A year of rolling the dice

I started this blog in early 2018 as a place to post some pieces I had developed over several years looking at how probabilistic randomness and other mathematical realities affect everything from the way we vote to our scientific and religious understandings of the “human condition.”

Some blog posts achieved more web penetration than others, and so this post is a review of those that escaped my narrow subscriber base and entered the broader social media universe. If you missed any of them, these posts are summarized and linked below.

The title of this blog is a take-off on Albert Einstein’s cryptic assertion that “God does NOT play dice,” which I dug into in this post. In general, posts reflecting current events were more broadly read than a continuing series I wrote digging into the math of probabilistic randomness and its impact on human choice, both of both the logical and moral kinds. That series starts here, and at the bottom of each post is a “rolling dice” icon that takes you to the next post of the continuing series. A summary of those posts is also found here.

Many thanks to my loyal readers over the past year, as well as those who have just dropped in to share a post or two.

The gun violence lottery

This February post was my first to “go viral” literally around the world. Using daily data from the Gun Violence Archive, I detailed how mass gun violence in the United States, despite our attempts to define “one cause,” takes on many aspects of “lottery math” and a cruel “Poisson randomness” at rates far beyond those of most other industrialized nations.

This post was followed up by updates as new data came in, reinforcing my analysis. My basic point is that we got here as a nation by a series of incrementally-bad policies, and the way out is to incrementally reduce these rates in intelligent ways.

Listen to the actuaries if not the scientists

Many conservatives have a cultic, ideological and irrational aversion to listening to scientists on two important topics: evolution and climate change. However, many of these same people do rely on the risk assessments of actuaries in insuring their personal and business properties. This November post is a look at the Actuaries Climate Index, which tracks the effects of climate change on areas that will impact the insurance markets. Spoiler: the actuaries agree with the scientists.

Politics informed by math #2 – Medicare-for-all

I am a strong advocate for improving on the progress that the ACA made in getting access to healthcare to millions more Americans, with the caveat that Americans need to better understand some of the math of healthcare in order to not do something stupid. The “Medicare-for-all” meme has been spreading quickly ahead of the 2020 primaries, with a lot of different meanings and a lot of bad math. The answer is not as easy as a political slogan. This post lays out some key math realities that any successful improvement of the American healthcare system needs to take into consideration.

This post was part of a series that focused on how some basic “innumeracy” negatively impacts how our society operates. The first was on the math of voter fraud.

Stochastic terrorism part 2 – the mass shooting lottery

This was my latest update on mass violence numbers, with data through October 2018, confirming how the timing of mass shooting events in the United States bears many characteristics of “Poisson randomness,” and how that observation should impact the political conversation.

Three options between the ACA and Medicare-for-all

While many Republicans still want to trash every reform in the Affordable Care Act, and Sanders supporters advocate “Medicare-for-all,” this post suggests that there are several successful intermediate mixes of collective and private healthcare found in Europe, and perhaps it would be wise to look at them for guidance as to what may work better in the U.S.

Health insurance at Fox News

This short post from March floated through the internet for much of the year with the simple observation that, while conservatives talk this tough line on how to pay (or mostly not pay) for healthcare, the employees at Fox News opt for a very “liberal” system where men are covered for pregnancy, women are covered for prostate problems, and rates do not differ based on the age of the insured. There are good, conservative reasons for this. And oh yes, a look at how corporations like Fox are heavily subsidized by the government to provide healthcare insurance for their employees, even though they would deny an equivalent subsidy to non-employees.

Ambulances, drugs and the fixed-cost dilemma

This post from February keeps making the rounds because there is a basic broadly-held misunderstanding about why certain medical costs, such as ambulance rides, emergency rooms and certain drugs, are billed at such high costs. You might have to put your accountant’s hat on, but we largely brought this upon ourselves by forgetting about how we once collectively paid for some key items of “the common good.”

Coming up in the next post, a look at my favorite posts of the year that the broader internet community missed.

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