Posts tagged ‘XKCD’

XKCD is Pretty Awesome today

Sentence Planning

One of the transitions English speakers have to make in Romance languages, and I have found particularly in Italian, is that the object of the sentence that we so often put at the end ends up at the beginning of sentences.  For example, in Italian, when translating the phrase "I can show it to you", the "to you" and "it" end up as the first two syllables ahead of everything else.

I was working on this just yesterday in my Italian lesson so I got a laugh out of XKCD

You absolute-fucking-... shit.

More Scientific Than Thou

MSNBC has worked hard to be the official TV channel of the "reality-based community" which so often lectures us skeptics on how we are all anti-science and stuff.     (source)

The author of XKCD has a site now that answers odd science questions.  Here is mine:  If, at a mass of over 200 pounds, Felix Baumgartner was indeed be accelerated faster than light and pointed at the Earth, what would happen?

Isaac Asimov has a short story mystery something like this, with a pool ball accelerated to light speed.

We Need A Radical Restructuring of Scientific Publishing

I have written a number of times before that having only a few page-limited scientific journals is creating a bias towards positive results that can't be replicated

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

I observed:

This is not really wildly surprising.    Consider 20 causal relationships that don’t exist.  Now consider 20 experiments to test for this relationship.  Likely 1 in 20 will show a false positive at the 95% certainty level — that’s what 95% certainty means.  All those 1 in 20 false positives get published, and the other studies get forgotten.

Actually, XKCD did a better job of making this point.  It's a big image so I won't embed it but check it out.

Also, Kevin Drum links a related finding that journal retractions are on the rise (presumably from false positives that could not be replicated or were the results of bad process).

In 1890, there were technological and cost reasons why only a select few studies were culled into page-limited journals.  But that is not the case today.  Why do we still tie science to the outdated publication mechanism.  Online publication would allow publication of both positive and negative results.  It would also allow mechanisms for attaching critiques and defenses to the original study as well as replication results.  Sure, this partially breaks the academic pay and incentive system, but I think most folks are ready to admit that it needs to be broken.


Only XKCD could be this geeky.

The problem with going so deeply nerdy is so few people share the humor with you.  I wear this shirt to work out all the time and I can't remember anyone ever getting the joke.


Weird Coincidences

I spent four days last week trying to get my online backup file restored for Quickbooks, our accounting software.

One morning, we woke up and found our entire QB file corrupted.  I would insert cautions to QB users about such occurrences, but I think everyone already knows the problem.  Such a warning would be like reminding a New York resident about street crime.  We QB users always feel like we are walking on eggshells with QB, ready at any moment for everything to go haywire.  We live with it, because the program is useful and ubiquitous.

So I perform a backup every day, but recently started using the QB online backup facility.  This automatically backs up the file every day.  I still make a local backup from time to time, but I have gotten lazy.  When things went south the other day, my online backup was 10 days old, an eternity in our business.  I sent QB our file to try to execute a repair, but in the mean time I went to the restore command to restore the most recent online backup before the corruption.

Fail.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail.  After four tries, each 3 hours each, I got the idea maybe it was not going to work.  So I called QB and got their Phillipines tech support desk.  They walked me through some steps.  Fail. Fail. Fail.

Through all this time, we were entirely shut down accounting-wise.  Finally, in exasperation, I asked them to just post my backup file on an FTP server somewhere.  After all, we could both see the file exists, and it was just the QB proprietary file transfer protocol that was failing to restore it.  Well, three countries and four departments later, no one could post the file on an FTP server.  Or to my Amazon S3 account.  Or to a password-protected web page.

For God sakes, this is a software company?  Finally, they agreed to have someone at the third party contractor who runs the servers try to put the file on a DVD and mail it to me, LOL.

It was almost exactly at this point that I opened this XKCD comic:

I tell you, sometimes that site is totally dialed into my brain.  (by the way, as I blog, a signed version of this comic on the wall behind my monitor).

PS- eventually the Quickbooks people rebuilt my corrupted file before I could ever get the backup in my hands.  Object lesson here - don't ever give up on the original file, the Intuit guys have twice in my life fixed a file that seemed corrupted beyond all hope of recovery.

XKCD is Awesome Today

Statistics and Risk

XKCD is freaking awesome today, making fun of the media and food-risk scare stories. Absolutely dead-on.

Infographic of the Day

It's either this one, via Flowing Data

Can't you picture some Federal bureaucrat with purview somehow over wood pallet fires trying to fan the flames of public opinion in the interests of his or her job security and budget?

The other candidate is this from an outstanding XKCD post on a color naming survey he did (via TJIC).

The whole post is hilarious and worth you time.

I Am Pasting This To My Wife's Computer Tonight

Wow, I'm So Glad Its Not Just Me

XKCD, of course.
I really felt this way when it came time to take my first baby home from the hospital.   You can't just be letting me take him home -- I don't know what I am doing!

Very Funny

Why You Seldom See Me In My Own Comment Threads

A reader asks:

I enjoy reading your Coyote and Climate Skeptic blogs, thanks for hosting
them! I am curious why you don't take part in the comments that rage
over many of your postings.

There are several reasons.  First, I usually feel that I have said what I have to say in a particular post.  I enjoy reading the comments, but don't have a strong need to correct or combat those who misinterpret or disagree with me.  I learn from comments and try to make my arguments more bullet-proof in the future.  Second, I find it infinitely more powerful if my reader base makes the rebuttals for me.

Third, and most importantly, I just don't have the time.  Way back when, I used to get sucked into all kinds of chat-room flame wars.  It is just way to time-consuming.  Even blogging itself takes more time than I really should commit to an activity that does nothing to advance the well-being of my family or my business.  There is a person I consider an online friend (I have never met him in person) who writes a climate blog and gets sucked into the flame wars on his blog, and it seems to cause him all kinds of stress. 

This cartoon from XKCD seems appropriate as a summation:


So, if I do not respond to your critiques in the comment thread, do not assume that your wit and eloquence have silenced me.  I am probably waiting to re-post on the subject in the future.  Just because you don't yet feel anything nibbling on your legs does not mean that the fin swimming around you in the water is going to go away peacefully.

Observer Effect in Blogging

Observer Effect:  Acknowledgment that the act of observing will make changes in the phenomenon being observed.

So yesterday I read the latest XKCD.


Like the typical Internet geek who reads XKCD, I immediately open Google and search for the exact phrase "Died in a Blogging Accident."  Of course, I don't know if the answer was ever "2," but now the search yields 7,900 results, most of which seem to refer to this XKCD cartoon.  And now I have added one more.

Update:  One suspects that the number was always greater than "2", since filtering out responses that include "XKCD" still yields over 6000 results.

I Am Almost This Bad With Names

A Campaign for They

Here's the deal:  We need a gender-neutral third person pronoun.  I am tired of all the awkward constructions I have to concoct to use his or her in a grammatically correct and gender neutral fashion. 

I fully support the use of "they" and "their" as singular third-person pronouns, as in "Each person should bring their pencil" rather than "Each person should bring his or her pencil."  Unfortunately, this is not correct grammar today, so I just spent a few hours purging they's and their's from a draft novel.  However, English is a language that has always been open-source and bottom-up (in contrast to French).  Usages such as this tend to work their way into the language, as dictionary writers for the English language have generally considered themselves catalogers of the English-that-is rather than dictators of the English-that-should-be  (the book the Professor and the Madman is highly recommended).

XKCD took on this topic a while back