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Original author: 
Matthew Francis


Nobody knows what the mathematician Rev. Thomas Bayes looked like, but this is the picture everyone uses. The equation is Bayes' theorem.

Nate Silver, baseball statistician turned political analyst, gained a lot of attention during the 2012 United States elections when he successfully predicted the outcome of the presidential vote in all 50 states. The reason for his success was a statistical method called Bayesian inference, a powerful technique that builds on prior knowledge to estimate the probability of a given event happening.

Bayesian inference grew out of Bayes' theorem, a mathematical result from English clergyman Thomas Bayes, published two years after his death in 1761. In honor of the 250th anniversary of this publication, Bradley Efron examined the question of why Bayes' theorem is not more widely used—and why its use remains controversial among many scientists and statisticians. As he pointed out, the problem lies with blind use of the theorem, in cases where prior knowledge is unavailable or unreliable.

As is often the case, the theorem ascribed to Bayes predates him, and Bayesian inference is more general than what the good reverend worked out in his spare time. However, Bayes' posthumous paper was an important step in the development of probability theory, and so we'll stick with using his name.

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Christopher Capozziello

A State Of Mind

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This story began two years ago at a funeral home in the center of my hometown in Connecticut.

I stood in a line of a thousand or so people, with my good friend Laura, and her mother Bea. As we mourned the death of our friend Vinnie, a recovering drug addict, who relapsed and died of a heroin overdose, Bea told me how Vinnie had helped Monica, her youngest daughter, detox from heroin 5 months prior. She explained how afraid she was that his death would put Monica into a tailspin. Unfortunately, that is how this story goes.

When Monica was a young child, the pastor of the church she and her family attended, allegedly molested her over a 5-year period. When she was 18, she told her family what happened. Her accusations have never been confirmed and since the offense took place so long ago, Monica’s parents cannot bring suit against the pastor. Her parents believe this explains her many years of drug abuse.

Last year, Monica became pregnant with a man she met in rehab in Florida. Monica and Kyle stayed clean for 7 months before they both relapsed; just two months before the birth of their daughter Juliette. Following the birth, they both continued to intravenously use opiates.

When the baby was born, Bea traveled to Florida to help her daughter’s transition into motherhood. While Bea was there, Kyle became extremely volatile one night, and threatened to kill Monica, yet they remain a couple. Before Bea left for Connecticut, Monica told her to take Juliette, ‘I can’t raise her like this, not while I’m using.’

Today, baby Juliette is safe with Bea and her husband Don, in Connecticut, while Monica remains in Florida. I plan to investigate deeper into the molestation allegations.

 

Bio

Christopher Capozziello (born 1980) is a freelance photographer and a founding member of the AEVUM photography collective.

His work is primarily about inviting the viewer into personal stories in order to understand different facets of life. His projects often make unpleasant realities beautiful, not by misleading anyone, but by allowing the viewer to stop and look more deeply at the subject.

Christopher’s work has been honored by World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the Alexia Foundation, the Aftermath Project Grant, PDN Photo Annual, Photolucidas Critical Mass, Review Santa Fe, American Photography, Communication Arts, National Press Photographers Association, among others.

He currently lives in Milford, Connecticut, where he accepts assignments and works on long-term personal projects.

 

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George E.P. Box, a statistician known for his body of work in time series analysis and Bayesian inference (and his quotes), recounts how he became a statistician while trying to solve actual problems. He was a 19-year-old college student studying chemistry. Instead of finishing, he joined the army, fed up with what the British government was doing to stop Hitler.

Before I could actually do any of that I was moved to a highly secret experimental station in the south of England. At the time they were bombing London every night and our job was to help to find out what to do if, one night, they used poisonous gas.

Some of England's best scientists were there. There were a lot of experiments with small animals, I was a lab assistant making biochemical determinations, my boss was a professor of physiology dressed up as a colonel, and I was dressed up as a staff sergeant.

The results I was getting were very variable and I told my colonel that what we really needed was a statistician.

He said "we can't get one, what do you know about it?" I said "Nothing, I once tried to read a book about it by someone called R. A. Fisher but I didn't understand it". He said "You've read the book so you better do it", so I said, "Yes sir".

Box eventually worked with Fischer, studied under E. S. Pearson in college after his discharge from the army, and started the Statistical Techniques Research Group at Princeton on the insistence of one John Tukey.

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J. Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger write in with an update to yesterday's story on RSA key security: "Yesterday Slashdot posted that RSA keys are 99.8%
secure in the real world. We've been working on this
concurrently, and as it turns out, the story is a bit more
complicated. Those factorable keys are generated by your router and
VPN, not bankofamerica.com. The geeky details are pretty nifty: we
downloaded every SSL and SSH keys on the internet in a few days, did
some math on 100 million digit numbers, and ended up with 27,000
private keys. (That's 0.4% of SSL keys in current use.) We posted a
long
blog post summarizing our findings over at Freedom to Tinker."


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New submitter KA.7210 writes "I am an employed mechanical engineer, having worked with the same company since graduation from college 5 years ago. I am looking to increase my credentials by taking more engineering courses, potentially towards a certificate or a full master's degree. Going to school full time is not an option, and there is only one engineering school near me that offers a program that resembles what I wish to study, and also has the courses at night. Therefore, I have begun to look at online options, and it appears there are many legitimate, recognizable schools offering advanced courses in my area of interest. My question to Slashdot readers out there is: how do employers view degrees/advanced credentials obtained online, when compared to the more typical in-person education? Does anyone have specific experience with this situation? The eventual degree itself will have no indication that it was obtained online, but simple inference will show that it was not likely I maintained my employment on the east coast while attending school in-person on the west coast. I wish to invest my time wisely, and hope that some readers out there have experience with this issue!"


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Beats analogue stick, mouse, says Braben.

Ten million selling Xbox 360 motion-sensing add-on Kinect is the most accurate analogue input device gamers have ever had, Elite creator David Braben has said.

"If you think of the analogue stick for example, if you just show the position of the analogue stick on the screen as a blob, it jitters around all over the place," Braben, whose Frontier Developments made Kinectimals and is worling on Kinect Disneyland Adventures, told Eurogamer in a new interview published this morning.

"When we first got analogue controls we thought, oh yes, you can use it like a mouse. But actually, you can't. It's not precise enough. The mouse is pretty precise, but that's only because that's also a relative device.


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Noah Shachtman reports at Wired Danger Room blog that the investment arms of the CIA and Google are together backing a firm that monitors the web in real time, and claims to use that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands
of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships
between people, organizations, actions and incidents -- both present
and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal
analytics engine "goes beyond search" by "looking at the 'invisible
links' between documents that talk about the same, or related,
entities and events."

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it
happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that
chatter, showing online "momentum" for any given event.

The "How People Use It" page on Recorded Future's website makes absolutely no attempt to hide The Creepy:

Research a person
Monitor news on public figures to...

Identify future travel plans; spot past travel trends and patterns

Search for communication with other individuals; graph their network

Monitor career history and announced job changes

Find quotations and sound bites in the news and blogs

Discover future and past strategic positioning

Uncover public political ties and family relationships

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in 'Future' of Web Monitoring (Wired Danger Room blog)

Video above, a trailer of sorts for "Recorded Future."

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