…to be or not to be… a mook or a…

…mooc?…

Since the proponents and exponents of misinformation and disinformation have so excelled in, and dominate, the former category, some of us have safely opted to strive to be in the latter. And we find some ways for keeping in shape or staying in shape, intellectually, that is.

Over at crooked timber John Holbo issues his invitation, Reason and Persuasion On Coursera – or – Look, Ma, I’m a MOOC

Over at simply statistics we have also all been invited to join the club, Data Science

And from the overall coursera menu we  can look at some popular offerings, Coursera Specializations: Focused Programs in Popular Fields

And to add the audio-visual to the brew, we have over at youtube an econ offering, Economics 1 – Lecture 1

Similarly, for those of us seeking to build or sharpen the stats skills, we have a taste of the open source R Studio with this sample, R Studio.

Of course, online learning is no replacement for actual class room learning with the personal interaction. But neither is it a futile effort, a time waster as some have suggested. In any case, the journey into curiosity and questioning can be rewarding in and of itself, leaving enough valuable time for enjoyable distractions.

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…quick economics notes…

…for the curious… or do-it-yourselfers sceptical of news reporting on economics…

Regarding economic data. For a quick glance at summary data on the economies of the world, Trading Economics is a nice blog site. Of course, for more official data one would go to sources like the World Bank or the IMF or CEPAL or EuroStat. One well known tidbit, in comparing economies real GDP per capita is usually preferable to just real GDP.

On policy and poverty alleviation. A nice discussion on policy to alleviate poverty comes from Mark Thoma (of the blog, economistsview) with his, What’s the best way to help the poor? The lead paragraph is more than sufficient incentive to read on, especially on the approach used in the US.

There has been a recent debate among economists about whether the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are “complements” or “substitutes.” That question might seem arcane, but the answer is important in figuring how to help poor families while also boosting the economy.

Still on poverty alleviation. In some emerging economies one policy implemented to encourage education, good parenting, and life and work skills attainment has been the ‘conditional cash transfers’ programme, one aspect of which has been the cash incentive to ensure children receive a solid education along with meals, while the parents, especially single mothers, can receive training to acquire skills to be sufficiently self-sufficient in the labour market. Where applied, this has had some measure of success in Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the applied level. For interpreting statistical results of research, James Hamilton over at his econbrowser blog provides a cautionary note, On R-squared and economic prediction. This is one of the first lessons taught and one of the first forgotten. Model specification, its estimation and the expected signs of coefficients go along with the satisfaction of other statistical criteria, e.g., standard error, serial correlation.


…homer solves fermat’s last theorem? not lisa?…

The fascination continues.

The Simpsons continues to earn greater respectability. Over at mother jones,  Indre Viskontas and , show that watching the show was not for the addle-brained and those seeking refuge from the vacuousness of cable and network TV ‘news’. They point out stuff faithful band of followers have been learning unbeknownst to themselves, stuff called mathematics.

In their post, they show, How the Simpsons Have Secretly Been Teaching You Math. In reviewing Simon Singh’s book on The Simpsons, they note,

Singh first noticed the advanced mathematical genius of the satirical middle class American family during a 1998 Simpsons episode titled, “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace.” In it, Homer jots down a few equations on a blackboard in his quest to become an inventor. One of these equations jumped out at Singh, who is author of the best-selling book Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem. The “enigma” here centers on Fermat’s assertion that (forgive us for what is about to follow) while there are an “infinite number of solutions” to the following equation:

x² + y² = z²

And, from here, not only memory but attentiveness is challenged. Refreshing stuff, where ‘graspable’. But if Homer can do it? Even if almost?


…no, mrs k, it is not bart…

…but even if so…

From economists view blog we get this link to the Harvard Magazine online edition. What would come as a shock to most? The Simpsons was not just laden with wit and satire, it apparently had other goodies that mentioned the frighteningly unmentionable, even if very obliquely so – mathematics.  Mathematics in “The Simpsons”

This topic had been covered in The Guardian, in a series of articles, with one by the very author in September, The Simpsons’ secret formula: it’s written by maths geeks. The math nugget that puzzled, that and no more, at even the repeat, was the question on the number of spectators at that famous Springfield baseball game. The mention of serious maths and puzzles Singh highlights in the article, clever use without disrupting the humour,

The first proper episode of the series in 1989 contained numerous mathematical references (including a joke about calculus), while the infamous “Treehouse of Horror VI” episode presents the most intense five minutes of mathematics ever broadcast to a mass audience. Moreover, The Simpsons has even offered viewers an obscure joke about Fermat’s last theorem, the most notorious equation in the history of mathematics.

Thus, the ‘erudite’ amongst us now have a ‘justification’ (?) for watching the show instead of mindless cable ‘news’? And not stuff like this as justification? Releasing the Pacifiers (The music??? Got it?)

Clearly, Mrs K did have some really inattentive students, not just Bart.


…an expresso, some light reading, and a little night music…

Two readable and interesting articles. A brief journey back in time. And no equations.

Dave Giles of econometrics beat guides us to an article on The True Title of Bayes’s Essay

Tim Johnson over at magic, maths and money treats us to the role of commerce and ethics in probability with Probability Theory: the synthesis of commerce and ethics

Both to the accompaniment of

Even if not quite that idyllic book of verse, jug of wine…


…rock, homer, lisa, cash…

And from the Bard’s famous, Much Apu About Nothing…

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm!
Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, dad.

Homer: Why thank you, honey.
Lisa: By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Hmm. How does it work?

Lisa: It doesn’t work; it’s just a stupid rock!
Homer: Uh-huh.

Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Hmm… Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

…and, kinda very late, but for those who had used sheer preference as the reason for watching The Simpson’s instead of sterile MSM news comes a still better reason, to learn maths, Simon Singh: Bart Simpson, me, and the great maths scam – sort of l’espirit de l’escalier moment(?), or decades…