Cost Overruns in Public Projects

Today we have an entry from the “no surprise to anyone who’s ever read a newspaper” department. Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects: Error or Lie? by Flyvbjerg, Skamris Holm & Buhl, originally published in 2002, has just been released as a free arXiv download. The authors examined 258 transportation infrastructure projects in 20 countries … Continue reading “Cost Overruns in Public Projects”

Identifying Mobile Phone Users

Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility by de Montjoye, Hidalgo, Verleysen & Blondel examines call traces for ~1.5 million mobile phone users, gathered “from April 2006 to June 2007 in a western country.” The traces recorded the nearest antenna and time whenever a voice or text message was sent or received. … Continue reading “Identifying Mobile Phone Users”

Deception and Metaphors

Benevolent Deception in Human Computer Interaction by Eytan Adar, Desney Tan & Jaime Teevan presents the design principle of “benevolent deception” – that is, deliberately misrepresenting a computer system’s functionality to the user, but for the benefit of the user and/or developer. The paper cites many surprising (and amusing) examples of benevolent deceptions in technology, … Continue reading “Deception and Metaphors”

Survival of the Wrongest

David H. Freedman’s ‘Survival of the wrongest’ analyzes the state of health journalism, with the conclusion indicated by the headline. He begins with various articles on obesity which The New York Times had published over the years, all written by experienced journalists and apparently backed by solid science. Nevertheless, they come up with totally different … Continue reading “Survival of the Wrongest”

Helian and H.L. Mencken

Helian Unbound is one anonymous writer’s eloquent crusade for radical skepticism. His sober scientific realism is directed against every ideology – including the fashionable ersatz religions espoused by many self-declared “skeptics” nowadays. Added to my recommended Subscriptions. In his latest post, Helian discovered a digitized archive of The American Mercury, a cultural and political magazine … Continue reading “Helian and H.L. Mencken”

Disputed Foundations of Quantum Mechanics

A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics by Schlosshauer, Kofler & Zeilinger presents 33 academics – physicists, philosophers, mathematicians – attending a 2011 conference on the foundations of quantum mechanics with 16 questions on the subject. Fascinatingly, there was no complete consensus on any question. On the contrary, there was a roughly even split … Continue reading “Disputed Foundations of Quantum Mechanics”

The Nonsense Math Effect

Kimmo Eriksson’s The Nonsense Math Effect (PDF) is a beautiful little demonstration of the widespread belief that presence of mathematical expressions implies better science. In areas like sociology or evolutionary anthropology I found mathematics often to be used in ways that from my viewpoint were illegitimate, such as to make a point that would better … Continue reading “The Nonsense Math Effect”

Andrew West’s BabelStone

The BabelStone complex of websites is a treasure trove for aficionados of historical and non-Latin typography. The author, Andrew West, is a published expert on Chinese and other Asian scripts. Here’s a quick overview of his major online productions: The main BabelStone weblog features incredibly comprehensive articles on historical writing and art, e.g. The Rules … Continue reading “Andrew West’s BabelStone”

Past & Present of Sharp S

Ralf Herrmann’s Wayfinding & Typography has several interesting articles concerning the infamous German letter ß, aka sharp s or eszett. What’s a Ligature, Anyway? explains the difference between typographic and orthographic ligatures, and why ß in contemporary Latin script is neither. Rather, it was defined in 1903 as a single letter in the new German … Continue reading “Past & Present of Sharp S”

Get Famous Quick with Google Scholar

The new paper Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics: simple, easy and tempting (home page) shows how to fool Google’s academic ranking bots. The researchers invented a fake author (“Marco Alberto Pantani-Contador”) and created six fake “working papers” under his name with the least possible effort: In a process that lasted less than … Continue reading “Get Famous Quick with Google Scholar”