Statistics, Hemingway, Fire, Empathy, Prince

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Unlearning Descriptive Statistics

Stijn Debrouwere | 3rd February 2017

Lucid and lively introduction to basic statistical tools and methods including means and medians, associations and correlations, standard deviations and z-scores. “Descriptive statistics is when you ask five people and they all tell you coffee makes them sleepy. Inferential statistics is the realization that a survey of five people isn’t much information to go on and that actually, no, coffee is not a great sleeping aid. Means and medians are descriptive, hypotheses and margins of error are inferential” (3,100 words)

Hemingway’s Letters

Philip Lopate | Times Literary Supplement | 1st February 2017

Publication of Ernest Hemingway’s complete correspondence is “shaping up to be an astonishing scholarly achievement”. Volume 3 — of an eventual 17 — covers 1926-29. Events include Hemingway’s first novels and his father’s suicide. “My old man shot himself. Hell of a lonely way to die. Combination of losing all his money, not being able to sleep, finding he had diabetes and the good old pain of Angina pectoris. On the other hand we shot lots of snipe here. They are bloody fine to eat” (2,122 words)

Who Started The First Fire?

Dennis Sandgathe & Harold Dibble | Sapiens | 26th January 2017

We tend to assume that our ancestors learned to make fire very early in pre-history — perhaps a million years ago. But close examination of paleolithic sites suggests a different story: Neanderthals and early humans knew how to use fire when they found it in the wild, but they may only have learned to kindle it for themselves as recently as 40,000 years ago — making their survival through the glacial period all the more remarkable, since “there is no clear evidence they could make clothing” (2,500 words)

Against Empathy

Sally Vickers | Guardian | 6th February 2017

Exploration of psychologist Paul Bloom’s argument that empathy is a delusion or a distraction. “The belief in a valid empathetic response suggests a form of wishful thinking that we are fundamentally knowable to one another – which we are not. Nor should we need to be. Our differences are to be respected. Rather than claiming emotional identification we should be cultivating our ability to stand back in order to provide a more rationally effective programme of care” (1,300 words)

Susan Rogers: From Prince To Ph.D.

Larry Crane | Tape Op | 1st February 2017

Always interesting, if sometimes highly technical, conversation with Prince’s long-time recording engineer, Susan Rogers — who also teaches psychology — about the art and science of record production, and about her work for Prince, beginning with Purple Rain. “People have asked me about him being a perfectionist. He was not a perfectionist. There was nothing perfect about it. What he was was a virtuoso. He was that fluent on so many instruments. There was no perfection involved” (9,500 words)

Video of the day: What Is Machine Learning?

What to expect:

Very simple non-technical introduction to the principles of machine learning (2’19”)

Thought for the day

I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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