Re: Another tedious hypothetical

From: Jesse Mazer <>
Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 02:04:23 -0400

rmiller wrote:

>At 11:08 PM 6/8/2005, Jesse Mazer wrote:
>>You should instead calculate the probability that a story would contain
>>*any* combination of meaningful words associated with the Manhattan
>>project. This is exactly analogous to the fact that in my example, you
>>should have been calculating the probability that *any* combination of
>>words from the list of 100 would appear in a book title, not the
>>probability that the particular word combination "sun", "also", and
>>"rises" would appear.
>RM: Are you suggesting that a fair analysis would be to wait until Google
>Print has the requisite number of books available, download the text, then
>sic Mathematica onto them to look for word associations linked with a
>target? What limits would you place on this (if any?) Or would this be a
>useless (though certainly do-able) exercise?

I'm saying that you have to select the possible targets before you actually
go mining the data of old stories to see what's there (or at least you have
to try to imagine you didn't know what was there when selecting the
targets). If your choice of targets is explicitly based on what you find in
the data you will get bad probability estimates, for reasons I've already
explained (you haven't really responded to these arguments in any
substantive way--for example, do you agree or disagree that basing the
choice of target on knowledge of the data tends to lead to situations where,
even if the correlations are pure coincidence, 1 out of x parallel versions
of you would claim to see a 'hit' with a significance of 1 out of y, where y
>> x?)

>>. . . Would it be fair to test for ESP. . .
>We're not testing for ESP--only out-of-causal-order gestalts in popular
>literature that are associated with similar gestalts in literature (or
>national) events taking place at some future time.

Yes, I was using "ESP" as an umbrella term for any mysterious foreknowledge
that can't be explained in terms of currently-known types of information
channels. Substitute "foreknowledge not explainable in terms of known
science" for "ESP" in that sentence (and any other sentence where I talk
about 'ESP') if you like.

>Or it might be explained by some of the more offbeat analytical
>procedures---say, involving exponential or Poisson probabilities as
>applied to delayed choice events.

I know what "delayed choice" means in the context of QM, but what do you
mean by "applying" exponential or Poisson probabilities to delayed choice?
According to our current version of QM, it is possible to prove that delayed
choice experiments cannot be used to send information backwards in time--are
you suggesting a modification of QM, and if so, how exactly are "exponential
or Poisson probabilities" involved?

>>>>Again, my concern is that scientists are too willing to prejudge
>>>>something before diving into it.
>>OK, but this is a tangent that has nothing to do with the issue I raised
>>in my posts about the wrongness of selecting the target (whose probability
>>of guessing you want to calculate) using hindsight knowledge of what was
>>actually guessed.
>As a former fed, I would wholeheartedly disagree. There is a grand
>tradition of avoiding analysis by whatever means are available, including
>"hindsight knowledge" invalidating the correlation. In other words, you
>shouldn't ever mine for data. Thankfully, that admonition is routinely
>ignored by many biostatisticians.

I'm not saying you should never mine the data, I'm just saying if you want
to do an actual calculation of the probability that a correlation would
happen by coincidence, you can't use this type of hindsight knowledge in
selecting the target whose probability-of-happening-by-coincidence you want
to calculate. I've given several examples of how this leads to badly wrong
answers, and again, you haven't really addressed those examples.

>> If you don't want to discuss this specific issue then say so--I am not
>>really interested in discussing the larger issue of what the "correct" way
>>to calculate the probability of the Heinlein coincidences would be, I only
>>wanted to talk about this specific way in which *your* method is obviously
>Thank you. (Finally!!!) Whew! That sentence has validated the entire
>horrid exercise. May I quote you???

Is this supposed to be validating your claim that scientists prejudge
issues? Note that I'm not a scientist, and I'm also not prejudging things,
I'm just saying I'd rather not discuss this right now, just because I
personally am not that interested in it, and also because it's a distraction
from the topic that I originally brought up. If I were to use your post as a
jumping-off point to talk about some totally unrelated issue like the
mechanics of cumulus cloud formation, and you were not that interested in
talking about this issue and wanted to get back to the topics you were
originally talking about, could I use that to validate my view that you are
guilty of prejudging the facts of meteorology?

>>Like I said before, any method that could be invented by someone who
>>didn't know in advance about Heinlein's story would avoid this particular
>>mistake. . .
>. . .another money quote. . .
>>*although it might suffer from other flaws*.
>This one too!!!

Uh, are you trying to mock these quotes, or use them to support some
"prejudgments" of your own about my psychology? If so, please come out and
say what you mean.

Received on Thu Jun 09 2005 - 02:13:05 PDT

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