Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Minimum Viable Paper?

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

I recently read The Lean Startup for work. One idea central to the lean startup methodology is that of a minimum viable product (MVP): in product development, the MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future development.

This got me thinking about the possibility of a ‘minimum viable paper’ in academic writing. Appropriating the description of MVP above, a minimum viable paper would be something along the following lines: a paper with just enough material to expound the core ideas of the thesis and satisfy early reviewers, and to provide feedback for refining the paper and developing the details.

Could this save resources by reducing time and effort spent on papers that would ultimately be rejected, either because the thesis is not good enough or the reviewers are simply not inclined to accept it?

The Wit of Bertrand Russell

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

I have collected most of Bertrand Russell’s books over the years. Browsing through Dear Bertrand Russell recently, the following passage made me laugh and reminded me of how he is quite possibly the wittiest of all philosophers. A correspondent writes:

I am grateful for your autobiography. Thank you. I have already thanked God …

to which Russell replies

I am pleased that you liked my autobiography, but troubled that you thanked God for it, because that suggests that He has infringed my copyright.

Kardashian Index Calculator

Friday, February 17th, 2017

The (amusing) Kardashian Index is a measure of the discrepancy between an academic’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.

I have whipped up an online Kardashian Index Calculator, largely because I have wanted to try out some website HTML scraping and Twitter API connecting.

Gödel’s U.S. Constitution Loophole and Trump

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

The election of Donald “Buffoon” Trump got me thinking about the story of Kurt Gödel’s U.S. citizenship hearing and how he claimed to have discovered an inconsistency in the Constitution that could allow the U.S. to become a dictatorship.

Turns out there is some discussion and research of the topic:

The Problem with the #WikiLeaks Hillary Clinton Leaks #Elections2016

Monday, August 29th, 2016

WikiLeaks has recently released a collection of confidential documents that originated from within Hillary Clinton’s camp. They also claim that there will be more documents forthcoming within the next few months. Here are some articles on the matter:

One thing that I find problematic about these releases is that they are confined to just one of the two main presidential candidates. It might very well be the case that Donald Trump has done a ton of things that would be similarly damaging to his campaign. Without omniscience, without knowing that there is no such damaging information about Donald Trump, is it right to only release damaging information about the one candidate you happen to have the dirt on?

Sure there is a sense in which it is appropriate to disclose such information for the sake of truth and transparency. But in a situation such as an election, where damaging revelations can effect the outcome, the lack of total knowledge and asymmetry with regards to candidate revelations feels problematic.

What is the Opposite of an Echo Chamber?

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

To quote Wikipedia, “In news media an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented”.

The internet and social media have really increased the prevalence of echo chambers. Here are some articles on the phenomenon:

It has become apparent that Twitter is largely (at least for me) a left-wing echo chamber. This makes me wonder about the possibility of an opposite effect, whereby someone aligned with one end of a spectrum moves some degree away from it as they become averse to the regressiveness, amplification, repetition and uncritical reinforcement conduced by the echo chamber.

Probability, Truthlikeness and the Cenk Uygur versus Sam Harris Debate

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

I became aware of the Young Turks and their main man Cenk Uygur earlier this year. As the months have gone by and I have watched more of their YouTube clips, Uygur’s arrogance, ignorance and general thickheadedness has become more apparent.

One conversation that I found interesting is the one Uygur had with Sam Harris, particularly the following portion, as it involves discussion relevant to truthlikeness and probability:

In this discussion, Harris makes the point that Mormonism is slightly more improbable/absurd than other Christian faiths because it makes the more specific claim that Jesus will return to Jackson County, Missouri rather than the more general claim that he will return to somewhere on Earth.


Weighing the #Brexit vote by age

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

The Brexit result showed an inverse relationship between the percentage of ‘remain’ voters and age group; the lower a voter’s age, the more likely they were to vote ‘remain’. The following image from the BBC provides a graphical breakdown:

One issue made of this outcome is that the winning decision to leave has been supported more by older people who will be less affected by the decision over time whilst the losing decision to remain has been supported more by younger people who will be more affected by the decision given their greater remaining lifespan.

This got me thinking of a voting system whereby the impact of an individual’s vote is adjusted by a weighting; the younger the voter the greater the weighting. I was going to write up an example of this idea applied to the Brexit vote, but just found the following article which espouses the same idea: Here’s what would have happened if Brexit vote was weighted by age.

Such a voting system would only apply to decisions with direct long term consequences. Some might claim it ageist, but I see it as a perfectly reasonable way to incorporate consideration of the impact a voter has on a decision and the impact the decision will have on them.


Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Some theoretical mulling: given the reports that some #Brexit leave voters regretted their decision, I’m wondering about the possibility of having a voting system whereby (1) people vote first round (2) the results are made public (3) people can change their vote in the second round with knowledge of the first round result. I say this with a general interest in voting procedures, not because I have a particular position in this referendum.

Analyzing Donald Trump’s Speeches

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

I am currently doing some text analysis with IBM’s Alchemy. I thought that it would be amusing and somewhat interesting to run some transcripts of Donald Trump speeches through the online demo, particularly to see the results of Alchemy’s emotion analysis:

Sure enough, out of the 5 emotions of anger, disgust, fear, joy and sadness, the negative emotions ‘trump’ the positive emotions, with anger and fear being the most prominent. Here is an example speech and its emotion scores

Anger 1
Disgust 0.086204
Fear 0.981015
Joy 0.067289
Sadness 0.086029