Data Skeptic

Economist Peter Backus put forward "The Girlfriend Equation" while working on his PhD - a probabilistic model attempting to estimate the likelihood of him finding a girlfriend. In this mini episode we explore the soundness of his model and also share some stories about how Linhda and Kyle met.

Direct download: MINI_The_Girlfriend_Equation.mp3
Category:miniepisode -- posted at: 12:03am PDT

I'm joined this week by Alex Boklin to explore the topic of magical thinking especially in the context of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret", and the similarities it bears to The Global Consciousness Project (GCP). The GCP puts forward the hypothesis that random number generators elicit statistically significant changes as a result of major world events.

Direct download: The_Secret_and_the_Global_Consciousness_Project.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am PDT

What is randomness? How can we determine if some results are randomly generated or not? Why are random numbers important to us in our everyday life? These topics and more are discussed in this mini-episode on random numbers.

Many readers will be vaguely familar with the idea of "X number of monkeys banging on Y number of typewriters for Z number of years" - the idea being that such a setup would produce random sequences of letters. The origin of this idea was the mathemetician Borel who was interested in whether or not 1,000,000 monkeys working for 10 hours per day might eventually reproduce the works of shakespeare.

We explore this topic and provide some further details in the show notes which you can find over at

Direct download: MINI_Random_Numbers.mp3
Category:miniepisode -- posted at: 7:18pm PDT

This week's episode explores the possibilities of extracting novel insights from the many great social web APIs available. Matthew Russell's Mining the Social Web is a fantastic exploration of the tools and methods, and we explore a few related topics.

One helpful feature of the book is it's use of a Vagrant virtual machine. Using it, readers can easily reproduce the examples from the book, and there's a short video available that will walk you through setting up the Mining the Social Web virtual machine.

The book also has an accompanying github repository which can be found here.

A quote from Matthew that particularly reasonates for me was "The first commandment of Data Science is to 'Know thy data'." Take a listen for a little more context around this sage advice.

In addition to the book, we also discuss some of the work done by Digital Reasoning where Matthew serves as CTO. One of their products we spend some time discussing is Synthesys, a service that processes unstructured data and delivers knowledge and insight extracted from the data.

Some listeners might already be familiar with Digital Reasoning from recent coverage in Fortune Magazine on their cognitive computing efforts.

For his benevolent recommendation, Matthew recommends the Hardcore History Podcast, and for his self-serving recommendation, Matthew mentioned that they are currently hiring for Data Science job opportunities at Digital Reasoning if any listeners are looking for new opportunities.

Direct download: Mining_the_Social_Web.mp3
Category:socialweb -- posted at: 10:36pm PDT