Tag Archives: Smart

Smart Thief

Very creative advertising!



The Importance of Selection Bias

Very interesting way of looking at things:

During WWII, statistician Abraham Wald was asked to help the British decide where to add armor to their bombers. After analyzing the records, he recommended adding more armor to the places where there was no damage!

This seems backward at first, but Wald realized his data came from bombers that survived. That is, the British were only able to analyze the bombers that returned to England; those that were shot down over enemy territory were not part of their sample. These bombers’ wounds showed where they could afford to be hit. Said another way, the undamaged areas on the survivors showed where the lost planes must have been hit because the planes hit in those areas did not return from their missions.

Wald assumed that the bullets were fired randomly, that no one could accurately aim for a particular part of the bomber. Instead they aimed in the general direction of the plane and sometimes got lucky. So, for example, if Wald saw that more bombers in his sample had bullet holes in the middle of the wings, he did not conclude that Nazis liked to aim for the middle of wings. He assumed that there must have been about as many bombers with bullet holes in every other part of the plane but that those with holes elsewhere were not part of his sample because they had been shot down.


Presidential Crossword

The day before the 1996 American presidential elections, the New York Times crossword correctly predicted the winner. How did they do it? The answer is here.


The Crossword Wizard

Dan Feyer is good at crosswords – really good. The crossword in the New York Times only takes him a minute or two and even the massive Saturday crossword might take up six minutes of his time.

Who is this guy? What kind of person knows the name of Gorbachev’s wife (Raisa), a synonym for no-good (dadblasted), the Rangers coach in 1994 (Keenan), a platinum-group element (iridium) and the meaning of objurgation (rant)?

Feyer is a musician by day and he says that there is a lot in common between music, crosswords and mathematics, another of his strengths. Why? According to Feyer, it’s because they all rely on the ability to recognize patterns and do something useful with that recognition.

Dan Feyer, The Crossword Wizard Who is Fastest of All [NYTimes]

Ranking America’s Smartest Cities

The Daily Beast has used a statistical method to rank the smartest – and dumbest – cities in the USA. They developed an index based on the proportion of college grads in the population as well as other indicators like the number of libraries and non-fiction book sales.

This year’s methodology is similar to last year’s inaugural list, with a couple weighting refinements, and one major change: as our civic engagement quotient—a proxy of a city’s willingness, and ability, to invest in intellectual culture—we dropped voter turnout in favor of libraries per capita. Overall, we divided the criteria into two parts: Half for education, and half for intellectual environment. The education half encompassed the percentage of residents over age 25 that had bachelor’s degrees (25 percent weighting) and graduate degrees (25 percent), compared to the overall population over age 25. The intellectual environmental half had three subparts. First, we looked at year-to-date nonfiction book sales (16.7 percent), as tracked by Nielsen BookScan, the nation’s leading provider of accurate point-of-sale data, which tracks roughly 300,000 titles each week. We also measured the ratio of institutions of higher education (16.7 percent), as defined by the federal government—different than just measuring college degrees, this acknowledges that universities as driver of intellectual vigor of cities and rewards cities with college populations. Finally, libraries per capita (16.7 percent) measures how willing and able a city is to educate the general public, as well as the no-cost opportunities for the public to educate itself.

Once we had all these comparable, per-capita figures, we ranked the cities in each category, assigning 10 points to those near the very top, and 0 to the bottom, with scores in between dropped into a broad bell curve. We then added the totals and multiplied by two, which made for a perfect score of 200, a wash-out score of 0, and an average score right at 100—close to the exact parameters of a classic IQ test.

Boston, Hartford and San Francisco rounded out the three smartest. Las Vegas was the dumbest, not surprisingly. The whole list can be found on their site.

Ranking America’s Smartest, and Dumbest, Cities [Daily Beast]

Wild Chimps Outsmart Human Hunters

Wild chimpanzees in Guinea have learned to spring snares set by poachers without getting caught – saving their forest friends from capture in the process:

A typical snare, for example one made by the Manon people of Bossou, consists of a loop of iron wire connected by a vine rope to an arched stick, often a sapling.

The sapling puts tension into the rope and once an animal passes through the wire loop, the trap is sprung and the sapling pulls it tight, around the neck or leg of an animal.

Such traps cause indiscriminate damage, ensnaring any and all animals that come into contact with them.

But male Bossou chimps have worked out how to outwit the hunters and deactivate the traps.

In the journal Primates, the researchers describe six separate cases where chimps were observed trying to deactivate snares.

Mostly, the chimps grasped the snare stick with their hands, shaking it violently until the trap broke.

Sometimes a chimp lightly knocked the sapling that holds the snare, before grasping it to break the trap.

But in all cases, they avoided touching the dangerous part, the wire loop.

Wild Chimps Outwit Human Hunters [BBC]

VIV Power

Professors at the University of Michigan are working on a method of harnessing power from slow-moving currents such as those in rivers:

VIVACE is the first known device that could harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.
VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn’t depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It’s a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on “vortex induced vibrations.”

Vortex-Induced Vibrations were the cause of the infamous Tacoma Narrows bridge, or should I say, Gallopin’ Gertie, collapse. I guess that stands as proof-of-concept that there’s available energy!

Make: Online: Ocean Power