Archive for February 2010

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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Terrorism is not Lightning or Peanut Butter

I came across the book Panicology, where “Two Statisticians Explain What’s Worth Worrying About (and What’s Not) in the 21st Century”.  The back cover chastens the reader:


More Americans have been killed by lightning or by peanut allergies than by terrorist attacks.

I’ve read this comparison in different forms many times; it is true, but misleading.

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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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