If it looks random, it probably isn’t

If it looks random, it probably isn’t:

This same conditional-probability argument, though, also applies to the day after tomorrow.

There’s a 0.0001 chance of lightning tomorrow. But for the next strike to be the day after tomorrow then lightning must strike on that day, and not strike tomorrow. So the probability becomes 0.9999 for no strike tomorrow, times 0.0001 for a strike the next day. Which is 0.00009999.

This is only very slightly less than 0.0001, but it is less. The probability of the next strike – not any strike, but the next strike – occurring the day after tomorrow is thus very slightly lower than the probability of the next strike being tomorrow.

And the further you go into the future, the smaller the number gets. In a week it’s about 0.00009994, in a year it’s about 0.00009643, in ten years it’s down to about 0.00006943 – until it becomes ridiculously small, millions of years in the future.

So the most likely day for the next lightning strike – whether or not it actually even struck today – is tomorrow. It’s only a tiny bit more likely that the next strike will be tomorrow than that it will be the next day, but it is more likely.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m injuring your brain with this stuff. It’s because this is a really important thing you need to know about the world. This statistical bias for chance events to happen closer to each other than seems intuitively likely means that all sorts of chance phenomena have “clusters” that people naturally think don’t look very random at all.

We are surrounded at all times by things that have a somewhat random distribution in space and/or time. Computer hardware failures. Car crashes. Disease outbreaks. The distribution of stars in the sky. Individual kills, and personal and team victories, in all sorts of games, sports and real-world wars.

None of these things are entirely random – actually achieving true, robust randomness is surprisingly difficult. But all of them have a chance component. And the stronger that chance component is, the more clusters you’ll see, and the easier it’ll be to incorrectly attribute those clusters to some non-chance phenomenon.

[Complicated world form that perspective.]

A ‘sacred’ duty

If you want to really thank veterans:

If a government has anything close to a ‘sacred’ duty, it is the duty of caring for the men and women who went away whole, and came back less than whole, because that government wasn’t wise or smart enough to solve their problems better.

[A favorite high school teacher used to quote Asimov to me “Violence … is the last refuge of the incompetent.” And if war is the ultimate national violence, then it explains why the above rings so true.]

Source: bynkii.com

Obama’s Terrible Civil Liberties Record

Obama’s Terrible Civil Liberties Record | Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

I would rate Obama worse than Bush on every relevant subject other than torture (he did prohibit torture, at least officially, though he is just as bad, maybe worse on applying the rule of law in cases of torture), for two reasons. First, because his support for those policies all but eliminated even the mild objections to the growing national surveillance state among Democrats. The civil liberties groups — the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc. — have remained admirably consistent, as have fringe members of Congress like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, but the rank and file in Congress quickly lost any appetite for trying to limit the damage when Obama took office (and Democratic leaders in Congress like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein were complicit in the demise of civil liberties from the start). With Bush in office, there was at least some tacit resistance, though never enough to stop the onward march of executive power; with Obama in office, there is a clear bipartisan consensus against the Bill of Rights.

Second, because Obama knows better. As a constitutional scholar, something Bush could barely pronounce, he knows the damage he is doing. He knew that the FISA amendments were extremely corrosive to the rule of law and the cause of justice when he threatened to filibuster the bill if it included telecom immunity; he threw principle under the bus when he instead voted for the bill without protest. He knew that the use of the State Secrets Privilege to deny the victims of torture and illegal surveillance made the separation of powers all but obsolete and ended the rule of law when it comes to executive power because he said so himself repeatedly when Bush was asserting it. Since taking office, he has done the very thing he criticized in every single legal challenge to what is now his own essentially limitless authority.

[As I’ve been saying all along. The Dems are as bad as the Repubs, they only *think* they don’t stink as much. My position remains that both major parties need significant opposition. Or as as Howard Rappaport said “lt ain’t unicorns farting rainbows, folks.”]

Liberal blindness

Barack Obama and the Death of Normal:

David Simon on Obama’s re-election:

But make no mistake: Change is a motherf***er when you run from
it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is
fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man
of color is president for the second time, and this happened
despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of
general discontent. He has been returned to office over the
specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been
re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by
people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the
New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white
man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s
the point.

[But all the liberals (especially the press) forget that it is also ok to be a conservative, and that not all of them are white. Lots of liberal blindness in that direction.]

Source: Daring Fireball

Apple’s design problems aren’t skeuomorphic

Apple’s design problems aren’t skeuomorphic:

In the end, what’s wrong with iOS isn’t the dark linen behind the app icons at the bottom of the screen, but the fact that iOS ought to have much better inter-application management and navigation than users fiddling with tiny icons. I’m fairly sure most Apple users would gladly continue to use what are supposed to be skeuomorphically challenged Calendar or Notebook apps for another thousand years if Apple could only solve the far more vexing software problems of AppleID unification when using iTunes and App Store, or the performance and reliability of the same. And yet these are the twin sides of the same systems design problem: the display layer surfacing or hiding the power within or, increasingly, lack thereof.

[Right on.]

Source: counternotions

The Background Noise Was Louder than I Realized

The Background Noise Was Louder than I Realized:

All of these things are noise. They’re below the threshold of what matters. Imagine you started hanging out with people who were all, legitimately, writing books. They each have their own work styles and organization methods and issues with finding time to write efficiently. As a software designer, you might see some ways to help them overcome small frustrations with their tools or maybe even find an opportunity for a new kind of writing app. But I can guarantee that GPU numbers and programming language missteps and the horrors of dynamic typing will have no relevance to any of what you observe.

[It is really important to pay attention to whatever is degrading the signal to voice ratio in your life. Speaking of which, this last week of almost no connectivity, even less television (I barely watch anything but news and sports) gave me reason to think about this very issue in my own life some more. But what I learned is that to great degree I have these under control. Nice to know.]

Thread: Occupy Staten Island. (A marathon? Now? I think not.)

Thread: Occupy Staten Island.:

People don’t realize how much damage was done to our communities, and even more important to the infrastructure that connect us. It looks like these systems are really damaged. Months before they come online. it’s time to sober up and get a clue, all of us. Especially our mayor.

[The marathon folks should consider having the runners who came to NY help others instead of run. Think how much good they could potentially do in that one day. And the Road Runners should consider donating back to the city the resources that are normally used to put on their event.]

Source: Scripting News