Monthly Archives: March 2008

Covariation and causality

Thanks to Kristine, I really shouldn’t need to translate this Norwegian blog post, but for future reference:

As any statistician worth his or her standard deviation is well aware, covariation does not mean causality – or, in more civilian terms, just because something moves at the same time or later than something else, the first does not necessarily cause the other.

Otherwise, it would be really easy to explain global warming: Baby boomers reaching menopause.

But how to explain this to students? I use this drawing by the Swedish genius caricaturist, Albert Enström (1869-1940):

Unhealthy galoshes, by Albert Engström 

In English, the caption is During a convivial gathering there is talk of the unhygienic aspect of using galoshes. One of those present chips in: "Yes, I’ve also noticed this. Every time I’ve woken up with my galoshes on, I’ve had a headache."

That’s all. We will now return to our usual programming.

Updated: Boingboing!

Keyboards, again

Yesterday I spent three hours trying to get a long Javascript to work – before I realized that my old keyboard was dropping characters. This is not a problem when you write text (automated, or, for that matter, manual spell checking will take care of it) but subtly introduced misses in source code is a real productivity slowdown.

So, up to the IT department, which obliged with a spare Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 they had lying around – and this post is dedicated to keyboard testing. 

This is going to take some getting used to – the middle hump is much higher than anything else I have tried. It is kind of irritating not to be able to reach the Ctrl key easily (have to lift my ams). But it does encourage a much more upright posture, which I assume is good. No more slouching,  thanks to Redmond.

That being said, I have about 5 different keyboards, and I think the best one is whatever I am using at the moment, until my wrists start to hurt and I will have to switch to a different one.

I like this one, though. For the moment.

Incidentally, if you really are up for a long-winded discussion, ask any technologically interested author about what kind of keyboard he or she is using…..

Should rich countries open up for fair trade?

Excellent stuff by Brad Delong on what happens when rich countries open up their economies – not much, and long term the effect is positive, especially when you realize that 1.3b Chinese (and 1.1b Indians) are a pretty powerful force of economic development that you want to tie into your own economy with as many and as unbreakable strings as possible. In the long run, we all benefit by trade.

If only politicians up here in the frigid north could understand that….. Here is the video directly:

Brad is an inspiration and a glorious example to academics everywhere – he really is out there, putting his thinking, teaching and publicizing online. Maybe the makers of Morning Coffee ought to include Brad’s Morning Coffee as a default choice.

Patenting everything

Excellent article by the always readable David Warsh on how patenting has gone overboard, with various companies patenting things that are a) obvious, old hat or both, b) patented just for the sake of suing people who want to create real products, and c) limits real innovation.

Tom Evslin has previously written about a peer-review patent process, which is especially important for software patents, where it is relatively easy to demonstrate prior art, if only people know about it. 

I read somewhere recently that someone was thinking about patenting a method of patenting obvious  innovations (particularly in software) just to get at the patenters. Excellent idea, if I only could remember where I saw it…. 

(I am giving a talk called "Intellectual property – an anachronism in a digital age?" next week and am putting together pointers. Yochai Benkler seems a great starting point….)