Category Archives: Random Musings

Do the Laws of Probability Mean Anything?

Hey guys, as you may have picked up on from my last couple posts, I was fairly sick this week. I'm not completely over it, but I have had the energy to do more than lie around all day doing nothing. Naturally, one of my top priorities has been playing Rock, Paper Scissors (RPS).

I'm not going to re-visit the history leading up to today's post. You can read the last post I wrote on this subject here. The short version is it seems no matter what I do, I keep beating a computer opponent that makes random choices. This shouldn't be possible. The odds of winning, losing or tying in RPS should be 1/3 when one opponent picks options at random.

Today's post is about an update to my methodology and the results it leads to. I've played 10,000 matches after the update, and I have won 3,454 of those matches. That gives me a win rate of 34.54%, a result that is "statistically significant" at the 99% level.
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How is This Possible?

I've been staying in bed for the last couple days due to being sick, and it's possible I'm going a bit stir-crazy. I might also be suffering fever hallucinations. However, I don't help but think there is something wrong with this:

That's a screenshot of my phone's battery monitor. It shows the phone's battery status since I turned it on several hours ago after it had been dead overnight since I forgot to put it on a charger. It hasn't been plugged into anything since I turned it on. It doesn't have any sort of remote charger.

Am I hallucinating, is there some sort of bug in the programming, or did my phone battery's charge really go up while in use?

Have the Laws of Probability Been Broken?

I've been trying to finish my next post involving a case study of the misuse and abuse of statistics to claim to prove global warming skeptics possess certain negative traits (my last post regarding this can be found here). Unfortunately, a number of things are getting in the way. Of special note is it's difficult to talk about statistics as I've largely lost faith in the laws of probability.
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Is It Just Me?

I've mostly recovered from a recent illness, and I've working on a new post in line with what I've been discussing recently. I'm still a bit tired though. As such, rather than worry about technical discussions, I wanted to ask a question. John Cook is the proprietor of the Skeptical Science website. Here is a picture of him:

For the last few years, this picture has bugged me. Every time I saw a picture of Cook, I felt like I had seen it him somewhere before. Today, I finally realized why he seemed so familiar. It might be silly/crazy, but... doesn't he kind of look like Donny Osmond?

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Plagiarism is Bad... Sort Of

I'm a bit under the weather so my activity is limited, but I couldn't resist a recent story. Yesterday, I saw a lady named Monica Crowley has said she won't take a job offered by President Elect Donald Trump. The reason is it was recently discovered Crowley was guilty of a significant amount of plagiarism, both in her PhD dissertation and a book she wrote. If you want details, it is easy to find any number of news stories about this.

I don't really care about that. I get plagiarism is bad, and I understand why it would lead to Crowley backing out of a government job. What I don't get is why nobody seems to be talking about the rather coincidental timing of Crowley announcing her decision not to take this job. If you didn't know, yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

And if you don't know why that matters, well, Martin Luther King Jr. was a cheat. He only got his PhD due to a massive amount of plagiarism. Not only was a approximately a third of his PhD dissertation copied from other sources, but King resorted to plagiarism in many of his other papers. For his dissertation, King borrowed especially heavily from a previous graduate student's dissertation. He even had the audacity to praise the dissertation he plagiarized in his own dissertation! to make things even stranger, that student, Jack Boozer, had the same graduate adviser as King. It's remarkable King's adviser didn't notice one of his students copied thousands of words written by another of his students.

There's a lot more to both plagiarism stories, but the details aren't important. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated as a hero with most people not knowing, much less caring, about him cheating many times and to significant extents. Now, even as he's celebrated, a person is being shamed out of a job in the new president's administration due to plagiarism.

So remember folks, plagiarism is bad. Sort of.

Some Notes on Misinformation About "Russian" Hacks

My last post highlighted a strange aspect of discussion of recent claims of Russian involvement in cyberattacks against the Demoncratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the United States Democratic party. Namely, a government report detailing aspects of the attacks has been misinterpreted/misrepresented as intending to provide evidence of Russian involvement when in reality it is merely discussing details of the nature of the attacks.

This misinterpretation has many causes, but one important aspect is report has been disseminated with text like:

On October 7, 2016, the Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement on election security compromises. DHS has released a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) attributing those compromises to Russian malicious cyber activity, designated as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

The JAR package offers technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services (RIS).

The first paragraph attributes the attacks to Russian activity, but the next paragraph does not follow up on that point. It merely refers to "technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by" Russians. A person might be forgiven for thinking this has some connection to the case in the former paragraph, but it is in fact a different issue.

This report does contain attribution of Russian involvement, but it does not claim to offer evidence to support that attribution. This is fundamental point has escaped most people discussing the report. Today, I'd like to highlight some of the resulting misinformkation.
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