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Information and Inference: new journal with free content for two years

The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications has launched a new journal, Information and Inference: a Journal of the IMA. This aims to

publish high quality mathematically-oriented articles, furthering the understanding of the theory, methods of analysis, and algorithms for information and data.
Articles should be written in a way accessible to researchers in the associated topics in pure and applied mathematics, statistics, computer sciences, and electrical engineering. Articles are published in, but not limited to: information theory, statistical inference, network analysis, numerical analysis, learning theory, applied and computational harmonic analysis, probability, combinatorics, signal processing, and high-dimensional geometry.

According to the website, “all content will be free to access for the first two years of publication of the journal”. You can sign up for free email table of contents alerts.

The first paper, ‘The masked sample covariance estimator: an analysis using matrix concentration inequalities‘, has been made available for advanced online access.

More information: Oxford Journals: Information and Inference: a Journal of the IMA.

The Table Never Lies

The table never lies, or so they say. So when Manchester City were crowned Premier League Champions last week everyone seemed to agree that they were the best team in the league. As Roberto Mancini said, they had scored more than United and conceded less and beaten them twice in the league. Although United finished on the same number of points it would be difficult to find a measure by which they deserved the title over City. Or would it?

A student is artistic and loves poetry. Is it more likely she’s studying Chinese or Business?

Let’s suppose that:

  1. $60\%$ of students who study Chinese are artistic and love poetry.
  2. $20\%$ of students who study Business are artistic and love poetry, and
  3. Only about $1\%$ of students study Chinese, whereas about $15\%$ of students study Business.

Thus, out of every $1000$ students, there are $10$ studying Chinese, of whom $6$ are artistic and love poetry, and also there are $150$ studying Business, of whom $30$ are artistic and love poetry.

So if a student is artistic and loves poetry, it’s $5$ times more likely she’s studying Business than Chinese.

So much for preconceptions (and “correlation”).

The Odds Gods smile on birthday/card matches

The classic birthday problem asks how many people are required to ensure a greater than 50% chance of having at least one birthday match, meaning that two or more people share a birthday. The surprisingly small answer, assuming that all birthdays are equally likely and ignoring leap years like 2012, is 23 people.

A Noether Theorem for Markov Processes

• Puzzle 1. Suppose I have a box of jewels. The average value of a jewel in the box is \$10. I randomly pull one out of the box. What’s the probability that its value is at least \$100?

• Puzzle 2. Suppose I have a box full of numbers—they can be arbitrary real numbers. Their average is zero, and their standard deviation is 10. I randomly pull one out. What’s the probability that it’s at least 100?

John Baez and Brendan Fong claim to have answered questions like these, but in a general way that is useful for quantum mechanics:

They’ve written a paper and a blog post.

A Dismal Performance from the Dismal Science

Paul J. Ferraro and Laura O. Taylor ask, “Do Economists Recognize an Opportunity Cost When They See One? A Dismal Performance from the Dismal Science

One expects people with graduate training in economics to have a deeper understanding of economic processes and reasoning than people without such training. However, as others have noted over the past 25 years, modern graduate education may emphasize mathematics and technique to the detriment of economic reasoning. One of the most important contributions economics has to offer as a discipline is the understanding of opportunity cost and how to apply this concept to all forms of decision making. We examine how PhD economists answer an introductory economics textbook question that requires identifying the relevant opportunity cost of an action. The results are not consistent with our expectation that graduate training leads to a deeper understanding of the concept. We explore the implications of our results for the relevance of economists in policy, research, and teaching.

Importantly, given four options, only 21.6% of respondents chose the correct one. They performed worse than chance. Some feeble statistical analysis is performed by the authors.

This challenges none of my views about economists: none of them can do maths; none of them can do statistics; what they do has very little rational basis; they are terrible at designing questions for undergrads that don’t require you to make assumptions, often drawing heavily on cultural knowledge.

Found via MetaFilter, which compares the problem to the Monty Hall problem in probability. Nowhere near, in my opinion.

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