Statistics

4 posts
Machine learning to find spy planes

Last year, BuzzFeed News went looking for surveillance flight paths from the FBI and Homeland Security. Peter Aldhous describes how they did it. They used machine learning — a random forest algorithm to be more specific — to find the spy planes, which as you might expect tended to circle around more than normal flights. Tags: BuzzFeed, flights, machine learning

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Calculating the opposite of your job

Here’s a fun calculation from The Upshot. The Labor Department keeps detailed and at times delightfully odd records on the skills and tasks required for each job. Some of them are physical: trunk strength, speed of limb movement, the ability to stay upright. Others are more knowledge-based: economics and accounting, physics, programming. Together, they capture the essence of what makes a job distinctive. We’ve used these records to determine what...

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Visualizing electoral college politics: exercise in displaying relationships between variables

Reader Berry B. sent in a tip quite some months ago that I just pulled out of my inbox. He really liked the Washington Post's visualization of the electoral college in the Presidential election. (link) One of the strengths of this project is the analysis that went on behind the visualization. The authors point out that there are three variables at play: the population of each state, the votes casted...

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Algorithm to detect wildfires earlier

Traditional detection algorithms use infrared heat as the main signal of a wildfire. The Firelight Detection Algorithm uses visible light instead, detecting a fire possibly a day earlier. FILDA uses the visible light of fire, detecting high resolution images of fires. Using VIIRS technology, images of fires at night can be captured using infrared and visible light information. FILDA can also detect 90% more pixels than previous methods, and can...

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Reconstructing faces from brain waves

Researchers attached electrodes to neurons in monkeys, showed them pictures of faces, and then reconstructed the faces reading brain waves. After decades of work, scientists at Caltech may have finally cracked our brain’s facial recognition code. Using brain scans and direct neuron recording from macaque monkeys, the team found specialized “face patches” that respond to specific combinations of facial features. Like dials on a music mixer, each patch is fine-tuned...

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Look to the data collection

Mimi Onuoha on the importance of paying close attention to the data collection process before making data-informed decisions: The conceptual, practical, and ethical issues surrounding “big data” and data in general begin at the very moment of data collection. Particularly when the data concern people, not enough attention is paid to the realities entangled within that significant moment and spreading out from it. I try to do some disentangling here,...

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Iceberg scale, as described in different countries

A giant iceberg broke off from Antartica. Like, really big. Quartz collected the comparisons made in various countries to make the numbers more relatable to readers. As news traveled around the world that one of the largest icebergs ever observed had finally broken off from Antarctica, reporters were faced with a question of scale. Few among us can visualize just how large a 2,200 square-mile (5,698 square-kilometer) hunk of ice...

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Trolling the uncertainty dial

During the election last year, The New York Times ran an uncertainty dial to show where the vote was swaying. Not everyone appreciated it. Many people hate it. The Outline disliked it enough to troll with an uncertainty dial of their own. Personally, I like the dial, but I think it does require a certain level of statistical knowledge to not lose your marbles watching it. Tags: uncertainty

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A guide for using open data to combat corruption

Open Up: A Guide to Using Open Data to Combat Corruption is free for download. A broad understanding of corruption recognises that it is not just about isolated acts between two different agents: the one who offers a bribe, and the one who receives it. Instead, corruption is a complex crime. It is driven by networks of officials, professional intermediaries and companies. So in order to tackle corruption effectively, you...

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Data Everywhere, Statisticians Anywhere

I had the honor to deliver the commencement speech at the UCLA Statistics graduation this past weekend. I’m going to put this here for posterity before my memory tucks it away never to be uttered again. I truncated the speech last minute, so these notes are little more coherent than my delivery. A big congratulations to all of you! It took a lot of work, a lot of distributions, sampling,...

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