Category Archives: Politics vs. math

A handy tool for election night nail-biters

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Here is a link to a handy online tool I have used over the last few elections to determine how much hope or threat there is in a close election. Bookmark it for use as the returns roll in. A common scenario is that your candidate is down by a few points, with some of the vote still not counted…. Read more »

Stochastic terrorism part 2 – the mass shooting lottery

In the aftermath of each new tragedy of mass gun violence, people always look for a cause. There are likely many “causes” of mass gun violence, but the math points to a clear, correlated “temperature” that summarizes all of the causes and spits out violent acts that are at the same time random, yet probabilistically predictable. In the prior post in this… Read more »

Stochastic terrorism part 1 – The sand pile effect

I have written in the past comparing the math behind American gun violence as unnervingly similar to the random-but-probabilistic math of lotteries. Another descriptor for this phenomenon pops up from time to time, and it has again after the mail bombs and the tragic Pittsburgh synagogue killings of this past week, and that is the term stochastic terrorism. What is… Read more »

Adding ‘high-lethality weapons’ to the media vocabulary

If you have ever engaged in conversation with a Second Amendment radical and even mentioned the words “assault weapon” or “semi-automatic,” you have likely descended quickly into “pedantry hell.” You will receive a lecture about why these terms are meaningless in their side of the discussion about any reasonable gun regulation. And they have intentionally made this “word corruption” a… Read more »

Some caveats about election statistics

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Even if you remember a few things from that college statistics class (and confess, you probably don’t) the barrage of election statistics around this time of year can get overwhelming and confusing. I will admit that I have and other election statistics sites in my news feed, but I have learned a few limitations to human knowledge about this… Read more »

Hurricane Michael, F-22 jets and the Report from Iron Mountain

In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Michael, news reports from Tyndall Air Force Base, located just outside of Panama City, Florida, detailed extensive damage to somewhere between $5.8 billion and $7.5 billion worth of F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left on the ground as the base was abandoned. [1] [2] This story reminded me of a 50-year-old book that was… Read more »

Education and the fixed-cost dilemma

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I wrote a post back in February that looked how an accounting problem called the fixed-cost dilemma skews many medical costs like drugs and ambulances. The same problem occurs in spades in higher education, and that is the focus of this post. If you are going to advocate for “free college education,” I suggest that it is very helpful to… Read more »

Education and the high price of the credential

In a prior post, I noted that much of the pure “education” delivered by a college or university is alternatively available from other sources for little or no cost. What then are all of the tuition dollars, state funding dollars and student loan dollars paying for? If we are looking to fund “free college for everyone” then where is that… Read more »

Education has always been free

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Trinity College Library

I was representing my publisher employer at a technology meeting at the dawn of the commercial internet in the mid-1990s when I heard the popular technology guru Esther Dyson presciently say that “the price of information always trends toward zero.” That prediction was not good news for many book publishers like mine, but it has certainly come true in the… Read more »

Politics informed by math #5 – Small conspiracies

In an earlier post I suggested that you can likely doubt that most alleged grand conspiracies are real on probability grounds alone, as the number of one-to-one connections requiring “trust against a lie” grows factorially. By the same logic, the smaller the conspiracy, the better the odds of keeping the trust factor intact. In this post I will look at a… Read more »