## Emily’s laws of system complexity

First Law For every reduction, there is a greater and opposite clusterfuck. Second Law The first law is a reductionist statement.

## church to bar ratio, by U.S. county (3rd edition)

Church to bar ratio by county from U.S. Census Bureau data: The brighter the color, the higher the church to bar ratio. Counties missing data necessary for the computation are shown in black. Method From the 2013 County Business Patterns data published at http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/download/, I extracted the number of establishments in each county that have […]

## church to bar ratio, by U.S. county

Church to bar ratio by county from U.S. Census Bureau data: The brighter the color, the higher the church to bar ratio. Counties missing data necessary for the computation are shown in black. Method From the 2011 County Business Patterns data published at http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/download/index.htm, I extracted the number of establishments in each county that have […]

## statistical reasoning in “The Simpsons”, part two

In a previous post, I wrote about how Lisa Simpson applied statistical reasoning during an episode of The Simpsons. Another recent episode (“The Saga of Carl Carlson”, aired 19 May 2013) demonstrated probabilistic thinking: At the science museum, the Simpsons family enters the Hall of Probability: There they see a demonstration of the binomial distribution, with […]

## statistical reasoning in the “The Simpsons”

FOX recently* broadcasted a fundamental question that drives good science: “I’m sure there’s a correlation, but could there be a causation?” The intrepid Lisa Simpson, the greatest cartoon scientist of our time, spoke these words after observing a pair of scorpions become docile in the presence of a specific plant. Quality statistical reasoning rarely gets […]

## 21504 to 1 odds the sun will rise tomorrow: an illustration of Bayesian reasoning

The following preposterous case illustrates the Bayesian worldview: Prior estimate If you ask a mathematically-gifted newborn for the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow, they might reply: “The probability that the sun will rise tomorrow follows a beta distribution with parameters a = b = 2.” Since the mean of the above distribution is […]

## DIY caffeine pharmacokinetics

A night of insomnia last weekend prompted me to build a mathematical model of my caffeine throughput. System dynamics provides the framework: Model description The stock and flow diagram shown above describes the basic system:  “Pipes” represent caffeine flow into and out of “reservoirs” (the boxes) that store caffeine. The text labels denote system variables, […]

## the lunar cycle: not a partner in crime

Emily Williams and Stacie Dutton, SETEC Astronomy, San Francisco, California, USA Despite abundant scientific evidence refuting the connection, the “lunar effect” persists as a common explanation for temporal variation in human behavior. Adherents of this idea implicate the lunar cycle in outcomes as diverse as lost elections and hemophilic episodes. We find the myth woven […]

## werewolf transcriptome conjecture

Lycanthropy—the sudden transformation of individuals into wolf-human chimeras during full moon periods—remains one of the least understood medical conditions persisting today. Researchers find investigation of the phenomenon doubly confounded by social stigma (who wants to tell a scientist that they are a werewolf?) and sampling difficulty (how many werewolves will actually sit still for a […]

## how to convince your parents to abandon dial-up internet

Many readers will be familiar with the scenario: Your parents still use dial-up internet, no matter what arguments you make. Sometimes it takes creative social engineering to resolve the issue. Here is how I finally convinced my mom to get cable internet service: I live in a hazardous land ravaged by gila monsters, tornadoes, drive-through […]