In middle school I participated in a competition called Mathcounts. In this contest, each state held a competition to determine four people who go on to represent the state at Nationals. I grew up in Maryland, and in 7th and 8th grade I just barely made Maryland's team, getting fourth place both times. If I … Continue reading Luck and skill in beauty pageants
In December I ran a pseudorandomness contest. Here's how it worked: In Round 1, participants were invited to submit 150-bit strings of their own devising. They had 10 minutes to write down their string while using nothing but their own minds. I received 62 submissions.I then used a computer to generate 62 random 150-bit strings, … Continue reading Pseudorandomness contest: Prizes, results, and analysis
Nate Silver's model at FiveThirtyEight gave Biden an 89% chance to win the presidential election. He gave Democrats a 75% chance of taking back the Senate and a 97% chance of keeping the House. Then the election happened. Biden won -- though by a somewhat smaller margin than the model expected: Trump's 232 electoral votes … Continue reading Was Nate Silver’s model wrong?
Do you miss the pre-COVID excitement of watching sports? Are you bored right now, looking for some way to entertain yourself? Welcome to the world of Jelle's Marble Runs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55iTYdRDG4s Round 1 of the 2020 Marbula One (intro ends at 1:45) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPFVLLxhEI4 Round 1 of the 2020 Marble League (intro ends at 2:50) In the … Continue reading Jelle’s marbles have skill
This is a map of Nassau Street, the northern edge of Princeton University. It's a very standard sort of street; I imagine one quite like it exists in most college towns. It has lots of great places to eat, shown on the map in orange. During my senior year, because of Princeton's absurdly expensive meal … Continue reading An exploration of exploitation bias
This post is an endorsement of a Democratic candidate for president, but it is not a typical endorsement. When I set out to write this post, I didn't have a particular conclusion in mind. Instead, I figured out how I wanted to think about the primary, then did research on the underlying facts, and finally … Continue reading Thoughts on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary
FiveThirtyEight just published an impressive, sophisticated model of the 2020 Democratic primaries. If you're at all interested in the primaries, take a look -- there's a lot of cool stuff there (they also published a pretty detailed methodology which I also recommend reading). Conveniently, if you scroll down to the bottom of their forecast and … Continue reading My 2020 Democratic primary predictions pass the smell test
[Thanks to Drake Thomas and Mike Winston for discussion.] In third grade math class, my teacher Ms. Potter taught my class about the mean, median, and mode of a list of numbers. What united these numbers, Ms. Potter told us, was that they were measures of central tendency: numbers that represented, in some sense, the … Continue reading Beyond the mean, median, and mode
In 2012, Nate Silver wrote about elastic and inelastic states. An elastic state is one with lots of swing voters. This means that if the national electorate shifted by one percentage point, you would expect that state's vote to shift by more than one percentage point. Alaska, for instance, is an elastic state: although it … Continue reading Should FiveThirtyEight’s elasticity index have a wider spread?
(Also, how to deal with leverage points when doing linear regression) If you closely follow FiveThirtyEight's politics coverage, like I do, there are some mantras you hear repeatedly. One of the most common is: general election polls are meaningless until the election starts getting close. See for instance A Year Out, Ignore General Election Polls; … Continue reading General election polls *are* predictive one year out