Posted on Categories Mathematics, Opinion, TutorialsTags , , , 4 Comments on How to outrun a crashing alien spaceship

How to outrun a crashing alien spaceship

Hollywood movies are obsessed with outrunning explosions and outrunning crashing alien spaceships. For explosions the movies give the optimal (but unusable) solution: run straight away. For crashing alien spaceships they give the same advice, but in this case it is wrong. We demonstrate the correct angle to flee.

PrometheusRun

Running from a crashing alien spaceship, Prometheus 2012, copyright 20th Century Fox
Continue reading How to outrun a crashing alien spaceship

Posted on Categories Administrativia, data science, Expository Writing, Opinion, Pragmatic Machine Learning, Statistics, TutorialsTags , ,

Pragmatic Machine Learning

We are very excited to announce a new Win-Vector LLC blog category tag: Pragmatic Machine Learning. We don’t normally announce blog tags, but we feel this idea identifies an important theme common to a number of our articles and to what we are trying to help others achieve as data scientists. Please look for more news and offerings on this topic going forward. This is the stuff all data scientists need to know.

Posted on Categories Opinion, StatisticsTags , 2 Comments on The differing perspectives of statistics and machine learning

The differing perspectives of statistics and machine learning

In both working with and thinking about machine learning and statistics I am always amazed at the differences in perspective and view between these two fields. In caricature it boils down to: machine learning initiates expect to get rich and statistical initiates expect to get yelled at. You can see hints of what the practitioners expect to encounter by watching their preparations and initial steps. Continue reading The differing perspectives of statistics and machine learning

Posted on Categories data science, Opinion, Pragmatic Data Science, Pragmatic Machine LearningTags , , , 1 Comment on Congratulations to both Dr. Nina Zumel and EMC- great job

Congratulations to both Dr. Nina Zumel and EMC- great job

A big congratulations to Win-Vector LLC‘s Dr. Nina Zumel for authoring and teaching portions of EMC‘s new Data Science and Big Data Analytics training and certification program. A big congratulations to EMC, EMC Education Services and Greenplum for creating a great training course. Finally a huge thank you to EMC, EMC Education Services and Greenplum for inviting Win-Vector LLC to contribute to this great project.

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Posted on Categories data science, Opinion, Pragmatic Data Science, Pragmatic Machine Learning, TutorialsTags , , , , , 1 Comment on Setting expectations in data science projects

Setting expectations in data science projects

How is it even possible to set expectations and launch data science projects?

Data science projects vary from “executive dashboards” through “automate what my analysts are already doing well” to “here is some data, we would like some magic.” That is you may be called to produce visualizations, analytics, data mining, statistics, machine learning, method research or method invention. Given the wide range of wants, diverse data sources, required levels of innovation and methods it often feels like you can not even set goals for data science projects.

Many of these projects either fail or become open ended (become unmanageable).

As an alternative we describe some of our methods for setting quantifiable goals and front-loading risk in data science projects. Continue reading Setting expectations in data science projects

Posted on Categories Computer Science, Opinion, Rants, TutorialsTags , , 26 Comments on Why I don’t like Dynamic Typing

Why I don’t like Dynamic Typing

A lot of people consider the static typing found in languages such as C, C++, ML, Java and Scala as needless hairshirtism. They consider the dynamic typing of languages like Lisp, Scheme, Perl, Ruby and Python as a critical advantage (ignoring other features of these languages and other efforts at generic programming such as the STL).

I strongly disagree. I find the pain of having to type or read through extra declarations is small (especially if you know how to copy-paste or use a modern IDE). And certainly much smaller than the pain of the dynamic language driven anti-patterns of: lurking bugs, harder debugging and more difficult maintenance. Debugging is one of the most expensive steps in software development- so you want incur less of it (even if it is at the expense of more typing). To be sure, there is significant cost associated with static typing (I confess: I had to read the book and post a question on Stack Overflow to design the type interfaces in Automatic Differentiation with Scala; but this is up-front design effort that has ongoing benefits, not hidden debugging debt).

There is, of course, no prior reason anybody should immediately care if I do or do not like dynamic typing. What I mean by saying this is I have some experience and observations about problems with dynamic typing that I feel can help others.

I will point out a couple of example bugs that just keep giving. Maybe you think you are too careful to ever make one of these mistakes, but somebody in your group surely will. And a type checking compiler finding a possible bug early is the cheapest way to deal with a bug (and static types themselves are only a stepping stone for even deeper static code analysis). Continue reading Why I don’t like Dynamic Typing

Posted on Categories Opinion, Rants, StatisticsTags , , ,

Why you can not to use statistics to dispute magic

It is a subtle point that statistical modeling is different than model based science. However, empirical scientists seem to go out of their way to conflate the two before the public (as statistical modeling is easier to perform and model based science is more highly rewarded). It is often claimed that model based science is being done when in fact statistics is what is being done (for instance some of the unfortunate distractions of flawed reports related to the important question of the magnitude of plausible anthropogenic global warming).

Both model based science and statistics are wonderful fields, but it is important to not receive the results of one when you have paid for the other.

We will pointedly discuss one of the differences. Continue reading Why you can not to use statistics to dispute magic

Posted on Categories Applications, Opinion, Pragmatic Machine Learning, Statistics, TutorialsTags , , , , , , , 6 Comments on My Favorite Graphs

My Favorite Graphs

The important criterion for a graph is not simply how fast we can see a result; rather it is whether through the use of the graph we can see something that would have been harder to see otherwise or that could not have been seen at all.

— William Cleveland, The Elements of Graphing Data, Chapter 2

In this article, I will discuss some graphs that I find extremely useful in my day-to-day work as a data scientist. While all of them are helpful (to me) for statistical visualization during the analysis process, not all of them will necessarily be useful for presentation of final results, especially to non-technical audiences.

I tend to follow Cleveland’s philosophy, quoted above; these graphs show me — and hopefully you — aspects of data and models that I might not otherwise see. Some of them, however, are non-standard, and tend to require explanation. My purpose here is to share with our readers some ideas for graphical analysis that are either useful to you directly, or will give you some ideas of your own.

Continue reading My Favorite Graphs

Posted on Categories Computer Science, Exciting Techniques, Expository Writing, math programming, Opinion, TutorialsTags , , 1 Comment on An Appreciation of Locality Sensitive Hashing

An Appreciation of Locality Sensitive Hashing

We share our admiration for a set of results called “locality sensitive hashing” by demonstrating a greatly simplified example that exhibits the spirit of the techniques. Continue reading An Appreciation of Locality Sensitive Hashing

Posted on Categories Computer Science, Computers, Opinion, ProgrammingTags , , , 1 Comment on “The Mythical Man Month” is still a good read

“The Mythical Man Month” is still a good read

Re-read Fred Brooks “The Mythical Man Month” over vacation. ¬†Book remains insightful about computer science and project management. Continue reading “The Mythical Man Month” is still a good read