Aunt Pythia’s advice
You’ve stumbled upon yet another week’s worth of worthy questions that will be awkwardly sidestepped by mathbabe’s alter ego Aunt Pythia.
Please submit your question at the bottom of this column!
I’ve officially run out of questions so this is for real.
Please come up with something before I do.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I just moved to NYC from a small university town, and I’m finding it much harder to meet nerd girls. Most of the nerd hangout spots that I’ve found are male dominated, and I meet mostly artists at the bars and coffee shops. Do you have any suggestions beyond trolling the nearest physics department?
Nice, Easygoing Roamer Drawn Swiftly Around Real, Engaging Hackers On Town
Let me suggest you enroll in Meetup yesterday and sign yourself up for all the nerd meetups you can find. There are plenty of cute nerd girls who go to those, and it’s a perfect situation for you to ask someone to have a beer afterwards. Also consider getting involved in weekend hackathons, which attract lots of nerd girls as well.
By the way, these events are still male dominated, but that’s a good thing. Nerd girls should have their pick. It’s one of the many advantages of being a nerd girl and it aint going away.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I recently got a job as a data scientist, and I’m feeling like my stats skills are woefully inadequate. I have a master’s in pure math and I work as a programmer, but I’ve never taken a statistics class. What books would you recommend I read to get up to speed on statistics? I’m looking for something with examples that’s applicable to my work (not too much definition/theorem/proof), but that isn’t scared of the math.
Regretting Spurning Statistics
Congratulations! Can you write back and tell everyone how you got the job? Guest post?
Honestly I learned stats (the stuff I know anyway) by reading wikipedia extensively. It’s surprisingly good. Also, the book I’m writing with Rachel Schutt will contain some good explanations of how stats is used in data science, thanks of course to Rachel, not me. She’s working on the causality chapter right now.
In general my advice to you is, draw lots of pictures, including a histogram as well as a time-value scatter plot of every data set you use, and every data set you generate as well. You’d be surprised by how quickly you learn the statistics that is relevant to your dataset when you’re intimately familiar with its properties.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I have been reading up on regression to the mean originally as described by Galton. He notes that the sons’ height data had reduced variance versus the height data of the preceding fathers’ generation. If this is so, wouldn’t the grandsons’ generation have even more reduced variance in height compared with the 2nd generations’ height…and so on down the generation lineage. Therefore wouldn’t the variance in succeeding generations get narrower and narrower and approach some limit? Where am I going wrong with this, or am I misunderstanding something?
Thanks for bringing my attention to this, it’s clearly an important historical part of linear regression and I’d never heard of it.
You’re absolutely right to think that Galton was wrong. Galton’s working theory was that two people have children by averaging their characteristics, which is just not how genetics works (as we now know). Not only would what you say be true, that after a few generations everyone would be the exact same height, but we’d also see that, if you went backwards in time, there’d be people of arbitrary height, tall and short.
As for why he saw larger variance in older generations, my best guess is that he had a selection bias. Maybe the decreasing variance he observed was due to environmental factors such as the quality and size of the local food supply, where the “current” generation were localized (and so more consistent) but the “older” generation had come from various other places where they were either better fed or less well fed, which would lead to an increased variance.
There’s another totally different interpretation for the phrase “regression to the mean” which is also confusing though. Namely, the idea that if your first measurement of something is extreme, then your second measurement will tend to be less so. The problem with this is that you have to have a notion of “extreme” in the first place. And if you do, then it’s kind of obvious (and also kind of dumb).
Dear Aunt Pythia,
Is the Mathbabe religious?
I really like the new mathbabe logo/marque. The typeface is totally flapper and I really like those bulbous upside down B’s, and the offsetting of the bottom text in order to give the text texture. But when I look at the symbolology of the whole logo/marque I can’t help but wonder if the Mathbabe is religious. The T looks like a deproportioned Greek cross, and the alpha above it suggests that there should be an omega below it somewhere. So clearly the new logo/marque has some Christian symbolology, and my eyes keep looking for more. Maybe the A’s are three sided figures that represent the Trinity, and the M represents a firmament that has fallen, and therefore symbolologizes our fallen state.
Anyway, it’s cool if you are religious, as lots of great mathematicians were devout people, and some were even priests, like Bayes. And if you’re not that’s cool too. I see you describe sex both profanely and sacredly, so I know you are a spiritual person. And it’s cool if you don’t want to answer either. I respect that religion is a personal matter. Just saw your new logo/marque and was wondering.
Honestly I have so little religious background that I am not even sure if you’re kidding (but the “symbolologizes” kind of gives you away).
For the record, my parents were atheists who made fun of me when I told them I believed in God in first grade (I think I learned about the idea of God from a babysitter). One of their favorite stories of my childhood is when my first grade teacher, a devout Catholic, called up my parents in alarm over my essay which said “I believe in God but please don’t tell my parents” and my mom was like, “Har har that’s a good one, thanks” and hung up on her. Not that my mom is a rude person, she isn’t.
Two more points: First, I plan to refer to myself in third person from now on as “The Mathbabe”, and second, when did I ever refer to sex sacredly? That’s bullshit. Blasphemy even.
Please please please submit questions, thanks! I’m desperate!