Wednesday, July 4, 2007

List of sad things reviewers and journal editors say

Journal reviewers (and even editors-in-chief) sometimes say things that are jaw-dropping. Here are some examples (I paraphrase here, of course):

1. The p-value (for some paired comparison) is not low enough to justify publication of the result.
2. A previous experiment showed the opposite result from yours, hence your experimental result is not credible. Variant: do a second experiment, so that our confidence in your result increases.
3. Since the authors do not use a standard method for statistical analysis, and since I do not understand the new method, I recommend rejecting the paper.

We are lucky that we psycholinguists do research that cannot result in anyone actually dying.

On Monte Carlo, Mathematics, and Meditation

"Monte Carlo...James Bond's smarter lost brother".

"Mathematics is principally a tool to meditate, rather than to compute."

Fooled by Randomness, Taleb. p. 44.

Popper and Statisticians

"He refused to blindly accept the notion that knowledge can always increase with incremental information--which is the foundation of statistical inference."

Fooled by Randomness, Taleb. p. 127

What Popper was like as a person

"He was brilliant but self-focused, both insecure and arrogant, irascible and self-righteous. He was a terrible listener and bent on winning arguments at all costs. He had no understanding of group dynamics and no ability to negotiate them."

Fooled by Randomness, Taleb. p. 129

Monday, July 2, 2007

On building a ship

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea".

Quoted in the New Yorker of Jan 22 2007, p. 39. Attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupery.

On beginning writers

This from a review about a book on RK Narayan. The description is about the problems writers face when they are starting out:

"...the intense period of serious reading; the ensuing time of perfervid first composition, here taking the form of execrable, largely imitative, experimentation; an overlapping period of outsized pride over such compositions; an inevitable period of postal humblings, as submissions are dutifully returned with dismaying little slips; an era of humiliating jobs, to support an ambition that garners no other support."