Mike the Mad Biologist

Category archives for Mathematics

My colleagues have all heard of the Mad Biologist’s Rule of Base Ten Numbers: when you see too many numbers that end with zero, become skeptical. That’s because only one in ten numbers should do should end in zero. So, if you read news reports that routinely say, “Today, American forces blew the crap out…

One of the things that everyone has been talking about, including Obama, is slowing the growth in healthcare costs, what some have called ‘bending the curve’ (and if we bend it, will we Bend It Like Beckham?). But consider these per capita healthcare expenditure data from the OECD:

I’ve posted several times about how confusing a slowdown in the rate at which things get worse (the second derivative) with an actual improvement (the first derivative) has led to some ridiculous claims about economic improvement. Keith Hennessey has a similar complaint:

The U.S. Can Teach Kids Math Provided…

…they live in Massachusetts. Most of us have read the “ZOMG!! AMERICAN KIDZ DON’T KNOW TEH MATHZ!” stories. But a recent study (pdf), found by way of Matthew Yglesias, points out that some states in the U.S. actually do better than most countries (and then there’s Mississippi, Alabama, and Washington D.C.).

Unnamed “economists” appear to claiming a light at the end of the economic tunnel because the U.S. economy ‘only’ lost 345,000 jobs last month, and the increase in unemployment is slowing. We have been reduced to cheering on the second derivative.

Don’t Blame the Models

No, not skinny models, mathematical models. Katrina Lamb writes:

A while ago, I talked about some things biologists should learn, and the glaring omission was mathematical fluency. I bring this up because one of the things the Mad Biologist does is work on the Human Microbiome Project (between that, and fighting evil, we are very busy…). The part of the Human Microbiome Project (‘HMP’)…

As Jesse at Pandagon notes, even though the presidential race is stagnant in that the numbers aren’t shifting much, that’s not the same as the race being in a dead heat. This would be obvious, if your typical political reporter wasn’t a mathematically illiterate moron.

Who woulda thunk it? A recent paper in PLoS One argues that the NIH review process uses far too few reviewers to claim the level of scoring precision that the NIH provides.

The Epidemiology of Bee Colony Collapse

Consider this a public service announcement. The NY Times has a very good op-ed piece explaining how mathematical epidemiology can be used to better understand bee colony collapse. The good news is (right now anyway) that it doesn’t look like all of the colonies will die off.