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We have 2 classes of forecasters: Those who don’t know . . . and those who don’t know they don’t know. – John Kenneth Galbraith

“Murphys law of economic policy”: Economists have the least influence on policy where they know the most and are most agreed; they have the most influence on policy where they know the least and disagree most vehemently. – Alan S. Blinder

Two economists are walking down the street. One sees a dollar lying on the sidewalk, and says so. “Obviously not,” says the other. “If there were, someone would have picked it up!”

More jokes:

Q: Why do people decide to become statisticians?
A: They find accounting too exciting.

Three statisticians go deer hunting with bows and arrows. They spot a big buck and take aim. One shoots and his arrow flies off three metres to the right. The second shoots and his arrow flies off three metres to the left. The third statistician jumps up and down yelling; We got him! We got him!

Did you hear about the statistician who drowned in a lake averaging only 2 inches in depth?

Definition of a statistician: A mathematician broken down by age and sex.

Statistician — someone who insists on being certain about uncertainty.

A statistician is a person whose lifetime ambition is to be wrong 5% of the time.

On statistical independence: I read that there’s about 1 chance in 1000 that someone will board an airplane carrying a bomb. So I started carrying a bomb with me on every flight I take; I figure the odds against two people having bombs are astronomical.

On statistical power: Here are the results of our drug testing study on rabbits: 1/3 of the sample died; 1/3 of the sample survived; the other one ran away.

One day there was a fire in a wastebasket in the dean’s office and in rushed a physicist, a chemist, and a statistician. The physicist immediately starts to work on how much energy would have to be removed from the fire to stop the combustion. The chemist works on which regent would have to be added to the fire to prevent oxidation. While they are doing this, the statistician is setting fires to all the other wastebaskets in the office. “What are you doing?” they demanded. “Well to solve the problem, obviously you need a large sample size” the statistician replies.

Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.
– Aaron Levenstein

Someone read in the Script that God protects all fools and decided to test it empirically. He jumped out of the window and broke a leg. There he lies, writhing in pain, and happily thinks: ‘I never really considered myself a fool, but I never knew I was THAT clever!’.

The Scientific Study of General Intelligence: Tribute to Arthur Jensen:

Well into the 1960s, a furious debate considered whether schizophrenia had a genetic component or not. Evidence from twin studies was strongly suggestive but always confounded with shared environment. Then researchers funded by the American NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) reported the first data from the Denmark Adoption studies (Kety et al 1971). They found that adopted-away offspring of biological parents with schizophrenia were more likely to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorders in adulthood than adopted-away controls of normal biological parents. A researcher opposing the genetic hypothesis literally had a heart attack at the scientific meeting when this was presented.


Fig. 1. The nine circles of scientific hell
Sinners condemned to this circle must constantly dodge the attacks of demons armed with bows and arrows, firing more or less at random. Every time someone is hit in some part of their body, a demon proceeds to explain at length that it was aiming for that exact spot all along.
Eighth Circle: Partial Publication of Data
At any given time, exactly half of the sinners here are chased around by demons prodding them with spears. The demons choose which group to chase at random, after ensuring that the groups are matched for age, gender, height, and weight. Howling winds fill the air with a constant torrent of articles announcing the success of a new program to enhance participation in physical exercise—but with no mention of the side effects.

Simplicio has a car where the tires are getting old and worn-out, and they were never very good tires to begin with. The question arises, would new tires work better? He decides to test this hypothesis. In obedience to the One Variable at a Time principle, he changes one tire at a time, and observes the results. It turns out that no matter which tire he chooses, replacing that one tire makes things worse. The ordinary driving is marginally worse, ordinary braking is worse, and braking in the most demanding situations is very much worse and indeed quite dangerous. On the basis of this evidence he decides not to install any new tires.

smbc 20140816

More jokes:

A Bayesian is one who, vaguely expecting a horse, and catching a glimpse of a donkey, strongly believes he has seen a mule.

Andrew Gelman quotes:

In statistics it’s enough for our results to be cool. In psychology they’re supposed to be correct. In economics they’re supposed to be correct and consistent with your ideology.

More boys are born than girls to compensate for the fact that at any age, boys die more than girls. So 55% are boys at the embryo stage, and then we reach an equal sex ratio at age 20, which I’m told is convenient, and then eventually you’ve got grandma by herself.

Can you forget the last five minutes? Thanks. Including the part where I said to forget the last five minutes.

On statistical independence: In cage 1, they all die, and then in cage 2 they all hear about it, and they’re like, ‘Don’t eat that shit, man.’


Ignorance: If your poker opponent got lucky cards four times in a row, he must get lousy cards now.
Knowledge: Nope, the deals are independent; prior observations have no bearing on the next deal.
Wisdom: The opponent is cheating.


I also like gym, but rarely go there: it doesn’t work out. I stopped using stairs, because they are up to something. I wanted to learn how to juggle, but I don’t have the balls to do it.

I work at MIT, the work place with the best dam mascot: Tim the Beaver. My salary is not big, and I stopped saving money after I lost interest. I’m no photographer, but I have pictured myself outside of MIT too. I am a mathematician, which is the most spiritual profession: I am very comfortable with higher powers. I praise myself on great ability to think outside the box: it is mostly due to my claustrophobia. I am also a bit of a philosopher: I can go on talking about infinity forever.

I would love to tell you a joke. I recently heard a good one about amnesia, but I forgot how it goes.

My biggest problem is with English. So what if I don’t know what apocalypse means? It’s not the end of the world!