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1  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Young Americans are dumbs on: April 24, 2014, 06:35:38 pm
Did the SES of you class composition stay the same more or less over that period, Muon2?  That would be the other perhaps distorting factor, if it exists, that would need to be corrected for (as you suggest, when it comes to test scores).

As far as I can tell my class demographics have changed little in the last 20 years. That's one advantage with data from classes at a generic (non-flagship) state university. They are relatively inexpensive and are intended to accept most students from the state with a HS degree. There are substantial remedial classes designed to bring students up to par if their HS program was lacking in English or math. So any demographic shifts would be mostly be due to shifts in the region of the state itself, and IL has not had a lot of growth to change the numbers over the last two decades.
2  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Young Americans are dumbs on: April 24, 2014, 04:52:28 pm
So comparing the 45-55 cohort to the 16-24 cohort would be comparing apples to apples, in a way the 55-65 cohort to the 16-24 cohort would not?  When did the test taking pool stop expanding?  Is there any reasonable accurate way to "correct" for the "noise" of the expanding pool factor?

Thanks for your anecdote Muon2. That was very interesting. My anecdote is that I find that there has been a material decline in literacy skills in my lifetime. Folks who have spoken English all their life, as their first language, in general just don't seem to me to have the vocabulary and writing skills that older cohorts fitting in that category seemed to have.

Somewhere by the late 90's most schools had reached the point where everyone was taking the ACT or equivalent to assess how well the schools were teaching. At that point the expansion essentially ended. The best way to control for the expansion is to select a particular socioeconomic group that already had high test-taking rates and use that to benchmark the larger sample.

I found part of my anecdote particularly interesting since with 200-300 students a year over a span of more than a decade some of the trends have statistical relevance.
3  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Young Americans are dumbs on: April 24, 2014, 01:27:40 pm
Here's an opposing view:

Quote
For a document thatís had such lasting impact, ďA Nation At RiskĒ is remarkably free of facts and solid data. Not so the Sandia Report, a little-known follow-up study commissioned by Admiral James Watkins, Reaganís secretary of energy; it discovered that the falling test scores which caused such an uproar were really a matter of an expansion in the number of students taking the tests. In truth, standardized-test scores were going up for every economic and ethnic segment of studentsóitís just that, as more and more students began taking these tests over the 20-year period of the study, this more representative sample of Americaís youth better reflected the true national average. It wasnít a teacher problem. It was a statistical misread.


This brings up an important distinction in cohorts. Torie started by comparing the 55-65 cohort to the 16-24 group. The Sandia report is correct that the statistics of falling scores are best described by an expanding pool of test takers, but that compares students graduating in the 60's and 70's to those graduating in the 80's. That's essentially comparing today's 55-65 year-old cohort to today's 45-55 year olds. That doesn't get to a question of whether there are differences going forward.

I claim there is, though with the caveat that it is a narrow statistical slice. However, my findings have been echoed by others in higher ed over the last decade.

I have the opportunity to teach a broad slice of students fresh out of high school at a generic state university that is not selective. It is not unusual for me to work with 300 students a year that is well mixed with urban, suburban and rural backgrounds. Like many I often reuse questions and sometimes whole quizzes so I can norm a class in one year to one taught a few years before. Based on test scores and written course evaluations there is no doubt in my mind that graduates in the last decade lack a set of critical thinking skills that their peers had in the decade before.

What is most different is the way classes have to be taught in this era of evaluative testing in high school. Students are taught a broader array of topics to insure that they've covered the subjects of the standardized test, but give up the depth that is needed to tackle unfamiliar but related fields of knowledge. For example, I find students in introductory courses today are far less comfortable with science questions that require knowledge of relationships between concepts, but instead expect science questions that test the ability to follow a script that churns out a number from a calculator. In my experience there has always been some fraction of the students for whom that statement was true, but it was less prevalent at the beginning of this century.

Now let me pull this back to the OP article about middle class incomes. As you might guess some students who faced conceptual questions but wanted scripted exercises will come to complain. I would then ask them if they want to be engineers or other professionals to critically analyze a problem are they aiming for a job as an entry-level technician who only needs to follow a script. In general they all prefer the salary of the engineer, yet as we continue to talk it becomes clear that their high school has not prepared them for real problem solving. The culprit was the form of the test that was used to assess their school and the teaching designed to create success on that test.
4  General Discussion / Constitution and Law / Re: SCOTUS upholds Michigan affirmative action ban on: April 23, 2014, 05:41:31 am
Wait, Michigan banned Affirmative Action? WAT

by statewide referendum for use in admissions to public universities.
5  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Survey Shows that 51% of Americans Question the 'Big Bang Theory' on: April 22, 2014, 03:56:05 pm
While scientists are extremely confident about the 13.8 billion figure...

I would dispute that.

EDIT: By which I mean, sure, 13.8 billion has got to be pretty close to being right if the Lambda-CDM model is correct, but Lambda-CDM being correct isn't something I would bet my life on.  There could be some complicating wrinkles.


There is plenty of debate over the nature of the cold dark matter in the standard Lambda-CDM model. But most competing models that would result in a substantially different age of the universe (t0) have failed to match all the known observational data, particularly data from gravitational lensing and colliding galaxies. Other extensions of Lambda-CDM typically involve parameters that leave t0 largely untouched. So I would say that most scientists are extremely confident in the value of t0 within a reasonable experimental and theoretical error.

I don't know, Muon.  Dark energy still feels something like a late 20th / early 21st century version of "the ether" to me.  I still feel like there's a decent chance that we'll learn something that will change our understanding of GR enough that it won't quite be vanilla Lambda-CDM.  Perhaps Lambda-CDM with some interesting wrinkles that mean that it's not quite 13.8 billion years old.

What do you think of folks like David Wiltshire, who claim that the conventional shortcuts that people take in averaging the spacetime metric in a way that kind of ignores large scale structure is leading them astray ( http://arxiv.org/pdf/0912.4563.pdf )?  Wiltshire goes so far as to say that this can explain away dark energy, which puts him outside the mainstream consensus.  But I think there are others (though still a minority, I think, though I'm no GR specialist) who would support some milder version of this, which would still mean that you could have a universe without a single unique age, because of the differential in time dilation between an observer who's in the middle of a void and an observer who's in the middle of a huge galaxy cluster.


It seems Wiltshire would like to restore Einstein's greatest blunder (the cosmological constant and its attendant dark energy) back to blunder status. I guess I'm not bothered by the concept of dark energy, though I don't really like the name as it isn't really the energy equivalent of dark matter. We already deal with vacuum energy in quantum physics so having a term in general relativity to describe a pervasive energy throughout the universe doesn't seem out of place to me. In any case, there have been a lot of refined measurements of the Hubble constant and redshift parameters in recent years, and I don't know if they've had any impact on Wiltshire's model.
6  General Politics / Political Debate / Re: Should politicians be able to run for multiple offices at the same time? on: April 22, 2014, 08:23:56 am
Only for reelection and President (or VPOTUS)

If it makes sense for the federal executive, why not also permit running for governor and state legislative office at the same time and give up the lower office if successful at both. Or why not mayor and city councilman?

With the exception of elected judges, most states treat running for reelection as equivalent to running for an office the first time (unless they are term limited). Incumbents already have significant advantages, and I wouldn't suggest giving them additional advantages.
7  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Minnesota Governor Signs Bill To Raise Stateís Minimum Wage on: April 22, 2014, 08:16:11 am
They've gone from the lowest in the Midwest to surpassing Illinois as the highest in the Midwest. Illinois needs to start taking notes on Minnesota, as they are able to implement similar liberal policies but in a way that has made their state one of the fiscally healthiest states in the area, while Illinois is, well...

... trying to protect Chicago and protect established interests.

I could go on for an hour about the differences in tax policies between the two states (I've lived in both). Fundamentally MN is open to change while IL is resistant. That has little to do with the partisan leanings of the two states. It is very much core to their respective identities.
8  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Survey Shows that 51% of Americans Question the 'Big Bang Theory' on: April 22, 2014, 08:03:16 am
While scientists are extremely confident about the 13.8 billion figure...

I would dispute that.

EDIT: By which I mean, sure, 13.8 billion has got to be pretty close to being right if the Lambda-CDM model is correct, but Lambda-CDM being correct isn't something I would bet my life on.  There could be some complicating wrinkles.


There is plenty of debate over the nature of the cold dark matter in the standard Lambda-CDM model. But most competing models that would result in a substantially different age of the universe (t0) have failed to match all the known observational data, particularly data from gravitational lensing and colliding galaxies. Other extensions of Lambda-CDM typically involve parameters that leave t0 largely untouched. So I would say that most scientists are extremely confident in the value of t0 within a reasonable experimental and theoretical error.
9  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Survey Shows that 51% of Americans Question the 'Big Bang Theory' on: April 22, 2014, 07:19:55 am
I would guess that the lack of confidence in the big bang question may be due as much to the other part of the question involving a time scale of 13.8 billion years. Consider the statement that the universe was created in an instant out of nothing and the earth and life on it came later. That's consistent with both the big bang and most creationist views. But the time scale of 13.8 billion years for the age of the universe and 4.5 billion years for the age of the earth are unfathomably large for most people, and that's the point when I observe skepticism emerge.
10  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Who here has political ambitions? on: April 21, 2014, 07:12:06 pm
The younger the groups get, the more likely they are to say yes. Interesting...

Particularly since at the time I was in any of the younger age groups, I would would have been a definite no.
11  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Minnesota Governor Signs Bill To Raise Stateís Minimum Wage on: April 21, 2014, 01:57:09 pm
MN can afford the change given the state's economy. The usual concern is that unemployment will rise as companies invest labor dollars into higher wages rather than new hires. However, MN has a low unemployment rate of 4.8% (11th in the nation), and is well below the national average of 6.7% in Mar. I suspect there already is quite a bit of upward pressure on low end wages in MN as employers compete for workers, so raising the floor will do little to increase unemployment.
12  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Torie's zoning variance hearing on: April 21, 2014, 08:20:06 am
Based on the hearing date of May 21, we will probably be passing each other. I'm headed to Worcester (about 2 hours east of Hudson) for my daughter's graduation on May 18. If I didn't have to head back to IL on Sunday the 19th I'd hang around to catch your hearing. Smiley
13  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: Favorite Pizza Chain on: April 21, 2014, 07:04:44 am
For full sized pizzas I like to order from a local restaurant. However, for lunch I usually just want a slice, and chains figure more into that. Pizza Hut usually has a lunch buffet where I can get a slice, but I can't get a slice to go. Most of the others don't sell by the slice, except for Sbarro. Sbarro is very common at the food court of malls in my area so if I'm have lunch while shopping Sbarro is probably the chain on the list I use most often.

In Chicagoland we have a small chain called Rosati's with about 30 stores in IL and WI. They also have a significant presence in AZ and few other scattered stores in other states. They feature slices throughout the day and they cater pizza and other Italian dishes.
14  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: challenge to mapmakers - try drawing the wealthiest district on: April 21, 2014, 06:33:34 am
You could probably carve something out of Manhattan.

There aren't as many high income census tracts as one needs to make a district. CT is probably better, but not as good as SF.
15  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: Opinion of this photo (Warning: Not for the faint of heart) on: April 20, 2014, 10:16:45 pm
The cheek piercings in the lower right image don't seem to match the other three. Huh
16  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: The Dutch on: April 20, 2014, 10:08:57 pm
The Census does not ask questions about religion, but that data is collected by the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA). They have 2010 data in map form, but it's only by state. There is county data in the GIS mapping tool for 2009. In either case there is no map that shows the largest denomination like the 2000 data does. One could construct it from the tables on their site.

You mean like this map already posted in this thread?
I see these maps in a lot of places, but is there ever going to be an updated version based on the 2010 Census?



I do get a kick out of Newberry County be a lone spot of Lutheran strength in the South.  That's due of course to the area being settled mainly by Germans during the Colonial era.  Lexington County north of the fall line was also settled mainly by Germans, but it's had a lot more in-migration since then than Newberry, tho you still see the German influence in the last names of a lot of the influential people with roots in the community.

That's what happens when I post without looking at what shows up while I'm typing. Tongue

Anyway, it's a nice find since I hadn't been able to locate one on the ARDA website.
17  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: The Sage Garden on: April 20, 2014, 12:06:05 pm
That's not really a good sign. Also (for some constructive criticism), comparing economics to "some of the more chaotic concepts emerging out of quantum physics" is probably the worst metaphor I've ever seen. The point of metaphors and suchlike is to make things easier to understand, hence AD's admittedly flawed cake rant, and quantum physics is probably the single hardest thing to understand in the world.

Not to speak for Mersault or anything... but I'm pretty sure that's his point.  You may disagree with his contention that economics is almost wholly unfathomable by normal Euclidean (so to speak) methods, but the metaphor was, I'd argue, very precisely and well chosen for the point he's trying to advance.

Does that make sense?

So Mr. Meursault's just arguing against this metaphoricization (correct word?) of big issues by pointing out that no one can really understand them? If that's the case, then I understand.

But if that's true it does start to border on sage. Wink

I do like his analogy to aspects of fluids and quantum statistical processes. Society has a similarly large number of individual elements and variables that make strict predictability fail.  However, if that is the analogy I wouldn't go into the sage territory of saying no one can understand them, because even chaotic fluid flow such as smoke can be understood in a larger sense by setting parameters of operation. Ie, certain things that are physically possible won't happen in a specific chaotic system and that provides understanding of the limits of possible behavior.
18  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: The Dutch on: April 20, 2014, 07:27:47 am
Here's the map I was talking about (its 14 years old, but is probably still somewhat accurate:



Also, on the counties I just talked about, most of them have the "Reformed" christian church. Interesting



I see these maps in a lot of places, but is there ever going to be an updated version based on the 2010 Census?

And what percentage of self-identified Dutch-Americans are (still) Dutch Reformed?

In 2000 the largest ancestry was a question on the long form of the census. Now there is only a short form and questions like ancestry are part of the American Community Survey (ACS) which comes out regularly with 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year totals. A third party would need to put together a map based on the county-by-county tables from the ACS.

The Census does not ask questions about religion, but that data is collected by the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA). They have 2010 data in map form, but it's only by state. There is county data in the GIS mapping tool for 2009. In either case there is no map that shows the largest denomination like the 2000 data does. One could construct it from the tables on their site.
19  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / Gubernatorial/Statewide Elections / Re: DE Gov. 2016: Beau Biden running on: April 19, 2014, 06:42:32 pm
Talking about the Gov of DE seems a lot like Cook County, IL and the office of board president. Cook is about half the land area of DE, but has five times the population. It's the only county in IL granted home rule status so the county board and president have a lot of authority over taxes and regulation. And like the GOP in DE the GOP has no chance of gaining the Cook presidency.
20  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: EG's State Senate Thread on: April 19, 2014, 04:26:08 pm
How did your IA map end up more D than the neutral map actually adopted? The current numbers are 26 D - 24 R.



I don't know, its just the way it turned out, I guess. I don't take sides when drawing these, but I try to group together areas and counties that are similar to each other.

I suspect it's some of the same effect seen elsewhere in the Midwest using 2008 numbers. A 52% Obama district is really lean R, a 53% Obama district is a tossup, and a 54% Obama district is lean D. That would move your 37, 43, and 45 from tossup to lean R, and 7 from lean D to lean R, and 15 from lean D to tossup. That is a shift from 29.5 D to 26.5 D which is a close match to the current composition.

21  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: EG's State Senate Thread on: April 19, 2014, 03:14:08 pm
How did your IA map end up more D than the neutral map actually adopted? The current numbers are 26 D - 24 R.

22  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Adjusting States for Elasticity on: April 19, 2014, 11:37:00 am

Thanks, but now the spreadsheet in the OP doesn't make much sense. The whole idea of the elasticity was to determine how much the state would shift when the national average shifted. The spreadsheet applied the elasticity directly to the margin which is not how it's designed to be used.

For example, Utah has a -48.04% margin in the first row of the spreadsheet. I'm not quite sure where that's from since the Obama-Romney margin was -47.88% according to Atlas, but I'll take it as the 2012 margin as described in the post. If I then consider a 10 point swing to the democrats, one might expect the elasticity of 1.01 to generate a +10.1% change in the margin, but instead the spreadsheet just divided 48.04 by 1.01 which doesn't really mean anything.

Also, as I read Silver's article I see that he also recognizes that the elasticity would be greatest for a 50-50 state. A straight swing would be the dashed line in his graph above, but the real swing would be better modeled by the red curve. The actual shift described in my example above would be less than 10.1%. A proper model would be to look at the difference in the red curve from the black line compared to their difference at 50% and use the mirror image curve for a negative shock.

A simple way to approximate this with a spreadsheet is to create an elasticity weight equal to the difference between the margin and 100%. For UT the weight would be 51.96%. The find the expected shift, multiply the national shift by the elasticity and the weight. Thus a 10% national shift for the Dems would reduce the margin in UT from -48.04% to -42.79%.
23  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: do you consider statistics a field of mathematics? on: April 19, 2014, 09:23:54 am
I would say "No". And it's my field of study. I think, if you include probability, then there's a good case to be made for "Yes" as well, but I'd say that statistics is more about applying math properly. If math includes its own application:

There would be no such thing as statistics if not for mathematics.

Nor would there be many, many things. Math is a wondrous "subject", if it's appropriate to even call something so fundamental a subject. By your definition, everything is math. And that's an appropriate answer. This is only a matter of semantics, anyway.

Perhaps I'm confused as to what is being called math here. Math is certainly not everything, and many fields that are not math use math. I find that math is that collection of studies that rely on a system of formal proof to understand the relationships between abstract idealized objects. If those objects are numbers we might be talking about algebra. If those objects are spatial forms we might be in geometry. Abstract idealized objects can include functions, graphs, and sets as well as many more esoteric constructs.

If the idealized objects are sets of numbers the field is called statistics. Like other branches of mathematics, statistics uses formal proofs and derivations to determine relationships between sets of numbers. Particularly, statistics studies the likelihood of one set belonging to another larger set based on the properties of both sets. Thus, I see no reason to think of statistics apart from mathematics.
24  General Politics / Political Debate / Re: Are there too many "checks and balances" in the US political system? on: April 19, 2014, 08:27:54 am

Reagan probably wouldn't have been "Reagan" under a parliamentary system.  If the US had the Australian constitutional system, then, for example, a Democratic parliamentary majority probably would have enacted universal health insurance in the 1960s or 70s, and we'd still have it today.

What I'm getting at is that since the Democrats are the party that's more interested in activist government on economic issues, their agenda suffers more in a system in which there are many veto points.  The American constitutional order is "conservative" in the sense that it tends to conserve the status quo.  Big social programs are hard to pass.  So if the USA had a parliamentary system, then I imagine that the political spectrum would be shifted a bit to the left of where it is now, at least on economic issues.

Of course, there are all sorts of other confounding issues, like the fact that individual members of Congress act as free agents in a way that doesn't happen in most parliamentary systems, where things are run in a much more top down manner.  Legislative power is incredibly diffuse in the US.


I think you are sensing a fundamental outcome of the American Revolution. A major point of contention was the top-down control and ease by which regulations could be imposed on the colonies by British government. Their constitutional solution was a diffusion of power with significant checks on power exerted from any one branch.
25  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Are you able to boil pasta? on: April 19, 2014, 08:04:23 am
muon, that sounds absolutely amazing.

Do you have any recipes that call for white wine? I have some chardonnay that I'd like to use up but for various reasons don't want to actually drink.

That would probably work well for muon's chicken limone.

Cut a pound of chicken breasts into finger-sized strips (cutlets work well as a starting point).
Spread on a flat easy to clean surface a cup of flour mixed with white pepper and sea salt.
Dredge the chicken strips in the flour.
Lightly saute the chicken in a large pan, turning the pieces and remove just before they would begin to brown (about 2 minutes per side).
Cut a half a sweet onion into small pieces and mince two cloves of garlic.
Saute the onion and garlic in the same large pan.
When the onions have softened (but not caramelized) add a half cup of white wine and the juice of a whole lemon.
Turn down the heat to simmer and return the chicken to the pan.
Add a teaspoon of dried thyme and a teaspoon of capers and cover the pan to steam the chicken for 10 minutes.
Chop a half cup of fresh parsley and add it after the 10 minutes.
Steam for another 2-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with rice or a small pasta like orzo and preferably a chilled white wine (that you would drink).

BTW this can be converted easily into muon's chicken piccata by using whole cutlets lightly browned, black pepper instead of white, using shallots, green onions and garlic in a butter saute, skipping the thyme, and putting slices of whole lemon on the chicken as it steams (but for about 5 minutes less time since the cutlets were browned in this version).
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