My Swan Song

8 Feb

After considerable thought, I have decided to discontinue regular posting on this blog.

I starting blogging on the suggestion of a literary agent who was considering the manuscript for my book. In the end, she decided not to represent me, but the habit of blogging stuck. Now, however, I have new scholarly projects that I want to pursue and I have also decided to run for president of my chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Thus, I am forced to reprioritize a number of activities and I realize that I need to free up additional time.

If the spirit moves me, I may add a blog post occasionally in the future, but for now, I have to step away from regular posting.

I want to thank my loyal readers and in particular I want to encourage everyone to follow Enrique Guerra-Pujol’s always excellent blog prior probability I was drawn to his blog because he shares an interest in Bayesianism and other mathematical topics, but his blog covers a much broader range of subjects. I always find his blog erudite and interesting and encourage you to follow it. I wish Enrique a long and successful academic career and all the best to him and his family.


Bilingualism predicts mathematical competence

7 Feb

An interesting paper, just published in Learning and Individual Differences. Here are the highlights:

• Using large-scale datasets, we examined the relation between bilingualism and math achievement.

• We found that bilingualism significantly predicted preschoolers’ math achievement.

• The positive predictability of bilingualism persisted from kindergarten through first grade.

• Bilingual advantages in executive functioning likely extend to mathematical achievement.

“Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Concussions?”

5 Feb

Good question:

Hat tip to Dear Kitty. Some blog.

Shouldn’t we know if the Implicit Association Test is valid before we hype it?

2 Feb

The normally careful Association for Psychological Science has a piece on its website about the Implicit Association Test. Buried in the article is in article is this short paragraph:

Opinions on the IAT are mixed. Controversy about the test was evident in a 2013 meta-analysis by APS Fellows Fred Oswald and Phillip E. Tetlock and colleagues. They found weaker correlations between IAT scores and discriminatory behavior compared with what Greenwald, Banaji, and their colleagues found in a 2009 meta-analysis.

So there’s a debate about the validity (and the reliability, for that matter) of the IAT. But let’s not allow that pesky fact get in the way of hyping this instrument!

Here is an account of the problems with the IAT.


Diabetes and cognitive decline

31 Jan

More on the connection between diabetes and dementia. A paper published in the journal Diabetologia looked at HbA1c levels (a marker for diabetes) and diabetes status in relationship to cognitive status in large (N =  51,89) longitudinal study. Their findings:

Significant longitudinal associations between HbA1c levels, diabetes status and long-term cognitive decline were observed in this study.

I do have one concern about how this study is being reported in the media. For example, this piece in the Atlantic states

A high-carb diet, and the attendant high blood sugar, are associated with cognitive decline.

It should say “a high refined carb diet.” The distinction is important, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates should be avoided. Note that the same article recommends the Mediterranean Diet, a diet that actually includes a lot of unrefined carbohydrates. As the Harvard Medical Letter reports:

The carbohydrates in Mediterranean-style diets tend to come from unrefined, fiber-rich sources like whole wheat and beans.

Scientific paper has a one word abstract

29 Jan

One the least enjoyable parts of writing an academic paper is composing the abstract. It is always a struggle to boil down your complex and nuanced research to just 150 words. This is why I was delighted by a paper titled “Do Large (Magnitude ≥8) Global Earthquakes Occur on Preferred Days of the Calendar Year or Lunar Cycle?”

The abstract simply reads:


[Hat tip to BoingBoing]

Podcast on prospective memory

26 Jan

I must warn you that the first part of this Inexact Science podcast is hard to listen to. But it shows the critical importance of prospective memory in our lives.

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