When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Life's a terminal disease.

The Buddhists have it right - life sucks.

"Eat well, keep fit, die anyway"

"Since this life here and now is all we can know, our most reasonable option is to live it fully." - Paul Kurtz
"The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'" - Sigmund Freud


One more lesson we must learn from the Fall of Singapore and the Japanese Occupation:

No matter how benevolent, noble or competent your rulers may appear or make themselves out to be, or how much they profess to be serving their people, they always have their own interests at heart, not those of the people they govern.

So eternal vigilance and ceaseless questioning is a must.


Someone came up with the most silly hypothetical argument against the death penalty in Singapore being rescinded for drug traffickers: "now its so indoctrinated...if we were to let him off...then it would be unfair to e rest who have been hanged"

The sad thing is, I can actually see one or two people seriously using this argument. I wonder if they'd say the same about allowing other constituencies to have opposition candidates contesting them, or it would be "unfair" to those others who can't vote.


Me on another ridiculous Straits Times Forum letter: Why do we need a propaganda department when the people themselves spout it?

Molly Meek: Maybe the machine has evolved from one that produces propaganda to one that serves as an outlet for people who spout it? This is how we become an "inclusive" society.


What's the story on numerology? - "The King James translation of the bible was published in the year 1611, when Shakespeare was 46. In the 46th psalm, the 46th word from the top is "Shake" and the 46th word from the bottom (discounting the liturgical instruction "selah") is "spear." What more proof could you need that Shakespeare wrote the KJV?"
I love the hidden meanings revealed by numbers!

White Elephant T-shirts are now available. I've placed an order. Have you? Actually I'm very sad. I wired them the money on the night of the 16th, but still haven't gotten my T-shirt. It was supposed to have been sent out "within this week", so it should be in the mail by now. And I was looking forward to wearing it to my exam today...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mandela shows he's out to undermine South Africa

IN RECENT days, the campaign worldwide to stop apartheid in South Africa has intensified.

Amid calls to take the case to the International Court of Justice, South African seditionist Nelson Mandela has chosen to lend his support in protest against apartheid.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mandela called on South Africa to end 'many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites'.

He added that 'I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation.'

In my opinion, his comments are clearly unhelpful and unconstructive. They show the extent Mandela will go to to align himself with other Western democracies to undermine South Africa.

Lest Mandela is mistaken, apartheid is a purely domestic matter that no other country has a right to interfere in. It is simply letting our laws run their course.

Mind you, our laws are very clear as to how apartheid should be enforced.

Our laws and statutes state clearly that apartheid shall be practised in South Africa. "Europeans Only" and "Non-Europeans Only" signs, too, are displayed prominently.

Citizens of South Africa know that apartheid prevails in South Africa, yet they choose to reside here.

Our laws are applied fairly across the board to South Africans and foreigners alike. In this case, our Government has found no grounds for abolishing apartheid.

The United Nations has passed, under Article 13(1)(a) of the U.N. Charter, a Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The Convention declares that "apartheid is a crime against humanity," and it criminalizes the principal features of apartheid, namely murder, torture, and arbitrary arrests of members of one particular race group. Unfortunately, they fail to realise that the United Nations is the party commiting a crime against South Africa for refusing to recognise South Africa's sovereign right to let our laws run their course.

As a South African, it is shameful of Mandela to actively call on other countries to interfere in South Africa's judicial and legislative process.

This is another clear example of how low he will stoop to undermine South Africa, through every means possible.

Alan Keyes


Chee shows he's out to undermine S'pore

Thursday, November 24, 2005

4 down, 1 to go!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A forum posting helpfully combining my next (and last!) 2 papers:

In the last chapter of the text, Cosmides and Tooby proposes, via the frequentist hypothesis, that human cognitive mechanisms are designed to work with frequency representations (both input and output) and thus are ill equipped to work with percentage and probability data. The famous medical diagnosis problem is also presented and it is shown how people perform poorly on the percentage/probability version, better on the frequency information version and best on the active pictorial frequency version.

However, the text mentioned that 45% of experts at Harvard Medical School answered 95% (taken as ignoring base rates of false positives) when the actual answer was 2%. There are actually studies that suggest that this error rate is even higher. Eddy (1982) posed a similar medical diagnosis problem to actual physicians, and 95% of the physicians’ answers were near to 10 times that of the actual probability of the person who tested positive, actually having the disease. In a more recent replication, Hoffrage and Gigerenzer (1998) found similar results with physicians again.

It is probably the case that physicians receive little training in statistics, but a similar problem plagues scientists, including psychologists (who receive sufficiently rigorous training in statistics) in the case of practicing null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) in research. In a nutshell (for those who are unfamiliar) NHST requires that one specify a pair of hypotheses; the first is called the null hypothesis, which is usually a statement of little or no effect (in contrast to the researcher’s aim to find an effect). NHST yields a probability value, p, which is the probability of the data occurring given that the null hypothesis is true. If this probability is low enough (a criterion of 5% is the norm, also known as the alpha level), the null hypothesis is rejected in favour of the alternative hypothesis, which is what most researchers hope for.

Inadequacies of such a system aside, the p value can be expressed as P(data|null is true). However, many scientists wish instead to know P(null is true|data), which is the probability that the null hypothesis is true, given that the data has occurred. The two are not the same, and to find the latter one would need to perform a Bayesian maneuver which requires information about the base rates of the null and alternative hypotheses being true. However, many scientists commit a serious error here by ignoring the requirement that base rates need to be known for the latter to be calculated. For example, Oakes (1986) found that 96 percent of academic psychologists believed that a significance test (i.e. the p value) indicated the probability of the null hypothesis (directly believing this to be the p-value) or the alternative hypothesis (subtracting the p-value from 1) being true.

This is a little different from the medical diagnosis problem, as base rates are usually unknown in psychological research. I think, however, that the failure to acknowledge the requirement of base rates in calculations, as well as poor operational ability with percentage and probabilistic data underlie both problems.

I’m not sure whether there is a good way to portray the information NHST works on in frequency formats similar to what Cosmides and Tooby did, or whether such a way will reduce such inferential errors by NHST users, but I’m quite sure that it would be a really troublesome modification to an already troublesome procedure. Efforts to train students and teachers alike in conditional probability and Bayesian reasoning have met with little success (Sedlmeier, 1999). Perhaps scientists should just realize that they are just as human as everyone else and that these reasoning errors are a constantly looming threat while conducting research. Just my two cents’ worth!

Incidentally "just some thoughts", "my two cents worth" and variants thereof are simultaneously the most annoying and most common forum signatures one can see, especially if followed by a smiley.
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