Posts

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
Where can I find good explanations of the central limit theorems for people with a Bayesian background? 2020-11-13T16:36:01.611Z
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

Comments

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? · 2021-06-04T16:39:39.353Z · LW · GW

Thanks!

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.

Thanks for your recommendations!

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!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on What does vaccine effectiveness as a function of time look like? · 2021-04-19T14:34:09.351Z · LW · GW

You can find fat powerpoints by the companies on the FDA's website: J&J, Pfizer, Moderna. Each deck includes a Kaplan-Meier survival curve, showing COVID protection by day-after-vaccine. On the J&J deck it's slide CO-36. The curves for the placebo group and vaccine group get further and further apart as time goes on, with the lines first separating at the 14-day point. I am not sure if this means the vaccinated gain additional protection in week 3, 4, etc., after vaccination, or if it just means that more placebo people get infected as time goes on. What's interesting with the J&J plot is that the lines don't visibly separate until day 14 - naively this makes me want to say the vaccine isn't effective at all till day 14, but biologically that doesn't make sense to me, so I'm not saying that.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on deluks917's Shortform · 2021-03-27T20:32:13.369Z · LW · GW

I’m sorry for your loss.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on On Changing Minds That Aren't Mine, and The Instinct to Surrender. · 2021-03-14T00:00:05.379Z · LW · GW

If you want to get back your feeling that you can convince people in general, try easier topics. Arguing political worldview stuff is extreme hard mode. There are easier pickings; arguing why the FDA is bad, or something, is of substance but also not core-worldview, so you’ll have an easier time.

If you want to get back your feeling that made you so invested in this Discord political space, I don’t have good advice, because arguing politics at that level is, like, my worst nightmare. So I’d say: ask people in that server how they got over this feeling! If no one is changing their mind on that server despite all this argument, other people probably feel it too. They’d know better than people like me, who avoid this stuff like the plague, would.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals? · 2021-02-24T04:05:43.935Z · LW · GW

I’d never heard of that site! Thanks

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals? · 2021-02-23T14:41:39.933Z · LW · GW

Your answer uses a fair amount of analysis and knowledge in order to avoid this kind of large charge. Maybe perversely, I was asking for methods that do not require analysis or knowledge about contract types. I also doubt that most customers of the Texas company had a good sense of the risk they were exposing themselves too - many might have followed the "scan list for lowest rate, then pick that one" method that I use sometimes.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals? · 2021-02-22T19:47:16.268Z · LW · GW

Thanks - that's even better separation than using separate accounts at the same bank. More work, but something I hadn't thought of.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals? · 2021-02-22T19:44:52.658Z · LW · GW

Ahh - of course! Thanks!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Participating in a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial · 2021-02-12T18:18:27.002Z · LW · GW

Nice story! All the little details made it fun to read.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Does anyone else sometimes "run out of gas" when trying to think? · 2021-02-03T13:37:02.043Z · LW · GW

I’ve never! Not even close.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on [Link] Still Alive - Astral Codex Ten · 2021-01-22T01:23:41.260Z · LW · GW

YESSSSSSSSSS

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Netflix's "Start-Up" and sincere work dramatization · 2020-12-30T21:19:05.896Z · LW · GW

Python, actually! (Who would have guessed?). The camera zooms in on Do-San writing correct Python every now and then. I mean, he keeps writing a function called sigma_prime, which, like, maybe he should import? But it is tech literate even there!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Best Visualizations on Every Subject · 2020-12-22T03:50:01.974Z · LW · GW

This isn’t a textbook, but Dataclysm by Christian Rudder was a major inspiration to me when I was new to data analysis. The book is like a long data analysis project around dating on OKCupid (Rudder founded the site), and has a lot of good graphs made just for the book. Unlike some of the popular examples made famous by e.g. Tufte, the graphs in Dataclysm are of the type an analyst in 2020 might typically make in their day-to-day work. Lots of scatter plots and bar plots, but created thoughtfully enough to really be something. Rarely in this book did I think “ah, beautiful” - much more often, I thought “ah, yup, I see the relationship he’s saying exists.”

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T18:33:40.320Z · LW · GW

Great descriptions!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T18:31:29.942Z · LW · GW

Interesting - I can’t count the points on a star either (my imagination insists on zooming way in on one point when I try to count it, so zoomed-in that the other points are no longer in “sight”). But I consider myself a pretty visual thinker, and rarely do things I imagine seem fake. One of my big accomplishments this year has been learning a lot more math, and that learning started being really successful when I began trying to visually picture as many concepts as I could (like probability regions in 2d and 3d, for example).

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-18T17:28:10.978Z · LW · GW

Thanks for investigating, this is helpful - I added a link to this comment to the post.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Probability theory implies Occam's razor · 2020-12-18T16:00:08.266Z · LW · GW

Yes, the thing about the age is totally dependent on the actual state of the universe (or, put more mundanely, dependent on the actual things I know or think I know about cows).

In regard to the short laws of the universe... I am saying that, if you’re already in the framework of probability theory, then you know you can’t gain from random guessing. Like how the optimal strategy for guessing whether the next card will be blue or red, in a deck 70% red, is “always guess red”. A hypothetical non-Occam prior, if it doesn’t tell you anything about cards, won’t change the fact that that this strategy is best. To convince someone who disagrees that this is true, using real examples, or actually drawing actual cards, would help. So again there I’d use empirical information to help justify my claim. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I didn’t mean to argue that everything I said was devoid of empiricism.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Power of Annealing · 2020-12-15T18:51:44.480Z · LW · GW

I've seen the words "simulated annealing" I don't know how many times, but always figured it was some complicated idea I'd have to actually sit down and study. So this post is actually the first time I got the idea and see how it is useful. I also didn't know that 2-year-old brains had more synapses than adult brains. Good post!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Fermi Paradox has not been dissolved - James Fodor · 2020-12-15T02:36:12.503Z · LW · GW

Great post! I moved a lot toward a rare-earth view when I learned of the Sandberg paper, and this post has me back to unsure. Glad I read this.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on Why quantitative methods are heartwarming · 2020-12-14T18:46:46.888Z · LW · GW

Love this! Very much agree. I do work on improving pricing methods in my day job, but I hadn’t been equipped with the emotional lens that this post describes - so this is useful to me (and just nice!). I’m gonna share it with people at work.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-14T16:21:35.437Z · LW · GW

This is an interesting view. I like the idea of thinking of center and tails separately. At the same time: If the center and tails were best thought of as separate, isn't it interesting that both go to Gaussian? Are there cases you know of (probably with operations that are not convolution?) where the tails go to Gaussian but the center does not, or vice-versa?

Skew doesn't capture everything, but it really seems like it captures something, doesn't it? I'd be interested to see a collection of distributions for which the relationship between skew and Gaussianness-after-n-convolutions relationship does not hold, if you know of one! 

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-14T16:11:52.845Z · LW · GW

Thanks!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-12T01:07:37.433Z · LW · GW

Good to hear! Thanks

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-10T17:25:17.458Z · LW · GW

I had a strong feeling from the theorem that skew mattered a lot, but I’d somehow missed the dependence on the variance- this was helpful, thanks.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-10T04:49:05.489Z · LW · GW

Thanks!!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-09T16:52:28.916Z · LW · GW

Wow! Cool - thanks!

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on An elegant proof of Laplace’s rule of succession · 2020-12-09T07:11:25.019Z · LW · GW

Nice post! I just finished reading a lot about the rule of succession (In Jaynes’ book) and this is a helpful similar-yet-different perspective. Cool circle idea.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on An elegant proof of Laplace’s rule of succession · 2020-12-09T06:54:05.495Z · LW · GW

I don’t know about linkposts, but there’s an editor here with LaTeX, yup. There are two editor modes: The LessWrong Editor, and the Markdown Editor. Looks like you’re in the markdown editor here. The LessWrong editor doesn’t support footnotes, and there are plenty of other differences, so I recommend against converting this post to LessWrong-editor-format - things might get totally messed up. (Though I’ve only written 6 posts here, none in the Markdown editor, so I’m not actually sure).

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-09T00:38:48.759Z · LW · GW

Those possible approximate rules are interesting. I’m not sure about the answers to any of those questions.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-08T23:51:00.568Z · LW · GW

I think I didn't like the supremum part of the KS distance (which it looks like Total Variation has too) - felt like using just the supremum was using too little information. But it might have worked out anyway.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-08T23:43:08.173Z · LW · GW

Yes, exactly right: initial kurtosis is a fine indicator of how many convolutions it will take to reach kurtosis = 3. Actually, it’s probably a better indicator than skew, if you already have the kurtosis on hand. Two reasons I chose to look at in in terms of skew:

  1. the main reason: it’s easier to eye skew. I can look at a graph and think “damn that’s skewed!”, but I’m less able to look and say “boy is that kurtose!”. I’m not as familiar with kurtosis, geometrically, though, so maybe others more familiar would not have this problem. It’s also easier for me to reason about skew; I know that income and spend distributions are often skewed, but there aren’t any common real world problems I find myself thinking are more or less kurtose.
  2. I suspect - I’m not sure - but I suspect that distance-from-kurtosis-3 is a monotonically decreasing function of #-of-convolutions. In that case, to say “things that start closer to three stay closer to three after applying a monotonic decreasing function” felt, I guess, a little bit obvious?

Re: the beta(20, 10) making it look like there's a sweet spot around skew=0.25: correct that that isn't real. beta(20, 10) is super Gaussian (has very low kurtosis) even before any convolutions. 

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-08T16:27:40.777Z · LW · GW

I thought about that but didn't try it - maybe the sum of the absolute difference would work well. I'd tried KS distance, and also taking sum(sum(P(x > y) over y) over x), and wasn't happy with either. 

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on How long does it take to become Gaussian? · 2020-12-08T16:19:58.285Z · LW · GW

Fixed - thanks! (Although your example doesn't sum to 1, so is not an example of a distribution, I think?)

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on On exact mathematical formulae · 2020-12-07T20:34:46.906Z · LW · GW

This is great - I’ve been working on a lot of math lately, and the difference in this post describes is definitely muddied in my mind, but until reading I didn’t realize I was confused about the difference.

Comment by Maxwell Peterson (maxwell-peterson) on The Incomprehensibility Bluff · 2020-12-07T19:27:54.579Z · LW · GW

When I talk to non-technical people at work or about my work, I am frantically translating all the technical words I usually use into words that fit into something that I hope they can understand. This is very difficult! And I have to do it on the fly. I mess up sometimes. This must happen to a lot of people, and it's all very innocent - because communicating across large inferential distances is hard. I've gotten better at it but it is definitely a skill. I appreciate the edit to call out that there are various options about what's going on besides the Smarter and Bluffing options described in the post, but I still want to stress that bluffing is a small minority of such cases. Certainly no one should be defaulting to thinking that a person is bluffing, just because they're using difficult language or failing to explain well.

Anecdotally, from working with data analysts and data scientists, watching them present to people outside their level of technical expertise, and looking back at certain presentations I've made: I feel embarrassed for a technical person who is failing to bridge the inferential gap. Like another commenter said, failing to model the audience looks bad. If other technical people are listening and notice, they'll think you're just messing up. So even if we imagine that this Bluffing is common, those doing it would probably only want to do it when there are very few people around to notice how bad their explanation is.