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  • Planck 2013: the PR

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    Yesterday’s release of the Planck papers and data wasn’t just aimed at the scientific community, of course. We wanted to let the rest of the world know about our results. The main press conference was at ESA HQ in Paris, and there was a smaller event here in London run by the UKSA, which I…

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  • Higgs vs Religion on the Radio: no contest

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    The Higgs day continues (and I’m not even a particle physicist). At about 5pm, just as I was dialling into one of my several-times-a-week Planck teleconferences, I had an email from Tim at the BBC, who works with the World Service “World Have Your Say” show, coming on at 6pm. Would I be able to…

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  • Bad memory. Bad law?

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    (Warning: this post is pretty far outside of my usual bailiwick…) I was reading today’s Guardian and came across Zoe Williams‘ sketch (in UK newspapers, this is a short, often humorous, descriptive piece, usually about an event like a parliamentary debate or court proceedings), “Rebekah Brooks lays bare the secret of her success“, recounting the…

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  • Bayes in the World II: Million Pound Drop

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    Embarrassing update: as pointed out by Vladimir Nesov in the comments, all of my quantitative points below are incorrect. To maximize expected winnings, you should bet on whichever alternative you judge to be most likely. If you have a so-called logarithmic utility function — which already has the property of growing faster for small amounts…

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  • Bayes in the World I: Wikileaks

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    I’ve come across a couple bits of popular/political culture that give me the opportunity to discuss one of my favorite topics: the uses and abuses of probability theory. The first is piece by Nate Silver of the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, dedicated to trying to crunch the political numbers of polls and other data…

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  • Ada Lovelace Day — Henrietta Leavitt

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    Today is Ada Lovelace Day, “an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.” I — along with more than a thousand other people — have pledged to write about a female role model in technology. Ada Lovelace was Byron’s daughter and worked with computer pioneer Charles Babbage on his “Computing…

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  • Health Care at Home and Abroad

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    By far the best article I’ve read about the British healthcare system, appeared this morning… in the New York Times. It discussed the NHS‘s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the organization that rations pharmaceuticals in the UK (although you’ll rarely hear the word “ration” used). When NICE’s decisions are discussed in the…

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  • Holy Cow

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    I would like to think that the passing of one Scooter — Phil Rizzuto, Yankees Shortstop and broadcaster — was of greater cultural significance than the pardonning of the other one (since they didn’t manage to indict the likely mastermind behind the plot before he could resign. Probably not.

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  • Floods: It’s not just the UK

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    Flooding cripples New York subway system: Flooding from torrential overnight rains crippled the New York City subway system this morning. Delays of at least 30 minutes were reported on all subway lines, and customers were urged to forgo the subways entirely and take buses if possible. The thunderstorm caused havoc across the region, forcing thousands…

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  • Floods

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    My thoughts and sympathy go out to the residents of my old neighborhood, Osney Island, in Oxford, where it’s just started to flood before the waters peak (we hope) later today. Good luck to all the residents — stay strong, stay dry!

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