Numb3rs botches Simpson’s Paradox

If you watch Numb3rs on CBS, you’ll have noticed a rather bizarre discussion last night of Simpson’s Paradox, which was alleged to say that combing two series of numbers into a single series can change their order (it doesn’t really say that, but that’s beside the point.) The example given was David Justice’s and Derek Jeter’s batting averages in 1995 and 1997. In each year, Justice had a better average than Jeter, but for the total of the two years, Jeter was alleged to have had a better average. It’s not hard to figure out how this could be true, but it wasn’t. The actual numbers for those years are these:

          Justice  H/AB     Jeter    H/AB
          -------           -----
1995       .253   104/411   .250     12/48
1997       .329   163/495   .291   190/654
Comb.      .295   267/906   .288   202/702

Justice’s numbers, Jeter’s numbers

If Jeter had hit better in 1997, much closer to Justice’s average, it would have been true because Jeter very few at bats in 1995 and many more at bats in 1997 than Justice. For some bizarre reason, the show used fictitious numbers that didn’t even add up, alleging that Justice hit .321 and .329 for a combined average of .298.

How a show that’s supposed to be so math-oriented can screw up arithmetic so badly would be a a mystery if it weren’t for the fact that mathematicians are notoriously bad at basic arithmetic.

H/T Amnesia, who also got it wrong.

UPDATE: Aha! Reader Brian Thomas explains it all. See comments.

UK government’s viral video

If you don’t know who Jeremy Clarkson is, or don’t have a sense of humor, you won’t get this, so go read The Guardian:

Downing Street always posts responses to petitions and normally the replies to the jokey ones are pretty terse. But last night, in response to the Clarkson request, it put up this.

Okay, it’s not quite Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. But I thought it hit the right note. It’s already had 40,000 hits and at LabourHome someone has praised it as “Gordon Brown’s first truly viral video”.

Right wing blogs in the UK are not amused, sadly, but it’s very au courant and Web 2.0 and all.

My pet goats

Wary of flying third world airlines? You shouldn’t be scared of Nepal Airlines, where they’re willing to make any sacrifice:

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Officials at Nepal’s state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said Tuesday.

Some frequent fliers on Air India nicknamed its flagship “Emperor Ashoka” the snarky “Emperor Asukham” (sick emperor) because it broke down all the time. Clearly, they were too stingy with the goats.

H/T Nancy Rommelman.

No free ride for reincarnators

China once again demonstrates vision that’s all too rare in the modern state by extending the reach of regulation into the supernatural:

China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

We’ll do better in the US, of course, by simply levying a huge tax on these irresponsible reincarnators. This must be the lobby that repealed the death tax.

Roaming the afterlife

A dead Malaysian ran up a $218 trillion cell phone bill and people are mystified:

A Malaysian man who paid off a $23 wireless bill and disconnected his late father’s cell phone back in January has been stiffed for subsequent charges on the closed account, MSNBC has reported. Telekom Malaysia sent Yahaya Wahab a bill for 806,400,000,000,000.01 ringgit, or about $218 trillion, for charges to the account, along with a demand from the company’s debt collection agency that he settle the alleged debt within 10 days, or get a lawyer.

It’s actually very simple. Dead people can communicate with the living through the simple mechanism of Electronic Voice Phenomena, documented in the movie White Noise, by leaving recored messages. They’ve apparently figured out that cell phones are way cooler than voice recorders, and they’ve all been having a ball calling living friends and relatives and shooting the breeze. As these calls come from an area with exceptionally high roaming charges, the bill seems high, by living human standards. Which is just another example of what a limited perspective we have on stuff.

One of the great trolls of all time

This comment on an article about Linux and Windows is one the the greatest trolls I’ve ever seen:

You are kidding arent you ?

Are you saying that this linux can run on a computer without windows underneath it, at all ? As in, without a boot disk, without any drivers, and without any services ?

That sounds preposterous to me.

If it were true (and I doubt it), then companies would be selling computers without a windows. This clearly is not happening, so there must be some error in your calculations. I hope you realise that windows is more than just Office ? Its a whole system that runs the computer from start to finish, and that is a very difficult thing to acheive. A lot of people dont realise this.

Microsoft just spent $9 billion and many years to create Vista, so it does not sound reasonable that some new alternative could just snap into existence overnight like that. It would take billions of dollars and a massive effort to achieve. IBM tried, and spent a huge amount of money developing OS/2 but could never keep up with Windows. Apple tried to create their own system for years, but finally gave up recently and moved to Intel and Microsoft.

Its just not possible that a freeware like the Linux could be extended to the point where it runs the entire computer fron start to finish, without using some of the more critical parts of windows. Not possible.

I think you need to re-examine your assumptions.
Posted by: jerryleecooper Posted on: 03/14/07

The “rebuttals” go on for several pages. Jerry Lee Cooper, our hat’s off to you, dude.

Fortney’s hatred of the Baby Jesus

Fortney “Pete” Stark, Congressman from Fremont, shocked the Jesus freaks by admitting he’s not real keen on the invisible. Fortney has now inspired this riff by Sam Harris:

The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists — men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin’s Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals — who aren’t sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally — deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.

If you go to church, you’re helping the terrorists. Now that’s all the more reason to devote your Sundays to baseball.