Archive for the ‘Science’ Category.

Defining Cause

It rained today and I didn’t have an umbrella, so I got wet. Why did I get wet? What caused me to get wet?

Suppose I was in LA during a drought and it was a weird, one-off shower. You’d say that I got wet because it rained.

Suppose I was in Seattle during an especially rainy season and, uncharacteristically, I forgot my umbrella. You’d say that I got wet because I didn’t have an umbrella.
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Truth and Choices: Computational v. Analytical formal models

How do we show a statement about politics is true? Analytic formal modelers suggest one way:

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Computational modeling is not: simulation

Computational modeling and simulation have many similar things in common. They both involve using computers, they both use encoded descriptions of how things work, they both “run” one or (usually) many times.  The easiest way to see how they differ is to note their very different goals.

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The Engineer’s Fallacy

As a mathematician-turned-social-scientist, I have first-hand experience with the traps a physical scientist can fall into when trying to explain how people act and interact. This is the first of many posts in which I will describe my favorite error, which I have come to call “The Engineer’s Fallacy”.  Rather than define it straight away, I will start with a recent example making it’s way around the mediascape.

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