustice; see also Kurt Vonnegut's line in his 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan, “Indianapolis, Indiana, [...] is the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian. 

6 November 2023

Occasionally someone will cancel an appointment with me.  Those suddenly freed up periods have become the only time during a week that I can get anything done.  Two different cancellations today, so I am rocking.

26 October 2023

Shortly after dark, as were were walking down the hill to get a cocktail, we passed large but tightly packed group of young people on the other side of Rodney Street, looking like they had been suddenly assembled by a fire alarm evacuating a building or a recently departed bus.  In the dim light of the street, they all wore dark clothes and seemed dressed for an early winter, with big coats and some in scarves and hoods and those balaclava things.

As I walked past, my jaunty thought was what a boring flash mob.  Amused with myself, I tried to tell my little joke to a fellow standing on my side of the street looking at the crowd, but he didn't hear me.  I thought I might take a photograph of the crowd and post it on this site with my little joke, like I had with the sea gulls during lockdown.  Yes, it was also a vanishingly small joke, but sometimes such things help one remember one's life in little, light moments.

I fumbled for my phone to take the picture, but as I struggled to set the zoom and get the focus, the crowd started to quickly disperse.  I was only able to take the two shots [below] before someone in the crowd fired a bottle rocket in my direction.  By then, the clump of people had spread out and the joke wouldn't even work anymore, so I gave up and started to continue my trip to get that cocktail.  But then someone fired another bottle rocket, or tossed firecracker, seeming at me.  And then they fired a much bigger Roman candle that made serious and scary boom overhead, and then some more bottle rockets whizzing by my head or hitting me in the back.  I'm not sure what they were; I don't speak firework.  They're illegal in New York.

But I do know when I'm being assaulted.  So I turned around and began to cross the street to tell whoever was firing at me to cut it out.  It was hard to cross the street however.  There were some cars, and also this kid or kids were firing rockets at my face.  I guess it's hard to aim these things.  One went to my left, another over my head to my right, and one hit me in the hip.  I was using a windbreaker I'd been carrying to shield my eyes from rockets, and I didn't really see who I was approaching.  I am not a brave person; I am really a coward.  I'm not a foolhardy person either.  Usually I'm very calculating and reserved about risks.  I went across the street to get this kid to stop shooting at me.  Maybe you'll think I made the wrong calculation, and maybe that Roman candle with the really big boom was adrenalizing, but it seemed to me that I had to talk to them because just walking away was clearly not working.

Well, it turned out that talking to them was not a response that they wanted either.   Before I even reached the curb, three or four youths set on me, punching and kicking and somehow bouncing off me (which I think they were doing to knock me down).  One kid made one of those flying kicks like you see in the movies where he jumped in the air and kicked me with both feet.  He must have practiced that move.  I used to be a gymnast, but I've never been able to do that.  One of the kicks broke a pen in my pocket.

Now my memory from my youth about punching and kicking is that they hurt, but in this instance the assaults didn't hurt me.  I conclude from this that perpetrators must have just been merely kids, with insufficient mass to generate kinetic energy to do much real damage, although I feel quite sure the heads inside the balaclavas were going for that effect.  The assault dissipated only when a young woman, tall, blond and wearing all white, seemingly straight out of central casting, bravely came and stood near me.   Her advice, Get in your car and go,” was excellent, but I was on foot.

My immediate emotion was mostly embarrassment.  It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would object to my taking a photograph of a crowd.  I mean, I know that the Amish dont like you to take their picture, and of course I never would, even though I dont subscribe to the notion that graven images are something to worry about.  I am also aware that police often hate it when you record them.  Apologist rationalizing aside, I think all honest people know why they hate it.  I can only presume that my balaclava-clad friends didnt want to be photographed for the same reason cops dont want to be photographed:  theyre up to no good.

In Britain, police are mostly ineffective in reining in this anti-social behaviour.  In New York, the word wilding was used to describe the activities of such misbehaving youths, at least until the moral panic over it led to the injustice on the Exonerated Five who served many years in prison after coerced confessions led to their being wrongly convicted of rape of an jogger in Central Park (and to whom Donald Trump refused to apologize, even after their exoneration, for taking out a full-page advertisements in four New York City newspapers calling for the death penalty for killers in the wake the crime).

I would hardly be the first to notice the parallels with humans in the observations of aberrant behavior by orphaned male elephants in South Africa who killed (and sometimes attempted to mount) dozens of rhinoceroses.  The bad behavior resulting from testosterone poisoning of youth was corrected in the case of the South African elephants by the introduction of a handful of adult males into the herd.  Apparently, the social impacts of fatherlessness can be cured if there are some good guys around.  I guess the message today is try to be a good guy.

24 October 2023

“Whenever humans are talking, theres evil afoot.  Of course they fear humans.   Only the profoundly stupid arent afraid of humans.  The videos would be funny if they werent so incriminating.  Like a flinch reaction in children when their father reaches for the potatoes betrays the kind of man he really is to everyone at the dinner table.

    −discussing the videos captured at Greater Kruger National Park (South Africa) showing animals reacting to sound recordings, of either (L) lions snarling and growling, or (H) human men and women speaking calmly, in which almost all species were much more scared by human talking than by lion sounds, documented in “Fear of the human super predator pervades the South African savanna” by Liana Y. Zanette, Nikita R. Frizzelle, Michael Clinchy, Michael J.S. Peel, Carson B. Keller, Sarah E. Huebner, Craig Packer, which appeared in Current Biology

online 5 October 2023

The professor said  ‘To do well in this class you have to attend all the lectures, do the homework, and do what I say.  I almost laughed.”  

    −University of Liverpool student in the first week of the semester

29 September 2023

[The Northumberland National Park Authority] can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down overnight. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.”  

    −spokesperson for the Authority, not rushing to any conclusions, as reported in The Guardian, which also reproduced four images of the scene, posted on X [Twitter] by Twice Brewed Brew Co., documenting the environmental and historical vandalism of the iconic tree popular in photography and films and once named English tree of the year that grew at Hadrian's Wall in the north of England

28 September 2023

It’s a blog for business types, filled with single-sentence paragraphs and misspellings.  It also approvingly quotes Elon Musk, so it is clearly the work of an idiot.

17 September 2023

When I pushed my Weetabix under the milk and bubbles came up I realised that the only difference between Weetabix and reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete is the steel bars.

8 September 2023

I’ve known many people whose entire personal ethos consists of screaming the phrase You’re Not the Boss of Me!! over and over.  These people believe that everyone is trying to control their lives, and are unwilling to defer or sacrifice the tiniest smidge of instant gratification.  MOST of these people reached their 5th or 6th birthday and grew out of this phase!  But many others, as I write this, are living their lives around the principle that I will not comply. I hate these people.

     −Adam M. Finkel, discussing N95 masks and their properties, and the professional discourse about them among some especially contrarian and argumentative voices, on the Mailing List for Risk Professionals <>

8 September 2023

The bookseller reports that the book Good Vibrations: The Vibrator Owners Manual of Relaxation, Therapy, and Sensual Pleasure by George Mazzei is temporarily unavailable but thinks you might also enjoy Elie Wiesels NightI agree that sometimes frustration after dark can become really depressing, but my only real question at this point is whether Good Vibrations will become available again soon.

observed 28 August 2023

Contrast the technological progress in transportation with that in communication.  In my youth, we were promised universal video calling, and, remarkably, this is one of the only generational promises our civilization has kept.  Well, that and a black man in the White House.   They havent yet given us our flying cars or jetpacks, or cures for cancer or the common cold, or world peace, but we got the video calls.  In fact, the revolution transpired over the course of just a few decades, at the beginning of which we all lived with monopolistically expensive, interrupt-only telephone service essentially unchanged in character or quality for nearly a century, fettered with miserably metered long-distance calling and literally tethered by a physical cord connecting the caller to a fixed point in the office or kitchen.  Our bright present of communications witnesses cheap, often unmetered world-wide service that is optionally asynchronous, with live or recorded voice, text, image, and video transmissions, operated by many competitive and technologically innovative carriers (which, by the way, wasn't the result of deregulation, but of classical anti-trust regulation via the break up of the Bell System).  We have live streaming, automatic health status relays, emergency service location detection, and a host of significant and trivial features and functions that enrich communications.  In broadcasting, flat screens with incredibly high definition display on-demand films and shows, both brand new and archived classics.  The internet itself is that two-way television that George Orwell foretold.  The next big technological innovation is perhaps holograms or maybe smell-o-vision which, to be honest, I am not looking forward to.

20 August 2023

There’s an old cartoon about the Republican Party’s fabled (but presumably fictional) speech simplification machine that takes a reasoned but perhaps rambling speech and reduces it by simplifying the grammar and vocabulary to high-school-level English, removing nuance and unnecessary detail, and shortening it for consumption by mass audiences.  The cartoon depicts the politician reading the machine’s output that reads “Commies and queers bad!”.  The grimacing politician snarls, “Still too long.  Put it through again.”  Likewise, your edits to the conclusion section have definitely reduced its indicative nature and improved its informativeness, but I think the text could be put through the process again.  What take-home messages should the readers have?

7 August 2023

Jack Smith has announced that Donald Trump will be tried as an adult.  [This joke makes light of the unjust punitive practice of trial of juveniles as adults widely and capriciously used in the United States since the Reagan era.]

7 August 2023

The way to tell them apart is that Jordan Peterson tilts his head.  Jack Smith rotates but does not tilt his head.

7 August 2023

Alex:  Inferring the value of a model parameter or the output of a stochastic system is a common aspect of many scientific endeavours. In a frequentist view, this can be accomplished through the use of intervals which have a particular property, they are guaranteed to bound the true value with a given probability. [source]

Peter:  The part that says a confidence interval is guaranteed to bound the true value with a given probability is clearly wrong, isnt it?”

Scott:  The word they makes it correct. Were not talking about one parameter, but the ensemble of parameters, which do fall in their respective confidence intervals with a specified confidence.  Confidence is a probability; its just a probability from a different space.

Alex:  I guess maybe Im thinking about confidence intervals in a different way to Peter. I imagine C(alpha;k, n)=[invbeta((1-alpha)/2;k, n-k+1), invbeta((1-(1-alpha)/2;k+1, n-k)] as a confidence interval, not [0.3, 0.4]. This can clearly bound the true parameter with a minimum probability because it is conditional on unobserved random data. The resulting interval might be [0.3, 0.4], but it should be obvious that this cannot bound the true parameter [in any particular case] with some probability since it is deterministic, the data had to have been observed in order to produce the interval, so it is no longer random.

Scott:  “You made me laugh when you said ‘it should be obvious’.”

(discussing a paper published online 10 March 2022) 7 August 2023

Scott:  Do you remember the scene in Pitch Perfect where Fat Amy finishes the audition and says Crushed it?
Enrique:  What? Do you mean the film Pitch Black with Vin Diesel?

4 August 2023

Thank you for your email; I am sure its contents are edifying and instructive in equal measure. 

Now here’s the thing.  I’m not here.  Well, not really.  Sort of here, but not.  Here-ish, if you like.  

As you read this, I am supposedly on leave, much to my family’s delight.  

I am actually sitting in front of my laptop, desperately trying to carve out an inspirational research grant application, much to my family’s despair and disdain.  Even the dogs have stopped talking to me.  The words and phrases ‘transformative, high risk, pioneering and adventurous are forever being typed and deleted on my tired keyboard.

But let’s be honest, you’re not interested in my forlorn attempts to craft a call to arms for innovative postgraduate research from my limited vocabulary; you’re interested in your email and when I’m going to answer it, aren’t you?

Well, to distract myself from the torture of editing 12,000 words into 12 pages, I will occasionally read my emails between now and the 7th August.  My response to your email will fall into one of three categories: (a) immediate reply, (b) file and reply later, or (c) delete.  

How will you know into which pile your email will fall?  Well, have you written with good news?  If so, you definitely sit in (a).  If your email involves some drab form of administration that I don’t want to do but know I have to do at some point, then your email is a (b).  And if your email is giving me a hard time, well, I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.

Seriously though (now there’s a first), I am on leave but looking at emails occasionally.  Please do expect a response, just not immediately, and maybe not before 7th August.”  

    −John Bridgeman, in an almost perfect manifestation of displacement behaviour...almost only because it was an automated reply that did not necessarily interrupt the grant writing upon receipt of each email

autogenerated 1 August 2023

Its cheating.  Its not doing what you want; its doing what you need.”  

July 2023

Gourmet:  They say monkfish is the poor mans lobster.
Gourmand:  I say lobster is the stupid mans monkfish.

28 July 2023

A function of a prediction interval and a confidence interval would return some franken-interval that is guaranteed to bound the stochastic function of an unknown parameter conditional on the next deviate…maybe. I should probably check that.

    −Alexander Wimbush

21 July 2023

“You all thought that I’d lost the ability to understand what I’d started.  Now it’s your turn to deal with the consequences of your achievement.  <<after they've tortured you enough, they'll give you awards and arrange salmon dinners in your honor>>  They’ll pat you on the back, tell you all is forgiven.  Just remember, it won’t be for you.  It will be for them.”

    −fictionalized Albert Einstein [played by Tom Conti] in the film Oppenheimer, screenplay by Christopher Nolan

film released in the US and UK 21 July 2023

“I don’t think that the people who harassed me won. I’m just reinventing myself in my career.”

    −Chris Gloninger, after explicit death threats and a year of obsessive emails for his on-air coverage of the climate crisis in his weather forecasts, or what his critic called pushing a “liberal conspiracy theory on the weather”, precipitated [no pun] his move from chief meteorologist at a television station in Iowa to chief scientist at Woods Hole Group, a consulting firm satellite of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, quoted by Oliver Milman in “‘Your heart races a bit’: US weather man threatened with death for mentioning climate crisis” 

article published in The Guardian 16 July 2023

“There are different ways of not knowing, and it makes a difference which way you dont know.  We often have some precise data, though usually not much, but we also have imprecise data...whether its imprecise because of simple measurement error or censoring or the values missing or been lost. Then there is a huge, bottomless ocean of things we could have measured but never tried to.
    −Nick Gray, channeling his inner Donald Rumsfeld

11 July 2023

Laurie:  [In the plot of log catch per unit effort against year, y]ou should omit the outliers.  You have so many data, you have a lot of outliers even though as a proportion they are few.  You should get rid of them because they draw the eye away from the main trend of the data.
Matt: But, for most years, almost all of the data are zeros.  The points you see are by-catch.
Scott: So the outliers are the data?

30 June 2023

Seeing some of this stuff can be discouraging. I just want to make note of the fact that these people are vastly outnumbered, by a factor of two to one, at least.  MAGA only makes up 20 to 30 percent of the country. 

    −Owen Morgan, perhaps forgetting his high-school history that only about a third of colonial Americans supported the Revolutionary War, with a third indifferent, and the other third composed of Tories supporting the King, in his Telltale Fireside Chat video “Right Wing Tiktokker Rants On The Toilet (LOL) about the military-language tweet by member of Congress Clay Higgins [Republican, Louisianas 3rd district] reading President Trump said he has been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3PM. This is a perimeter probe from the oppressors.  Hold. rPOTUS has this.  Buckle up.  1/50K know your bridges.  Rock steady calm.  That is all. in which rPOTUS is a reference to Trump, and 1/50K know your bridges is purported to refer to readiness for a county-level insurrection [more recent historical research argues the proportions were 40–45% Patriots and only 1520% Loyalists, which might be more comforting to Owen and his viewers, but the outnumbering should in no case be described as ‘vast’  or considered insurmountable

28 June 2023

Do you have a citation for this?  I cant find the source at or  

    −quotation collection webmaster worried that the attribution of “The overuse of mathematical notation forces the reader to spend time parsing them rather than focusing on the underlying ideas” to the style guide for the journal Biometrika sounds too convenient to be true

23 June 2023

“Have things gotten substantially worse, or is this just another perception thing?  When I was a kid, I dont remember knowing that Supreme Court justices had to be openly corrupt, bald-faced liars and unrepentant sexual predators.  Members of Congress, sure, but not Supreme Court justices.

23 June 2023

In the absence of university-wide guidance on how to handle cases involving the use of artificial intelligence in composing submissions we chose to treat them as Category C [which demands a grade of zero for the submission].

    −Volfango Bertola, academic integrity committee chair, who surely did not use spelling or grammar checking tools to compose his report

15 June 2023

The scandalously poor performance of students on their final exams is not at all surprising. But the cluelessness of the module review board process is really surprising, and deeply disappointing.  A bit of amusement thrown into the mix is that the bimodal distributions of student [grades] are variously described by participants as binomial and also as bipolar.

15 June 2023

“Digital twin is a big buzzword in engineering.  Digital twins are supposed to solve the trust problem with complex models of engineered systems, which is the main roadblock in the way toward their universal adoption. However, in the absence of extensive testing results and empirical evidence that we can never collect about these systems, the only thing that explains or even addresses how much we should trust the outputs from these models is a careful uncertainty analysis.  In the absence of a clear definition of a digital twin one possibility can be that a digital twin is just a comprehensive uncertainty assessment of a model of an engineered system.”

    −Peter Hristov

15 June 2023

Artificial intelligence is a pretty broad term that can refer to a really wide category of technological developments, from self-driving cars stealing our data, to the Amazon Alexa, stealing our data, all the way to the simple search engine algorithms stealing our data. 

    −Ella Yurman, in What are the real dangers of A.I.?  episode of Some More News

14 June 2023

Aditya:  The Muppet Movie was chosen as a control because it is a film where no character can be argued as suffering from depression.”
Niamh:   Fozzie Bear is depressive.”

5 June 2023

“Algebra, in using letters to represent unknown numbers in formulas and equations, is itself essentially a kind of uncertainty analysis.

4 June 2023

Depends on how you say it.

 [filled] “doubt-ridden”  52K “ridden with doubt”  11K
[torn] “doubt-riven”   0.5K “riven with doubt”   5K
[punctured] “doubt-riddled”   5K “riddled with doubt”   64K

    −Google, searching  twenty or so billion pages of the indexable web for matches

19 May 2023

So is it ridden with doubt or riven with doubt?  Or should it be riddled with doubt?  Asking for a friend.

18 May 2023

“I think I did do a voiceover for ‘The next station is...sorry, Liverpool.’”

    −Eurovision host, Graham Norton, beloved by Sousers, on taking over announcements on Merseyrail trains during Eurovision week, as reported in the local newspaper Liverpool Echo and on ITV’s programme This Morning

12 May 2023

A lot of people seem to have deep and inexplicably virulent anger about wokeness.  Do they not get that wokeness is this generations way of distancing themselves from their parents?  Every generation, maybe every person, finds some way to distinguish him- or herselfor themselvesfrom the mire of what came before.  Its usually something good or something they can be proud of, but which their elders find troublesome and terrifying.  What the older generation today calls wokeness, the young understand simply as empathy and acknowledgement of the feelings of others, especially those who had been abused or disenfranchised or forgotten.  But perhaps the secret ingredient that really clinches a trends value in the minds of the young is when the oldsters revile the movement, predict it will somehow destroy our world, and act a little crazy about it.  

In the fifties and sixties, it was rock and roll music that incensed and terrified parents and authorities.  In the sixties and seventies it was Boomers arguing with their parents that maybe not killing Vietnamese villagers would be a good idea.  Indulgence and ambition of the eighties and the nineties was something of an antidote to the stagflation and settling [accepting ones lot] of the old.  Of course, there is never a shortage of outrage and amorphous fear among old folks from any generation, on any number of topics.  And there are lots of these radical movements by the young and moral panics they induce among the old.  Sometimes several are happening at once, overlapping and recurring.

“Wokeness is todays rock and roll.  Happily, rock and roll is here to stay, and I hope that empathy and awareness of others feelings will never die.  Like every generational trend, there will be excesses, but these are only blips in a largely self-correcting process that old people can relax about and leave to the young to figure out.

“In this case, the generational contrast works so well because wokeness is a call to charitableness, which looks pretty good against the stark selfishness of the older generation who had always fancied themselves as the generous ones.  It’s a beautiful plot twist that a call to empathy and awareness, charity and inclusion, can be used as a stick to berate, shame and other their own parents.

10 May 2023

As a Swedish person I have to say, thank you for pointing out Sweden’s bullshitery. 

    −@aerlandsson2792, commenting on “The [Queer] Politics of Eurovision” by Ada Černoša and Verity Ritchie

5 May 2023

Jake Tapper: Its good to see you.  Is it okay if I call you Dwayne?  Im told that you prefer Dwayne or DJ.
Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson: Whatever comes out.  I told your producers Daddy works too.
Jake Tapper: That would be very, very weird. That would be very strange.

before 29 April 2023

But I do not think that online echo chambers of conspiracy theorists are this inevitable symptom of life online.  The internet is about 30 years old, and things are changing quickly, and I think itll be very important that we develop new solutions for these new problems, on a fundamental level.  What if by addressing belief before belonging, were starting the conversation at the wrong place?  Instead of sitting in collective bewilderment and frustration about how these people could believe these things, these crazies, what if we first looked under the hood and thought about what made them vulnerable to this information in the first place?  What might they be getting out of this that theyre not getting in their everyday lives?  How much does it have to do with a different truth, and how much does it have to do with the community that that truth brings?  We need to think about peoples circumstances and reference points, to see them as fellow human beings who want to believe in something and want to belong, just like all of us do in this room.

    −Peter McIndoe, in his TED talk Birds Aren't Real? How a Conspiracy Takes Flight about his social experiment/hoax

April 2023

Teaching [undergraduates] is soul crushing.

    −John Bridgeman

28 April 2023

Grade inflation is terrible, but it seems inescapable.  Like the poor, bad students and professorial cowardice will always be with us.  What may be worse are the self-imposed  guidelines, misunderstood as rules by perniciously officious staff.  Under the schools policies limiting how many students may fail and do well in a course, two years ago we passed 10 people who had objectively failed and, last year, we arbitrarily lowered the grades of some students when too many of them did well.  Both cohorts had taken almost exactly the same test, which had been used for almost a decade without any such scaling. 

24 April 2023

All the null hypothesis talk boils down to how we deal with ambiguous conjunctions [i.e., satellite collisions]. I recommend maneuvering to keep conjunctions unambiguously safe, with some small allowable error rate. Hejduk recommends treating ambiguous conjunctions as though they were already safe. Most of his paper is spent rationalizing that recommendation, using what I think are pretty tortured analogies.

Bottom line: tracking uncertainties being what they are, pretty much all impending collisions will show up as ambiguous conjunctions. Consequently, if you want to intervene meaningfully to limit the rate of debris growth, you have to maneuver to keep the plausibility of collision low. There is no analogy or combination of words that can change this basic fact.

It is possible that our tracking resources are so poor that limiting the plausibility of collision requires more maneuvers than we can sustain. That doesn't change anything about our analysis. That just means our tracking resources are inadequate. Uncertainty quantification isnt magic; if your data are garbage, it limits your ability to manage risk.

Now, in theory, if we had an aleatory prior for conjunction analysis, we could get a calibrated posterior probability of collision, and that would allow us to control collision risk exposure a little more efficiently than plausibility of collision. But we dont have one of those. We need more info about the background rate of collision to define what an acceptable threshold for plausibility of collision would even be.

But again, none of that fixes the tracking data are garbage problem. Last time I checked, these guys dont even know how to define the tracking resources they need. The Conjunction Assessment Risk Analysis (CARA) team seems to treat it as a forbidden line of questioning, even in their 2023 call for proposals.

    −Michael Balch, discussing the 2019 whitepaper Satellite conjunction assessment risk analysis for dilution region events: issues and operational approaches by M.D. Hejduk, D.E. Snow, and L.K. Newman 

22 April 2023

“I have broken down every single episode of Ancient Apocalypse, and through my own research I’ve been able to prove that most of what Graham Hancock says is false.  But I’ve noticed something and that is that every piece of information that disproves his claim is easily available to any one of us that just does a little bit of research, and because of that I’ve had a realization, or an epiphany if you will.  I started my career discussing pseudoarchaeology and pseudoscience and trying to dispel fiction with objective and well-researched facts, but I realized in filming this series that it’s more than a debate between two opposing viewpoints.  It’s about Graham Hancock, because, like it or not, Graham Hancock is a personality.  He’s like the dark Bill Nye.  He’s got books and Netflix deal and charisma, and that appeals to people.  It appeals to the kind of people who want to feel validated that they were right all along and the world really has been lying to them, and those are the kind of people who cannot be swayed with anything that I bring to the table.  [...]

Throughout this series I talked about how amazing it would be to have a science communicator who is as flashy and appealing as Hancock but tell[s] things that are actually true.  It’s not worth sitting around and waiting for some knight in shining armor to show up and save science.  I’ll just do it myself.  There will always be people like Graham Hancock.  Conspiracy is a hydra that pulls people in in order to grow its new heads, and the only way to defeat it is at its source by making sure that people are educated enough so that they don’t fall for it.  And this is of course no fault of the individual but rather the fault of a system that doesn’t prioritize education, instead championing feelings over facts.  So the true way to combat conspiracy is by making education accessible. 

    −Milo Rossi (Miniminuteman), in his YouTube video “I Watched Ancient Apocalypse So You Don’t Have To (Finale)”,  introspectively asking  How can sensationalized reaction content, no matter how well researched, make a difference?

14 April 2023

In late May of 2021, there was a flurry of viral posts across Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and seemingly every drunk uncle’s lips claiming that people vaccinated for COVID would die within two years.  At left is one example, but most of those posts have since disappeared, and the surviving posts have been quarantined by layers of warnings and embarrassed invitations to look at fact checks elsewhere.  Newschecker rather generously labelled the post merely “misleading”, perhaps out of an abundance of agnostic or Popperian strictness.

But let’s look at the post.  Aside from being a bald-faced lieas Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier, who said lots of crazy shit, did not say thisthe hysterical headline claim had a shelf life.  So now we are coming upon the end of the two-year window, and we can take an assessment of the effect of those 13.37 billion doses delivered to almost 70% of the human population of the planet.  Wonder if I’ll make it another two months.  Not counting any chickens, but, maybe, if we see June, Newschecker can update that ranking.

12 April 2023

“Being an engineer, I am, of course, obliged to also provide the algorithms and numerical implementation strategies needed to make this theory come to life on a computer.”

    −Dominik Hose, in a blog post about his PhD thesis that does not mention any software

11 April 2023

This can't even be passing as debunking.  This is this is just like…this is just mockery.

    −@DeDunking, on criticisms leveled at Graham Hancocks Ancient Apocalypse by Milo Rossi (Miniminuteman) whose planned career in science communication may not be well augured by snide sarcasm or self-assurance so deep it seems to border anti-intellectualism

8 April 2023

Okay, it’s been five years already since it felt, to everyone apparently, that our global society was teetering on the brink of catastrophe wrought by the excesses of the elites and the inability or unwillingness of social structures to correct the violations.  The hand wringing about hypernormalization seems now as hollow as the protestations it criticized.  The idea that it is somehow new to this time that “things don’t change after injustice is exposed” is laughable.  Ask Black folks in, well, in any state, what happened after the last scathing report about systemic racism that was precipitated by some shocking event.  And what happened after the similar report before that?  And the one before that?  What do you really think is going to happen after the next one?
      Unless the right-wing outrage really does bubble over in a flash with open fighting in the streets (as opposed to the slow-motion civil war we are in now), maybe this collapse isn’t quite due.  The generic worry and generational malaise about millennials not being able to buy houses is not going to do it.  These are big problems, but they are not society-wrecking problems.  The UK is pondering fifty-year mortgages, and Japan has offered hundred-year mortgages for decades.
      Don’t get me wrong.  I certainly agree that misbehavior of elites will be a key contributor in the collapse of our society, just as Jared Diamond predicts, but we’ve not yet exhausted critical resources, nor experienced the extramural shock that brings down our house of cards.  One thing to look out for of the most common good jobs in America is truck driver.  With light and heavy trucks and delivery and sales drivers, there are almost three million of them.  Let me know when self-driving vehicles displace those workers.  Those guys might not go quietly into the night.

5 April 2023

Him:  “As a Bayesian, we just update based on data.”
Her:  “Well, you know, as a Bayesian, you don’t have enough data for likelihood domination, so your choice of prior matters a lot.”
Him:  [silence and blank look]
Her:  [face showing she’s thinking “You’re no Bayesian.”]

4 April 2023

“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the chatbot did not teach itself advanced chemistry. Bots don't know all. They are so far from knowing things that we don’t even know, in the abstract, how to get to a place where they could know things.  If you are reading this in the year 2023, the one apocalypse you genuinely don’t need to worry about in your lifetime is an AI take-over.”

    −Michael Balch

27 March 2023

“When I was doing my PhD work with [car company], I had some work pushed through to ‘delivery’, which is where they try to use research in production.  It was software that optimised engine control systems by minimising emissions.  They didn't use it that way.  They instead set emissions as constraints in the optimisation, which meant they got as close as possible to the EU legislative limits without exceeding them.  That is my legacy at [car company].”

    −underemployed engineering post doc

24 March 2023

“If you don’t know any statistics, everything is deterministic.  If you know a little statistics, everything is normal.  If you know a whole lot, everything is lognormal.”

    −Andrés Alonso-Rodriguez

19 March 2023

“I was trying to explain to my engineering friends that, yes, I believe in the Engineer King, but engineers are not allowed to take any courses outside the engineering school, and certainly no philosophy courses, so engineers don't know who or what Plato is and the allusion is totally lost on them.”

17 March 2023

“Good software that is hard to access is bad software.”

10 March 2023

    −Max Reddel, in his beautifully written blog Model-Based Policy Analysis under Deep Uncertainty which appeared on the Effective Altruism Forum

6 March 2023

“No other form of transport abuses our human rights like air travel.

    −Sophie Morgan, as reported by Rachel Dixon in an ITVX article on Morgans advocacy for sanctions against airlines mistreating disabled flyers

 3 March 2023

Just wondering, is there a term for the strategy of openly and actively supporting your arch enemy in hopes of creating such instability that, in the resulting turmoil, you can defeat your competitors as well as your enemy?  Isnt this what Slavoj Žižek is suggesting?  The strategy is plainly risky, and I am thinking of the famous gamblers who lost, like Ernst Thälmann, and Susan Sarandon and Colby Keller (both of whom I love).  The definition of ‘stupidity’ offered by James F. Welles as learned behavior that is self-defeating seems very close.  But perhaps it is inappropriately pejorative.  Are there examples where this strategy worked?  Maybe my historical perspective is skewed, but I can’t think of many examples where fomenting war worked out well for the schemer in the long run.  Am I being naive?  

“The New Radicals’ lyric ‘The first step to a successful revolution is destroying all competing revolutionaries’ may be ambiguous about timing.  Is the step after the overthrow of the ancien régime, or in the throes of, or even before the revolution?  Menshevism wasn’t made illegal in the Soviet Union until years after the 1917 revolution.  This order makes sense to me.  Whatever one might say about Operation Barbarossa, surely it was premature as a matter of strategy.  Does it make sense to smash fellow travellers while they are still collaborators?  Besides being a double cross, it just doesn’t seem smart.  

“Obviously, I’m not talking about the idea of genuinely loving your enemies.  The Sermon on the Mount, like the Marshall Plan, and even the state-building practices of ISIS, can be smart strategy in catching more flies with honey, but it is clearly not the idea at play here.

26 February 2023

Your manuscript should be double-spaced in clear, grammatically-correct English with margins on all sides of at least 1 in (2.5 cm) on 8.5x11 sized pages.

    −instructions for authors for the journal Risk Analysis, with multiple separate mistakes involving hyphens [double, correct, sized]

observed 24 February 2023

“[A]t no point in history have we had access to more data about our assets than we do right now; but is it really helping or are we simply data rich, information poor’?

    −Jeremiah Wooten, failing to notice we are knowledge bankrupt and perhaps wisdom destitute, and also failing to cite the thoughts of Barack Obama on the issue

18 June 2023

I coined the term cisgender in 1994. Nearly three decades later, the word has had ramifications I never dreamed of.  It began innocently enough. I was in graduate school and writing a paper on the health of trans adolescents. I put a post on alt.transgender to ask for views on transphobia and inclusion on the campus of the University of Minnesota. I was struggling because there did not seem to be a way to describe people who were not transgender without inescapably couching them in normalcy and making transgender identity automatically the other.  I knew that in chemistry, molecules with atoms grouped on the same side are labeled with the Latin prefix cis–, while molecules with atoms grouped on opposite sides are referred to as trans–. So, cisgender. It seemed like a no-brainer. I had no idea that hitting enter on that post would start an etymological time bomb ticking.

    −Dana Defosse, compelled to deny that the term cisgender was hateful or intended to other anyone, but admitting the long-suspected truth that the origin of the term is essentially a pun, in “I coined the term ‘cisgender’ 29 years ago: here’s what this controversial word really means” on Huffington Post Personal and setting us up for more etymological jokes like the classic Polyamory is wrong! It is either multiamory or polyphilia, but mixing Greek and Latin roots is wrong! 

18 February 2023

“[Former waitress] Alexa [Seary] is used to people telling her what to do.

    −Jake Massey, LAD Bible

13 February 2023

“We’d rather have myths.  This is better than acknowledging our lives are so unmoored.”

13 February 2023

“Don’t be too hard on fiducial.  It’s true that fiducial doesn’t workit’s not so different from Bayes, so we can learn a lot about what’s wrong with Bayes through the fiducial literature.  In Stein’s [1959 paper  ‘An example of wide discrepancy between fiducial and confidence intervals], for example, the fiducial solution is exactly the default-prior Bayes solution, so whatever complaints there are about fiducial also apply to Bayes.  The fact that there are few papers criticizing Bayes isn’t because there aren’t criticisms to be made, it’s that those papers don’t get published.”  

    −Ryan Martin

10 February 2023

What is needed is the criminalization of asymmetry of information.

    −Carmen Migueles, discussing the undue control by large multinationals corrupting public policy and damaging public health 

9 February 2023

A young Liverpool undergraduate sported a hoodie with many logos and the words Full of Dreams, but when I saw him, the folds of the fabric made it seem like it might read Full of Beans, which is also true.

3 February 2023

The[se] kids today with their face tattoos and their murder apps.

    −UiscePreston, on news of the 45-year sentence given to Chance Seneca who used Grindr to find victims for kidnapping and attempted murder 

26 January 2023

Even the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, arguably one of the greatest humans to ever human, was in support of eugenics.  For him, however, it had nothing to do with race.

    −Daven Hiskey (author), “What Did the German Public Know About the Holocaust During WWII?, Today I Found Out

2 January 2023

The teacher was very interesting and I enjoyed interacting with her in class.  Too much slide content, need to simplify.

    −anonymized student with the most useful comment for Scott Fersons probability class

20 December 2022

[...W]e can say with confidence that, in conducting the Oppenheimer proceeding, the AEC failed to follow its own rules. We can also conclude that these failures were material to the fairness of the proceeding. There can be little question that allowing the lawyers charged with making the case for revocation to serve as assistants to the Board and to guide them through the documentary evidence for an entire week before the hearing may have colored the Board members’ perception of the issues and prevented them from entering the hearing with open minds. Further, when the matter proceeded to the AEC for final action, Dr Oppenheimer’s counsel was kept unaware of the actual findings and recommendations presented to the AEC by the General Manager, which differed substantially from those of the Personnel Security Board. By preventing its subject from addressing the charges made against him, the AEC undeniably compromised the effectiveness of its proceeding.

These failures warrant vacating the AEC’s order and, in the case of an active clearance seeker, would warrant a new adjudication conducted in accordance with the applicable rules. In the case of Dr. Oppenheimer there will of course be no new adjudication. Vacatur of the AEC’s 1954 decision In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer will conclude the Department’s actions in this matter.

Pursuant to the authority vested in the Secretary of Energy to carry out the functions of the Atomic Energy Commission, I hereby order that the decision rendered on June 29, 1954, In The Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer be vacated.
* * *
When Dr. Oppenheimer died in 1967, Senator J. William Fulbright took to the Senate floor and said “Let us remember not only what his special genius did for us; let us also remember what we did to him.” Today we remember how the United States government treated a man who served it with the highest distinction. We remember that political motives have no proper place in matters of personnel security. And we remember that living up to our ideals requires unerring attention to the fair and consistent application of our laws.

    −Jennifer M. Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, in her secretarial order Vacating 1954 Atomic Energy Commission decision: In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, after appeals to review the matter from U.S. Senators and current and former national lab directors see also her press release 

  16 December 2022

This is just the latest, and hes just trying to create a sense of crisis and drama around the company, I guess, so people will be talking about him.  He likes attention.  I dont know if you noticed.

    −Kara Swisher, asked to comment on PBS News Hour about self-proclaimed free speech absolutist Elon Musk's suspending the Twitter accounts of journalists who had reported about him and Twitter

15 December 2022

They just cannot put themselves in other peoples shoes. I don't mean they wont; I mean it seems like they cant. Like you tell them, You know, things are pretty bad for blank right now, and theyre just like ‘Well, Im not blank and you want to go with the obvious follow-up ‘No, I know, but like what if you were though? How would you feel then? And, dude, asking these people that question is like asking a Labradoodle to solve for X.  Like, they lack the foundational building blocks to even begin to understand what youre trying to say to them.

    −Trae Crowder, On the absence of empathy

14 December 2022

I’m sure I’m not au courant on the buzzwords in engineering, but I presume that ‘durability’ still mostly means strength against impacts.  The subject of durable development of engineered systems  seems to concentrate on longer lifetimes, sustainable and clean growth and net zero.  But I think that it is the topic of resilience, not so much sustainability, that may fit the interests of the country right now.  Does durability include resilience?   Or is resilience already passé in these quarters?  I know some people argue that resilience is a part of sustainability, but it seems to me there’s often a tension or trade-off between sustainability and resilience, because our horizons are always shorter than they need to be.  That tension is not explored at all, as if you can have that powerful, low-profile, strong, lightweight, heavily armoured, fast, manoeuvrable, cheap tank whose components are manufactured in every congressional district.  There are choices that need to be made.

Maybe it’s just the past two years that leaves me with the diffuse feeling that society is held together by duct tape and hope, at the mercy of pandemics, invasion, unstable leadership in government and business.  As some have put it, resilience is the new sustainability.  Ecology and scholars like Jared Diamond have some things to say to engineers about resilience.  How can we ensure that the designed structures and processes continue to at least partially function even when impaired, rather than forming traps for the users?  Compare broken elevators with broken escalators.  How can the internet and communication networks still work even when the electrical grid is down?  How can roads be useful with no gas?  How can you get there, even when you can’t get there from here?

2 December 2022

Tyndall was much more famous, and male, than Foote. 

    −Simon Clark, explaining why the observation that CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere is credited to John Tyndall rather to Eunice Newton Foote  who documented it five years earlier, in his video Global Warming: An Inconvenient History

30 November 2022

Russia is now finding out why the US doesnt have free healthcare.

    −The Infographics Show, in Why Russia Can't Stop US Weapons, where the dark humor is embedded in content about the presumptive advantage of weapons provided by allies to Ukraine over the weapons of their Russian invaders described in comments as “fascinating”,awesome and sometimes hilarious”,  “well done, and very entertaining!”, “gold”, so beautifully done that could be easily confused with poetry”, but also “asinine propaganda”, “misinformation”, “glorification of the military industrial complex”, a “Raytheon infomercial”, or, most generously, “not 100% accurate”

~30 October 2022

Hawkman [played by Aldis Hodge]The kind of justice you dish out can darken your soul.
Adrianna Tomaz [played by Sarah Shahi]Its his darkness that lets him do what heroes like you cannot.

    −Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani in their Dwayne Johnson vehicle Black Adam that self-consciously celebrates unlimited extrajudicial executions with a smarmy relish and open self-satisfaction not seen since the worst days of Dick Cheney’s torture programs

United States film release 21 October 2022

Perhaps Nostradamus is an unreliable guide to the future.

    −Stuart Jeffries, feature writer for The Guardian in a belated review of the 2006 book Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for the Future by Mario Reading

10 October 2022

“The news from Brazil, Hungary, the UK, and now Italy has been frightful, and it may be still more so after the next election cycles in France and Spain.  Even the Netherlands and Sweden have far-right bubblings.  These are not the usual suspects. And, in the US, there is really no place that is safe from the slow-motion civil war, is there?  Michiganwhich used to seem very much not a part of the rebellious and illiberal Southis just one slipped election (or successful gubernatorial kidnapping and on-line execution) away from the crazies controlling everything.  It really seems that every 50 to 100 years, the native fascistic predilections of humans will, unchecked, come to a festering head until they are burnt away by military conflagration of an intensity that unravels society.  Or am I being a Debbie Downer?

25 September 2022

Tesco is closed today?!  Tesco has been the one constant that I have known in England.

19 September 2022

“More cheese,  more satisfaction.”

    −Krasymyr Tretiak

11 September 2022

Not enough PDRs, please add more.

    −Callum Moseley, perhaps with some snark, on the occasion of his Professional Development Review one month before his contract ends

8 September 2022

Probability can handle both data and belief, but actually it conflates them.  The difference is essential when assessing models.

    −Enrique Miralles-Dolz

31 August 2022

You can always outwork talent.

    −Brandon Blackwell, on University Challenge at 60 about his stunning turn on the BBC Two quiz show being the product of focused effort rather than innate cleverness

broadcast 29 August 2022

I have an interest in cognitive science, known in philosophy as epistemology. How do we think, and why do we believe what we believe? These are interesting topics right now because of all the weirdness going on around the world.

    −Paul Tonner, as told to Emine Saner, The Guardian

24 August 2022

Ive never understood why thats not new is an insult. 2+2=4 is the oldest take in the world. But some of us are not trying to be fresh, were trying to be right.

    −Coleman Hughes [@coldxman]

20 August 2022

Its no wonder these things are called confusion matrices.

    −Alexander Wimbush

19 August 2022

Re: False confidence.  The basic issue has been known to statisticians for a long timeCharles Stein has a 1959 paper [An example of wide discrepancy between fiducial and confidence intervals] about basically the same problem explored in our satellite paper.  But what happened is that this unsatisfactory behavior became associated with Fishers fiducial argument (I think because the Bayesians wanted to tear that idea down).  Meanwhile, the Bayesians, who knew this affected them too, were desperately trying to find a patch to fix the problem, and they finally arrived at the use of target-parameter-specific reference/default priors, which I find to be totally absurd.  The Bayesians [...] have done a terrible disservice to statistics and science by promoting the idea priors can be objectively chosen and, more generally, that priors dont really matter.  Im not as familiar with the [imprecise probability] literature as I could/should be, but my impression is that most people are focused on coherence, which has nothing to do with real life.  The belief function and possibility theory guys seem more closely connected with real life, but they take imprecision as a given, as their starting point, needing no justification.  A statistician who isnt familiar with [imprecise probability], however, isnt going to understand what Dubois & Prade are doing/saying, regardless of how statistically relevant it might be, because they arent convinced that imprecision is important.  What we added with the false confidence result is the new angle which says that the kind of reliability that statisticians and others care about can only be guaranteed through the use of imprecise probabilities, thus answering the question of why imprecision?  Prior to our work, no one had explained—let alone really solvedthe problem Stein identified (and that Fraser wrote extensively about), not Bayesians, not the CD guys, no one.  [... This reliability can] only be achieved with an imprecise probability.  That is, if youre not imprecise, then theres a risk of systematically assigning high belief/confidence to hypotheses that are false.  This has nothing to do with a lack of robustness or models/priors being wrong, its solely about achieving the kinds of reliability goals statisticians care about.  Historically, the sales pitch for imprecision has been on principleone doesnt actually know the prior, etc, so its right to be honest about ones precision.  But imprecision makes computation more difficult and solutions more conservative, and academic statisticians wont take this performance hit solely on principle.  My hope is that connecting imprecision to the kinds of performance that everyone cares about (Bayesians too) adds a new angle to this discussion, beyond just the introduction of imprecision because its the right thing to do. 

    −Ryan Martin

(extended 10 February 2023) 19 August 2022

Still in limited release in 2022, some 47 years after its premiere, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history.

    −Wikipedia, on The Rocky Horror Picture Show 

15 August 2022

“Everybody’s so creative!”

    −TikToker Tanara (@tanaradoublechocolate)

31 July 2022

[C]hoosing one’s measure of information is literally equivalent to choosing one’s loss function in a statistical decision problem, and thus is significant, consequential, and can not be swept under the carpet.

    −Robert C. Williamson and Zac Cranko, in their manuscript Information processing equalities and the information–risk bridge

26 July 2022

You wanna make an omelet, you gotta kill some people.

    −Lloyd Hansen [played by Chris Evans], The Gray Man, screenplay by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

theatrical release 22 July 2022

“The Axiom of Choice is obviously pro-abortion”

    −LezNerd , in response to MathGeekRobs posting Im a mathematician. Can someone explain to me woke math? Apparently I didnt get the memo.” which was in reaction to the kerfuffle in Florida in which the state Department of Education is continuing to give publishers the opportunity to remediate all deficienciesregarding what the department and the governor call woke math such as an example using polynomials to model data originally reported by Project Implicit which uses self-testing to assess unconscious associations underpinning stereotyping that included the totally unsurprising but apparently disturbing observation that racial prejudice seems to vary by age and political affiliation

 15 July 2022

Few of us stay at the stream [of au courant fashion] drawing whats new all our lives. For various reasons we often wander away with our catch. Perhaps its because we settle into an identity were comfortable with, or fear the taboo of not dressing our age, or simply run out of time to care. But when were gone the stream keeps changing and we get older and continue to use the mannerisms and styles we grabbed a while back. Eventually, to whatever those styles initially evoked, a new connotation is added: old person. Not because the look or behavior is intrinsically for the elderly, but because those who use it, us, became old ourselves. If you want to look older, what do you do? Well, you can dress the way older people dress. And the thing is, that's often how they used to dress too. We think people looked older in the past because they look the way old people do today.

    −Michael Stevens (Vsauce), described by @aprroxit as the guy who actually tries to figure out his shower thoughts” in his Youtube video “Did people used [sic] to look older?

11 July 2022

When I was working on the Bristol Bay Watershed assessment (Pebble Mine), the State of Alaska insisted on a one-in-a-million probability of tailings dam failure, but they could not and would not say whether that was per year, per life of the mine, or what. It just sounded good to them.

    −Glenn Suter

4 July 2022

Jim Acosta: Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, all gave assurances.... These were nominees to the Supreme Court giving the country assurances that they were not going to overturn this precedent, and yet they did anyway. [...] What about the fact that we have people who were putting themselves forward for a spot on the high court of this country who were essentially misleading the country about what their true intentions might be if Rowe v. Wade were to come to their desk?

Jeffrey Toobin: ...And as for the justices themselves, you know, they were playing a game to get on the Supreme Court. All three of them are lawyers. So if you parse their words carefully, the way that lawyers know how to speak, they did not explicitly promise to uphold Rowe v. Wade. They left the impression that they would uphold Rowe v. Wade.”  [So they are liars but not perjurers, is that right?]

25 June 2022

The speakers can be interesting, or enraging, which is better. Another useful teaching tool is the pratfall.  One time in a workshop, Stan Kaplan put Bayes rule up on the board and started to explain it, but suddenly said, ‘Oh, wait, that’s not right’.  After an awkward pause he confessed he was confused and was literally scratching his head.  He struggled for a spell and asked himself dumb questions out loud.  He spent several painful minutes doubting himself in front of his audience.  Watching him, we were kind of engrossed in whether he might completely melt down.  It turned out that he had written it correctly, but had just gotten off on the wrong foot.  But, by struggling through it, he had dragged the entire audience with him to confident understanding.  I never found out whether it was genuine confusion, or just a really clever teaching technique.”

20 June 2022

Ive come to the conclusion that Walley has no right to say anything about coherence.

    −Alexander  Wimbush, on reading about statistical notions of coherence in Peter Walleys text Statistical Reasoning with Imprecise Probabilities

10 June 2022

They clearly knew what they were doing with that title

    −Gordo Insufrible, referring to the video “Two Candles, One Cake” posted by Numberphile

10 May 2022

[Y]ou were annoyed that [the problem of Bertrand’s paradox] wasn’t well defined. And I think mathematicians do have that sense of annoyance. You want things to be neat, but probability questions are often more philosophical.”

    −Ben Sparks, “Two Candles, One Cake” posted by Numberphile

10 May 2022

The lesser of two evils is LESS EVIL. If you cared at all about any of the things you claim to care about, youd vote to keep as much of it as you can rather than throwing it all away in a childish fit.

    −Rrhain on Disqus at JoeMyGod, speaking truth to disempowerment about the long-predicted dire consequences of voter apathy and protest voting which have resulted in the current US Supreme Court which is drafting the ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the coup de grace in a run that has already included gutting the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder), unleashing dark money in elections by overturning century-old spending restrictions (Citizens United), excusing unfair treatment as religious expression (Hobby Lobby), and suppressing meaningful punitive damages (Exxon Shipping)

, and may someday review restoring government-led prayer in public schools or abrogating Miranda rights, marriage equality, privacy (Lawrence), contraceptive access (Griswold), or interracial marriage  (Loving)3 May 2022

Plot twist: the rapture has already happened, no one was judged worthy


May 2022

“Ignorance isn’t a defense unless, you’re a cop.”

    −@Fanimati0n succinctly summarizing Devin Stone’s explanation of the judicially invented doctrine of qualified immunity by which police insulate themselves from civil litigation when they violate the civil rights of citizens in LegalEagle’s “The Greatest Brief Ever Filed” 

May 2022

When people feel even a little bit of intimidation...thats what makes people go silent. And when critics go silent, the group gets stupid.

    −Jonathan Haidt discussing his article in The Atlantic about the effect of social media which is “very good at tearing things down” in creating what he calls structural stupidity in government, institutions and society in ‘Uniquely Stupid:’ Dissecting the Past Decade of American Life on Amanpour and Company

18 April 2022

From here on, Im just assuming everything I read on line or in emails is just a leftover April Fools joke.

3 April 2022

There is nothing epistemic about a confidence interval, although there could be if, say, the likelihood were imprecise.

    −Matthias Troffaes

29 March 2022

If that were a theorem, I would believe it.

    −Matthias Troffaes

29 March 2022

Engineers DisEase is a condition, common among English-speaking engineers, that compels the sufferer to capitalize words referring to schools of thought, disciplines, methods, techniques, new ideas, old ideas, ideas, time periods, apparatuses, or other notions or thingamajigs that are neither proper nouns nor expressions that conventional orthography capitalizes.  The DisEase is characteristically inconsistently expressed across any document greater than five words in length.

28 March 2022

Will Smith and Trump are the same guy.

    −Howard Stern, a shock jock now become a voice of conscience commenting on Smiths public and penalty-free crime, which is both sad and funny (but not funny ha ha

28 March 2022

[Bowen Yang]: Steam rising from the asphalt after a sunshower! Just percolating, up and up and up and up and upward! Faster! Walking down the street, feeling invincible, like your whole life is ahead of you. Youre on your way to your high school graduation, and you havent made real mistakes in life! The sonic groundswell building until suddenly...
[Chris Redd]: Is it over?
[Bowen Yang]: Its just beginning!

    −Saturday Night Live homage to the Ohio State University Marching Band’s Dont Stop Belevin [sic], arranged by John Brennan as an instrumental rendition of the 1981 Journey song Dont Stop Believin’”, composed by Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain, and Neal Schon

19 March 2022

[A] meaningful calculus on the set of closed and non-closed intervals is most likely never to be constructed. Of course, this does not exclude individual episodic applications of non-closed intervals in certain particular situations. But in general, alas...

    −Sergey P. Shary, arguing that allowing open or partially open intervals in interval arithmetic does “not make much sense” in his manuscript “Non-traditional intervals and their use: which ones really make sense?” available at, but perhaps not making much sense himself

16 March 2022

В отличие от Российского Союза ректоров, Британские ученые считают, что вопросы этики и морали важна. Так думают и некоторые российские ученые. [1,2,3]

4 March 2022

“[Yuval Noah] Harari is correct that humans dominate the planet because we cooperate. Cooperation is our primary adaptation. But he is wrong that the reason we can is ‘imagination’ (7:00). He is confusing how the world looks with why it works. The reason we cooperate so well is that we have reduced the cost of compelling others to cooperate, by remotely punishing (sensu Bingham and Souza) cheaters who don't cooperate. Without this compulsion, non-cooperating free riders would otherwise win the evolutionary game because they reap the social benefits without any costs to themselves from believing the story or toeing the line to uphold it. Yes, biological adaptations such as language, religiosity, and story telling in general, [but also] cheater detection and the knowledge illusion (sensu Sloman and Fernbach) are enhancements that can make cooperation more efficient, but these are adjunct to the peculiarly human solution of remote threat that allows cooperation in the first place, even though mutualisms are usually evolutionarily unstable. Harari goes on to to understate the commonness of imagination, i.e., conditional thinking (Edgington), which is necessary for behaviors such as hunting, avoiding predators, and planning that are exhibited ubiquitously by other animals.

26 February 2022

A thing is either accurate or its not. There are no degrees of accuracy. You taught me that.

    −Roxanne [Haley Bennett], misunderstanding any notion of validation and surely misquoting Cyrano de Bergerac, in the film Cyrano by screenwriter Erica Schmidt, based on her 2018 stage musical of the same name, based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac []

film released 25 February 2022 

Its like a pendulum shifting from feckless to reckless.

    −Garry Kasparov, discussing the responses by previous American leaders, i.e., Obama and Trump, to Putins aggression, on the PBS program Amanpour and Company

24 February 2022

“Um, punishing the innocent is societys primary mode of disaster management.”

20 February 2022

09:00:00 Professor :  “Write a silent MATLAB function m-file with the prescribed calling syntax and naming convention that takes range and elevation radar data for a falling body and computes the two roots of the quadratic regression analysis.
09:27:21 Professor :  Can anyone think of a non-military application of this lab on radar tracking of a projectile?
09:33:07 Professor :  Ah, wait, I would be the equations of motion needed to predict the behaviour of the moon for the plot of the action film Moonfall, currently in cinemas.  Possibly Donald Sutherlands greatest role.
09:34:04 Student :  professor, for our class test in two weeks, can we do it online?

11 February 2022

We made a mistake fifty years ago, and were still paying the price for it today.  We thought the brain was a computer, a digital computer.  But you see the brain has no operating system.  It has no programming.  It has no Windows; it has no CPU; it has no Pentium chip.  It has no subroutines.  The brain doesnt have anything resembling the brain [sic] except neural activity.  Fifty years later, after this wild goose chase, we now understand that the brain is a pattern-seeking neural network, a learning machine, and it learns and rewires every time it learns something new.

    −Michio Kaku, The difference between your brain and a computer, making exactly the same error believing the human brain must be similar to the what computer scientists are currently talking about 

6 February 2022

Generations of programmers have been misled by C and C++. Many have fallen into the black hole of its cult with trite platitudes like ‘under the hood programming’, which means no more than driving along with the hood open, trying to fix the engine, but unable to see the road. Cult followers urge end-users to trust the programmer, which is stupid and naive, but appeals to the programmers ego. And programmers are supposed to have freedom, although no one ever says freedom from what.  Its certainly not freedom from the flaws and traps of C++.

    −Ian Joyner, in As a coding language, C++ appeals to the ego, not the intellect on, speaking truth to the priesthood who have surmounted the unnecessary and arcane barriers of entry to a circle of special knowledge and who, predictably, delusionally insist that using C and C++ is about performance

1 February 2022

NASA Deputy Director and former astronaut Jocinda Jo Fowler [Halle Berry]: You have blood on your hands too.

NASA scientist Holdenfield [Donald Sutherland]: Yeah, well, anyone who follows orders pretty much always does, dont they. 

    −Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser, and Spenser Cohen writing dialog for Moonfall, a film depicting a world where mobile phones, electricity and—most importantly—product placement continue to work despite the moon coming so close to the earth that the moon pokes into the earth’s atmosphere and people standing on the earth are pulled into the moons gravitational well, a movie which was ruined by the miscasting of Charlie Plummer as the disgraced-astronaut-who-saves-both-the-earth-and-the-moons errant son and car driver in the obligatory chase scene that happens as the earths oxygen but not air pressure is sucked away from the planet (even though he was truly wonderful in the 2020 film Spontaneous described by Wikipedia as a romantic black-comedy horror film in which he played the boy who meets girl and then explodes)

released 31 January 2022

James Holden [Steven Strait]:  I hope I did the right thing.

Naomi Nagata [Dominique Tipper]:  You did.  You followed your conscience in the hope that others would follow theirs.  You didnt do it for a reward or a pat on the head.  The universe never tells us if we did right or wrong.  Its more important to try to help people than to know that you did.  More important that someones life gets better than for you to feel good about yourself.  You never know the effect you might have on someone, not really.  Maybe one core thing you said haunts them forever.  Maybe one moment of kindness gives them comfort or courage.  Maybe you said the one thing they needed to hear.  It doesnt matter if you ever know.  You just have to try.

    −The Expanse, season 6, episode 6, Babylon's Ashes, Naren Shankar, Juliana Damewood, and Glenton Richards (screenwriters), based on the novels by James S.A. Corey [joint pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck]

released 14 January 2022

[...P]leas for civility are a fraud. Their goal is to blunt and enfeeble criticism and distract from its truthfulness. Typically, they’re the work of hypocrites. It may be not a little ghoulish to celebrate or exult in the deaths of vaccine opponents. And it may be proper to express sympathy and solicitude to those they leave behind. But mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-COVID measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled. Nor is it wrong to deny them our sympathy and solicitude, or to make sure it’s known when their deaths are marked that they had stood fast against measures that might have protected themselves and others from the fate they succumbed to. There may be no other way to make sure that the lessons of these teachable moments are heard.” [links omitted]

    −Michael Hiltzik on and the HermanCainAward subreddit after the death of a politician who opposed vaccine mandates in “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes—but may be necessary

10 January 2022

“This shocking insight—optimal statistical procedures may behave disastrously even under ‘tiny deviations’ from the ideal model—demonstrates that imprecision in the underlying model may matter substantially. [...]The centrepiece of Bayesian inference is the prior distribution. Apart from very large sample sizes, where the posterior is de facto determined by the sample, the prior naturally has a strong influence on the posterior and on all conclusions drawn from it. In the rare situations where very strong prior knowledge is available, it can be used actively, but most often the strong dependence on the prior has been intensively debated and criticized. Working with sets  of prior probabilities (or interval-valued priors) opens new avenues here. This set can naturally be chosen to reflect the quality/determinacy of prior knowledge: strong prior knowledge leads to ‘small’ sets; weak prior knowledge to ‘large’ sets.”

    −Thomas Augustin, “Statistics with imprecise probabilities—a short survey”, in Uncertainty in Engineering

book published 2022

Thinking about the identification blocks that people put under their email signatures.  Theyve grown recently to include pronoun preferences and often a witticism or favorite quote.  They seem a bit self-promotional.  Do I really want a self-blurb?  If I need one, what should be in it?

Maybe my pronoun statement is clear:  “all pronouns are cool”.  A nice bubbe on a plane once said to me Sorry, maam after she hit me in the head with her carry-on bag.  Although I was sporting a full beard at the time, I didnt take offence.  Why would I?  (She later called me bubala, so I think we were tight.)  But whats so bad about being mistaken for a female?  My gay friends refer to me as ‘she’ and ‘her’ pretty regularly.  I accept that warmly.  As a survivor of an all-male college, I am here to tell you that the toxicity in toxic masculinity is at base just old-fashioned misogyny.  I am happy with whatever pronouns youd like to use for me.  Not trying to be provocative here; I genuinely dont have preferences on this. I cant control how people talk about me.  To be honest, Im just happy theyre still talking about me.  Im just as happy to know other peoples pronoun preferences, although I hope to be mostly referring to them by their names.  Okay, pronoun statement done and dusted?

What about self-description?  Well, on formal stuff or when Im introducing myself in work or professional emails, Ill use my job title and affiliation.  But thatll only work when Im employed.  What happens if I retire?  In the old, old days, people would just give their city name, as if everyone in Philadelphia would know who Ben Franklin is, so just ask anyone from Philadelphia.  That seems less helpful in our modern times, in which we are constantly moving about, and were trying to be citizens of the planet.  Maybe I could steal the joke that Kathy Griffin said about Madonna:  “Raised in Indiana, moved to New York, is British.”  This is perhaps the modern, snarky version of that old idea about locale as identity.

Now what about the memorable favorite quote?  Whew, thats hard.  I recently found Garden of Your Mind which is profound and pure and beautiful.  I thought hed said in it “There’s so much in this world we can learn, no matter how young or how old we are" but the closest actual quote I can find is “There are so many things to learn about in this world and so many people who can help us learn.”  Never watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (we couldn’t get PBS when I was young), but he is my hero now to be sure.  But I think the quote might need to be switchable.  Sometimes something from Anton LaVey might be more on point than Mr. Rogers.  Or Christopher Hitchens, or John Waters, or my young hero David Hogg, or archy.

Do I have to do an epitaph too?  Is that due already too?  I guess I want a six-word one, maybe “born confused, explored uncertainty, died surprised”.  But I reserve the right to change this, especially the surprised part.  Of course, theres a lot of room for beauty and depth in this brevity.  And room for levity and denial as well, e.g., Not Quite contributor Matts “Full life; impossible to summarize in…” which echoes Neil Patrick Harris first tweet My first tweet, peeps.  I apologize in advance for my slow learning curve.  Nice to (sort of) meet you.  Its amazing how quickly 140 charac which was really funny before Twitter changed the message length limit.

31 December 2021

Just as the 1998 Bruce Willis vehicle The Siege correctly foretold that Americans would quickly descend to unthinkable brutality and state-sponsored torture in the wake of attacks on New York City, the binge-watchable TNT series The Last Ship, which must have seemed ridiculously over the top in pre-covid times, seems disturbingly prophetic now: ruthless self-interest weaponized by ignorant certainty creates in situ an up-is-down logic and perverse economy that feeds every tragedy, combined with the numbing relentlessness of the reflexive punishing of the innocent, which appears to be our primary if not only mode of disaster management. Humans are so, so good at punishing the innocent. We punish the innocent like cheetahs run and dolphins swim. Health care workers are vilified and physically attacked. Anthony Fauci, a beacon of rectitude and compassion and intelligence, regularly receives death threats. Even Bill Gates who warned about the dangers of a pandemic is now inexplicably accused of perpetrating covid. 

27 December 2021

When persuading someone to change their mind on a major topic, whats being said isnt always quite as important as how its said.  If a person feels attacked or disrespected or condescended to, theyll turn off their brain and block out the most rational, correct arguments on principle alone.  [Homo sapiens] are odd, emotional creatures, more amenable to a convincing pitch than poorly presented rightness.  

    −Charles Bramesco in a review of Dont Look Up in The Guardian that expresses a deep truth about human social psychology but fails to realize that the point of art can be other than persuasion. Screenwriter-director Adam McKay was obviously not intending to convince anyone to care about any impending catastrophe, as numerous as they are.  Art always speaks to us, but in this case the message is that Cassandra will never be believed, that science communication does not work. Our dependably poor reactions in the face of peril result from our collective and individual stupidity that everyone, including scientists, sometimes suffer, but peril is not removed or mitigated by this innocence. Sorry to say, the universe simply doesnt give a fuck that youre feeling attacked or disrespected or condescended to.

27 December 2021

Raw data doesnt mean shit.

    −Nico Li,  arguing it is data science that assigns meaning to raw data

22 December 2021

Pat:  “I thought there’d be a happy ending somehow. Isn’t that how American films work?”
Scott:  I thought it was supposed to be a dark comedy. I didnt realize itd be a documentary.
Wikipedia:  “The film received mixed reviews from critics, who [...] found [screenwriter]’s approach to the subject heavy-handed.”

    −Three reactions saying the same thing, each blithely missing the point of Dont Look Up that some things cannot be wished away

17 December 2021

Stability and confidence is really difficult to say, of course this is a completely subjective measure. The country is obviously going through some turbulence, but it has historically been seen as one of he most stable nations in the world, especially for things like banking. [...] Look, its still an advanced nation with robust laws, a good financial system, a well regarded currency, and a functioning democratic system, so it gets an 8 out of 10. Five years ago, it would have been the easiest 10 out of 10 ever.

    −Michael Burnand [Economics Explained], in How Has Brexit Been Going? discussing the state of the UK since its unforced error

December 2021

A huge asteroid is set to smash though Earths orbital path making close approach to our planet, NASA has warned.

    −Hollie Bone and Beth Cruse, “Huge 430ft asteroid set to fly through Earth’s orbit on Monday”, Bristol Live [Bristol Post], expressing a journalistic lie with the words smash and warned which are in no way justified by the subjunctiveor at least counterfactualclause the impact would produce the equivalent energy to 77 megatons of TNT [...] 1.5 times as powerful as the Tsar Bomba, the biggest nuclear weapon ever tested because in fact the [1994 WR12] asteroid will miss the Earth by 3.8 million miles” which is  16 times the distance to the Moon

(updated 29 November) 28 November 2021

If we get another big covid wave I believe that, with the benefit of hindsight and learning from past mistakes, we can come together and handle it in a way thats even more dumb and evil than last time.

    −Getting Some Rest @InternetHippo on Twitter 

26 November 2021

There can be a steep cost to us who fight these good fights, a Pyrrhic investment of time and care without the slightest hope of vindication or even a changed mind to show for it.  Preserving the dignity of an on-line discussion group may not be worth the never-ending costs.  But I am as pessimistic about this as I am about most programs that depend on collegial or social goodwill.  I felt this way even before Atwater and Norquist brought poisoning the well to an art form.  I've been waiting for years for the Simplification (in the sense of A Canticle for Leibowitz).  Despite the overwhelming evidence that Wikipedia is a fantastic success in many respects, it does not seem likely to me that this can persist.  Vandalism, commercialism, warfare, propaganda and other government misuse are eternal wellsprings that cannot ever be shut off or always piped away.  Wikipedia’s coming down, just as surely as the window of antimicrobials’ efficacy is closing.  We’ll talk nostalgically about the times when we could go to the moon, when Wikipedia was reliable, when doctors could cure bacterial diseases, and when the internet hosted insightful discussion.   Well be looking back fondly on those blissful but brief blips in history.

24 November 2021

Conspiracy theories are everywhere and people dont understand how harmful they are.  I made the original Conspiracy Chart over a year ago. An update was long overdue. This is the 2021 version.

    −Abbie Richards, tweet unveiling

23 November 2021

“It was just so repetitive.

    −Pat Mercardante, critiquing the 2021 film Boss Level about a hero trapped in a time loop around the day of his murder

17 November 2021

“There are Twitter accounts.  There are people writing compilers.  Because, it turns out there is nothing you can do that is so unutterably stupid that people won't waste their time on it.

    −Mark Rendle, The Worst Programming Language Ever (Mark Rendle, 2014)

5 November 2021

“I remember the first time I saw a universal remote control. I thought to myself, ‘well, this changes everything.’  Ha ha.”

    −Dianna Cowern [Physics Girl], in the coda to “We can see things moving faster than light

November 2021

The Englishmen, well-known for their untruthfulness[,] gave us false assurances and enacted deceitful ordinances, which deliberately humiliated the Poles […].

    −recounted in translation by Thomas Starky in the 2017 film True Heroes of Jamestown written by Eugeniusz Starky, based on the 1977 book True Heroes of Jamestown by Arthur L. Waldo and Pamiętnik handlowca purportedly [see James Pulas article in The Polish Review] written by Zbigniew Stefański in 1625 about his experiences as a Polish craftsman in the first permanent English settlement and the injustices that precipitated the first strike for civil rights in the Americas [there may not have been a Zbigniew in Jamestown but the author of this line has certainly met the English]

released in the UK on 29 October 2021

You know the old definition of an expert, doing the same wrong thing over and over again with increasing confidence.”

    −Vanessa Quick 

18 October 2021

There are more intersex people than people over 100 years old.”

18 October 2021

“As Hal Sparks always says: ‘If they tell you the percentage but not the actual numbers they’re trying to deceive you.’ So applying that to this: ‘25% of duplicates came in between Nov. 4 - Nov. 9th’ (Yup. All two out of 10 total duplicate ballots came in during that time period...ignoring that all duplicate ballots were Trump voters trying to cheat).”

    −Trevor Brown, commenting on the report from the 2021 Maricopa County presidential ballot audit 

25 September 2021

Kids only matter when theyre not born yet

    −Emerson Brophy,

14 September 2021

My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.

    −Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, cf. I am not a crook”, R. Nixon (1973)

12 September 2021

[H]istory is an edit war. Truth, factual and moral, hangs in the balance.

    −Noam Cohen, writing about Wikipedian Ksenia Coffman in One Woman’s Mission to Rewrite Nazi History on Wikipedia”, Wired

12 September 2021

At the third meeting of the university-wide faculty committee on the future of digital at the university, the chair suggested that we make a newsletter to keep everyone abreast of the various digital-themed activities going on across campus.   Several meetings later, the chair announced that they were working on a 

Many meetings later, after the pandemic had subsided, most people were back  on campus but we still used Zoom for people who couldn't make it onto campus.  

10:46 If you are changing the slides, we are not seeing them.

[6 minutes later]

10:52 Just abiout to change them now...

10:52 The slides are not displayed on line.  We only see the slide editor.

10:58 Can you see them now?  Are they changing?


9 September 2021

Bobby [Aditya Geddada]:  Aliens like Pop-Tarts?
Jay [Lucian-River Chauhan]:  Everyone likes Pop-Tarts, Bobby.”

    −Michael Pearce and Joe Barton [writers], Encounter

film released 3 September 2021

I don't know of anyone who uses allozymes anymore.  It is kind of strange because it would just as useful as ever but I think people find it too old fashioned.  Population genomics is much more common.  But rather than using whole genomes, which would be very expensive and computationally difficult, most people are using some kind of single nucleotide polymorphism approach.  Almost all forensic analysis uses short tandem repeats that are highly polymorphic because the diversify through unequal crossover.  The standard is to use 13 loci that are scattered around the genome and are unlinked.  The probability that two individuals will share the same 13 locus genotype is about 1 in 1.5 billion.  I have heard that there is an effort to add at least two more loci but I don't know if that has been done yet.  The forensics work is pretty state of the art, especially with dealing with minute quantities of DNA, but it does have a pretty specific application.  Using SNPs people can generate hundreds if not thousands of markers and address all kinds of questions about the architecture of the genome without having to do whole genome sequencing.

    −Jerry Hilbish

2 September 2021

I think it is interesting that people, in the midst of business meetings, keep admitting that it feels like the end of the world.  It really is overwhelming. The pandemic doesnt really bother me all that much. Its climate change, politics, and man-child dudes in body armor that form the mass of my discomfort.

    −Nick Friedenberg

31 August 2021

“A more complex approach is to consider repetitions globally to try to reduce the repetitions by detecting repetitions that happen over multiple lines.”

    −Nick Gray

24 August 2021

“[Science] is a safety pin in the nipple of academia.”

    −Gary Grooberson [played by Paul Rudd], speaking truth in Ghost Busters: Afterlife, written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman

film released 23 August 2021

I told my 9yo son the “I can’t operate on him; he’s my son” riddle the other day, and it went like this:
Me: …so how is that poss—
9yo: It’s his mom.
Me: Yeah.
Me: Or his other dad, I guess.
9yo: Right.
9yo: I don’t get how it’s a riddle.

    −Sara Warf, @SaraBWarf, on Twitter

22 August 2021

“It’s almost like it wasn’t Trump that was the problem.”

    −Alexander Wimbush, discussing the recent tumultuous times in the United States

20 August 2021

Word of the day:  ‘clusterfuck’.  The day sees competing headlines, including ‘school districts ignoring gubernatorial bans on mask mandates during a unprecedented but predicted surge of the Covid 19 Delta variant’ and the more tragic ‘massive emergency troop reinforcements to Kabul to protect noncombatant evacuations in the midst of long-planned general withdrawal from Afghanistan’.  The word is distinguished by Corinne Purtill in her 2018 article in Quartz at Work from related words like ‘fuckup’, ‘snafu’, and ‘shitshow’, as arising from illusion, impatience and incompetence in uninformed decision making by people in power who don’t acknowledge the realities of their environment and don’t confront what they don’t know.

20 August 2021

“There’s a risk we misadopt digitalisation simply to be buzzword-compliant.” [edited]

    −Mark Bankhead

17 August 2021

If you do say so yourself.

    −reacting to the opening narration voicing Oscar Wilde in the 1986 documentary film Oscar Wilde: Spendthrift of Genius of text selected from De Profundis, pages 33f,  which is itself extracted and bowdlerized from correspondence by Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol to Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas): The gods had given me almost everything. I had genius, a distinguished name, high social position, brilliancy, intellectual daring; I made art a philosophy and philosophy an art: I altered the minds of men and the colors of things; there was nothing I said or did that did not make people wonder [... ] I awoke the imagination of my century so that it created myth and legend around me [...] I became the spendthrift of my own genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy.

Wilde video uploaded to Youtube 30 July 2021

“Roundoff is the big problem. That is always with us, and it can be extremely difficult to deal with.  Now attempts have been made to automate error analysis.  One such attempt is interval arithmetic.  In interval arithmetic you represent every variable by an interval, an interval that contains the true value of that variable.  And then, if you combine two variables in an arithmetic operation, the result of that arithmetic operation is something that must include all the possible values that you get from these two interval variables.  Now the trouble is that this type of schemeand there are lots of variations on this schemethis kind of scheme does not work properly for lengthy programs or complicated ones.  What goes wrong?  Well, you end up with huge intervals.  The intervals do indeed include the true values that you wish you had computed.  But the trouble is the intervals include an awful lot more.  There are ways to find out about this, and it’s possible, it’s possible in some cases, to make interval arithmetic work by doing something rather subtle.  Instead, what I suggest that you do is run a program four times, each time directing the rounding errors in a different direction.  Because the IEEE standard says you can. At least in principle, you’re allowed to say I want to round everything up, or I want to round everything down.  Well, maybe I’d like to do it again rounding everything towards zero.  And the fourth way is rounding to nearest, which is the default.  Now it turns out that this very often gives an idea of how uncertain your result is because of roundoff by looking at the four different values and looking at how far apart they spread.”

    −William Kahan, primary architect of modern floating point arithmetic, trash talking (i.e., quietly explaining the trouble with and offering a simple solution for) interval arithmetic at JuliaCon2021 

28 July 2021

“Its Gödels all the way down.”

    −Marcus du Sautoy, on how adding axioms cannot repair an incomplete theory because it induces other unprovable truths, in his TED-Ed video “The paradox at the heart of mathematics: Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem [do we need to link to the turtles quote?]

20 July 2021

“I need to say very aggressively that uncertainty is hard to communicate.  If you are trying to acknowledge uncertainty, it is still difficult.  People don’t want to hear it.  Journalists don’t want to report it. At every step in the communication process, uncertainty gets filed away. So if you want to communicate uncertainty, it’s not enough to acknowledge it.  You have to proclaim it.  You have to insist on it.”

    −Peter Sandman, “Risk = Hazard + Outrage: Three Paradigms of Risk Communication–and a Critique of COVID-19 Crisis Communication

7 July 2021

“If the essence of precaution advocacy is ‘watch out!’, the essence of outrage management is ‘calm down’.  The message is not ‘calm down’ because ‘calm down’ is not a calming message.”

    −Peter Sandman, “Risk = Hazard + Outrage: Three Paradigms of Risk Communication–and a Critique of COVID-19 Crisis Communication

7 July 2021

Just give me a chance. It wasn't...its not my fault. Its not like I made the conscious decision to be born a straight white male...I probably wouldve....

    −Matt Rife

posted to Youtube on 20 January 2023, performed in 2021

“Don't call our life a joke.  Jokes have meaning.  Keep up.”

    −Jake Barr [barrr_none] on Tiktok

2 July 2021

“Because we had been told, for a month, ‘Forty-nine feet, we’re good. We’re good up to forty-nine feet.  Forty-nine feet, no big, you know.  Forty-nine feet, unless the dike breaks, forty-nine feet.’  Anybody in a position that knew it was going to get worse should have just laid it out on the line and said, okay, here’s the possibility.”

    −Kelly [Straub] Nelson, on The Red River Flood, which crested at 54 feet

 documentary published 2021

“If you have to put up a sign, you’ve pretty much already failed.”

    −Todd Lithgow, discussing the design of ordinary traffic intersections

30 June 2021

“The existence of non-probabilistic or trans-probabilistic methods such as interval analysis, DempsterShafer theory, belief theory, possibility theory—which are collected under the rubric ‘imprecise probabilities’—imply that there is a kind of uncertainty that cannot be expressed by probability alone.”  

    −Scott Ferson, totally showing off by using hyphens, m-dashes, and an n-dash in a single sentence

30 June 2021

“Historians are silly enough to believe government records, although common folk know very well they are full of mistakes.”

    −Vladik Kreinovich

21 June 2021

“This song completely changed everyone’s nationality to Icelandic.”

    −Fairuz Hussaini, discussing the inexplicable happiness in hearing Husavik written by Fat Max Gsus, Rickard Göransson, and Savan Kotecha for the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, performed by Molly Sandén (voice,  physically played by Rachel McAdams) as Sigrit Ericksdóttir and Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong

June 2021

While the no-prior-information setup is practically relevant, one could also argue that every problem has at least partial prior information available. So as an alternative to the all-or-nothing Bayes vs. frequentist dichotomy that exists in the statistics literature, one can easily imagine a spectrum where the more I’m willing to assume (in the form of prior information), the more precise I can be in my inferential statements. In the case of complete prior information, an additive IM can be given in the form of the precise Bayesian posterior probability; for the classical frequentist case with no prior information, what’s described above (and in more detail in the book) leads to a non-additive IM that’s generally in the form of an imprecise necessity/possibility measure.

Then there are cases in between the two extremes, ones with partial prior information available. The problems I have in mind are those where the parameter is high-dimensional but is known to have (or we’re willing to assume that it has) a certain low-dimensional or low-complexity structure, such as sparsity. One might be willing to specify a prior distribution for the “complexity” of the parameter but not be willing to make precise probability statements about the particular features of the parameter at a given complexity level. One option would be to ignore the prior information and achieve validity by using the IM developments described above and in the book. But presumably there’s an opportunity to improve the IM’s efficiency by incorporating this partial prior information in some sense. My current focus is on incorporating this partial prior information in an efficient way that retains (some sensible version of) the validity property.

    −Ryan Martin, in his SIPTA blog post  suggesting statistical inference could be a spectrum across imprecise probabilities with respect to how much prior information is deployed, with Bayesian inference with precise priors as one pole and frequentist methods using no prior information as the other

6 June 2021

    −Dominic Cummings

26 May 2021

“What if we don’t even use reasons to reach conclusions?”

    −Michael Stevens (Vsauce), “The Future of Reasoning”, an exquisite introduction to the Mercier-Sperber thesis that reasoning is an adaption to build arguments that will be compelling to others 

28 April 2021

[Pete Buttigieg:  “If more guns made us safer, we’d be the safest country on earth.”]

Matheo, in Geneve, CH:  “Japan is the least safest because they don’t have any guns...tons of violence and murders and no guns to keep them safe...bodies are piling up on the streets.”

Reality.Bites:  “Well yeah, but that’s mainly Godzilla.”

21 April 2021, responding to Buttigieg's 28 June 2019 comment

“Actually, Mckenna’s suggestion of ‘unplugging it and plugging it back in’ is known as <Restart on failure> which is one of several basic strategies that NASA built into its robust guidance control and which Neil Armstrong used repeatedly during the Apollo 11 lunar descent that made him the first human on the moon. Robert Willis gave an amazing talk about this at ‘Light Years Ahead | The 1969 Apollo Guidance Computer’.  Stop gas-lighting Mckenna!”

    −Scott Ferson commenting on the Saturday Night Live sketch “Star Trek Spinoff” about a Star Trek prequel in which the Starfleet crew has some personal drama with Mckenna (played by Carey Mulligan).

18 April 2021

“My friends tell me that I’m being silly to think our technological world is in any danger from modern flat-earthers, luddites and antivivisectionists. But I teach undergraduates, and I’m here to tell you that we might have a problem.”

14 April 2021

Laura (via auto-reply email dated 7 April): “Thank you for your email. I am on leave 1st to 8th April. I will respond to your enquiry upon my return.”

Dominic: “Do we think Laura returns to work tomorrow, or does she return the day after tomorrow?”

Scott: “Ambiguity. It’s slightly better than the vagueness of ‘I’ll return later.’”

7 April 2021

“So ‘vagueness’ is essentially a category error? Okay, if vagueness arises because of a category error, what is the analogous error that creates epistemic and aleatory uncertainties? Cat is to dog as a category error is to....?”

    −Dominic Calleja, one-upping the Village Voice writer's joke about establishing the Law of the Excluded Middle with a proof that starts “Either the Law of the Excluded Middle is true or it is not true.” 

6 April 2021

“Well, maybe if we didn’t live under a system that forces people to work or die, products that last forever would not be a problem for workers. We’ve got the technology to make all of our lives comfortable, but we do not use it because we want profit.” [edited]

    −Talking Vidya, commenting on the idea in Veritasium’s video “This is why we can't have nice things” that workers supported industrial conspiracies for planned obsolescence

5 April 2021

“It seems clear from the post that the word ‘ontic’ means real, physical, or actual, as opposed to epistemic (which has to do with what is merely known).  So, if you subscribed to a particular interpretation of quantum theory, you might say that the uncertainty about quantum phenonena is ontic in the sense that the indeterminism of atomic decay, for instance, has nothing to do with our not knowing or being able to predict it, but rather with an intrinsically (ontic) uncertainty that implies even Laplace’s Demon could not predict it. I have long suspected that people who use the words ‘ontic’ and ‘ontological’ are engaging in philosophical discussion which, although fun and interesting, are really only distractions for us trying to cobble together a practically useful theory of non-Laplacian uncertainty.  Does it matter whether the quantity is intrinsically ill-defined or we just don't know the definition?”

27 March 2021

“We’ve accidentally deployed an inhumane way to collaborate.”

    −Cal Newport, Georgetown computer scientist professor writing “E-mail is making us miserable” in The New Yorker describing research correlating email and its cost in mental stress, anger and burnout

26 February 2021

“There’s an element of oxymoron in trying to taxonomise ignorance.  What we don’t know we cannot categorise.  We don’t know it.”

    −Yakov Ben Haim, in a ViCE discussion of the question of whether there are multiple kinds of uncertainties

17 February 2021

“For this particular case of numerical uncertainty, my experience is that the overwhelming practice, especially in industry, is to do precisely nothing.”

    −François Hemez, in a ViCE discussion, answering how imprecision and uncertainty are handled in industry

17 February 2021

“Dark philosophy lets the truths of all narratives bloom. An arcane study of the role of narrative in the social construction of individual and collective identities has taken to the streets and turned into the everyday application of postmodern relativity. Now, the doctrine of equal rights for all storytelling rules. The corrosive consequences of this thought change are ubiquitous. Pure falsehoods have been elevated to ‘alternative facts.’ Cynical slogans, such as ‘Fair & Balanced’ for Fox News, cover hyperpartisan rants. Prejudice-reinforcing conspiracy theories can be widely distributed without shame and penalties. Political propaganda outlets are encouraged to practice RT’s black magic of ‘how any story can be another story.’ [...F]ar from eliminating metanarratives, postmodernism has only succeeded in liberating all narratives from the restrictions of factual accuracy, scientific objectivity, social fairness, moral rectitude, and personal honesty.”

    −Wolf Schäfer, discussing the emergence and consequences of a poststructuralist view that metaphorical truth is as valid as factual truth

6 February 2021

“Mathematicians are all about generalisation, aren’t they? So why do the probabilists refuse to talk about sets of probability distributions or generalising probabilities in any way?  It’s like a mathematician who only uses equal signs and never allows greater-than or less-than.”

    −Dominik Hose

5 February 2021

Of course there are valid alternatives to making decisions beyond von Neumann–Morgenstern. I am not sure von Neumann–Morgenstern is even the most widely accepted theory of decision making. After all, there has been a Nobel Prize awarded for work that has grown out of (cumulative) prospect theory, which has displaced von Neumann–Morgenstern as a description of human decision making. And, if we relax the completeness axiom of von Neumann–Morgenstern, we immediately get a decision theory with imprecise probabilities which works arguably as well but allows for rational agents to decline to either buy or sell some gambles when their uncertainties do not allow them to order every possible pair of gambles. This theory is coherent and avoids sure loss as well, and it seems to be every bit as rational as von Neumann–Morgenstern

1 February 2021

All models are cartoons, with apologies to George Box. Even the elaborate and intricate models that have become popular since the widespread use of computer simulations, they are only cartoons. You cannot make the model scientific merely by making it more intricate or more complex, even when that complexity corresponds to real phenomena. Very quickly we come to a point where making a model more realistic does not actually improve the model, as we are often more uncertain about the parameters describing the complexity that is added. It is a careful application of uncertainty analysis that transforms such a cartoon into a serious scientific model.

29 January 2021

“Word to the ruling class...If you make tanking the stock market easier than owning a home, then what happens next is 100% on you.”

    −Michael Balch, commenting on the GameStop short squeeze

27 January 2021

I was born and have lived in a graced window of time in a civilization, free until this year from scary viral pandemics, when antibiotics worked and before microbial resistance, after the Vietnam draft and before the Great Recession, after the tumult and assassinations of the sixties and before luddite Trumpism, after rock and roll but before TikTok selfie dancing, after serious investment in public education precipitated by Sputnik and before utter unaffordability of college, after hunger in the West but before water shortages, after the pill and before the overturning of Rowe v. Wade, and after we went the moon but before we realized we could not go back.

18 January 2021

It has come as something of a surprise that Arnold Schwarzenegger, literally wielding his Conan sword, has been able to make me cry on this wet winter day.

10 January 2021

“Guys, we are all just overreacting. This week is finally when he becomes presidential. It’ll be glorious. He’ll finally take care of everything. And then he’ll be totally ready for his second term.”

    −Ed B, on JoeMyGod commenting on reportage by Bloomberg that Trump is planning a “defiant” final week in office

10 January 2021

“Apparently a public consensus has developed that the president of the United States is psychologically unfit to hold office.  Imagine that.”

    −George Conway, on Twitter

8 January 2021

All physical measurements have measurement uncertainty and are best represented with probability distributions.

    −Philip Stanley-Marbell, in the details of his EPSRC grant 

project commencing 4 January 2021

I showed this to my cat. She is now a lion.

    −@AH-er4um, YouTube commenter referring to a music-enhanced recut video from the 2019 Netflix film The King of the speech Henry V gives his army before the Battle of Agincourt, played by Timothée Chalamet, “You expect of me a speech? I have only one to give, and it is the same one I’d give were we not standing on the brim of a battlefield. It is the same one I’d give were we to meet in the street by chance. I have only ever hoped for one thing—to see this kingdom united under this English crown! All men are born to die. We know it. We carry it with us always. If your day be today, so be it! Mine will be tomorrow! Or mine today and yours tomorrow. It matters not. What matters is that you know, in your hearts, that today you are that kingdom united. You are England! Each and every one of you, England is you! And it is the space between you. Fight not for yourselves, fight for that space! Fill that space! Make it tissue! Make it mass! Make it impenetrable! Make it yours! Make it England! Make it England!”


“I don’t believe anything the media tells me. I don’t believe anything academics tell me. I don’t believe much of what the President tells me. I don’t believe a word of what other politicians tell me. I don’t believe what celebrities tell me. I don’t believe what teachers tell me. I don’t believe what doctors tell me. Obviously, I don’t believe what lawyers tell me. I don’t even believe what the Pope tells me. I don’t believe what corporations tell me. I don’t believe what charities tell me. I don’t believe what any government employee tells me. I don’t believe what police officers tell me. I don’t believe what bankers tell me. I don’t believe what judges tell me, or trust their commitment to justice. I don’t have faith in juries. I don’t trust the word of generals or admirals. I don’t trust any book published after 1950.  How am I supposed to live?”

    −Milo Yiannopoulos, begging a question (?) on Parler

24 December 2020

Life during the pandemic has been different.  For instance, today I showered for the third day in a row.  My spouse is calling it a Christmas miracle.

20 December 2020

I hope everyone understands that, when the pandemic is over and we go back to the office, I am going to continue to wear pajama bottoms rather than pants to work.

19 December 2020

An analogy that is sometimes helpful is that of determining whether two cars parked in a large parking lot are parked next to each other. If one knew that one car was parked on the left side of the parking lot and the other on the right side of the parking lot, then one could conclude that it is unlikely that the two cars are parked next to each other: only if both cars park on the boundary between the left and right sides, and then only if they actually choose adjacent spaces, will the two cars be parked next to each other. This is a conclusion enabled by the definiteness of the data. Now, suppose that one knows nothing at all about where the two cars are parked in the parking lot; what is the likelihood of their being parked next to each other? It is also low, but in this case not because one knows that the cars have been placed in different parts of the lot but rather because, in a large parking lot, it is simply unlikely that any two cars will happen to be next to each other. It is a conclusion that follows not from what is known but rather from what is not known; one cannot conclude from the available data that the cars are probably far apart; but at the same time there is no evidence to indicate that they are close. If, therefore, one is required to hazard a guess, the large size of the parking lot makes the supposition that they are not adjacent reasonable.

    −National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook, not quite grasping what risk analysis is and perhaps foreshadowing a deep scientific crisis

December 2020

“Sometimes things that are cheap aren’t as good.”

    −Pat Mercardante

5 December 2020

“Four minutes is less than five minutes.  Even in the United States, that’s still true.”

    −Adam Finkel

2 December 2020

“And so now as we add more disasters to this doom chart we can assess how scary they are relative to earthquakes. So anything further up is more likely, and anything further to the right is more deathy. And so those are the things we really want to worry about.”

    −Dominic Walliman, “The map of doom: apocalypses ranked”,  in the Youtube series Domain of Science

30 November 2020

“There's a myth that linguists are pedants who love correcting people, but they're actually just enthusiastic about understanding language in all its infinite varieties, which is much worse.”

    −Randall Munroe, being insightful in the comic, but not being quite as funny as the talk page for the comic

26 November 2020

“I still need to do some obligatory training on bribery.  It’s crazy.  I know how to bribe.” 

22 November 2020

“So we need a culture change where people recognise that certainty is more reflective of deceit than of knowledge.  Though we’ve needed that for quite a while.”

    −Alexander Wimbush, commenting on “COVID-19: Known Unknowns”, a webinar by the BMJ on covid-19

20 November 2020

“It seems that all exercises in expert elicitation work well, so long as we don’t look too closely at what we’re doing.”

16 November 2020

“Cox’s famous paper arguing that probability is the only possible model of uncertainty is still considered serious by some people, although not by any serious people.”

16 November 2020

“I still have faith left in the system, primarily because I believe so much money is at stake and a civil disruption caused by a coup just doesn’t seem like it would be good for the stock market, but I’m still concerned.” 

    −Luke Green, on the prospect of a coup in the United States

11 November 2020

“An optimist is someone who thinks the future is uncertain.  A pessimist is right [about the future], but he gets no satisfaction from being so.” 

    −Robert Downey, Jr.

21 October 2020

Maya [Katherine Langford]:  Children can be so cruel.
Dylan [Charlie Plummer]:  Were all cruel.

    −Brian Duffield, screenwriter of Spontaneous, which The Hollywood Reporter called explosively funny and touching

film released 2 October 2020

“Person: what’s your favourite song?
“Me: it’s hard to explain.”

    −Erfaneh Mhm, about “Iran (So Far Away)” by The Lonely Island, featuring Adam Levine and samples of Aphex Twin's “Avril 14th”, in an SNL Digital Short with Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen from Season 33 (2007) of Saturday Night Live, about which Daniel Mullarkey had previously remarked “how the hell can a love song between andy samberg and mahmoud ahmadinejad make me tear up?”

September 2020

“Suddenly the Amish are the top of the technological heap.”  

    −Bill P, commenting on the prospect of a solar coronal mass ejection ending our technological civilization, described by Anton Petrov in How World Almost Ended in 2012 And Still Might Later!

September 2020

“Trump: I am illegally defunding the Post Office so less people can vote.

“Democrats: *fewer”

    −Michael Green

13 August 2020

“Our goal is to do for uncertainty what Arabic numerals did for numbers.  Now, appropriately bombastic.  But actually, mathematically, it’s sort of what we’ve done.  Very basically, we represent uncertainties as arrays of realizations.  That is, the way we would represent rolling a die would be to roll it ten thousand times and store it as an auditable data.  Now, that’s fantastic because you can take these arrays and you can add them together row by row to see what happens under, say, a thousand or ten thousand scenarios….  Forget probability distribution. What?  It has way too many syllables.  Okay.  All you have to do is write some goal in your spreadsheet.  ‘Ooh, I want a profit of at least a million dollars.’  And then I’ll tell you the chance you’ll achieve your goal. Oh, and you can change your goal to whatever you want.  Whatever you change it to, I’ll tell you the chance of achieving your goal.  No probability distributions here though.    Okay, that actually was the definition of a probability, but, shh!  We don’t have to tell people.”

    −Sam Savage, The goal of probability management

posted on 10 August 2020

“Patients requiring mechanical ventilation and those who had died were considered to have experienced poor outcomes.”

    −Feng et al. 2020. Clinical Characteristics and Short-Term Outcomes of Severe Patients With COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. Frontiers in Medicine

6 August 2020

“So you’re suggesting the BLM movement is a moral panic?  The outrage we feel is not about the sheer numbers.  It is about the shameless way the police close rank, deny, lie, or even actively foment trouble themselves, and especially the way the good cops do not seem willing to reign in the bad ones.  If you’ve got one bad cop and forty-nine good cops who don’t expose and drum out the bad cop, then you've got fifty bad cops.”  

    −scadqwqw, responding to “Sam Harris Breaks The Silence on BLM and Police Brutality” and ignoring the stunning difference between 2% and 20% in the estimate of 20 to 25 bad cops out of 110 sworn officers in Vallejo, California

1 August 2020

“And, finally, new rule.  America’s top health officials have to find the courage to do what the health officials in Huntington, New York, did.  They told the entire town of 200 hundred thousand to go on a diet because, as the head of the program put it, ‘[With] COVID-19, you’re twice as likely to have a poor outcome if you’re obese’.  Actually it’s worse than that.  Public Health England found that people with a body mass index of 35 to 40 have a 40% greater risk of dying from COVID.  And, over 40, it’s a 90% greater risk.  Even being mildly obese makes it five times more likely that catching the virus will land you in the ICU [intensive care].  […] I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the countries with the lowest rates of obesity have had the fewest COVID deaths.  Maybe China isn’t hiding all their COVID deaths.  Maybe their secret is that their obesity rate is six percent, and ours is 42.  And pointing all this out doesn’t make me a dick.  In fact, the shame is on everyone in media and government who is too cowardly to emphasize how important an issue this is.  Because the virus made it an issue.  Obesity was already killing us slowly, but you mix it with COVID and it kills you fast.  You can scream all you want at me for saying that, but it won’t change the scientific truth of it.”

    −Bill Maher, “New Rule: The Quarantine 15” segment from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, with an important message but failing to understand that 90% greater is actually less than twice as big (unless, to be fair, he is distinguishing  poor outcome from its subset dying)

posted on YouTube 31 July 2020

“We are just past the halfway point of 2020, and if nothing else happened this year, it would still go down as one of the strangest years in history. The best word to describe it, I believe, is ‘uncertainty’ [...]. No one knows when the [R]apture will come (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). [...] It would take a book to make an exhaustive study of the chronological order of the [R]apture and future events; much more tha[n] space allows me. Rest assured, however, as of right now, the Christians are still here, and the Tribulation has not started.” 

    −Timothy Johnson, whistling in the dark in The Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, in the Greenvile, Ohio, daily newspaper Daily Advocate

31 July 2020

“The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history”

    −SublimeSparo, channeling Hegel, commenting perhaps in a ‘meta’ way on a shakily researched video “The Spanish Flu & How The World Recovered (1918-1929) History Documentary” by History Time that called World War I soldiers the Greatest Generation and said that American Midwest farmers of the 1930s “starved to death in droves” (that that did not happen may explain why there is no right to food in the US)

25 July 2020

“Bayesians look at the world through their posteriors.”

25 July 2020

“I don't think Joe Biden or Donald Trump will be president a year from now.  I don't even know if the presidency will be a thing a year from now.”

    −Michael Balch

22 July 2020

Enrique [discussing the progress report for his PhD project “Uncertainty Quantification in Fusion Power Plant Design” with no prior knowledge of Abbott and Costello]: “Figures 19 and 20 show the Greenwald factors as functions of net electric power from a multiobjective optimisation using a genetic algorithm and the resulting Pareto frontier after 100 generations.”
Scott: “What is the unit of net electric power in those figures?”
Enrique: “Watt.”
Scott: “What is the unit of net electric power?”
Enrique: “Watt.”
Scott: “The net electric power.  What is its unit?”
Enrique: “The unit is watt.”
Scott: “Yes, that is what I'm asking.”
Enrique: “What?”

22 July 2020

“Despite a slight time delay in getting back to you, I am still interested...”

    −Andrew McArdle, responding to an email sent to him at 9:10 am on Monday, 3 September 2012 [about eight years earlier]

15 July 2020

“You know, I think I made a mistake.”

    −purported death-bed statement by a thirty-year-old Covid patient who had attended a  ‘Covid party’, reported by Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at San Antonio's Methodist Hospital, perhaps uncredibly implying self-awareness by someone who would attend a Covid party

reported by San Antonio duopoly WOAI-KABB 10 July 2020

“The AI has a vast number of potential strategies to choose from, but some are unethical—by which we mean, from an economic point of view, that there is a risk that stakeholders will apply some penalty, such as fines or boycotts, if they subsequently understand that such a strategy has been used.”

    −Nicholas Beale, Heather Battey, Anthony C. Davison, and Robet S. MacKay in “An unethical optimization principle” [Royal Society Open Science 7: 200462], leading to the question of whether their definition of ‘unethical’ as likely to attract penalties is more or less terrifying than their reference to something called ‘The AI’

published 1 July 2020

“How do you deal with uncertainty? What is wisdom in a situation no one can fathom? Intervening and seeing how it turns out, or doing nothing before you know more?”

    −Tamar Stelling, “No one knows what problem The Ocean Cleanup actually solves”, The Correspondent

 written 22 June 2020

No, sorry.  It wouldn't help to turn on my video for the Zoom meeting.  During the lockdown I have evolved past the need for a body.  I have become pure energy, pure thought, totally incorporeal, not life as you know it at all.

17 June 2020

“[...] Ferson, who turns out to be a meaty heat seeker for the blind spot and the point of pain [...]” 

    −automatic translation by of an aside in a Dutch article by science journalist Tamar Stelling reporting on a symposium about environmental engineering strategies in Ocean Cleanup [alternative expressions might be considered: (meaty) hefty ... fat ... jolly, (heat seaker) provocateur ... troublemaker ... shit-stirrer ... ringmaster, (blind spot) arguments by both sides with unexamined assumptions, (point of pain) embarrassing weakness or omissions in the argument]

12 June 2020

“Given the virus, the rioting, the destroyed economy, I’m starting to think maybe we should have elected the email lady.”

    −Alex Cole @acnewsitics

31 May 2020

“All confidence distributions, fiducial distributions, and (most) Bayesian posteriors suffer from a structural defect in which particular propositions are guaranteed or nearly guaranteed to be accorded a high confidence (or belief) value, regardless of whether or not those propositions are true. It is not hard to imagine that distribution-like confidence structures—that is, confidence structures that are only slightly non-additive—will suffer from a similar, if slightly less severe, false confidence phenomenon.”

    −Michael Scott Balch, in his 2020 paper “New two-sided confidence intervals for binomial inference derived using Walley’s imprecise posterior likelihood as a test statistic(International Journal of Approximate Reasoning 123: 77–98)

available online 29 May 2020

“Yes, you’ve heard right, Python is identical and as easy as Lua, although Lua is easier than Python. Beginning from Lua and then escalating to Python is recommended.”

    −Rafey Iqbal Rahman, perhaps channeling Orwell on animal equality in a reply on StackShare about which coding environment is better for microcontrollers

21 May 2020

Homo erectus almost certainly hunted and butchered prey. And the researchers even suggest that hominids might have hunted each other. Like maybe Homo erectus hunted and ate Paranthropus, which is how that link in the transmission chain could have happened. Now, the research does also suggest that the virus could have been transmitted by mating, which I’m sure has crossed your mind, but they think the hunting pathway was more likely.”

    −PBS Eons in “The two viruses that we’ve had for millions of years” [writer Darcy Shapiro], acknowledging their viewers’ dirty minds in their explanation of associations between herpesvirus strains and primate species

20 May 2020

“Today people view expertise as in service to something else, an agenda, emotions, a conspiratorial plot and so on. [...] It’s hard to unilaterally condemn this suspicion of [experts]. You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to know that experts can and do have political agendas, or they simply fail to see the collateral damage of their policies. Davies writes that ‘The resentment of elites that we see around us today is fueled by a sense [that the promise of experts] is now bogus. [...] Revelations of their personal moral failings, via media exposés, leaks, and social media searches make the distinction of these figures ever harder to sustain. Their claim to represent our interests becomes nothing but a shroud for their own political agendas.’ And that’s why this [level of distrust of] experts is so complicated. It’s sometimes justified, sometimes not. But it raises a much deeper problem for society. As Rosenbloom argues, it’s not just trust in institutions or science that’s at risk, but our trust in each other. Whereas older conspiracy theories often targeted those at the top, the wealthy elites pulling the strings, today’s conspiracy theories often target people on the bottom as well: survivors of school shootings who are called crisis actors, scientists and teachers deemed spherist shills, pizza shop owners labeled pedophiles, and Youtube channels theorized to be fronts for the Illuminati. At the same time, people at the top who were formerly the perpetrators of conspiracies can now be the victim, like, say, people in the highest offices of government. Davies argues that our lack of trust in elites or each other has resulted in a kind of Hobbesian war of all against all. It’s not that we want to murder each other, but that in any kind of disagreement we distrust the basic premise of our so-called opponents. They’re either a hypocrite, a liar, politically tainted, or so on. The phrase virtual signaling for instance is not an attack on the virtue itself, but rather a statement that it’s done inauthentically. Similarly, arguments have become a place to win this so-called war rather than to seek truth. The Internet has become not a place to advance knowledge but a place to go to see people destroyed or dumped on in the game of truth. And it’s this gamification of truth that is particularly worrisome. Beyond the Internet we see tons of knowledge produced for think tanks, lobbyists or advocacy groups, and while some might simply suggest that a marketplace of ideas will separate the good ideas from the bad, Davies warns that the facts alone won’t save us. There is no overwhelming victory of truth against fiction, especially on the Internet. While some platforms have recently cracked down on conspiracy theory content, paranoia and fear are still incredibly shareable. We could also ask if fake news and post truth are more symptoms of arguments accelerating to the point where only superficial judgments are possible as Davies writes. Instead, he suggests we defend slowness, the ability to restrain our impulse toward reactivity and commit ourselves to thoughtfulness. So what do you think [audience]? How can we continue to build a society based on trust while still promoting healthy skepticism and criticism? Or do we truly live in a post-truth society?”

    −Alec Opperman, read by Jared Bauer, How Conspiracies Changed, Wisecrack, apparently not having noticed that the point of argument has never been ‘to seek truth’

11 May 2020

“The University of Liverpool’s motto is haec otia studia fovent, which means ‘these peaceful times foster learning’. I’ve translated otia as ‘peaceful times’ but it also means ‘leisure’ or ‘idleness’ or even ‘emptiness’. I think today we’d say ‘free time’. Be smart about how you use your covid otia.”

10 May 2020

“Research is not a technical activity. It is political. As has always been true, and will continue to be true, information is power. Power can be wielded for public good or to further vested interest. And statistical research can serve citizens and support democracy or cloak a political claim in a veneer of respectability and hoodwink people into a fantasy that ultimately only serves those who already wield power. It is no wonder people are skeptical when any one of us says, ‘Give us your data and we will do good, good things with it.’ To succeed, we must show respect, earn trust, and differentiate what we do as something to be valued. This is not about being difficult; it is an essential part of every researcher’s license to operate.”

    −John Pullinger, “Lots of lovely numbers, but why does everyone make it so difficult?”, Opinion 1(2), 100033

8 May 202

“They say that education is the telling of smaller and smaller lies.  Research, similarly, is a sequence of realisations of tinier and tinier exceptions to broad theses.”

2 May 2020

Apophis: I'm gonna end civilization in 2068.
Corona virus in 2020: hold my RNA

    −Grey Troll, commenting on Anton Petrov's video “Russian Scientists Warn Apophis May Hit Earth in 2068

~April 2020

“More like Bias-ian statistics, am I right?”

    −Alexander Wimbush, commenting on Andrew Gelman's blog post as reported in Kevin Drum's article “What’s the Deal With Bayesian Statistics? (from the hard-hitting journalism of Mother Jones) which has something fun in every paragraph and illustration

29 April 2020

people during evacuation: “I don’t wanna leave my house.”
people during lockdown: “Get me out of this prison.” 

    −Setsuna Aottg, in comment about Abacaba's Youtube video Coronavirus: Are the lockdowns actually working? (April 21st update)

23 April 2020

“If the unofficial song of social distancing is Alec Benjamin’s ‘Six Feet Apart’, I think I may have found the song for the lockdown in ‘If the World is Ending’ by JP Saxe, ft. Julia Michaels. It’s poignant, even beautiful.  Maybe I am overly sentimental on our fifth Friday in lockdown.  Fifth, right?  Pat is laughing at me because there are tears on my face.  Yes, sure, it rhymes ‘for the hell of it’ with ‘relevant’, but, hey, artistic license. What gets me is that, in the song, their relationship has been over for a year.  It’s like the Lady Antebellum song ‘Need You Now’ or that song ‘Dust’ by Matt Simons, ft. Betty Who. It’s emotionally equivalent in a certain way with ‘I Wasn’t Expecting That’.  I think Spotify has been trying to make me cry this afternoon.”

17 April 2020

“I heard it was developed in the basement of a pizza shop in Bowling Green, Benghazi.”

    − Steal My Memes, responding to Trevor Noah's review of coronavirus origin conspiracy theories 

 17 April 2020

“As soon as people started saying ‘Ok, boomer’, all of a sudden we’ve got coronavirus and old people are dying. That can’t be a coincidence.”

    −Trevor Noah, The Daily Show on Twitter, discussing the conspiracy theory suggested by Roseanne Barr and others that coronavirus is a bioweapon created to take down old people

17 April 2020

“I remember restaurants...In the before times.”  

    −Guy Incognito

10 April 2020

“Of course, all the experts agree that the only way out of this pandemic is to increase, in any way possible, widely available reliable testing.”

   −Stephen Colbert, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 

(the very day that “No test is better than a bad test: impact of diagnostic uncertainty in mass testing on the spread of Covid-19” is drafted) 9 April 2020

CDs are less useful for obtaining confidence for all possible statements that can be made concerning the full parameter, as in a sense is the goal of the Inferential Model and the Bayesian method, where false confidence might occur at least in the Bayesian case.

   −Cunen, C., N.L. Hjort, and T. Schweder. 2020 Confidence in confidence distributions! Proc. R. Soc. A 476: 20190781. 

accepted for publication 9 April 2020

Notes from the fourth week of my coronovirus lockdown: This afternoon I fell asleep and slept so hard that I strongly suspect I may have been rooffied.”  

7 April 2020

“After my computer has now rebooted, whatever this program is has installed and opened itself (in flagrant and vicious disregard of the principle of human assent...which I've never heard of but which ought to exist and ought to be a fundamental element in humane algorithms).  It suggests, bossily but rather unconvincingly, that I should message @Gray, Nicholas or @De Angelis, Marco.  Ah ha, judging by the fact that it knows you both as your surname-comma-firstname, I deduce this must be a clunky Microsoft program. It seems like it’s straining to look like Slack, with options Activity, Chat, Teams, Assignments, Calendar, Calls, Files, ‘...’, Apps, Help, and a phone icon. Oh, it also has an eye icon and the word ‘Team’ in the corner. Ah, this must be Teams, which I never installed, opened, assented to use, or ever willingly or knowingly used. Is there a gender-neutral way to say ‘poor man’s Slack’? I guess there isnt.”

6 April 2020

“Actually, I have long felt sure that I would live long enough to see the collapse of our civilization. What I didn’t anticipate is that that collapse would be so boring. For the last ten years, I have been routinely saying at dinner parties and the like that the End might be in the form of a great Sino-American war, which in my judgment is itself a near certainty. For many years earlier, I had presumed it would be a Simplification à la that novel Canticle for Liebowitz or Cambodia in real life (and recent events in the US made me circle round to this presumption lately). Of course I never believed that the End would be in the form of This is the End. Though it was possibly my favorite film of 2013. To be fair, competition was weak that year. Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle, Gravity, all great, but hardly life-changing. Never saw 12 Years a Slave…too depressing. I don’t know whether you saw This is the End, or whether your sensibilities are such that I should recommend it to you. Think of the Nicolas Cage’s Left Behind, only not a horrible movie. The funniest scene in the entire film is when the boys, having just witnessed the Rapture on the streets of Los Angeles with people dramatically sucked up in blue spotlights into Heaven, return to a huge crowd at a party at James Franco’s house in Hollywood where not a single person was raptured. It’s funny how humor works in films like this as they take the Biblical account completely seriously, and the joke is profoundly at the expense of the non-believer, showing them in the depths of their shallowness, vanity and, yes, their depravity. (Can you say ‘depths of shallowness’?) Yet I suspect believers would not approve. Could it be just the count of the F-words in the dialog? What was I saying about the covid sequestration being boring?”

5 April 2020

“What’s hard is when social distancing conflicts with mating season.”

4 April 2020

“We are witnessing in the United States one of the greatest failures of basic governance and basic leadership in modern times.”

   −Jeremy Konyndyk, formerly USAid, reported by Pilkington & McCarthy in “The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life”, The Guardian

reported 28 March 2020

“We now live in a time Zoroastrians refer to as, the Gumezishn?  Or, the Mixture.  Good and Evil, Truth and The Lie, both exist together in our world.  But Angra Mainyu’s presence is temporary. They are a stain on the world rather than a permanent fixture. Zoroastrians see the physical world as a trap that Ahura Mazda lured Angra Mainyu into. Now trapped in the physical world Angra Mainyu can be defeated slowly by the good thoughts, good words, and good deeds of humans working with Ahura Mazda.  [Section] 2, Heaven and Hell:  Zoroastrians believe that when a person dies their soul leaves their body. The soul is then led to the Bridge of Judgement. Above this bridge lies heaven, below, hell.  Here, the soul’s good and bad deeds are weighed on a scale.  Depending on the balance of good to evil deeds, the soul ascends to heaven, a paradise of infinite bliss, called the Abode of Song. Or falls down to hell, to suffer, quote, ‘long age of misery, darkness, bad food, and the crying of woe’. This is called England….I mean, sorry, sorry, this is called Duzakh.”

   −Cogito in his YouTube video Zoroastrianism Explained” starting at 7:14

28 March 2020

“Well, I’m guessing the ‘indivisble’ in US constitution takes a wh[o]le new meaning. It just means its citizens can’t divide 2 numbers”

   −Robi_CK , commenting on Matt Parker’s Youtube exposition “Why do people keep getting this wrong‽” of the Internet meme of the form “317 million people in America and you spend 360 million on just introducing Obamacare?  Just give each citizen a million bucks” [high marks for Robi_CK’s witty and apt point, but marks off for misspelling indivisible and for forgetting that the word appears in the US Pledge of Allegiance but not actually the US Constitution, but full marks to Matt for his explanation, and on his use of the interrobang]

24 March 2020

“Not to make light of the situation but, so far, the surest prediction I can make about this pandemic is that we will see a global, exponential explosion of emails.”

14 March 2020

“We are making every misstep leaders initially made in table-tops at the outset of the pandemic planning in 2006. We had systematically addressed all of these and had a plan that would work – and has worked in Hong Kong/Singapore. We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions based on intuition. Pilots can tell you what happens when a crew makes decisions based on intuition rather than what their instruments are telling them. And we continue to push the stick forward….”

   −James V. Lawler, reported by Eric Lipton in “The ‘Red Dawn’ emails: 8 key exchanges on the faltering response to the coronavirus” in The New York Times, 11 April 2020

12 March 2020

Parasite was a good film on how urban pluvial flooding disproportionately affects poor neighbourhoods due to (but not only) outdated drainage, low/no investment or green infrastructure, less political clout, & high population densities. Rest of the film was fun if unnecessary imo”

   −Simon D.A. Clark (@Sunkensie), displacement tweeting while finishing his dissertation on ecological services and hydrological phenomena

19 February 2020

“The lies aren’t meant to be consistent.  The goal is merely to disrupt the truth from being exposed.”

   −Nancy LeTourneau, writing in Washington Monthly

18 February 2020

“Most of my science outreach is now either done: A) in the back of a taxi B) on Grindr.”

   −Simon D.A. Clark (@Sunkensie)

4 February 2020

“We have always been strangers to the night.”

   −narrated by Samira Wiley, with editor Paul Kiff, composer Edmund Butt and director Bill Markham, but no credited writer, in the episode Dusk Till Dawn from the hypnotically exquisite Night on Earth, a British documentary series made for Netflix using the latest low-light camera technology revealing previously unobserved animal behaviours after dark

original release 29 January 2020

“Instead of trying to design things for an average human, they embraced the variability.”

   −Matt Parker, discussing the reaction of the US Air Force to the recognition that the centroid of a high-dimensional anthropometric study is sparsely populated in “Does the average person exist?”, Standup Maths

19 January 2020

“[The first order second moment (FOSM) approach] is an extremely versatile approach and works when the moments are sufficient information to proceed with the problem.  For most Civil Engineering problems this is adequate, therefore FOSM is the workhorseof propagating uncertainty.

   −Robb Eric S. Moss, page 74 in Applied Civil Engineering Risk Analysis (second edition), Springer


23 September 2019

“Plantinga himself had a colleague from the medical faculty when he was teaching somewhere and this colleague was supposed to be a solipsist (believed that he was the only person in the world) and his graduate students used to say to Plantinga, ‘You know, we take very good care of that professor because, when he goes, we all go.’”

   −Daniel Hill, “Alvin Plantinga, Part 1”, Timeline Theological Videos (

uploaded to YouTube on 19 September 2019

“Their evil is still not gone”

   −Sam Fender, “White Privilege”, Hypersonic Missiles, Polydor

13 September 2019

Got a big laugh in my class this afternoon.  In most sciences if reality and the model dont match, then the model is deemed wrong.  In economics thats taken as evidence that there is something wrong with reality. Thing is, I wasnt trying to be funny.

   −Robert J. Frey

12 September 2019

So when he sings and dances in public [its] historic and amazing but when I do it it’s weird and embarrassing’.”

Emma Wasilewski, commenting on Ben Platt’s  choreography in his video Rain

uploaded to YouTube 10 September 2019

Josh:     “I know that ASME has a VVUQ journal, and I know that SIAM has a UQ journal.  I was wondering what other UQ journals you are aware of?”

Scott:   “It is a jungle out there:

     I am confident there are more.  Why do you ask?”

6 September 2019

In school you notice that jokes about Jews have become funny again.  Those kinds of jokes are acceptable again.

   −student in Köln gymnasium play about the Holocaust in Jan Schmitts Deutsche Welle documentary What neo-Nazis have inherited from original Nazism

Episode aired 21 September 2019

“Fake is when it’s wrong, Mr. President, not when it’s unpleasant.”

   −Neil Cavuto, Fox News host, in his closing monologue (

29 August 2019

There are three forms of [inferential uncertainty] presentations: confidence density, confidence distribution, confidence curve.

   −Min-ge Xie, speaking at the Data & Information Fusion Conference in Santa Fe

21 August 2019

“Reliability is a part of trust, sure.  But it’s a very small part.”

20 August 2019

“Do we really need explainability?  Maybe just better calibration.”

   −Rajeev Mittu, Branch Head at Naval Research Laboratory , discussing the future of machine learning

20 August 2019

Jim (lecturing): “Relations aren’t properties of entities. Philosophers say relations are non-monadic. You can’t tell my relationships with the world just by looking at me.”

Scott (sotto voce) “Wha? One look at your haircut and we know your relationship with the world.”

20 August 2019

“The uncertainty is hard for doctors as well as patients.”

   −Lisa Sanders, Netflix series Diagnosis, “Déjà Vu” (season 1, episode 6)

16 August 2019

Orgulity is the opposite of humility. Not being a native speaker, I had to open a dictionary when I saw Gordon Belot’s paper “Bayesian Orgulity” (Philosophy of Science 2013). This putative orgulity concerns two sorts of theorems about subjective probability, frequencies, and calibration. Informally put, the first sort shows that a Bayesian agent will, indeed must, be sure that his probabilities are the right ones, and that statistics would bear that out in the long run. “Sure” means here that in his self-assessment, he will give zero probability to the contrary. Equally informally put, the other sort of theorem shows that Bayesian agents will, in an overwhelming majority of possible cases, be wrong in just that respect.

   −Bas van Fraassen, in his blogpost What is Bayesian orgulity? (1)

11 August 2019

How much do I want to be a party to essentially making fun of people on their worst day of their lives, even if they have done something wrong.  Like, who gave the internet the right to add to someones punishment?

   −Freddie Campion, explaining why he retired his Twitter account @_FloridaMan

reported by The Washington Post Is it okay to laugh at Florida Man?, 15 July 2019

“If a service is given to you for ‘free,’ you are not the customer, you are the product.”

   −Olandp, discussing the Facebook’s five-billion-dollar fine by the FTC

12 July 2019

“Don’t burn bridges...but set the house on fire.”

   −Nick Gray, giving the best advice I’ve ever heard about how to give a talk to a room of academics

10 July 2019

Don't take yourself so seriously
Look at you all dressed up for someone you never see
Don't let those demons in again
I fill the void up with polished doubt, fake sentiment
Oh I hope somehow, I'll wake up young again
All that's left of myself
Holes in my false confidence 

   −Noah Kahan, False Confidence on his debut album Busyhead

album released on 14 June 2019

“Did you see the 2004 film The Aviator with DiCaprio?  It argued that Howard Hughes was a genius not despite his craziness, but because of it.  I find that everyone is crazy to some extent.  Literally everyone.  The only question is whether you get enough out of the interaction to make bearing that craziness worth it.”

9 June 2019

“The future is uncertain, but the science of uncertainty is the science of the future.”

   −Ian Stewart, Do Dice Play God, page 266

publication date 6 Jun 2019

Archangel Gabriel [Jon Hamm]:  “God does not play dice with the universe.
Demon Crowley [David Tennant]:  “Where have you been?”

   −Good Omens [S1:E6], written by Neil Gaiman for Amazon Studios and BBC Studios

31 May 2019 

“We humans are lousy at detecting deception.”

   −Joe Navarro, former FBI agent, “Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language”, Tradecraft, WIRED 

21 May 2019

“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we want to know is: ‘Who is to blame?’”

   −Valery Legasov [played by Jared Harris] in the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, written by Craig Mazin

release date 6 May 2019

“I’m not doing anything unethical.  I just wanna ask people about growing plants.”

   −Francis Baumont de Oliveira, on the ethical approval process required to interview business people about their businesses

3 May 2019

“How did we end up in this situation? // [H]umanity has already been digging the earth for centuries to take its industrial resources.  Humans start using CO2-emitting fossil fuels, mining coal from the earth on a massive scale, at the beginning of the 19th century.  This kind of energy source is largely responsible for the environmental turmoil we live in today. // The origins of this venture can be found in England.” 

    −the French film Breakpoint: A Counter History of Progress [L'homme a mangé la terre], written by Christophe Bonneuil, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, and Jean Robert Viallet, dependably contextualising totally accurate facts about the Industrial Revolution with a subtle dig [no pun] on the English, which is quickly overshadowed by the subsequent not-as-subtle allusion to English involvement in transatlantic slave trade

released on Arte 24 April 2019

so str function does not convert to a real string anymore. One HAS to say an encoding explicitly for some reason I am to lazy to read through why. Just convert it to utf-8 and see if ur code works. e.g. var = var.decode('utf-8')

   −Charlie Parker, posting at 23:32, presumably after a long day, on Stack Overflow

22 April 2019

“I look back on pictures of me when I was eighteen, and my eyes looked like I still had a soul.”

   −Francis Baumont de Oliveira

18 April 2019

“I am so blissfully unaware of everything”

   −Sam Fender, “Hypersonic Missiles

March 2019

“Carl sounds like another Jack to be honest.”

3 March 2019

“The Swedish can fetishize anything.”

   −sotto voce reaction to the notion of an “uncertainty show” [osäkerhetsshowen] discussed in the presentation “Using games to train or test our ability to express epistemic uncertainty” by Prof Ullrika Sahlin from Lund University at a conference held in Berlin on uncertainty in risk analysis hosted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

21 February 2019

“But there is no word for the unique agony of uncertainty.”

   −Michael Burnham [played by Sonequa Martin-Green], “Saints of Imperfection”, Star Trek: Discovery [season 2, episode 5], written by Kirsten Beyer

release date 14 February 2019

Dominic: “Machine learning for predicting rare events?  How would that be possible?”
Scott: “What are you talking about?  Machine learning can do everything.  Just ask any young person.  They’ll tell you it can do anything.”
Enrique: “Why are you so jaded?”
Scott: “You used to be a believer!”
Dominic: “No, I agree machine learning’s been massively oversold.”
Enrique: “It’s just a tool.”
Scott: “Yes, as are the people who use it.

11 February 2019

“[From their 1912-1915 correspondence on solipsism, Bertrand Russell] famously mentions his encounters with [Christine] Ladd-Franklin, hinting at a difference of opinions and her inability to see the inconsistency in what she claimed. After analysing the correspondence, with some letters resurfacing only recently, one sees a completely different picture: Russell not only does not object to what she claims, he even agrees with her!”

   −Adam Trybus (2019). Two of a kind: setting the record straight on Russell’s exchange with Ladd-Franklin on solipsism. The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 39(2): 97-192. 

25 January 2019

“Police forced to intervene as Brexit tensions rise outside Parliament.”  

   −Evening Standard, caption for the above photograph of Francis’ mum and her radical, vaguely terroristic, ‘remoaner’ colleagues

16 January 2019

“[1]  Indeed, one might say that ‘the Crain and Crain fails mainly to explain.’”

   −Adam Finkel, the footnote to his comments to EPA on its moribund secret science regulation:  Perhaps the most well-known study of the aggregate costs of regulation is the article by Mark Crain and Nicole Crain suggesting that regulations cost the U.S. nearly $2 trillion per year.  This work is of no real value, since it relies on comparing the GDP growth rates of different countries to a subjective index of regulatory quality, which of course has no relationship to regulatory burden.  And I hope needless to say, even a robust correlation between GDP and actual burden would not be useful for estimating cost.[1]


“There used to be a time when I thought I could rely on Future Francis,  But I’ve come to realise that I can’t trust that guy.  It’s up to me to get things done.”

   −Francis Baumont de Oliveira

28 September 2018

All my role models are on TV for the wrong reasons
And, I will unravel if you rip away my best pieces
Would've never come so far without someone there to start it
Can I truly love the art when I kinda hate the artist?
But, all my role models are on TV for the wrong reasons
Wrong reasons

   −AJR, “Role Models”, The Click (Deluxe edition), AJR Productions

album released 21 September 2018

Scott:  “Has [the executive pro-vice chancellor with whom we are about to meet] had his lunch yet?” 

Personal assistant to the executive pro-vice chancellor:  “We don’t have lunch at this level.”

21 August 2018

“When Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living—he didn’t mean for you to use social media to force the rest of us to examine your damn life.”

   −Adam Crowe

10 August 2018

Mispronunciation is a sign of the autodidact. Making fun of mispronunciation is a sign of the fool.

   −Robert J. Frey

30 July 2018

“Yes I’ve heard this word. I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy”

   −John Cleese, in a tweet on the word snowflake as an insult to liberals

8 July 2018

“I loathe error bars, because they call attention to the least probable values.”

   −David Spiegelhalter

June 2018

“Transportation safety regulations and the rule-making process in the U.S. is very reactive, slow and usually, unfortunately, written in blood of past victims.”

  −Najmedin Meshkati, quoted in a news report which added “The U.S. has long trusted automakers to guarantee their cars’ safety and it hasn’t always ended well.”

May 2018

Isola [Katherine Parkinson]:  “She’s only four years old.  What can she understand?”

Amelia [Penelope Wilton]:  “I’m older than time, and I understand nothing.”

  −Kevin Hood, Don Roos, and Tom Bezucha (screenwriters), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, on human capacity to comprehend the meaning and finality of death

film release in the UK, 20 April 2018

I mentioned in the title there was this one phrase which maybe is not familiar, what is called probability dilution.  This is a bit of an unusual kind of a paradox which says that the noisier data that I have in my measurements of the satellites position and their velocities, etc., this actually leads to a higher non-collision probability. Right, so what this indicates is that [...] data which is of lower quality actually can give these analysts false confidence, some kind of higher certainty that their satellites are safe. Alright, and so its a paradox in in that kind of sense, that worse data actually suggests that we know more about the situation at hand. [...] Probability dilution is this phenomenon where the noisier data is implying that the the non-collision probability will be higher.  [...] So this is strange in that somehow the lower quality data can actually give you more confidence in the the safety of the satellites.

  −Ryan Martin, in his lecture Probability dilution, false confidence, and non-additive beliefs[4:02] at the Rutgers Foundations of Probability Seminar

2 April 2018

“These sort of tactics are very effective: instantly having video evidence of corruption, putting it on the internet. [...] I mean, it sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they are believed.”

  −Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO

secretly recorded 16 January 2018, broadcast 19 March 2018

“Instead of standing in the public square and saying what you think and then letting people come and listen to you and have that shared experience as to what your narrative is, you are whispering into the ear of each and every voter and you may be whispering one thing to this voter and another thing to another voter. We fragmenting society in a way where we don’t have any more shared experiences and we don’t have any more shared understanding. If we don’t have any more shared understanding, how can we be a functioning society? [...] If you want to fundamentally change society, you first have to break it. And it’s only when you break it is when you can remold the pieces into your vision of a new society.”

  −Christopher Wilie, discussing Mercer-funded Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting Facebook data, The Guardian

17 March 2018

“That the video is essentially fiction hasn’t stopped it from becoming extremely popular. At typical YouTube ad rates, it’s likely pulled in tens of thousands of dollars in earnings. But though its offerings are fringe, the operation is bankrolled by major corporations. Advertisers on Ridddle videos on YouTube include insurer Geico, mattress seller Purple, and even The New York Times. Stranger still, Ridddle’s English-language videos seem to be translations of clips that originally appeared on a second channel, which is entirely in Russian. The Russian-language Ridddle videos have also accumulated millions of views, and have picked up extensive coverage in the Russian media.” [quote omits three links]

  −Jon Christian, in The Outline piece on popularity of the fake science video “If you detonated a nuclear bomb In the Marianas Trench” by Ridddle

9 March 2018

Robert Goldman on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence [UAI] listserver: “I’m looking for some advice [...] for handling the case where one’s prior is qualitatively wrong. For example, imagine that I have chosen a normal distribution for a random variable, and when the observations come back, they are bimodal. What does the Bayesian philosophy say about cases like this?”

Jason Eisner on UAI: “Why did you ‘choose a normal distribution’? Did you really believe that it was impossible that your variables [...] followed any non-normal distribution? If so, then you should attribute the apparent bimodality of the observations to a coincidence in the sample, because no other explanation is possible. It seems that you are not willing to do thisyou are willing to be convinced by a finite sample that the distribution is not normal. So apparently your true mental model must place some probability mass on non-normal distributions. In other words, for engineering purposes, you were apparently applying a prior that didn’t actually match your true prior state of belief.”

27 February 2018

“I stopped reading after Annex B1 if I’m allowed to lie, and after the Executive Summary if I’m not.”

  −Willem Roelofs

19 February 2018

“Newspaper comment sections are basically a gathering spot for backwards, grammatically challenged idiots.”


17 February 2018

“Maximum Likelihood (ML) methods are a Bayesian approach to data analysis.”

  −David Dunstan [in an abstract for a public lecture]

13 February 2018

“The common thread running through these approaches [...] is the idea that normative statistical inference can be achieved without requiring analysts to express more information than they actually possess.”

  −Michael Balch

 February 2018

“Truth is a gateway drug to science.”

  −Stephen Colbert, responding to Joel Kinnaman's claim that Scandinavians hate Donald Trump because “we have this relationship with truth”

30 January 2018

“I am so good at witty YouTube comments. The greatest!”

  −okrajoe, commenting on a Youtube dialog about the Dunning−Kruger effect, in which Sam Harris says “mentioning the Dunning−Kruger effect is often a symptom that one is suffering from it”

January 2018

Carolyn:   “You complain all the time.  All the negativity is hard to take.”

Edo:   “Do you recognize that you are now complaining about how much I complain?  I am a very positive person.”

Scott:   “Risk analysis is a discipline for positive people who still love to complain.  Risk analysis is great because it allows you to complain about things that don't even happen.”

Carolyn:   “But what if it comes true?”

Scott:   “Ah, then you get the greatest joy of all: getting to say ‘I told you so’.”

16 January 2018

“Maybe you do not care much about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they can not win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. The will reject democracy.”

  −David Frum, in his book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

published 16 January 2018

“The main benefit of controlling a modern bureaucratic state is not the power to persecute the innocent. It is the power to protect the guilty.”

  −David Frum, in his book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

published 16 January 2018

“Florida is the peninsula of the lotus eaters.”

15 January 2018

“Saying ‘I don’t know’ is never acceptable [...] If a child asks you what Tinker Bell eats [...] you better come up with an answer quickly. (Answer: very tiny apples.)”

  −former employee of Florida’s Walt Disney World, anonymously (“so the mouse won't track me down”) in “32 Fun Disney Facts From a Former Cast Member”, POPSUGAR, because not knowing destroys the illusion of a perfect fairytale world

9 January 2018

“Given what I saw on the roads last night, this must be a hard concept for people to understand.  So, today, we’re going to break down the science behind wiping the snow off your car.”

  −Derek Kevra, meteorologist for Fox 2 Detroit, introducing his video segment describing the use of a “scientific swiping motion” with a ice scraper

14 December 2017

“It’s very good to study probability”

  −Anali Rico, inscrutable “reason for downloading” recorded on for the iconoclastic (or just bombastic?) paper “Different methods are needed to propagate ignorance and variability”

December 2017

“I think it was Gandhi who wisely said, ‘We seek justice just as we seek love. And neither is found in online comments.’”

  −Nicholas A. Friedenberg

4 December 2017

“Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but in the age of the internet, they spread like ‘chemtrails’ in the wind. The theory that the world is flat, for example, gained so much popularity online that this year 500 people gathered for the first ever International Flat Earth Conference. The belief that the world is flat has kind of been around forever, but it picked up steam in 2015 with a rash of online communities, YouTube videos, podcasts, and even songs preaching the gospel. At some point, Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics started talking about it too, which really seemed to blow the lid off the heliocentric model. So, the time was right for the Flat Earth International Conference, the first of its kind, held at the beginning of November outside of Raleigh, NC. Sold out since May, the conference brought together hundreds of people who had before only really interacted online. It was an opportunity for believers to network, share research, meet thought leaders, find a flat-earth compatible mate, show off various NASA parody t-shirts, and talk shit about Neil deGrasse Tyson.”

  −VICE News, “People from around the globe met for the first flat earth conference”, HBO

published on 28 November 2017

“When you’re young, they say you don’t understand until you’ve gone to school and been educated. In school, and certainly after you graduate, you find out you don’t fully understand something until you see it in actual practice, or maybe until you actually do it yourself. Professionals realize, however, that you don’t really understand a subject until you’ve had to teach it. But the actual truth is that you don’t really, fully understand a subject until you’ve programmed it. Programming is teaching the actual practice to the stupidest possible student, a computer. And, once the computer can handle it, you don’t have to understand it anymore.”

17 November 2017

“Sometimes people don’t know what decision they’re making, and they don’t even know what variables are important in the consideration, so they display a lot of them together on the screen and call it a dashboard.”

  −Simon Maskell

16 November 2017

“Emails are supposed to be asynchronous, so don’t let anybody shame you for not getting back to them on their schedule.  If they want that, they have to try to use phones.”

11 November 2017

“Vertical farming is getting a lot of investment now.  I guess it’s either this or we starve.  Which do you prefer?”

  −Francis Baumont de Oliveira

10 November 2017

“His ratio of certitude to knowledge is nearing record highs.”

  −Richard H. Thaler, Chicago University professor and Nobel laureate, speaking of President Trump

10 October 2017

“The New Scientist editor who selected the cover illustration [depicting Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump as Khrushchev and Kennedy pensively engaged in a game of chess] may not appreciate the full scope of the problem.”

23 September 2017

“When a mathematician writes an integral, it means ‘this is one of those things I’d like to be able to compute.’”

  −Brendan McCabe

23 September 2017

“A Bayesian belief network can handle aleatory uncertainty, and it can handle epistemic uncertainty, but not at the same time, please.”

  −Ullrika Sahlin 

23 September 2017

“I was observing with my French colleague the strangeness of the fact that Bayesianism is named for Bayes and not Laplace (which by rights it should be).  I tried to say this in French.  When I  pronounced the name Bayes, he said ‘oh, be careful....’  It took me a moment to realise that Bayes is a near homonym for baise, which is the French word for fuck. It dawned on me that this is probably why the French let the English get away with pretending that Bayesianism was invented by the Englishman Bayes.  They just think it’s funny the English are going around all day saying baise, baise, baise.”

22 September 2017

“Classification is a branch of machine learning.”

  −Alfredo Garbuno, causing the irises on Ronald Fisher’s grave to move slightly as he spun

22 September 2017

“The initial motion is a little uncertain because of the significant cloud structure change during the past 6 hours. Shortwave and enhanced BD-curve infrared imagery reveal a more north-northeastward short term motion, with the center possibly as far east as 71.1W. However, an earlier GPM microwave image and the satellite classification fixes indicated a position bit farther to the west near 71.2 to 71.5W. As a compromise, I elected to split the initial position between the two solutions which yields a northward motion, at about 360/8 kt.”

  −Forecaster Roberts of the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, “Hurricane Jose Discussion Number 52

18 September 2017

“As human beings, false belief is our birthright.”

Most of what we believe is not based on whats in our heads, and theres a good reason for that.  Theres not much in our heads.

Thinking is a social process. Rather than happening inside your head, it emerges from your interactions with those around you.

Everything great we do as human beings depends on this ability to share knowledge and to collaborate.

The sense of understanding is contagious.

We can build cathedrals but we can also build houses of cards.

Knowledge is not in my head, and its not in your head. Knowledge is shared [...].

Ignorance is a feature of the human mind, not a bug.

  −Philip Fernbach, les meilleurs bons mots in Why do we believe things that aren't true?”, TEDxMileHigh, Youtube

13 September 2017

Most of what we believe is not based on whats in our heads, and theres a good reason for that.  Theres not much in our heads. [...] As human beings, we are just not made to store a lot of detailed information. [...] We do not have to know a lot because were not made to think on our own. Its natural to think about thinking as what happens between your ears, but thats not where the magic really happens. [...] Thinking is a social process. Rather than happening inside your head, it emerges from your interactions with those around you. [...] On our own, none of us knows all that much. We dont have to. We each have our own little slice of expertise, and our minds are built to collaborate and to share knowledge, which allows us to pursue incredibly complex goals, when none of us has anything approaching the knowledge to understand it all. This is the Milan Cathedral. Its one of humanity's great  works. Construction began in 1386 [...and it] was completed when they consecrated the final gate in the 1960s. Six hundred years! In that time, there were 75 chief engineers responsible for the project and thousands upon thousands of people involved. None of those people had anything remotely approaching the knowledge to understand it all, not even close. Everything great we do as human beings depends on this ability to share knowledge and to collaborate. So thats the positive side of the knowledge-sharing story. When we put our minds together we can do incredible things. 

But theres also a dark side. Because we are built to so seamlessly draw on knowledge outside of our heads, we often fail to realize the limits of our own understanding. [...] The sense of understanding is contagious. And when contagious understanding is paired with individual ignorance, it can be a toxic recipe. The danger is that I may express a strong belief because I feel like I understand. But my sense of understanding is false. It comes from those around me expressing strong beliefs because they feel like they understand. But their sense of understanding comes from those around them and so on. Individually, none of us knows enough to tell whats true and whats false. And, yet, because we feel like were on firm ground, we dont do enough to verify, and that is how entire groups of people can come to believe things that arent true. We can build cathedrals but we can also build houses of cards. 

Now, the real tragedy occurs in how we relate to people who have different beliefs than us. We live in the illusion that we have arrived at our own positions via a serious analysis, and that we can support and justify what we believe based on what we know. Therefore, when someone doesnt believe what we believe, its obvious what the problem is: theyre too stupid to see the truth! And theres actually a sense in which youre right when you think that. Its true! They did not arrive at their position via a rational process of evidence evaluation, and they dont understand the issue in depth. But neither do you! [...] When we express our beliefs, we are all just channeling our communities of knowledge. Thats what we do. Knowledge is not in my head, and its not in your head. Knowledge is shared. [...] Now, the point is decidedly not that people are stupid. Its true; we are all ignorant, but thats not something we should hide from. The world is far too complex for any one of us to understand much of it. What makes us special is the ability to thrive amidst that complexity by sharing knowledge. From our individual ignorance can arise collective genius. Ignorance is a feature of the human mind, not a bug. But we dont have to be so darn sure about things we dont understand.

  −Philip Fernbach, Why do we believe things that aren’t true?, TEDxMileHigh, Youtube

13 September 2017

“Number 10, Twinkies. In 2012 this parent company of Hostess filed for bankruptcy, and the public went mad. How would we satisfy our sugar cravings now? Luckily, one eBay seller thought it was best to cash in and placed a box of the tasty treats up for sale. The box of delicious treats ended up selling for around $60. That’s over 95% more than the grocery stores were charging. If only the buyer would have held out a little longer. In March of the following year Twinkies returned to American shelves.”

  −“Strangest things ever sold on eBay”, Talltanic, self-described as “where we push the boundaries with unbelievable facts that will blow your mind”, like the fact that a price doubled

2 September 2017

“So the Republicans don’t even believe in weather?”

  −Name, on the news that Trump’s budget has an unprecedented 6% funding cut for the National Weather Service, a 26% cut for NOAA’s oceanic and atmospheric research, and a 22% cut in its weather satellite information program, as well as other cuts in computer modeling of storms and tsunami research

25 August 2017

“My definition of creativity has long been that it’s what happens when you are struggling back from confusion.  Steve Jobs famously said that creativity was just about finding connections that hadn’t been noticed before.  I guess graduate school is about teaching you what dots exist so that you can connect them. Graduate school is about creativity, for sure, but not in the way you think.  Yes, the classes you take and the other stuff you have to do for graduate school are mostly getting in the way of creativity.  In fact, the whole enterprise of graduate education is actually to try to stifle some of your creativity so that you don’t turn out crazy...which is what happens if you study by yourself.  In autodidacts, creativity can take over completely, and you lose the ability to tell what is making sense and what will fly with others.”

23 August 2017

“Ignorance is your enemy. Knowledge is a weapon.”

  −une bannière de la manifestation dAct Up-Paris représentée dans le film français 120 Battements par Minute, écrit par Robin Campillo et Philippe Mangeot

released 23 August 2017

“The basic truth about UQ is that people don’t want to do it. We are hopeful creatures, constantly underestimating the uncertainty that surrounds us. The financial market is an easy example. In an industry where estimating risk is synonymous with success, financial analysts continue to use methods that can kindly be called optimistic, but which are plainly just wrong.”

  −Lev Ginzburg

17 August 2017

Arthur P. Dempster
Born 1929
(age 87–88)

Kari:  “Isn’t Art Dempster in his nineties?”

Scott:  “I’ll look it up.”

Scott:  “Wikipedia says his age is an interval.”

Kari:  “Very few people would get that joke.”

13 August 2017

“FEMA calls the long-term period between the recovery from the impact of some hazard and the next hazard the ‘mitigation phase’. We know that people don’t mitigate during this phase.”

  −Allison Reilly

8 August 2017

“There is a neighbor effect. If your neighbor buys an emergency generator, you are more likely to buy a generator. Social scientists call this conspicuous consumption, but, to me, that is just risk communication.”

  −Allison Reilly

8 August 2017

“It’s good to have old technology, and new ideas.  It’s better than having new technology and old ideas.”

  −Reinhard Viertl, as he reverted to overhead transparencies after the Powerpoint slides failed

8 August 2017

“Hypocrisy used to be a thing.  Is it still?”

  −Bill Maher, capturing in nine words, what I was feebly trying to say in the 800 words (below) earlier in the week

5 August 2017

The rise of uncertainty as a theme of modern life is certainly a well discussed topic.  Morris Kline’s great book Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty traces the progressive embrittlement of notions of consistency that developed during the twentieth century since Gottlob Frege’s charmingly naive logicism in Begriffsschrift that mathematics is based on logic and could therefore be formally proven to be correct.  My favorite college professor Paul McKinney once wrote a vers libre poem about uncertainty made up of five mathematical formulas.  It started with the tautology from symbolic logic, p or not p, followed by expressions from statistical mechanics and the Heisenberg principle saying we can’t escape imprecision. The poem ended with the eternally pessimistic second law of thermodynamics that says disorder increases.  The poem’s title was “There was a time when I was absolutely sure, a happy time when it was all together”.  I guess I am glad that the chemistry professor cum poet did not have to witness the state of the world today.  Today, the lack of surety is the least of it. 

It has been trite for years now to say that we live in a post-truth age.  Bill Maher has pointed out that Donald Trump sometimes holds contradictory positions in the same sentence.  The New York Times described an incident in which Steve Bannon was standing too close to a hot light while deciding what to enter into a teleprompter for the candidate’s speech when his pant leg literally caught fire, life parodying the childhood chant.  But whining about a post-truth age or ‘alternative facts’ just a few decades after Joseph Goebbels seems quaint at best.  It just doesn’t seem serious to complain that statements from authorities or leaders feel like gas-lighting after the report by the Church Committee, after revelation of the disinformation operations, or even after reading 1984 or just seeing Wag the Dog.  People lie, corporations lie, and governments lie; of course they do.  Some do it more or less artfully; some do it more or less gallingly.  

We are unsure about many important things.  And the more important those things are, the more people may have reason to feed us lies about them.  This has always been true.  What seems different in recent times is the level of apathy about the truth of our concerns.  What is novel is the argued belief that, not only don’t we know, but no one can know.  The new blistering starkness is that the lie doesn’t matter, that a lie is just as good as a truth.

In the prehistory of my own youth, and apparently for the last century or two, at least the difference between truth and falsity mattered, or very much seemed to.  Maybe we have been teetering on this edge for years.  Marshall McLuhan famously said “the medium is the message”.  South Park noticed that commentary is the content.  And even the ever-young-at-heart Hank Green begrudgingly agrees that nobody should invest in ‘content’.  Perhaps this is merely a nod to the perennial inventiveness of people, the idea that interesting and compelling content will self-generate and bubble up to fill any void, like energy and matter do in the latest astrophysical models of universe creation, multiverses, and the on-going Big Bang.  But I come from a time before the word content was used to mean amorphously the stuff shown on television, uttered in speeches, broadcast on radio, acted out in movies and plays, and written in books and newspapers.  I come from a time when we thought it mattered what you said.  A time when true and false were at least different, if not always discernible.

One might call this the final and utter triumph over substance, but it’s more than that.  Worse than that, it is the erasure of substance.  But that hardly expresses the depth of the dissolution we have seen in our lives.  This is well beyond post-truth.  Today, we live in a post-meaning age.  Originally, stone inscriptions, and later paper and electronic files were made surely because someone had a message to convey. It’s hard to carve words into stone. It’s difficult to make paper. You really had to want to say something. Even if the cuneiform etchings were records of inventories and transactions, you know they were important to somebody.  Why should we bother to record anything anybody says nowadays?

It’s not that I’m looking for scripture.  I don’t think everything matters, but I think that some things doMeaning is only important if it excludes something.  If everything can be switched out, without changing the valence, what could that value possibly be?

2 August 2017

“Dare to be curious, but don’t drink the koolaid.”

  −Thomas Westbrook, aka Holy Koolaid, later paraphrase of the outro for the tragic “The Holy Koolaid Origin Story” from his Youtube channel Holy Koolaid

16 July 2017

1978: In 2017 there will be flying cars   
2017: People still believe that the earth is flat

  −h9h1ker, commenting on Is Earth actually flat?, Vsauce

(edited) 9 July 2017

“Family is life’s greatest lottery, and I feel like I’ve scratched off a losing ticket.”

  −Jonny Pierce of The Drums

July 2017

“The pioneering American sex researcher Alfred Kinsey from Indiana University is certainly a hero of modern science, if not of modernity itself. In his time, the importance of sampling randomness had not yet permeated the science of biology. Statistician John Tukey criticized Kinsey’s sampling technique, saying ‘A random selection of three people would have been better than a group of 300 chosen by Mr. Kinsey.’ Although Kinsey drew conclusions that can’t strictly be justified given his nonrandom sampling methods, [Tukey’s] stark criticism seems hyperbolic and statistically wrong; 300 nonrandom samples can tell us many things about a distribution that 3 random samples cannot. For instance, such samples will typically be a much better characterization of the range of a variable, and they will give a lower bound on a frequency as the number of unique reports divided by the population of reference class, which was ~100 million Americans at the time.  And, by the way, the number of Kinsey’s samples wasn’t 300; it was over 12 thousand.”

6 July 2017

“Eighty percent of the material we work with is made of atoms.”

  −Andrew Harrison, head of the UK’s national synchrotron science facility Diamond Light Source

4 July 2017

“[The synchrotron facility] is ten years old.  We’re not finished constructing it yet.  But, when we are, then we’ll begin the process of rebuilding it.”

  −Andrew Harrison, head of the UK’s national synchrotron science facility Diamond Light Source

4 July 2017

“In the framework of the probability theory and mathematical statistics of uncertainty quantification, there is no need to distinguish these two type of uncertainty [aleatory uncertainties and epistemic uncertainties] (and we simply say Uncertainties) because the tools are exactly the same, 

  −Christian Soize, page 2 in Uncertainty Quantification: An Accelerated Course with Advanced Applications in Computational Engineering (Springer)


“He’s got a Ph.D. in chemistry.”
“Oh?  I got a D in chemistry too.”

4 July 2017

“We’re not going to let these people win. And I keep saying, if me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women is what offends these people so much then I’m going to do it more, not less, because that’s what makes London so great.”

  −Richard Angell, firsthand witness to Saturday’s attack in London, keeping calm and carrying on by returning Sunday to pay his restaurant bill and tip the staff (highlighted by John Oliver, Last Week Tonight)

4 June 2017

“It really turns out that if you’re going to actand you have to actyou have to make assumptions.  And the reason for that is: what the hell do you know? You gotta put your ignorance somewhere.  And people put their ignorance, they box it up inside their assumptions.”

  −Jordan Peterson, on veganism (he also panders to his audience of college students, “You’re the most complicated thing that exists.”)

2 June 2017

“The Knowledge Illusion described by Sloman and Fernbach has some serious implications. As individuals, we know less and less as technological civilization gets more complex. Science education efforts don’t work, and they never will. Indeed they often backfire because telling people a whole bunch of stuff (effectively telling them they’re stupid) isn’t an effective way to teach, but it is a good way to make them mad. Our personal knowledge is a result of a communal process determined by the tribe or group we are a part of. Groupthink is the only think. We know it here in Liverpool―you’ll never think alone.”

17 May 2017

“Can’t you wait for the music?”

  −mother to her vigorously dancing 5-year-old daughter as they await a street band to begin playing in Liverpool One

29 April 2017

“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here . . . but this shit is hard.”

  −anonymous White House official, as reported by J. Dawsey, S. Goldmacher and A. Isenstadt in "The education of Donald Trump", Politico 

filed at 5:15 AM EDT on 27 April 2017

«A toi, je voudrais te dire que tu vas rester dans mon cœur pour toujours. Je t’aime. Restons tous dignes, et veillons à la paix, et gardons la paix.»

  −Etienne Cardiles in a eulogy for his husband Xavier Jugelé, a policeman killed on the Champs-Élysées by a terrorist

25 April 2017

James [in a scientific presentation]:  “We’re not in the business of generating hype.”

Scott [under his breath]:  “Speak for yourself.”

19 April 2017

“Poor analysis with good visualization is probably more dangerous [than good analysis with poor visualization].”

  −James Cheshire

19 April 2017

Tom Servo [voiced by Baron Vaughn]: This is why everything you thought was true is, in fact, untrue.  And everything you thought wasnt true, totally true.  Thats what I call Tom Servos Five Principles of Counter-Intuitivity.

Jonah Heston [played by Jonah Ray]: Oh, hey.  Welcome to the Satellite of Love.  Were in the middle of Servos Tom Talk.  Its like TED Talk, except its mostly vague gibberish that doesnt actually mean anything when you think about it later.

Crow T. Robot [voiced by Hampton Yount]: So, a TED Talk then?

  −Mystery Science Theater 3000 (season 11: The Return, episode 12 Carnival Magic), written by Joel Hodgson, Paul Chaplin, Mary Jo Pehl, Elliott Kalan, Dan Harmon, and Justin Roiland 

released 14 April 2017

“Yes, our numerical examples are simple, without very many variables or complications. You might even ungenerously call them ‘toy problems’ as some reviewers have. But I think our solutions are far from toy. They are the rich, complete answers that take a serious and assumption-free accounting of epistemic uncertainty. In contrast, you have complex problems but stick-figure solutions. They are stick figures that assume linearity without justification, normality without evidence or warrant, and assume independence counterfactually.  They are really only placeholders for solutions that might exist.”

4 April 2017

“I think the president is somewhat indifferent to things that are true or false. He has spent his whole life bullshitting. He has succeeded by bullshitting. He has gotten to the presidency by bullshitting. It’s very hard to tell somebody at that point that bullshit doesn’t work because, look at the results. Right?”

  −Fareed Zakaria, on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon

17 March 2017

“You can be combative, it can be confrontational, but it’s always a long-term much better strategy to engage with the press.” 

  −Massachusetts attorney and Democratic strategist Scott Ferson, quoted in a Politico article about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent openness with local reporters

18 March 2017

Simon:  “We know correlations are important.”
Scott:  “Do you know what the correlations are?”
Simon:  “No.”

8 March 2017

“[Set-based design] is standard theory, particularly here in Liverpool.”

  −Simon Coggon

8 March 2017

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.”

  −Python instructor (played by Ulka Simone Mohanty), about the city of Monte Carlo, in “A random walk & Monte Carlo simulation || Python tutorial || Learn Python programming”, written Michael Harrison

6 March 2017

“Telling patients about the uncertainties and side-effects of a cure causes them to feel the original diseases is less scary.”

  −Chris Cummings

3 March 2017

“Uncertainty analysis [on a deterministic risk assessment] is really not that important.  It gets exponentially more complex, expensive, hard to explain to bosses, and it obfuscates the decision.”

  −Bernie Goldstein, arguing that environmentalists should take their cue from economists who neglect uncertainty altogether

2 March 2017

“Risk assessment is like beating a spy under interrogation until to get the answer you want.

  −Bernie Goldstein

2 March 2017

“I was innocent and certain; now I’m wiser but unsure.”

  −Belle (played by Emma Watson) in “Days in the Sun”, Beauty and the Beast, lyrics by Tim Rice

London release date 23 February 2017

“That your consciousness continues after your body dies is pretty much a proven fact. Tens of thousands of testimonies, and a good number reveal that the temporarily ‘deceased’ was able to describe specific events that took place in the operating room and in waiting rooms, when they should have had no brain function. It’s not a debate anymore, except among those who have not studied the evidence, or who are ideologically committed to absolute materialism. More importantly, we need not fear leaving this world—beauty, peace and profound love await us.”

  −Iam Hudsdent, commenting on the recorded symposium “Medical Center Hour” entitled “Is There Life after Death? Fifty Years of Research at UVA” held at the University of Virginia, which used to be a university in the United States, and at which UVA professor emeritus Bruce Greyson revealed “We have identified dozens of cases of this type [where people report they acquired knowledge they should not otherwise have during a near-death experience]”

after and during the symposium held on 22 February 2017

“Imagining a greater flexibility in a go-it-alone approach, a majority of voters in the United Kingdom have decided they’d like a divorce from the European Union.  But if your dream doesn’t work out and you realize that being in a club is better than seeing it through a plate-glass window, I invite you to consider petitioning the United States Congress for statehood.  You’d be the biggest state population-wise, even if you broke yourselves into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to get more senators.  You’d kind of have to ditch the monarchy, but, hey, win win.  You’d also have to get rid of the state religion.  Win win win.  But you’d get to keep the swagger and thoughtlessness; they're all-American fun.  ¶  It’s been done before.  Texas won its independence from Mexico and sued to join the United States.  Had the movement for Québécois sovereignty been more successful, the anglophone provinces from a fractured Canada might well have joined the United States.  Of course, there’s no chance of that anymore.  Not because Québec will never be free, but because Canadians will have seen Donald Trump standing next to Justin Trudeau.”

13 February 2017

“If we live through this precarious moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank this president for, because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is. [...] His whisperers will have alerted us to the potential flaws in our balance of power in government, to how we’ve relied on the good will and selflessness of previous occupants of the Oval Office, and how quaint notions of custom, honor, and duty compelled them to adhere to certain practices of transparency and responsibility, how easily all of this can be ignored, and how the authority of the executive in the hands of a self-dealer can be wielded against the people, and the Constitution and their Bill of Rights.  The whip of the executive can, through a Twitter feed, lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and all the imagined enemies with spasmodic regularity and easily provoked predictability.”

  −Meryl Streep, speaking at the Human Rights Campaign

11 February 2017

“France is your nation.”

   −Emanuel Macron, in his invitation to American climate change researchers to move to France, strengthened perhaps by the snarky advice of US conservatives, which was “Go.”

uploaded to Facebook on 9 February 2017

“Any sufficiently advanced negligence is indistinguishable from malice.”

   −Deb Chachra, reappropriating Hanlon’s razor (about stupidity) and Clarke’s third law (about technology and magic)

a few years before, but publicly claimed on, 9 Feb 2017

“Fisher was quite clear about 0.05 being a rule of thumb for the kind of field work he was doing, but as you know, for almost a century now, people have nevertheless treated p-values [being less than] 0.05 as though it were god’s holy finish line.”

  −Michael Balch

8 February 2017

“So many tweets, so little truth.”

  −Randy Rainbow, “Fact-checker, fact-checker

6 February 2017

“Whispered to myself ‘that’s so cool’ at the probability distribution curve today. Two years in the Risk Institute has changed me.”

  −Simon D.A. Clark

1 February 2017

Scott [to engineers pointing at the derelict Chadwick tower]: “Are you going to do anything to it?”
Engineer: “Might do.”
Scott: “We’re risk analysts, and we’re wondering if it’s going to fall on us.”
Engineer: “No, probably not.  It's not that bad.”
Scott:  “Are pieces falling off?”
Engineer:  “Just the little mosaic tiles.  No windows or anything.  Nothing to worry about.”
Scott: “Famous last words.”
Engineer: “Don’t tell anyone we’ve had this conversation.”

24 January 2017

Like zoos, [international] borders are immoral.  Fences in general Im dubious about.

January 2017

“Finally gets code to run // First minute: celebration // Every minute after: suspicion and self-doubt”

  −Simon D.A. Clark

16 January 2017

“A function that doesn’t function shouldn’t be called a function.”

  −Thorsten Altenkirch, arguing that the set-theoretic definition of a function is awkward, Computer Science ∩ Mathematics (Type Theory), Computerphile

11 January 2017

“Since the election, more Americans have learned about the problem of online ‘fake news’. The term doesn’t refer to political spin or overheated opinion, but rather to completely false, made-up stories like these:
          FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide
          WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS...
          Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump
There is nothing new about conspiracy theories or internet hoaxes, but one report found that some of those stories I just showed you were the most read items on Facebook heading into the election, reaching tens of millions.

     . . . Some are [now] trying to flip the script and say that stories about real facts are just fake news. . . . [O]ur debates about politics are increasingly debates about legitimacy, about what is true and who has the right to decide. That is why there’s been such an intense effort to dilute this label ‘fake news’ because the label was helping beat back some of this nonsense.

       We have to keep calling out lies and misinformation. And we have to do it even more forcefully. Spreading the falsehood that an FBI agent was murdered or a child sex ring was run out of a DC restaurant—two real canards from this election season—that’s not just fake. The Tooth Fairy is fake. That is a lie. It is a fraud. We are in a world that is now full of fraud news. And just as free speech doesn’t mean it's okay to shout 'fire’ in a crowded theater, the free internet doesn't mean it’s okay to perpetuate fraudulent stories online that threaten real harm offline.”

  −Ari Melber, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

4 January 2017

“This is actually how stock markets work [...] the value is determined not by the intrinsic value, but what others think the asset’s worth.” [edited]

  −Muzhi Li, commenting on the 1987 Saturday Night Live sketch “Common Knowledge” about a quiz show with questions supplied by Princeton professors but answers determined by a survey of American high school students


“At first, sales were up a significant amount over the previous year, even more than Coca-Cola had expected.  According to surveys run by Coca-Cola, most people preferred the new flavor over the old. [...] Coca-Cola stock went up, and things were looking really good.  But then the vocal minority started kicking up their heels. Complaints trickled in, and angered Coke fans started enlisting the aid of the media.  Soon that trickle developed into a flood.  One man, Gay Mullins, even started the Old Cola Drinkers of America organization to lobby for the return of old Coke or at least try to get Coca-Cola to license out the formula to someone else.  The fact that, in a blind taste test, Mullins picked New Coke over old Coke as his favorite didn’t stop him from attempting to sue Coca-Cola over the switch.  The dissenters started convincing others.  Many who had never even tried New Coke decided they hated it before even tasting it, primarily because they were upset at the fact that the original Coke was no longer available.  Finally, just three months after New Coke was introduced, the public outcry forced Coca-Cola to release the old formula under the name Coca-Cola Classic.”

  −Simon Whistler, “Why Coke Tried to Switch to New Coke”, Today I Found Out, describing a backlash by an incoherent minority toppling broad consensus

27 December 2016

“This is the deepest part of the deep dark woods.  Nobody speaks for the prez-elect [Donald Trump], not even himself.”

  −Charles P. Pierce, referring to Trump’s often contradictory statements and tweets

23 December 2016

“It’s going to be a constant battle, but I think you need to look for the signal of truth, rather than just the signal of what pushes people’s buttons.”

  −Derek Muller, discussing how computers might help to distinguish fake news from reputable news, "Post-truth: Why Facts Don't Matter Anymore", Veritasium

20 December 2016

Maximum Likelihood Estimation (MLE) of the parameters of a Non Bayesian Regression model or simply a linear regression model overfits the data, meaning the unknown value for a certain value of independent variable becomes too precise when calculated. Bayesian Linear Regression relaxes this fact, saying that there is uncertainty involved by incorporating Predictive Distribution.

  −Ben Zaman, helping on StackExchange, in which the phrase “unknown value for a certain value” probably means the unknown value for a particular value and the phrase “Non Bayesian Regression” presumably refers to ordinary linear regression or, perhaps, generalised linear regression

8 December 2016

“This is all a matter of opinion . . . there are no such things as facts.”

  −Trump stalwart and self-described “classically studied journalist” Scottie Nell Hughes on The Diane Rehm Show, see also the reaction by James Fallows

30 November 2016

So many homophobes turn out to be secretly gay that Im nervous Im secretly a giant spider.

  −Jeremy Kaplowitz

28 November 2016

“Not appearing racist is more important to them than making sure that they don’t reproduce racism.”

  −Sean Mandell, commenting on Hanna Ingber's NYT article about artist Isaiah Lopaz's t-shirts about racism

21 November 2016

Gina [Ana Gasteyer]:  “What do you want?  I'm sorry.  How are you?”

Margaret [Nancy Lenehan]:  “Oh, well, this’ll be quick.  I'm struggling with the emptiness of my life, and I need to buy a throw pillow.”

  −Emily Heller (writer) “Past, Present and Future”, People of Earth

broadcast 14 November 2016

“No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue.”

  −Sara Bareilles, “Seriously” [performed by Leslie Odom, Jr.], This American Life

28 October 2016

“Why do bad things always happen to mediocre people who are lying about their identities?”

  −Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell), “Chapter 8: Most Improved Player” [season 1, episode 8], The Good Place, written by Michael Schur and Dan Schofield 

broadcast on NBC 27 October 2016

“That’s what I’m saying is like I realized I just was worrying about things that I could not possibly control. Whether it be today, the future, life. And then I just kind of realized one day that, I mean, it was just...that’s the beauty of life itself.  It’s completely not knowing what is going to happen tomorrow, cause if we knew what was happening tomorrow, what would be the point of seeing tomorrow?  So I just snapped out of it and realized: wow, this is what being human is like.”

  −Kid Quill, “Dose of Reality (feat. Alex Hall)”, The Name Above the Title, Norham Road Records

album released 14 October 2016

How ironic then that a culture which rejects moral standards—and, make no bones, folks, we do. Standards? Moral standards? You stand up for moral standards, you are going to be mocked and laughed out of the room. Do you know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in Americans sexual mores today is one thing. You can do anything. The Left will promote and understand and tolerate anything as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four however many are involved in the sex act, its perfectly fine, whatever it is. But if the Left ever senses and smells that there is no consent in part of the equation, then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the Left.

  −Rush Limbaugh, American right-wing commentator defending Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after release of a recording in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women (and perfectly exemplifying variation in the concerns of different actors in the moral foundations theory of Jonathan Haidt et al.) 

12 October 2016

How does this work?  Remember, probability got its start describing gambling games, and the probability of rolling snake eyes does not depend on who you ask. [...] How do you make that leap from a description of physical phenomena, physical processes which are the same for everyone, to a situation where the probability of the sun coming up changes depending on who you ask?  And the answer is, of course, this is subjective probability.  We arent talking about the actual probability of the actual sun coming up tomorrow.  Were talking about our state of belief that the sun will come up tomorrow, which of course depends on what you happen to know.  How did Laplace make this leap?  How did he go from a description of random events to a description of a state of belief as the interpretation of probability, and why on earth didnt he tell people that that was what he was doing?  Well, the answer is because Laplace didnt think he was making a leap at all.  Laplace did not believe in randomness.  It was actually pretty common during Laplaces time to believe that the world was entirely deterministic and predictable and that if you just had enough knowledge of starting conditions and of the laws of physics you could predict every event, including the roll of a die, going out into eternity.  And it wasnt until the 20th century that we started to see scientific and mathematical revelations that made people start to question this.  So, to Laplace, the only kind of uncertainty there was was uncertainty due to ignorance, was the kind of uncertainty you describe with subjective probability.

  −Kristin Lennox, discussing the unease about Bayesian methods because different people will get different results from their different priors

27 September 2016

“These days you can be minding your own business, reading the news, and all of a sudden, bam! Bayesian statistics happens.  This is particularly common in election years. I blame Nate Silver. Let’s face it, most people view all statisticians as sort of a hybrid of an accountant and a wizard, which is ridiculous, we have nothing in common with accountants. Probability is a mathematical concept; it is exquisitely well defined.  Uncertainty is an English word.  What it means kind of depends on when you hear it. I have shown you four different kinds of uncertainty, not exhaustive, and all of these styles of uncertainty are quantifiable, and all of them can be described using probability.  However, if I use probability to describe all these different kinds of events, clearly that probability is going to mean something different in different situations. [The idea of combining ‘objective’ frequentist probability and ‘subjective’ Bayesian probability] really is almost a units problem (even though probability is unitless) where it can be used to describe two very different kinds of uncertainty. So what’s Bayesian about Bayes theorem?  Absolutely nothing.  Bayes theorem is a theorem which means it works for probability no matter what your interpretation of probability is.  If you want to be Bayesian with Bayes theorem, then you need to take an additional step [and wrangle subjective probability]. So my take on inference is that if it makes sense to you for your problem, and if you are upfront about why you made the modeling decisions that you made, its all good.  If somebody disagrees with you, thats fine, they can analyze it their way.  Maybe they get the same answer.  Maybe they dont, and then you get to learn something.

  −Kristin Lennox, pronouncing the word Bayesian as BAYzhun

27 September 2016

“It’s incredibly frustrating when you’re talking to people and not getting any answers. [...] You just get a sense that people are fearful to speak out.”

  −Laura Richards, discussing her attempts to interview the Ramseys’ friends twenty years after JonBenét Ramsey’s death, The Case of: Jon Benet Ramsey

broadcast 18 September 2016

“But what are news organizations if not truth squads?”

  −Evan Puschak, “How To Correct Donald Trump In Real Time”, the nerdwriter

14 September 2016

“Chris Wallace’s job is apparently exactly the same as that of Gwen DeMarco on Galaxy Quest, to simply repeat whatever she is told.”  [Gwen DeMarco (played by Sigourney Weaver in 1999 film Galaxy Quest) explained why she repeats everything said by the computer voice by saying “Look, I have one job on this lousy ship!  It’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it, okay?”]

14 September 2016

“Hillary Clinton’s made clear, she is mentally impaired.”

  −Louie Gohmert, the Texas congressman who previously suggested the Sandy Hook tragedy wouldn’t have happened had teachers been armed

9 September 2016

Scott:  “A scientist put special glasses on pigeons that inverted what they see.  At first they struggled around in this upside-down world, but in a few days they got used to it.  When the scientist took the glasses off the pigeons, they again stumbled about for a while, as though the world for them was again suddenly upside-down.”

Brian:  “Why do we do such things to pigeons?  Oh, right, the statues.”    

7 September 2016

Brian:  “Some people say the best part of a journey is what happens along the way.”
Scott:  “Those people don't have anywhere to go.”

7 September 2016

Howard Kurtz:  “What do you do if they make assertions that you know to be untrue?”
Chris Wallace:  “That’s not my job.  I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad.”
    in an interview of Chris Wallace on his selection to moderate the last 2016 presidential debate

5 September 2016

“do you see what happens when people are allowed to have free contact with each other from all over the world thanks to the internet? you no longer can control them and keep them in a bubble...people start thinking and asking questions instead of following propaganda...this is a big blow to the controllers, and they are in panic mode...if you are in your 40s, it is almost impossible for you to escape the matrix because your mind needs it to stay sane..”

  −May Lee, commenting on “Flat Earth -- If it`s here to stay ! [ Why hide it ? ]

4 September 2016

“I’m from the UK where it’s not just Downtown Abby and posh peeps. Don’t believe those lies, like you heard them from Ryan Lochte.”

  −Riz Ahmed, in an impromptu rap on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

29 August 2016

“The cost of democracy is uncertainty.”

  −Edward Snowden, It's Only Getting Better, hitRECord

19 August 2016

“You take the minimum of the minima and the maximum of the maxima and form the union.  I don't want to say union ... because mathematicians and words.”

  −Melissa Hoffman

17 August 2016

Scott:      “What’s the singular of data.”

Christian:  “Datum.”

Scott:       “No, anecdote.”

16 August 2016

“And I don’t think we really have a good way of choosing these computational procedures [for filtering, transforming, measuring and testing data], other than that this is something you’re meant to learn through some sort of apprenticeship with the elders, which is the same as saying that we really don’t know.”

  −Tom Nielsen, in his lecture “Typed functional probabilistic programming—ready for practical use?” at Microsoft Research

posted on Youtube on 8 August 2016

“It appears that you have not read Hegel.”

  −Hans Wurst, commenting on a complaint by another Wikipedian who had written “In one section ‘he asked to be sent to a military unit instead, and joined a regiment in Cherbourg’, while in the Beliefs section ‘Weil refused to do military service’. This doesn't make sense.” in the Talk page for the Wikipedian article on Bourbaki mathematician André Weil

28 July 2016 

My point is I would have hoped that rednecks of all people could have empathized with this whole thing.  But we don't, and I wonder why.  Just kidding.  I don't wonder.  Nobody does, because everybody knows the reason.

  −Liberal Redneck Trae Crowder, Black Lives Matter 

19 July 2016

“Sometimes things that are expensive are worse.”

  −Freckle (played by Jason Greene), explaining her not-soft linens, The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, episode 4, written by Brian Jordan Alvarez

June 2016

Q:   “What is the definition of a dam failure?”

A:   “You’ll know it when you see it.”

  −anonymous, overheard (or perhaps misheard) at the REC2016 meeting in Bochum

16 June 2016

“Three engineers enter a bar in South Carolina. The bartender asks ‘Y’all want some beers?’ Technically, that's a question about EACH of the three wanting beer, which is a joint event of imbibition. They indeed do all want beers, but if they had not mutually confirmed this fact beforehand, then each would make a mental calculation of some kind.

    “If the engineers were Bayesian probabilists, then the calculation for each would be the same: I want a beer, so the probability of ‘wanting a beer’ is one for me. But I don’t know whether my colleagues do too, so I should use an uninformative prior for them. That would mean the probability of ‘wanting a beer’ would be 0.5 for each of them. Thus, the probability assuming independence of ALL wanting a beer would be 1.0 x 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25 implying that the answer is ‘probably not’, and each engineer would arrive at the same conclusion.

    “On the other hand, if the engineers are imprecise probability jocks, the calculations would be entirely different. Each engineer would naturally say ‘I don't know’, but after two of the engineers verbally expressed their uncertainty, the third engineer could instantly revise her inference to a ‘Yes’. Had the first engineer not wanted a beer, that engineer’s answer would have been ‘No’ since it would have been clear that not ALL wanted beers. Thus, the response ‘I don't know’ implies the engineer wants a beer. The same reasoning applies to the second engineer. So the only way the first and second engineers say ‘I don't know’ is that they both want beers. Because the third engineer does too, she thereby knows that ALL want beers.

    “Interestingly, this is an example of the famous aphorism of Francis Bacon: the (specious) certainties lead to uncertainty in the Bayesians, and, in the case of the imprecise probability jocks, uncertainties lead to certainty.”

  −Robert Mullen [paraphrase], in his talk “Static analysis of structural systems...”, at REC2016

15 June 2016

“Predicting the future is dangerous because we sometimes believe our predictions [...].”

  −Scott Ferson and Kari Sentz, in “Epistemic Uncertainty in Agent-based Modeling” at REC2016

15 June 2016

“If the way you talk makes people not take you seriously, then maybe you’re not very good at what you do.”

  −Kelli Johnson, reacting to received wisdom about vocal fry 

 26 May 2016

“Everything obviously I’m going to say tonight, quite clearly, [unintelligible] cup Manchester.  Don't believe a word I say.  You don’t have to believe a word I say.  But I’m not like the guy on the BBC News, staring right into you every night, hypnotizing you, telling you what to think. Please go and research every single thing for yourself. Every single thing has come from the Internet. It’s all researchable for yourself, quite clearly.”

  −[unidentified speaker], Flat Earth --The Truth will seem utterly Preposterous

published on Youtube 23 May 2016

“The most important thing in programming is the ability to give something a name. The second most important thing is to not be required to give something a name.”

  −Andy (Krazy) Glew in this blog post on the limits of scoping in Python

20 May 2016

“I wish I wished for things, man.”

  −Holland March (played by Ryan Gosling), The Nice Guys

released in the United States 20 May 2016

“[W]e have access to more information than at any time in human history, at a touch of a button. But, ironically, the flood of information hasn’t made us more discerning of the truth. In some ways, it’s just made us more confident in our ignorance. We assume whatever is on the web must be true. We search for sites that just reinforce our own predispositions. Opinions masquerade as facts. The wildest conspiracy theories are taken for gospel.”

  −Barack Obama, in his commencement address at Rutgers University, see the full transcript

15 May 2016

“Secret knowledge is a very intoxicating thing.”

  −Edward Snowden, reported by Andrew Rice in “I, Snowbot”, New York (June 27−July 10, 2016, page 142)

12 May 2016

Carl [played by Jonathan Purdon]: “I wish that I believed you.”

Cassie [played by Catherine Bell]: “Belief is just a wish you make happen.”

  −“[The] Trouble with Love” (season 2, episode 4 [numbered 6 on Netflix]) of Good Witch, written by Amy Palmer Robertson, Jed Seidel, and Rod Spence, who have no idea what belief is

aired 8 May 2016

“Man y’all ain’t gonna believe this, but turns out some people on the internet are the worst. I know. I was shocked too.”

  −Trae Crowder, on Twitter 

30 April 2016

“The broad-sweeping, unqualified, and unsupported statement [in a proposal review] “any alternatives to Bayesian methods have repeatedly been shown to be inferior” warrants further explanation as this logically entails dismissing all of frequentist-based statistics, much of machine learning, information theoretic approaches, logical models, physical models, etc. This is a very extreme position to hold and one that does not find consensus even amongst statisticians, much less should this be upheld amongst a broad scientific community without a rigorous technical justification.”

  −Kari Sentz, who got in some trouble for this “aggressive” response in asking for clarification of a review

April 2016

“You gotta knock them off their axioms.”

  −Rick Picard

April 2016

Scott:  “So how many pro-vice-chancellors are there at the University of Liverpool?”

Matt:  “It seems like there’s a new one every day.”

25 April 2016

“In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first ‘war on drugs’ and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. I barely recognized him. He was much heavier than he’d been at the time of the Watergate scandal two decades earlier, and he wore a mountain-man beard that extended to the middle of his chest. ¶  At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. ‘You want to know what this was really all about?’ he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. ‘The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.’”

  −Dan Baum quoting John Ehrlichman (who died in 1999) in an article “Legalize it all: how to win the war on drugs” in Harper’s Magazine

April 2016

Scott:  “The one unforgivable thing about this proposal text is the redundancy.”

Nick:  “You’ve said that so many times.”

5 April 2016

“Should I be embarrassed that, whenever I type a ‘W’ on my phone, it auto-completes it with ‘Why aren't you returning my texts?’”

31 March 2016

A Mayan elder wearing traditional Mayan garb walks into a bar. He sits down and strikes up a conversation with the bartender. And the bartender says, ‘Hey, you don't look like you’re from around here. Where are you from?’ The Mayan elder says, ‘Earth’. And the bartender says ‘So what do your people believe in?’ And the Mayan elder replies, ‘Well, our people believe that the earth rests on a giant crocodile, sitting in a lake of waterlilies.’ And the bartender says, ‘Wow. That’s fascinating. Tell me more.’

An Anishinaabe elder wearing a traditional feathered headdress walks into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hey, pardner, where’re you from?’ And the Anishinaabe elder says, ‘Around these parts.’ The bartender says, ‘The last guy I had in here believe the earth was on a crocodile. What do your people believe in?’ And the Anishinaabe elder replies, ‘Well, our people believe that the earth sits on the back of a giant turtle resting in a great ocean.’ The bartender says, ‘Wow. That's incredible. Tell me more.’

A gentleman sitting at the bar then walks up to the bartender and says, ‘Hey, I heard you talking with those native wisdom keepers about the earth. Do you know what I believe?’  The bartender says, ‘No, what?’ The bar patron says, ‘I believe that the earth is flat.’ The bartender says, ‘The earth is a ball, you idiot.  Get the fuck out of my bar.’

  −Marty Leeds, “Flat Earth - The Ultimate Litmus Test

15 March 2016

Marco Rubio [in his speech in Miami suspending his campaign for the presidency]:  “My mother was one of seven girls born to a poor family. Her father was disabled as a child. He struggled to provide for them his entire life. My mother told us a few years ago she never went to bed hungry growing up, but she knows her parents did, so they wouldn't have to. She came to this country in 1956 with little education, no money, no connections. My parents struggled their first years here. They were discouraged. They even thought about going back to Cuba at one point, but they persevered. They never became rich. I didn't inherit any money from my parents. They never became famous. You never would have heard about them if I had never run for office. And yet I consider my parents to be very successful people. Because in this country, working hard as a bartender and a maid, they owned a home and they retired with dignity. In this country, they lived to see all four of their children live better off than themselves. And in this country, on this day, my mother, who is now 85 years old, was able to cast a ballot for her son to be the president of the United States of America.”

Scott [talking back to the television]:  “Yeah, and she voted for Trump.”

15 March 2016

“We’re talking about the most protected building in the world, where a president can’t even get a blow job without the rest of the world knowing. How is a 16-year-old kid meant to be doing that? You couldn’t even go for a pee without security.”

  −Erkan Mustafa [Roland “Ro-laaand” Browning] of Grange Hill, denying the decades-old rumor he smoked a blunt in the White House during a cross-branding photo op with Nancy Reagan of their single Just Say No  

quoted in an article in The Guardian on 7 March 2016

I understand that the French didn't make the mistake  the English made in their mathematical language.  The word for positive in French, positif, includes zero.  I propose to use that word in mathematical English too.  So the positif integers are [0, 1, 2, 3, ...].  I hate saying nonnegative integers, to define things by a negative property, by saying they don't have a negative property is really awful.  They have a positif property.

  −John Conway, introducing surreal numbers in a lecture at the University of Toronto 

23 February 2016

“If scientists can’t understand p-values, I don’t expect non-experts to be able to.”

  −Matthew Kay

17 February 2016

“Transparency really helps a lot in these kinds of systems.”

  −Matthew Kay, in a lecture answering a question about why he does not suggest that scales should automatically adjust values to reflect probable bias

17 February 2016

“I've been misunderestimated most of my life.”

  −George W. Bush, stumping in South Carolina for his brother Jeb who went on to a resounding defeat there and withdrawal from the primary race

15 February 2016

“There's a stock exchange in Saudi Arabia.  Its all-shares index is the TASI.  It's highly correlated with oil.”

  −Luke Green

2 February 2016

“Practice often outpaces theory.”

  −Michael Balch, at the 18th AIAA Non-deterministic Approaches Conference

8 January 2016

Nick:  “What proposal are you working on?”

Scott:  “[The proposal on algorithms to protect patient] Privacy.”

Nick:  “Ooooh.  Sorry!  [Walks away]”

5 January 2016

“[H]is parents encouraged him to give up college and pursue an acting career.”

  −Wikipedia entry for Canadian actor Justin Chatwin known for roles in War of the Worlds, Shameless and Dr. Who

4 January 2016

“Those things are true until they're not.  History is not a statistically significant sample size.”

  −Betsy Woodruff from the The Daily Beast, discussing the prospect that New Hampshire voters would behave as they have in the past, on All In with Chris Hayes

28  December 2015

“Modernity has two major elements: individualism and oil. And those two we have to transform.”

  −California Governor Jerry Brown, quoted by Justin Worland in Time article "How cities and states took the spotlight in Paris climate talks"

8 December 2015

The Wizard:   “And Scarecrow, you say you got no brain.  The surest sign you talkin' to a dummy is when he tells you he knows it all.  It takes a quality mind to know there's always something to learn.  You, my friend, are of that brainiac persuasion.”

Scarecrow:  “So, knowing that I know nothing means that I know something?  Well, what do you know.”

  −The Wiz Live! television special on NBC, written by Harvey Fierstein, far surpassing the original Wizard of Oz's speech to the Scarecrow, which was “Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma.”

broadcast 3 December 2015

“Hiding uncertainty essentially severs the decision making process from scientific inquiry, and inevitably replacing it with a politically constructed reality that employs the moralistic fallacy at every turn.”

  −Clark Carrington, on the Riskanal listserv

3 December 2015

"I don't think, therefore I am Marco Rubio".

  −philosophy major Chris Hardwick, in response to presidential candidate Marco Rubio's campaign statements about philosophers, during @midnight with Chris Hardwick

broadcast 11 November 2015

"[E]very baby cries when it hears the cries of another."

  −Prince Ea (Richard Williams), "I Am NOT Black, You are NOT White.", invoking emotional contagion

2 November 2015

"We used to dig them up at night and take their hearts out.  That's how it was done in the old days.  But that's really old-fashioned.  People are smarter now.  Now we have new medicine.  Now we pierce the heart during the funeral, and that's that."

  −Romanian man Mircea Mitrica describing practices to protect his village from vampires, PBS series Secrets of the Dead, "Vampire Legend" episode

broadcast 27 October 2015

"You'll have to do more work.  You have to do a bit more thinking when you're talking about not knowing than you'd have to do if you were talking about knowing something.  That's not a Zen koan; it's just true."

 −Naomi Wolf, in her lecture at Stony Brook on op-ed writing

26 October 2015

"It's wrong to have secret knowledge."

 −Naomi Wolf, in her lecture at Stony Brook on op-ed writing

26 October 2015

"We have a monkey brain. And this brain is not adapted to build long-term computer architecture. This brain is adapted for the quick acquisition of [stops talking, looks away into the distance, (scene reframes to more distant shot of speaker who is focused on eating a banana), (return to original frame)]. Therefore we need a structure to hold ourselves a accountable. And that structure, my friends, is mandatory code reviews."

 −Mattias Petter Johansson, "Unit testing: how to get your team started" Fun Fun Function

11 October 2015

"Human beings are actually foolish enough to think that their conventional worldviews are the highest form of rationality.  They don't factor in intentional deception."

 −Jeran Campanella, in Google Project Loon Proves Flat Earth, apparently with no understanding of pot-kettle, or speck-plank

10 October 2015

"I noticed that quantitative language comes into value judgments...without helping."

  −Nick Friedenberg, discussing the tendency of philosophers to invoke mathematical ideas such as utility

18 September 2015

"[S]aying you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.  It's a fundamentally un-American principle and, more than just nationalism, more than just what this country is about, it's a deeply anti-social principle.  Because rights are not just individual; they're collective.  What may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population, an entire people, or an entire way of life tomorrow.  And if you don't stand up for it, then who will?"

  −Edward Snowden, in an interview on Al Jazeera

15 September 2015

"I wish I was more apathetic. Then I wouldn’t care so much about how much I don’t care."

  −Jesse Pepe

4 September 2015

"Oh, oh, oh, what do you mean?  Better make up your mind.  What do you mean?  You’re so indecisive...."

  −Justin Bieber, Jason Boyd and Mason Levy, "What Do You Mean?", Purpose, Def Jam Recordings

released 28 August 2015

"Right down the road, we have Jeb.  Very small crowd. [...]  So Bush had, I heard, 140−150 people.  We have 2,579 people."

  −Donald J. Trump, speaking in a theater holding 890 people, according to the local fire marshal

19 August 2015

"I can't believe you think I'm narcissistic."

  −Chris Meyers

9 August 2015

"I am not a violent person, but I will throw a drink on a bitch."

  −Victor Medolia

9 August 2015

“You cannot hide General Motors or Walmart in a dataset. It’s too hard to anonymize the data in a way that would still make them useful."

  −Margaret C. Levenstein, in an article on synthetic data in The Atlantic

30 July 2015

“Unlike some engineering disciplines, the 'sweet science of size reduction' is not governed by any general theory. Rather, it’s been mastered pragmatically over time, backed by knowledge of basic physical laws and a lot of trial and error, i.e., the scientific method.”

  −Processing Solutions for the Process Industries, revealing the startling fact that engineers think the scientific method is the same as trial and error

8 July 2015

“An expert with no uncertainty is no expert.”

  −Kari Sentz, at the NIST symposium on forensic science error management

21 July 2015

“[F. James] Rohlf and I were at an anthro meeting once where the world’s top anthropologists gathered around a table to look at casts and fossils. They said things like, ‘That’s STS5, right?’, and ‘And then there’s OH9'.  Rohlf said, ‘I don’t know what to think of a field where everyone’s data points are named.’”

  −Dennis Slice, recounting the 2003 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists

9 July 2015

Everybody always tells you that to make it big in the city you’ll end up having to be a sellout.  I’m not a sellout, but mostly because I’ve never been able to find a buyer.

8 July 2015

“Dave Davies interviews Adam Benforado on NPR about his new book Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice.  They  mention disturbing scientific research that finds undue effects of physical characteristics of witnesses and defendants at trial.  Apparently, people who are attractive are more likely to be believed as witnesses.  As defendants, they are less likely to be convicted, and they get lighter sentences if they are convicted.  Amazingly, the same goes for thin people, and for tall people and people who project confidence.  I’m not sure why such people are more believed than others, but as a short, fat, homely person with a professional interest in uncertainty, I consider this to be a very serious problem.”

6 July 2015

  −Robert J. Frey, “An analysis of 180 years of market drawdowns”, explaining that, despite a consistent growth trend over two centuries, a myopic stock market investor would be in regret 74% of the time

30 June 2015

“It only makes sense to do it that way if everyone wants you to do it that way.”

  −Anne Bichteler

30 June 2015

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.”

  −Justice Anthony Kennedy

26 June 2015

“slow is not a speed. It’s a mindset that most of us somehow lost.  Let’s make time to bring slow back into our life. be slow...”

  −advertising copy for the brilliant and beautiful slow watches which have one hand that cycles once in 24 hours (but I don't understand why they are wearing ties in a park as they climb monkey bars and sled down a hill)


“wtf i just grew a beard....”

  −Alexey Bakh, commenting on a stunning rendition of “Song of the Volga Boatmen” by the Red Army Chorus, featuring Leonid Kharitonov (Леонид Харитонов)


“If you want to administer tests in schools, you need to get permission from the parents.”

  −Elena Yakubovskaya, discussing the use of pre- and post-testing in research in public education

23 June 2015

“These poor kids live in a multiple choice world. They don’t know there could be more than one answer to a problem.” 

  −Elena Yakubovskaya

23 June 2015

Money, in fact, is the most successful story ever invented and told by humans, because it is the only story everybody believes. Not everybody believes in God. Not everybody believes in human rights. Not everybody believes in nationalism. But everybody believes in money, and in the dollar bill. 

  −Yuval Noah Harari, talking about something he believes in, in Why humans run the world, TED

June 2015

Now suppose Ive managed to convince you perhaps that, yes, we control the world because we can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The next question that immediately arises in the mind of [an] inquisitive listener is: how, exactly, do we do it? What enables us, alone of all the animals, to cooperate in such a way? The answer is our imagination. We can cooperate flexibly with countless numbers of strangers, because we alone, of all the animals on the planet, can create and believe fictions, fictional stories. As long as everybody believes in the same fiction, everybody obeys and follows the same rules, the same norms, the same values. All other animals use their communication system only to describe reality. [...] Humans, in contrast, use their language not merely to describe reality but also to create new realities, fictional realities.

  −Yuval Noah Harari, in Why humans run the world", TED, utterly exasperating anyone who is aware of either (i) the commonness of imagination, i.e., conditional thinking (sensu Edgington), which underlies behaviors such as hunting, avoiding predators, and planning that are exhibited ubiquitously by many animals, or (ii) the fact that shared belief cannot explain long-term cooperation which requires some kind of social coercion (sensu Bingham and Souza) against non-cooperating free riders who would otherwise win the evolutionary game because they reap the social benefits without any costs to themselves from believing the story or toeing the line to uphold it

June 2015

“Something went wrong. I don’t know how. But you never do at first.”

  −Anne Bichteler

3 June 2015

“Seems like a myth.

  −metropolan, answering the question of whether Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland actually said the respective lines “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” and “We can use my dad’s barn!”

May 2015

“I used to have real thoughts in my head.”

  −Anita Creed, in recovery from a stroke, who elaborated “I still have real thoughts in my head, but they’re not connected to anything.”

11 May 2015

“If I’d given up the fight the moment I realized I was on the losing side, my career would have been a short one.”

  −Harry Pearce (played by Peter Firth) in the film Spooks: The Greater Good (released in the United States under the title MI-5)

film released 8 May 2015

“You can do good, or you can do well.”

  −Will Holloway (played by Kit Harrington) in the film Spooks: The Greater Good (released in the United States under the title MI-5)

film released 8 May 2015

“I wanted to be a thought leader, but it turns out I’m just a knowledge worker.”

30 April 2015

Scholarship and science have proven the Turin shroud a fake, from its incompatibility with first century burial cloths and procedures, its lack of historical record, and a bishop’s report that the forger had confessed, to the suspicious-looking blood that is really tempera paint, pigments making up the body image, and the radiocarbon dating that confirms the cloth originated at the time of its documented appearance in the fourteenth century—when it was fraudulently claimed to the be Holy Shroud of Christ. Such evidence against any secular object would be considered clear proof of inauthenticity.  Frank Viviano’s article is a disservice to science and unworthy to appear under the respected name National Geographic.

  −Joe Nickell, in his article Fake Turin Shroud deceives National Geographic author” for Skeptical Inquirer commenting on Frank Viviano’s ridiculous article “Why Shroud of Turin’s secrets continue to elude science” which scandalously appeared in National Geographic 

23 April 2015

“Why is it up to anyone?”

  −Ava, an artificial intelligence in the film Ex Machina (played by Alicia Vikander) responding to a discussion about whether or not she lives

film released 10 April 2015

Scott:  “Sorry I’m late for the meeting.  Has Nick made you laugh yet?” 
Emily:  “Not yet.”
Nick:  “We were watching Nine Inch Nails before.”
Scott:  “What?  The one with him hanging from the meat hook?”
Nick:  “But what’s fun is right after that watching ‘Wrecking Ball’.”

1 April 2015

“The original mmm whatcha say isn’t from Jason Derulo. My life is a lie.

  −Kris Malbo, annotating Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” after finding it via Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say”, perhaps also realizing the difference between vocoder and auto tune

~1 April 2015

Max Emerson: “After all,  videos are the new textbooks.
Willam Belli:  Books! [laughs]

  −“Maxs Underpants Episode One - VPL, Guest Starring Willam Belli

11 March 2015

“I know it seems kind of strange.”

  −Michelle Obama, "Billy On The Street with First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird, And Elena!!!" (4:40), who followed up (at 6:35) by agreeing that One Direction are very cute

Published 19 February 2015

“Wouldn’t that be something, if the ads were useful to us.”

  −Kai Ryssdal, Marketplace, American Public Media, discussing a possible benefit of profound privacy invasions expected in marketing and commercialism

13 January 2015

Statisticians are people who like numbers but dont have the personality skills to become accountants.

  −anonymous [attribution sought]


“I need to learn more about the Weibull distribution.  I’m only familiar with the ‘bull’ part.”

  −Nick Friedenberg

9 January 2015

“Careful the things you say / Children will listen / Careful the things you do / Children will see / And learn” // Careful the spell you cast / Not just on children / Sometimes the spell may last / Past what you can see / And turn against you // Careful the tale you tell / That is the spell / Children will listen

  −Stephen Sondheim (sung by Meryl Streep), Into the Woods (adapted from his 1986 Broadway musical of the same name)

theatrically released 25 December 2014

“The Internet of Things?  Oh, that was when humans finally realized that there is no all-seeing god constantly watching them and they felt compelled to build one.”

19 December 2014

“Today, commentary is the content.”

  −Lorde's manager in the South Park episode "#REHASH"

3 December 2014

“One thing I will never forget was a panel of venture capitalists […] four rich guys on the stage who were each asked, ‘What, if anything, would you definitely NOT invest in right now?’  Every. Single. One. Said. Content.’”

  −Hank Green

1 December 2014

“It was there the first time they acknowledged it is easier to change a community, it is easier to change a society, than to change your own identity, and it does much less damage that way.”

  −Thomas Lloyd, “Why am I so gay?” TEDxGeorgetown

published on 19 November 2014

We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings.

  −Ursula K. Le Guin, accepting her National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters© 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin

19 November 2014

“The motto of the State Department should be ‘we talk to foreigners so you don’t have to’.”

  −State Department official, in a light moment

22 October 2014

“The only thing remotely surprising about this is that there are people who supposedly clean airplane cabins.”

  −Scott Ferson, on reading the Washington Post article beginning “Fearful of exposure to Ebola, about 200 of the people who clean airplane cabins walked off the job overnight at LaGuardia International Airport.”

9 October 2014

“Does it seem to you that it’s during the ‘off decades’ that scientific vocabulary abruptly shifts for no apparent reason?  I mean, if you compare the seventies with the nineties and with the current decade (what is it, the teens?), we see that ordination became multidimensional scaling which became self-organizing maps.  And classification became discriminant function analysis which eventually became support vector machine.  I’m not saying they’re exactly the same thing through the decades, but I’m not sure why the overarching term--the very metaphor for what the thing is--had to change.”

October 2014

“Viruses won’t be so bad in the future.”

  −Jason O'Rawe, discussing the possible medical use of enzymes that cut genetic molecules

25 September 2014

“If scientists could be bought, these motherfuckers [Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, Murray Energy Corporation] would have already made it rain in nerd town.  Trust me.”

  −Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, discussing the idea that scientists are motivated to fabricate evidence of climate change by the juicy research grants they receive

23 September 2014

Scott:  “There are a thousand people in this room, and six of you [customs agents at JFK international baggage claim].  How can you be effective?”
Agent:  “We can’t.  We try, but this is a joke.  Today is kind of light.  You should have seen us last month.  ...  Welcome home.”

20 September 2014

“Fun fact:  95% of the people who use the phrase ‘fun fact’ are misusing the word ‘fun’, or the word ‘fact’, or both.”

  −Dave Gorman, Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish

16 September 2014

“And we’ve added more and more con to it, or content to it this year, and so there’s increasingly more things that you can do on there.”

  −Tim Cook, discussing Apple TV on Charlie Rose, while Charlie pretended not to notice the Freudian slip

12 September 2014

“I would love to be plagiarized.  For ideas to survive in the world, they have to have many parents.”

  −Scott Ferson

3 September 2014

“So, Baha Men, it was the mesolithic south western Chinese...who let the dogs out.”

  −Michael Stevens, in Dord., Vsauce, discussing the mitochondrial DNA evidence that all modern dogs may be descended from a wolf domestication event in China over eleven thousand years ago

12 August 2014

“What she’s upset about is the money in politics.  People think they’re too young to know about this stuff, but, trust me, they know.  The Supreme Court is making babies cry.”

  −Nick Friedenberg, reacting to an infant crying in a restaurant

6 August 2014

“The smartest answer you can give if you don’t know the answer is ‘I don’t know’.”

  −Jay Carney, former Press Secretary to Obama on The Late Show with David Letterman

30 July 2014

“...picture-based science...”

  −Nick Friedenberg, referring the seeming triumph of form over substance in the recent rise of graphics, maps, animations that dazzle but do not inform or even carry meaning

29 July 2014

Scott: “Have you heard of the generalized method of matching moments?”
Nick: “Only in a very general way.”

28 July 2014

“You know, we often think about the Second Law [of Thermodynamics] as a curse.  As though everything which is ordered is going towards disorder.  But, maybe, I mean it's only in a universe where this law is obeyed that the truly unexpected can occur, that the future can be actually undetermined.  For us, really, to have free will, we need the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Now you might think that these quantum events are too small to have any meaningful impact on the evolution of the universe, but that is not true.  And that's because there are physical systems which are so dependent, so sensitive to the initial conditions that any tiny change will end up making a big difference later down the track.  That's called 'chaos', but it's also known as the 'Butterfly Effect'.  So you and I could be such physical systems, chaotic systems, and our free will could come from quantum events in our brains.”

  −Derek Muller, “What is NOT random?”, Veritasium

16 July 2014

“There's a whole literature on interval calculations.”

  −newcomer at the ICVRAM-ISUMA meeting, addressing Vladik Kreinovich

13 July 2014

  ( Identify information needs )  ←←¬
                    ↓                                                      ↑
      ( Make decisions )                                  
                    ↓                                                      ↑
        ( Conduct science)   →→→→→↑

  −graph in scientific presentation by government scientist (the graph provoked no comment from the audience)

10 July 2014

Discussant:  “These issues affect everyone in the same way  I see a lot of common ground that we all walk on.  No one's trying to shirk their responsibility.  But there's a lot of data we can share; I see a lot of things we can collude on, a lot of ways that we can come together to cooperate on in our common interests.”

Moderator:  “Don’t say collude.”

9 July 2014

“In probability theory and statistics, the Dirichlet process is one of the most popular Bayesian nonparametric models. [...] A Dirichlet process DP(s, G0) is completely defined by its parameters: G0 is an arbitrary distribution and s is a positive real number.”  [italics added and parentheticals omitted]

  −Alessiobe, in the Wikipedia article “Imprecise Dirichlet process”, exemplifying why I cannot understand when Bayesians talk

1 July 2014

“Perhaps one day we will learn this lesson of the Tamarians: that understanding how the world works is a more promising approach to intervention within it than mere description or depiction. Until then, well: Shaka, when the walls fell.”

  −Ian Bogost, “Shaka, when the walls fell”, The Atlantic

18 June 2014

Every morning we’re born brand new
Dreams are funny little things, they only work if you do

  −Kid Quill (Mitchell Brown), “Brand New”, Ear to Ear, Norham Road Records

album originally released 14 June 2014

“Our very first tool in the book is learn to say ‘I don’t know.’”

  −Stephen J. Dubner, “How to think like a freak: learn how to make smarter decisions with the authors of Freakonomics”, intelligence2

28 May 2014

“That’s the thing about infinity.  You never run out of it.”

  −Derek Muller, Misconceptions about the universe, Veritasium

27 May 2014

“With Big Data comes big uncertainty, Peter.”

  −Jason O'Rawe

26 May 2014

“Overfitting models is in vogue right now.  Isn’t that the whole idea behind machine learning?”

  −Jason O'Rawe

16 May 2014

“We now have the ability to manage risks with more than a color chart.”

  −Robert Garrett

7 May 2014

“Philosophically, models are assumption analyzers.”

  −Omkar Aphale

7 May 2014

“In GLUE, the choice of the objective function is subjective.”

  −Omkar Aphale

7 May 2014

Pat:  “You’d be proud of me.  I hardly spent any money.”
Scott:  “Good for you.”
Pat:  “You wanna see the jewels I got?”

16 March 2014

“Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.”

  −Alain de Botton, quoted in an article on procrastination by Megan Mcardle in The Atlantic

published 12 February 2014


  −Benny, a “1980-something space guy”, voiced by Charlie Day, in The Lego Movie

7 February 2014

Scott:   “[Our colleague here in France] seems to be away from the office a lot.”
Sébastien:   “There are a lot of vacations.”
Michel:   “No, no.  We’re not always on vacation.  Sometimes we’re on strike.”

27 January 2014

Dan:  “The population growth models [in the global climate change assessments] are all done by economists.  They just use logistic growth.”
Scott:  “Larry Slobodkin lived and died in vain.”

9 January 2014

“Clearly, app-based health care is the future of modern medicine.”

  −Stephen Colbert, reviewing Doctor on Demand

8 January 2014

“What Condi Rice and the old guys at RAND failed to realize is that, although game theory is more relevant than traditional decision theory, game theory is not always the correct metaphor for dealing with competing human agents.  We need a new theoretical approach, one that is based fundamentally on the interactions of agents, one that eschews the crippling naivete of game-theoretic constructions. Utility theory is this century’s version of Ptolemaic epicycles.  It can explain everything, but this means that, in the end, it explains nothing.”

27 December 2013

“Uncertainty analysis is too important to be left in the hands of the analyst.”

  −Scott Ferson, suggesting that it should be done automatically by computer

5 December 2013

“I love the claim that it is unrealistic to expect experts to provide estimates of bounds on a median, but that it’s fine [to expect them] to provide a fixed number instead.”

  −Willem Roelofs, about the guidance of EFSA "Guidance on expert knowledge elicitation in food and feed safety risk assessment" (to appear in EFSA Journal), particularly section 2.1.2 Uncertainty Elicitation

11 November 2013

[interview of former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael J. Morell by 60 Minutes correspondent John Miller in episode “The Deputy Director: Mike Morell”]
Miller:  “After Iraq, CIA analysts were required, not just to analyze the intelligence, but also give an assessment of their level of confidence in what the Agency spies were reporting.”
Morell:  “And so what we really learned from that experience was that analysts need to think about their confidence level and to be very, very clear with policy makers about it.”
Miller:  “That would happen today?”
Morell:  “That would happen today.”
Miller:  “As a matter of...?”
Morell:  “As a matter of course.  As a matter of discipline.  As a matter of the trade craft of doing intelligence analysis.”

(broadcast date) 27 October 2013

“Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.”

  −Will Mckenzie, continuing the use of cookie psychology to explain profound issues that may have begun with the classic but unattributed (and multiform) quip “I was eating Oreos and I was dunking it in milk, and the cookie broke and sank to the now I’m just staring at the glass and wondering why bad things happen to good people.”

17 October 2013

“...There’s a lot of uncertainty about uncertainty estimation.  And there’s good reason for that...because there’s no right answer.”

  −Keith Beven, in a lecture “Breakthroughs in Uncertainty” at the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan

3 October 2013

A: “Well, the software essentially reads the web, and it understands the natural-language statements that appear there, including their logical implications. It accesses the entire corpus of English text on the indexable web, and employs sentiment analysis and partially unsupervised learning in a multidimensional classifier based on Bayesian networks.”
Q: “Really? Does it handle sarcasm?”
A: “I don’t know, but the software is very sophisticated. I’m sure it has a way to deal with it.”
Q: “Are you being sarcastic?”

September 2013

“Arts degrees are awesome. And they help you find meaning where there is none. And let me assure you, there is none. Don’t go looking for it. Searching for meaning is like searching for a rhyme scheme in a cookbook: you won’t find it and you’ll bugger up your soufflé.”

  −Tim Minchin

25 September 2013

“I really do believe every word, but know that I may not have been careful and cautious in the arguments up to your standards.  So I’m interested in where you think I am sloppy and where you thing I am wrong and where you think I am lying.  You may note that I did not offer delusional as an option.  Let me know if I should have.”  

  −Scott Ferson, in instructions to a reviewer

25 August 2013

Nick:  “The slide is cluttered and ugly.”

Scott:  “An ugly slide can be improved.  The real problem is that the slide is specious.  You can’t fix specious.”

2 August 2013

“The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects or the “Common Rule” was published in 1991 and codified in separate regulations by 15 Federal departments and agencies, as listed below.”


accessed August 2013

“You see, everybody, just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal.”

  −Bill Nye, the Science Guy, “Could We Stop an Asteroid, Feat. Bill Nye” on AsapSCIENCE

23 July 2013

“[I]t is possible and worthwhile to compute with what we actually know, rather than making pretend-calculations with what we would like to know.”

  −Scott Ferson

17 July 2013

“Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter?”

  −Rosa Dasque (played by Anamaria Marinca) in the film Europa Report, screenplay by Philip Gelatt and directed by Sebastián Cordero

released 27 June 2013

“[Probabilistic risk analysis] allows us to get away from the dichotomous language about Type I and Type II errors.”

  −Bruce Hope of CH2M Hill at a meeting sponsored by CropLife America in Washington

20 June 2013

“I was tested a number of times for the same medical condition, but the results of the tests were inconsistent. My physician recommended pursuing a treatment with unpleasant side effects, although a second opinion from another reputable authority disagreed about both the diagnosis and treatment.  My physician said he had sent my bloodwork to a lab using the ‘most sensitive test’. I asked about the Type 1 and Type 2 errors of that test given its sensitivity. I had to clarify that this meant false positives and false negatives. The physician said that, not only did he did not know that information, but he had no idea how it would be possible to obtain such information about a medical test.”

  −[medical patient, anonymized for privacy]

19 May 2013

“Being lectured by statisticians about my bad notation is like being lectured by the United States government on my war making.”

  −Scott Ferson, in response to reviewers

15 May 2013

“Now, I know this for a fact because I know the people that are, you know, are concerned about this and so, so there’s no downside if I’m wrong on this.”

  −Senator James Inhofe, discussing a putative government conspiracy to buy up ammunition to keep it from gun owners, The Laura Ingraham Show

29 April 2013

“You know what? If people are going to call Gaussian Process models ‘nonparametric’, then I am going to use the word ‘bootstrap’ however I want.”

  −Michael Balch

18 April 2013

“He made a sound argument, in that he made a sound.”

  −Steven Colbert

4 April 2013

“There will always be sampling error.”

  −Statistics Learning Centre, in Understanding Confidence Intervals: Statistics Help, neglecting the case where the entire population is measured

26 March 2013

Andrei:  “[As a child] I was a pioneer in the Soviet Union.  It’s like boy scouts.  We had to wear a red handkerchief around our necks, and it had to be properly ironed or they’d punish you.”

Nick:  “You think it’s different here?  In Brooklyn, if you’re not ironic, you’re out.”

    22 February 2013

I like to quote because I think dead people shouldn