Category Archives: The Dice

Affective risk aversion and Covid vaccine denial

Rollercoaster

After several unsuccessful attempts in the confused and governor-hobbled Florida vaccine roll-out, my spouse and I were recently able to get the first of two Moderna jabs. Despite the tragic (and up to 40% unnecessary) loss of life and the trashing that our economy has suffered because of the coronavirus over the last year, the number of people who are… Read more »

Betting your life on “The Truth”

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Junction

One of the unnecessary tragedies arising from the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol was the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt, a documented QAnon conspiracy theorist. Ms. Babbitt was the first to enter through a glass door into the secured House Speaker’s Lobby, which had been smashed by her fellow insurgents. Capitol police assigned to protect the U.S. “line… Read more »

Probability, uncertainty and inanity with the coronavirus

Bayes theorem

The very bad polling outcomes from the 2020 U.S presidential election pointed out the key differences between two often-confused topics. Pre-election polls are measured in percentages and look like probabilities, but they are really trying to quantify uncertainty, and there is a very big difference between the two that the public largely does not understand. The same confusion has bled… Read more »

Watching yourself watch yourself

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Harold Lloyd Clock

“Life is just one damn thing after another!” – Anonymous [1] With the U.S. presidential election basically over and the coronavirus crisis response stuck in political denial (despite a new surge), I am overdue for a science-geeky post on a neglected recurring topic here, that of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). [2] The impetus for this post is… Read more »

When innumeracy kills

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Covid risk of harm

In mid-November a fundamentalist Tulsa megachurch held a packed, largely-maskless Christian concert for 2500 people. I’ll deal with the theological ironies in a later post, but despite their likely support for “Right to Life,” I can confidently say that, statistically, the attendees surely murdered people with the coronavirus that night, perhaps people even not in attendance. Ignorance of basic mathematics… Read more »

Chasing Benford’s Law down an election rabbit hole

Nautilus shell

Benford’s Law is a fun statistical phenomenon that this blog has explored a couple of times, most notably here. Benford has gained a sudden new popularity among 2020 election conspiracy sites, alleging huge vote rigging, but only in states where Donald Trump lost. However, this technique is invariably misused and misunderstood in these applications, and so, this is my attempt… Read more »

Type I versus Type II errors in election security

I-Voted

You likely first encountered the “Type I versus Type II error problem” in grade school and didn’t realize it. Perhaps some kid in the class played a practical joke on the teacher, and because nobody confessed, the entire class got detention. In some situation or another, you were likely punished undeservedly as a group for the actions of a small… Read more »

A Florida coronavirus film noir in four acts

June Florida Coronavirus

The dramatic June resurgence of Covid-19 cases in my current home of Florida strikes me as film noir that has been playing out in four acts. You could write this story in a number of ways, but I see the plot line as a battle among the exciting(?) mathematical concepts of uncertainty, probability, and fecundity, with some ugly politics thrown… Read more »

Driving drunk in Coronavirus World

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Covid risk of harm

Whenever I get into my car, even on a nice day while wide awake and sober, I am taking on the risk of death. And very late every snowy winter’s night in Minnesota, some guy is out on the road driving fast and drunk. Which one of these risks is most like the “Coronavirus World” in which we currently live?… Read more »

The ethical theory of “Sucks to be you!”

Coronavirus history US

Utilitarianism is a classic “vector” of ethical theory, a structured way to decide “the right way” to resolve life-and-death dilemmas like the one facing us today. This is a versatile model, one that that has continued to re-emerge in modified forms ever since its roots in the writings of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). The coronavirus news… Read more »