Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for February 6th, 2022

Ice medallion

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My ice hunt in Great Hills Park on February 4th led me to check out a high creek bank that had generated a slew of long icicles last February. No such luck this year—which is not to say nothing interesting was there: an irregularly shaped medallion of ice that had formed on roots dangling from the high creek bank caught my attention. Notice the “regular” icicle beyond it.

I tried out various compositions, including some like the one
below that incorporated reflected colors from the creek.

 

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A key adage from statistics warns us that “Correlation isn’t causation.” Just because one kind of a thing matches up with another doesn’t mean that one causes the other. A classic example points out the correlation among children between shoe size and knowledge of the world: the larger a child’s shoe size, the more the child is likely to know about the world. Of course it isn’t shoes that are increasing children’s knowledge. Shoe size among children is a proxy for age, with a larger shoe size corresponding on average to an older child. More time alive is the true cause of increased knowledge among children.

Another classic example is that just because roosters often crow shortly before sunrise doesn’t make their crowing the cause of the sun’s rising. Stop roosters from crowing, and the sun would come up all the same.

In Rationality, Steven Pinker’s latest book, he cites two amusing correlations: “A bored law student, Tyler Vigen, wrote a program that scrapes the web for datasets with meaningless correlations just to show how prevalent they are. The number of murders by steam or hot objects, for example, correlates highly with the age of the reigning Miss America. And the divorce rate in Maine closely tracks national consumption of margarine.” So if you want the divorce rate in Maine to go down, should you tell the state’s residents to stop eating so much margarine? Hardly.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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