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Andrew Gelman

Regarding the "Clearly..." comment, remember this:

When someone says "Clearly," it's not so clear (otherwise they wouldn't have needed to say "clearly" in the first place).

When someone says "I'm sure that," they're not sure.

When someone says "Obviously," etc.

This is a famous principle in mathematics. If someone writes, "We omit the proof because it is so simple," it really means that the proof is difficult.

Tom West

von Neumann: "With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk"


“Terrorist attacks happen less often in the developed world, but when they do happen, they’re often bigger than in the developing world"

Doesn't this invalidate the notion of a universal power law relating the size and frequency of attacks? Or at least render it an artifact of the mixture of a number of dissimilar functions that apply under different circumstances?


"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." is the famous quote. Although in fact it is quite easy for rare events. If I claim a 1 in 1000 chance of something happening this year, it will either happen or it wont, either way I'm right.

Alex Cook

James Wei showed in the 70s that you need 20 or 30 parameters to fit an elephant. There's a demo on Wolfram: http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/FittingAnElephant/

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