Posts

What weird treatments should people who lost their taste from COVID try? 2021-07-30T02:51:25.598Z
Are there reasons to think mixing vaccines is dangerous? 2021-06-03T22:36:35.588Z
What is the best chemistry textbook? 2021-05-11T02:39:20.341Z
How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals? 2021-02-22T18:57:46.784Z
Use conditional probabilities to clear up error rate confusion 2021-01-17T08:27:38.137Z
Netflix's "Start-Up" and sincere work dramatization 2020-12-25T05:32:46.547Z
Probability theory implies Occam's razor 2020-12-18T07:48:17.030Z
How long does it take to become Gaussian? 2020-12-08T07:23:41.725Z
Convolution as smoothing 2020-11-25T06:00:07.611Z
The central limit theorem in terms of convolutions 2020-11-21T04:09:44.145Z
Examples of Measures 2020-11-15T01:44:39.593Z
Frequentist practice incorporates prior information all the time 2020-11-07T20:43:30.781Z
"model scores" is a questionable concept 2020-11-06T03:19:45.196Z

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jitters No Evidence of Stupidity in RL · 2021-09-17T04:43:39.602Z · LW · GW

Love this! I’d never have considered this stuff when looking at an RL agent.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Best Software For Every Need · 2021-09-10T16:44:05.681Z · LW · GW

Seconded - I spent years in emacs then tried PyCharm for my Python coding and it's just so great. The static analysis is so useful.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Outline of Galef's "Scout Mindset" · 2021-08-29T23:36:12.271Z · LW · GW

I wasn’t going to buy it, but this post and the comments here convinced me to. Just finished the audiobook and I really liked it! In particular, packaging all the ideas, many of which are in The Sequences, into one thing called “scout mindset”, feels really useful in how I frame my own goals for how I think and act. Previously I had had injunctions like “value truth above all” kicking around in my head, but that particular injunction always felt a bit uncomfortable - “truth above all” brought to mind someone who nitpicks passing comments in chill social situations, and so on. The goal “Embody scout mindset” feels much more right as a guiding principle for me to live by.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Good books on Bayesian statistics · 2021-08-29T18:54:32.844Z · LW · GW

I haven’t!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2021-08-26T20:29:39.993Z · LW · GW

I just made the same recommendation on a different post. My reasons for recommending Gelman over Jaynes here is the practical value of working through the problems in Gelman's book. The problems Jaynes gives are focused on the theoretical, but the problems in BDA are applied, computational, and this is true from the beginning of the book: I used R for many of the problems at the end of chapter 2. By the end of chapter 3 I could already see ways I could apply the things I learned from BDA to my work as a Data Scientist. Jaynes also gives far fewer exercises - there are maybe 20-30 in the whole book, but in BDA there are 15 or so per chapter so far.

I read Jaynes's book cover-to-cover, but should confess I'm only through chapter 3 of BDA. So maybe it goes off the deep end and I come back here in 6 months and withdraw my recommendation. But right now I'm recommending Bayesian Data Analysis.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Good books on Bayesian statistics · 2021-08-26T20:24:07.754Z · LW · GW

I am 3 chapters into Gelman's Bayesian Data Analysis. The text is good (and available free & legitimately from that link), but where this book really shines for me so far are the problems. They are excellent, and have you using a programming languge of your choice to do computational statistics by chapter 2. I already have ideas on ways I can use the concepts at work. I had previously read through Jaynes's Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, and I love it and it changed the way I think, but for practical value, Bayesian Data Analysis wins.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Vaccination with natural immunity · 2021-08-23T18:01:39.414Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the additional information. I haven’t read that stuff, so all I had was anecdotal. I’m quite willing to believe there are side effects with decent rates and studies attached.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Vaccination with natural immunity · 2021-08-19T18:50:38.102Z · LW · GW

A lower ratio than I expected! Thanks for doing the analysis. Cheers

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Shame: Authentic & Applied/Manufactured Shame · 2021-08-18T22:01:27.025Z · LW · GW

The Last Psychiatrist talked a lot about the difference between (his definitions of) guilt and shame. To him (warning: noob summary of very complex ideas coming up), guilt was a thing you felt inside, and shame was the social aspect of it. Most important to his view was the idea that talking among the public, your friends, etc, about things you feel guilty about, converts that guilt into shame, and shame is easier to bear. So in some cases, where you know you've done something seriously wrong, maybe you shouldn't externalize it too much - because that makes it too easy to bear / forget / etc. Here's a good article that uses this perspective of his: https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/12/infidelity_and_other_taboos_me.html

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Vaccination with natural immunity · 2021-08-18T18:54:36.535Z · LW · GW

The article mentioned that there was a specific type of blood clot of concern called CVST. This was new  to me. It says there were 6 incidents reported to VAERS, with 9 million doses administered. That's a rate of 0.067 cases per 100,000 vaccine recipients. I found this paper https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2690377 that surveys the US population and finds an adjusted rate per year of 1.16/100K for men and 1.78/100K for women. (They control for age - I'm not sure if this helps or hurts the comparison to the rate of J&J clots). The mean afflicted person was 40 years old, so this rate isn't being pumped up by elderly people. Let's shoddily combine those gendered rates by eye and say it's 1.4/100K CVST cases per year. The J&J had only been being administered for a little bit when the 6 cases were reported, so let's call the 0.067/100K rate the CVST rate for one month. Multiplying by 12 to match the yearly rate gives a rate of 0.8/100K.

So if we assume the cases reported to VAERS are all the cases, then the rate for J&J recipients is lower than the base population rate. VAERS is under-reported, however, and I'm not sure by how much. If assuming only half of people with this fairly serious clot report, we get a rate of 1.6/100K for J&J receivers - about the same as the population rate. But maybe VAERS is more under-reported than that, and a factor of 10 is more fair? Then it's 8/100K CVSTs per person-year for J&J recipients, which is higher than the base rate. I'm not sure about the right factor here.

A different useful cost-benefit analysis would compare the rate of blood clots in people who get COVID to the rate of blood clots with people who get J&J. Blood clots (not just CVST though) in hospitalized COVID patients is something like 1 in 5 (!): https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30383-7/fulltext. Most people who catch COVID, especially those who have been infected before, will not be hospitalized, so this factor as it applies to your case is much much lower than 1 in 5, but is it as low as the 8/100K number above? I'd guess not, but I haven't done the calculations to back it up.

Sorry Lithuania has those wacky combination of rules! Sounds like a difficult situation.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Factors of mental and physical abilities - a statistical analysis · 2021-08-18T17:52:24.626Z · LW · GW

Great use of many sequential plots to take the reader through small inferential steps. I always hear about g but never understood it and was so confused that I just kind of ignored it whenever it came up - this helped me get it more.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Vaccination with natural immunity · 2021-08-18T16:26:06.857Z · LW · GW

Ah, I should mention that I’m in America.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Vaccination with natural immunity · 2021-08-18T16:24:20.779Z · LW · GW

I have heard anecdotally that Pfizer and Moderna are more associated with side effects than Janssen. There was a lot of hubub about blood clots regarding Janssen but that turned out to be nothing. I’m surprised to hear you think J&J has more side effects. I could be wrong? It does have lower efficicacy than the two-dose course of mRNA, though, yeah, but with you having been infected already, I think 1 J&J is a good compromise between avoiding side effects and getting more protection.

If you want a single Pfizer, though, you can just get one. There’s no way to force you back in for the second dose. And when I got a second dose at Walgreens, different from where I’d got my first dose (ie they had no records of me), they didn’t even ask about my vaccination or infection history.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What's the status of third vaccine doses? · 2021-08-04T17:45:40.090Z · LW · GW

Similar experience - I got a J&J from a mass vaccination site in April, then a Pfizer from Walgreens a few months later. Walgreens didn't ask me anything about whether I'd been vaccinated before.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What weird treatments should people who lost their taste from COVID try? · 2021-07-31T17:10:14.198Z · LW · GW

Thanks! Can you recommend a brand?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What weird treatments should people who lost their taste from COVID try? · 2021-07-30T17:48:26.472Z · LW · GW

Thanks. I had googled Ivermectin a bit yesterday but everything was talking about treating chronic fatigue. Is Ivermectin even a thing for smell/taste at all (anecdotally)? Sounds like you have heard of its use for those specific symptoms?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What weird treatments should people who lost their taste from COVID try? · 2021-07-30T16:58:46.810Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your answer. Are you saying the strong flavors seemed to help kick your sense of smell into coming back faster? Or were they just a way of riding it out until the sense came back by itself?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What weird treatments should people who lost their taste from COVID try? · 2021-07-30T03:31:13.286Z · LW · GW

Thanks for that! I'd seen it mentioned in a tweet but we wondered about the veracity. Seeing another source is helpful.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-24T21:21:01.582Z · LW · GW

I looooove that coin flip section! Cheers

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-24T15:40:40.608Z · LW · GW

Shoot! You’re right! I think I was wrong this whole time on the impact of dropping the prior term. Cuz data term * prior term is like multiplying the distributions, and dropping the prior term is like multiplying the data distribution by the uniform one. Thanks for sticking with me :)

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-23T20:59:32.598Z · LW · GW

Now I’m doubting myself >_> is it pretty different?? Anyone lurking reading this who knows whether uniform prior is very different than just dropping the prior term?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-23T20:54:26.217Z · LW · GW

It seems like in practice, when there’s a lot of data, people like Jaynes and Gelman are happy to assign low-information (or “uninformative”) priors, knowing that with a lot of data the prior ends up getting washed away anyway. So just slapping a uniform prior down might be OK in a lot of real-world situations. This is I think pretty different than just dropping the prior completely, but gets the same job done.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-23T05:22:25.729Z · LW · GW

I can’t see anything wrong in what you’ve said there, but I still have to insist without good argument that dropping P(A_p|I) is incorrect. In my vague defense, consider the two A_p distributions drawn on p558, for the penny and for Mars. Those distributions are as different as they are because of the different prior information. If it was correct to drop the prior term a priori, I think those distributions would look the same?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-22T23:19:31.654Z · LW · GW

Isn’t A_p the distribution over how often the coin will come up heads, or the probability of life on Mars? If so… there’s no way those things could be indifferent to the background information. A core tenet of the philosophy outlined in this book is that when you ignore prior information without good cause, things get wacky and fall apart. This is part of desiderata iii from chapter 2: “The robot always takes into account all of the evidence it has relevant to a question. It does not arbitrarily ignore some of the information, basing its conclusions only on what remains.”

(Then Jaynes ignores information in later chapters because it doesn’t change the result… so this desideratum is easier said than done… but yeah)

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-22T22:14:20.255Z · LW · GW

Ah, wait, I misunderstood. You're interested in the mode, huh - that's why you're taking the argmax. In my Beta(3,1) example, the mode is also 1. So no problem there. I was focused on the mean in my previous comment. I still think dropping the prior is bad but now I'm not sure how to argue the point...

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-22T22:08:03.225Z · LW · GW

I don't think so. Like you, I don't really understand this  stuff philisophically. But the step where you drop the prior  to obtain  is, I think, not warranted. Dropping the prior term outright like that... I don't think there are many cases where that's acceptable. Doing so does not reflect a state of low knowledge, but instead a state of pretty strong knowledge. To give intuition on what I mean:

Contrast with the prior that reflects the state of knowledge "All I know is that H is possible and T is possible". This is closer to Jaynes' example about whether there's life on Mars. The prior that reflects that state of knowledge is Beta(1,1), which after two heads come up, becomes Beta(3, 1). The mean of Beta(3, 1) is 3/4 = 0.75. This is much less than the 1.0 you arrive at.

A prior that gives 1.0 after the data H,H might be something like:

"This coin is very unfair in a well-known, specific way: It either always gives heads, always gives tails, or gives heads and tails alternating: 'H,T,H,T...'."

Under that prior, the data HH would give you a probability of near-1 that H is next. But that's a prior that reflects definite, strong knowledge of the coin.
Maybe this argument changes given the nature of , which again I don't really understand. But whatever it is, I don't think it's valid to assume the prior away.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Jaynesian interpretation - How does “estimating probabilities” make sense? · 2021-07-22T11:03:55.950Z · LW · GW

Jaynes has a wonderful section in the same book where he discusses coin-flipping in depth. He flips a pickle jar lid in his kitchen in different ways to demonstrate how the method of flipping is critical - I love this whole section - and ends by saying that it’s a “problem of mechanics, highly complicated”. Section 10.3 (p317), How to cheat at coin and die tossing.

I’d thought he talked about this kind of “probability of a probability” kind of thing in the Chapter on the A_p distribution, and page 560 does have that phrase (though later on the page he says “The term ‘probability of a probability’ misses the point”…), but reading it again now it seems like I didn’t really understand this section. But give pages 560-563 a shot anyway.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on For reducing caffeine dependence, does daily maximum matter more, or does total daily intake matter more? · 2021-07-10T18:48:02.977Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I’ve been vaguely thinking I’d like to be able to cycle but I think I have to reduce my dependence first, to not be dead on the off days.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on For reducing caffeine dependence, does daily maximum matter more, or does total daily intake matter more? · 2021-07-09T19:06:55.916Z · LW · GW

That helps me better see what you mean - thanks.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on For reducing caffeine dependence, does daily maximum matter more, or does total daily intake matter more? · 2021-07-09T18:11:42.342Z · LW · GW

The focus on caffeine's effects through their action on adenosine binding is a useful frame that I hadn't been thinking in terms of - thanks!

However, when you say:
Taking more caffeine in the afternoon is counterproductive, since it is maintaining the same high blood concentrations of active molecules. To reduce resistance you need to give your body time at low levels of stimulator molecules so it gets rid of the excess receptor sites.

If I take caffeine in the afternoon, like, 4 hours after the morning dose, sure, I get it, that's bad. But if I take it 10 hours after, wouldn't I be giving my body time at (relatively) lower levels, thus prompting it to get rid of the excess sites? The instruction to give my body time at lower levels does not (at my level of understanding) tell me whether total daily intake or maximum dose is more important. Does that make sense?

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on For reducing caffeine dependence, does daily maximum matter more, or does total daily intake matter more? · 2021-07-09T18:00:37.290Z · LW · GW

I’m actually not sure I can and it feels rough already to decrease. My “so far so good” was more meant as like… “so far, logically straightforward”, not “so far, good clear progress”. My life is a little bit consistently worse under these decreases and I do want to finish the reductions sooner rather than later, without accidentally burning progress through use of night caffeine.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Taboo "Outside View" · 2021-06-17T21:38:13.832Z · LW · GW

Love this post! So linear and so many examples made it so easy to read! Also I was vaguely annoyed at the term Outside View but didn’t know why or whether I was right or anything? This expansion of it into parts makes a lot of sense.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Are there reasons to think mixing vaccines is dangerous? · 2021-06-04T16:38:59.908Z · LW · GW

Yup yup - I was wondering if there was some weird less-known but persuasive reason it might be dangerous, so thought I’d do a double-check here. Cheers!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2021-06-04T15:47:55.838Z · LW · GW

Definitely looks relevant! Thanks!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Are there reasons to think mixing vaccines is dangerous? · 2021-06-04T14:05:02.106Z · LW · GW

I’ve wanted this additional dose for more than a month but didn’t want to take someone else’s dose, so I waited. It is my understanding that supply is no longer a limiting factor on vaccination rates. This is based on two things:

1. There are many unfilled vaccine appointments around me.
2. The cumulative-vaccinations-by-day graph is leveling off. In April in my state we had something like 3 to 4% of the total population being vaccinated each week - now that number is around 1%.

And extra doses at my local CVS are probably not going to make it to India or Mexico or Africa if I skip my appointment. The vague feeling I’ve got is that the logistical issues are difficult enough that pharmacies won’t be sending vaccines back, though this is just a feeling. So I decided that this is a pretty different situation and doesn’t match the feeling I had in April of “I don’t want to take anybody else’s appointment”. Some states are literally running million-dollar lotteries to try and get people to get it!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Are there reasons to think mixing vaccines is dangerous? · 2021-06-04T13:52:58.156Z · LW · GW

I agree in most cases, but here specifically, I’m worried that doctors are just going to follow CDC guidance and say something like “vaccine efficacy cannot be directly compared, and one J&J counts as fully vaccinated, so current guidelines say no, no more dose”. And it would cost my company around \$500 to go to a doctor’s office and get their advice, which seems like a waste.

Also, I’d already signed up for the appointment before posting this question, planning to go! So the alternatives here were not “ask LW or ask my doctor”, but rather “ask LW or ask no one”. The advice here is better than the no-advice option I would have gone with if LW didn’t exist, or deleted this type of question.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What's your visual experience when reading technical material? · 2021-05-28T05:05:10.801Z · LW · GW

Very interesting shorthand project! It reminds me of my other big learning realization, about 8 years ago, of “don’t take notes during a lecture, just sit and try and understand in the moment”. So maybe my high-level studying strategy is something like “go all in just trying to grok the thing as best you can, even if you forget a lot of the details at first”. Visualization fits nice into that strategy. Though I think I’m basically just more visual - I’m obsessed with data graphics in a way my coworkers just clearly are not at all.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What's your visual experience when reading technical material? · 2021-05-27T19:11:25.561Z · LW · GW

I read Jaynes’ Probability book from cover to cover last year, and most of my understanding of it came visually. This was a big breakthrough for me, because I’d never tried to understand math visually before - I think I thought the graphs in my calculus education were there to explain the equations, and that the equations held the real core meaning. I finally gave up on trying to gain any intuition through equations alone and went visual first when reading Jaynes and this approach gave me 5 or 10 times the value I would have gotten if I tried to understand it algebra-first.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What is the best chemistry textbook? · 2021-05-12T15:53:06.808Z · LW · GW

Ahh nice, I very much might not have the stomach to get into a whole chemistry textbook - not sure yet - in which case this sounds like a good compromise. Thanks.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What is the best chemistry textbook? · 2021-05-12T15:51:31.101Z · LW · GW

That’s right, I don’t - I was talking to a friend about vaccines expiring and he said “things want to be in a low energy state”, which sounded like the kind of thing people say a lot and is probably right, but I didn’t, like, feel it.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What is the best chemistry textbook? · 2021-05-12T02:16:46.222Z · LW · GW

I want to learn biochemistry so I can reason about stuff that goes on in the body! I’ve started Lehninger’s Principles of Biochemistry and I mostly get it, but some of the stuff it assumes (e.g. covalent vs. noncovalent bonds) I’m not familiar with.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on [link] If something seems unusually hard for you, see if you're missing a minor insight · 2021-05-06T14:33:46.691Z · LW · GW

I do a weird thing where I extend my arm before I go for the swallow, then pull my arm back fast as I start to swallow. This sympathetic motion helps somehow.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-05T00:56:01.896Z · LW · GW

I take 1mg.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-03T19:54:45.287Z · LW · GW

Yup, I aim to sleep around 11:30p or midnight . The guide has "Take melatonin 9 hours after wake and 7 before sleep, eg 5 PM", so I just went with that.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-03T18:50:15.784Z · LW · GW

I don’t really get EA at an emotional level and this post helps give someone like me an... emotional intuition pump?... in a way that other EA posts do not do for me. I think it’s good that it is at the level of abstraction it is at.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Small and Vulnerable · 2021-05-03T18:37:05.470Z · LW · GW

Even at thirty years old I cannot handle getting up early; I rarely wake before nine-thirty. A year ago I briefly had to be awake at six-thirty for work. I felt terrible all day and could not think straight.

I’m 30 too and have struggled with this since forever and just started a month ago taking melatonin at 5pm as suggested on SlateStarCodex’s melatonin guide. I often wake up without an alarm now at 8:30a or so, but more strikingly, no longer feel tired until mid-afternoon like I used to.

Probably you have heard this already and possibly you are annoyed to hear it again but this part of the post was too familiar to me to not say anything!