Are we stuck listening to Blurred Lines forever?

The song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke was the number one song of 2013, as rated by Billboard Magazine. In 2014, the song of the year was Happy by Pharrell. Now, one of these songs, Happy, I could stand to listen to, and I fully expect to at every wedding I attend for the next 10 years. But Blurred Lines, I could do without that.

Now, by the same token Hold On by Wilson Phillips was the number one song of 1990, and I honestly rarely if ever hear that on the radio, out at shops, or at weddings. So there’s some hope that not every song-of-the-year earworm is going to be jammed down our throats in perpetuity. Let’s mine some radio data to see what we can see about this. Continue reading

Yes, New York Times, algebra is sometimes useful even in real life

The tweet of the moment comes courtesy of Dan Meyers:

B6dqcJ1CQAAj9WaIf The Interview generated $15M in online sales, rentals were $6  and sales were $15, and there were 2M transactions, then it ought to be pretty straightforward to say how many were rentals and how many were sales:

r + s = 2,000,000
6r + 15s = 15,000,000

This implies that s = 3000000/9 = 333,333 and r = 1,666,667.

I guess the lesson here is that it isn’t just that the person at the paper of record couldn’t solve this problem, but that he actually didn’t think there was enough information to determine the answer. He presumably could have just asked a peer to solve these equations for him. (Note also that people in my Twitter mentions were arguing about whether it’s solvable. Um. It is.)

Michael Cieply is likely considered a smart person. Hell, he probably is a smart person. But quantitative reasoning is not a prerequisite for being considered smart. And with the publication he works for actually publishing an editorial asking whether algebra is necessary, it’s maybe not so surprising.

Technically Minded: Episode 1

The first episode of my new podcast. Here I talk about what this show is all about, a slightly different view of news, culture, health, and art than you get from many other sources. This week I talk about science in journalism, including what I feel is the main problem with how journalists approach the news. I also comment on the Princeton Election Consortium’s “model” of this year’s midterm election.