Data Skeptic

By Kyle Polich

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 Jul 27, 2018

Description

Data Skeptic is a data science podcast exploring machine learning, statistics, artificial intelligence, and other data topics through short tutorials and interviews with domain experts.

Episode Date
Algorithmic Detection of Fake News
46:26

The scale and frequency with which information can be distributed on social media makes the problem of fake news a rapidly metastasizing issue. To do any content filtering or labeling demands an algorithmic solution.

In today's episode, Kyle interviews Kai Shu and Mike Tamir about their independent work exploring the use of machine learning to detect fake news.

Kai Shu and his co-authors published Fake News Detection on Social Media: A Data Mining Perspective, a research paper which both surveys the existing literature and organizes the structure of the problem in a robust way.

Mike Tamir led the development of fakerfact.org, a website and Chrome/Firefox plugin which leverages machine learning to try and predict the category of a previously unseen web page, with categories like opinion, wiki, and fake news.

Aug 17, 2018
Ant Intelligence
28:17

If you prepared a list of creatures regarded as highly intelligent, it's unlikely ants would make the cut. This is expected, as on an individual level, ants do not generally display behavior that most humans would regard as intelligence. In fact, it might even be true that most species of ants are unable to learn. Despite this, ant colonies have evolved excellent survival mechanisms through the careful orchestration of ants.

Aug 10, 2018
Human Detection of Fake News
28:27

With publications such as "Prior exposure increases perceived accuracy of fake news", "Lazy, not biased: Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning", and "The science of fake news", Gordon Pennycook is asking and answering analytical questions about the nature of human intuition and fake news.

Gordon appeared on Data Skeptic in 2016 to discuss people's ability to recognize pseudo-profound bullshit.  This episode explores his work in fake news.

Aug 03, 2018
Spam Filtering with Naive Bayes
19:45

Today's spam filters are advanced data driven tools. They rely on a variety of techniques to effectively and often seamlessly filter out junk email from good email.

Whitelists, blacklists, traffic analysis, network analysis, and a variety of other tools are probably employed by most major players in this area. Naturally content analysis can be an especially powerful tool for detecting spam.

Given the binary nature of the problem (Spam or \neg Spam) its clear that this is a great problem to use machine learning to solve. In order to apply machine learning, you first need a labelled training set. Thankfully, many standard corpora of labelled spam data are readily available. Further, if you're working for a company with a spam filtering problem, often asking users to self-moderate or flag things as spam can be an effective way to generate a large amount of labels for "free".

With a labeled dataset in hand, a data scientist working on spam filtering must next do feature engineering. This should be done with consideration of the algorithm that will be used. The Naive Bayesian Classifer has been a popular choice for detecting spam because it tends to perform pretty well on high dimensional data, unlike a lot of other ML algorithms. It also is very efficient to compute, making it possible to train a per-user Classifier if one wished to. While we might do some basic NLP tricks, for the most part, we can turn each word in a document (or perhaps each bigram or n-gram in a document) into a feature.

The Naive part of the Naive Bayesian Classifier stems from the naive assumption that all features in one's analysis are considered to be independent. If x and y are known to be independent, then Pr(x \cap y) = Pr(x) \cdot Pr(y). In other words, you just multiply the probabilities together. Shh, don't tell anyone, but this assumption is actually wrong! Certainly, if a document contains the word algorithm, it's more likely to contain the word probability than some randomly selected document. Thus, Pr(\text{algorithm} \cap \text{probability}) > Pr(\text{algorithm}) \cdot Pr(\text{probability}), violating the assumption. Despite this "flaw", the Naive Bayesian Classifier works remarkably will on many problems. If one employs the common approach of converting a document into bigrams (pairs of words instead of single words), then you can capture a good deal of this correlation indirectly.

In the final leg of the discussion, we explore the question of whether or not a Naive Bayesian Classifier would be a good choice for detecting fake news.

 
Jul 27, 2018
The Spread of Fake News
45:18

How does fake news get spread online? Its not just a matter of manipulating search algorithms. The social platforms for sharing play a major role in the distribution of fake news. But how significant of an impact can there be? How significantly can bots influence the spread of fake news?

In this episode, Kyle interviews Filippo Menczer, Professor of Computer Science and Informatics.

Fil is part of the Observatory on Social Media ([OSoMe][https://osome.iuni.iu.edu/tools/]). OSoMe are the creators of HoaxyBotometerFakey, and other tools for studying the spread of information on social media.

The interview explores these tools and the contributions Bots make to the spread of fake news.

Jul 20, 2018
Fake News
38:19

This episode kicks off our new theme of "Fake News" with guests Robert Sheaffer and Brad Schwartz.

Fake news is a new label for an old idea. For our purposes, we will define fake news information created to deliberately mislead while masquerading as a legitimate, journalistic source of truth. It's become a modern topic of discussion as our cultures evolve to the fledgling mechanisms of communication introduced by online platforms.

What was the earliest incident of fake news? That's a question for which we may never find a satisfying answer. While not the earliest, we present a dramatization of an early example of fake news, which leads us into a discussion with UFO Skeptic Robert Sheaffer. Following that we get into our main interview with Brad Schwartz, author of Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News.

Jul 13, 2018
Dev Ops for Data Science
38:20

We revisit the 2018 Microsoft Build in this episode, focusing on the latest ideas in DevOps. Kyle interviews Cloud Developer Advocates Damien Brady, Paige Bailey, and Donovan Brown to talk about DevOps and data science and databases.

For a data scientist, what does it even mean to “build”? Packaging and deployment are things that a data scientist doesn't normally have to consider in their day-to-day work. The process of making an AI app is usually divided into two streams of work: data scientists building machine learning models and app developers building the application for end users to consume.

DevOps includes all the parties involved in getting the application deployed and maintained and thinking about all the phases that follow and precede their part of the end solution. So what does DevOps mean for data science? Why should you adopt DevOps best practices?

In the first half, Paige and Damian share their views on what DevOps for data science would look like and how it can be introduced to provide continuous integration, delivery, and deployment of data science models. In the second half, Donovan and Damian talk about the DevOps life cycle of putting a database under version control and carrying out deployments through a release pipeline.

Jul 11, 2018
First Order Logic
16:51

Logic is a fundamental of mathematical systems. It's roots are the values true and false and it's power is in what it's rules allow you to prove. Prepositional logic provides it's user variables. This episode gets into First Order Logic, an extension to prepositional logic.

Jul 06, 2018
Blind Spots in Reinforcement Learning
27:35

An intelligent agent trained in a simulated environment may be prone to making mistakes in the real world due to discrepancies between the training and real-world conditions. The areas where an agent makes mistakes are hard to find, known as "blind spots," and can stem from various reasons. In this week’s episode, Kyle is joined by Ramya Ramakrishnan, a PhD candidate at MIT, to discuss the idea “blind spots” in reinforcement learning and approaches to discover them.

Jun 29, 2018
Defending Against Adversarial Attacks
31:29

In this week’s episode, our host Kyle interviews Gokula Krishnan from ETH Zurich, about his recent contributions to defenses against adversarial attacks. The discussion centers around his latest paper, titled “Defending Against Adversarial Attacks by Leveraging an Entire GAN,” and his proposed algorithm, aptly named ‘Cowboy.’

Jun 22, 2018
Transfer Learning
18:04

On a long car ride, Linhda and Kyle record a short episode. This discussion is about transfer learning, a technique using in machine learning to leverage training from one domain to have a head start learning in another domain.

Transfer learning has some obvious appealing features. Take the example of an image recognition problem. There are now many widely available models that do general image recognition. Detecting that an image contains a "sofa" is an impressive feat. However, for a furniture company interested in more specific details, this classifier is absurdly general. Should the furniture company build a massive corpus of tagged photos, effectively starting from scratch? Or is there a way they can transfer the learnings from the general task to the specific one.

A general definition of transfer learning in machine learning is the use of taking some or all aspects of a pre-trained model as the basis to begin training a new model which a specific and potentially limited dataset.

Jun 15, 2018
Medical Imaging Training Techniques
25:21

Medical imaging is a highly effective tool used by clinicians to diagnose a wide array of diseases and injuries. However, it often requires exceptionally trained specialists such as radiologists to interpret accurately. In this episode of Data Skeptic, our host Kyle Polich is joined by Gabriel Maicas, a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide, to discuss machine learning systems that can be used by radiologists to improve their accuracy and speed of diagnosis.

Jun 08, 2018
Kalman Filters
21:32

Thanks to our sponsor Galvanize

A Kalman Filter is a technique for taking a sequence of observations about an object or variable and determining the most likely current state of that object. In this episode, we discuss it in the context of tracking our lilac crowned amazon parrot Yoshi.

Kalman filters have many applications but the one of particular interest under our current theme of artificial intelligence is to efficiently update one's beliefs in light of new information.

The Kalman filter is based upon the Gaussian distribution. This distribution is described by two parameters: \mu (the mean) and standard deviation. The procedure for updating these values in light of new information has a closed form. This means that it can be described with straightforward formulae and computed very efficiently.

You may gain a greater appreciation for Kalman filters by considering what would happen if you could not rely on the Gaussian distribution to describe your posterior beliefs. If determining the probability distribution over the variables describing some object cannot be efficiently computed, then by definition, maintaining the most up to date posterior beliefs can be a significant challenge.

Kyle will be giving a talk at Skeptical 2018 in Berkeley, CA on June 10.

Jun 01, 2018
AI in Industry
43:03

There's so much to discuss on the AI side, it's hard to know where to begin. Luckily,  Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of AI Business, and Carlos Pessoa, a software engineering manager for the company’s Cloud AI Platform, talked to Kyle about announcements related to AI in industry.

May 25, 2018
AI in Games
25:58

Today's interview is with the authors of the textbook Artificial Intelligence and Games.

May 18, 2018
Game Theory
24:11

Thanks to our sponsor The Great Courses.

This week's episode is a short primer on game theory.

For tickets to the free Data Skeptic meetup in Chicago on Tuesday, May 15 at the Mendoza College of Business (224 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 350), click here,

May 11, 2018
The Experimental Design of Paranormal Claims
27:32

In this episode of Data Skeptic, Kyle chats with Jerry Schwarz from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG)'s SF Bay Area chapter about testing claims of the paranormal. The IIG is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to investigating paranormal or extraordinary claim from a scientific viewpoint. The group, headquartered at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles in Hollywood, offers a $100,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.

CHICAGO Tues, May 15, 6pm. Come to our Data Skeptic meetup.

CHICAGO Saturday, May 19, 10am. Kyle will be giving a talk at the Chicago AI, Data Science, and Blockchain Conference 2018.

May 04, 2018
Winograd Schema Challenge
36:57

Our guest this week, Hector Levesque, joins us to discuss an alternative way to measure a machine’s intelligence, called Winograd Schemas Challenge. The challenge was proposed as a possible alternative to the Turing test during the 2011 AAAI Spring Symposium. The challenge involves a small reading comprehension test about common sense knowledge.

Apr 27, 2018
The Imitation Game
01:00:58

This week on Data Skeptic, we begin with a skit to introduce the topic of this show: The Imitation Game. We open with a scene in the distant future. The year is 2027, and a company called Shamony is announcing their new product, Ada, the most advanced artificial intelligence agent. To prove its superiority, the lead scientist announces that it will use the Turing Test that Alan Turing proposed in 1950. During this we introduce Turing’s “objections” outlined in his famous paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

Following that, we talk with improv coach Holly Laurent on the art of improvisation and Peter Clark from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence about question and answering algorithms.

Apr 20, 2018
Eugene Goostman
17:15

In this episode, Kyle shares his perspective on the chatbot Eugene Goostman which (some claim) "passed" the Turing Test. As a second topic Kyle also does an intro of the Winograd Schema Challenge.

Apr 13, 2018
The Theory of Formal Languages
23:44

In this episode, Kyle and Linhda discuss the theory of formal languages. Any language can (theoretically) be a formal language. The requirement is that the language can be rigorously described as a set of strings which are considered part of the language. Those strings are any combination of alphabet characters in the given language.

Read more

 

Apr 06, 2018
The Loebner Prize
33:21

The Loebner Prize is a competition in the spirit of the Turing Test.  Participants are welcome to submit conversational agent software to be judged by a panel of humans.  This episode includes interviews with Charlie Maloney, a judge in the Loebner Prize, and Bruce Wilcox, a winner of the Loebner Prize.

Mar 30, 2018
Chatbots
27:05

In this episode, Kyle chats with Vince from iv.ai and Heather Shapiro who works on the Microsoft Bot Framework. We solicit their advice on building a good chatbot both creatively and technically.

Our sponsor today is Warby Parker.

Mar 23, 2018
The Master Algorithm
46:34

In this week’s episode, Kyle Polich interviews Pedro Domingos about his book, The Master Algorithm: How the quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world. In the book, Domingos describes what machine learning is doing for humanity, how it works and what it could do in the future. He also hints at the possibility of an ultimate learning algorithm, in which the machine uses it will be able to derive all knowledge — past, present, and future.

Mar 16, 2018
The No Free Lunch Theorems
27:25

What's the best machine learning algorithm to use? I hear that XGBoost wins most of the Kaggle competitions that aren't won with deep learning. Should I just use XGBoost all the time? That might work out most of the time in practice, but a proof exists which tells us that there cannot be one true algorithm to rule them.

Mar 09, 2018
ML at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
38:34

For a long time, physicians have recognized that the tools they have aren't powerful enough to treat complex diseases, like cancer. In addition to data science and models, clinicians also needed actual products — tools that physicians and researchers can draw upon to answer questions they regularly confront, such as “what clinical trials are available for this patient that I'm seeing right now?” In this episode, our host Kyle interviews guests Alex Grigorenko and Iker Huerga from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to talk about how data and technology can be used to prevent, control and ultimately cure cancer.

Mar 02, 2018
Optimal Decision Making with POMDPs
18:40

In a previous episode, we discussed Markov Decision Processes or MDPs, a framework for decision making and planning. This episode explores the generalization Partially Observable MDPs (POMDPs) which are an incredibly general framework that describes most every agent based system.

Feb 23, 2018
AI Decision-Making
42:59

Making a decision is a complex task. Today's guest Dongho Kim discusses how he and his team at Prowler has been building a platform that will be accessible by way of APIs and a set of pre-made scripts for autonomous decision making based on probabilistic modeling, reinforcement learning, and game theory. The aim is so that an AI system could make decisions just as good as humans can.

Feb 16, 2018
[MINI] Reinforcement Learning
23:03

In many real world situations, a person/agent doesn't necessarily know their own objectives or the mechanics of the world they're interacting with. However, if the agent receives rewards which are correlated with the both their actions and the state of the world, then reinforcement learning can be used to discover behaviors that maximize the reward earned.

Feb 09, 2018
Evolutionary Computation
24:44

In this week’s episode, Kyle is joined by Risto Miikkulainen, a professor of computer science and neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin. They talk about evolutionary computation, its applications in deep learning, and how it’s inspired by biology. They also discuss some of the things Sentient Technologies is working on in stock and finances, retail, e-commerce and web design, as well as the technology behind it-- evolutionary algorithms.

Feb 02, 2018
[MINI] Markov Decision Processes
20:24

Formally, an MDP is defined as the tuple containing states, actions, the transition function, and the reward function. This podcast examines each of these and presents them in the context of simple examples.  Despite MDPs suffering from the curse of dimensionality, they're a useful formalism and a basic concept we will expand on in future episodes.

Jan 26, 2018
Neuroscience Frontiers
29:06

Last week on Data Skeptic, we visited the Laboratory of Neuroimaging, or LONI, at USC and learned about their data-driven platform that enables scientists from all over the world to share, transform, store, manage and analyze their data to understand neurological diseases better. We talked about how neuroscientists measure the brain using data from MRI scans, and how that data is processed and analyzed to understand the brain. This week, we'll continue the second half of our two-part episode on LONI.

Jan 19, 2018
Neuroimaging and Big Data
26:37

Last year, Kyle had a chance to visit the Laboratory of Neuroimaging, or LONI, at USC, and learn about how some researchers are using data science to study the function of the brain. We’re going to be covering some of their work in two episodes on Data Skeptic. In this first part of our two-part episode, we'll talk about the data collection and brain imaging and the LONI pipeline. We'll then continue our coverage in the second episode, where we'll talk more about how researchers can gain insights about the human brain and their current challenges. Next week, we’ll also talk more about what all that has to do with data science machine learning and artificial intelligence. Joining us in this week’s episode are members of the LONI lab, which include principal investigators, Dr. Arthur Toga and Dr. Meng Law, and researchers, Farshid Sepherband, PhD and Ryan Cabeen, PhD.

Jan 12, 2018
The Agent Model of Artificial Intelligence
17:21

In artificial intelligence, the term 'agent' is used to mean an autonomous, thinking agent with the ability to interact with their environment. An agent could be a person or a piece of software. In either case, we can describe aspects of the agent in a standard framework.

Jan 05, 2018
Artificial Intelligence, a Podcast Approach
33:17

This episode kicks off the next theme on Data Skeptic: artificial intelligence.  Kyle discusses what's to come for the show in 2018, why this topic is relevant, and how we intend to cover it.

Dec 29, 2017
Holiday reading 2017
12:38

We break format from our regular programming today and bring you an excerpt from Max Tegmark's book "Life 3.0".  The first chapter is a short story titled "The Tale of the Omega Team".  Audio excerpted courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio from LIFE 3.0 by Max Tegmark, narrated by Rob Shapiro.  You can find "Life 3.0" at your favorite bookstore and the audio edition via penguinrandomhouseaudio.com.

Kyle will be giving a talk at the Monterey County SkeptiCamp 2018.

Dec 22, 2017
Complexity and Cryptography
35:53

This week, our host Kyle Polich is joined by guest Tim Henderson from Google to talk about the computational complexity foundations of modern cryptography and the complexity issues that underlie the field. A key question that arises during the discussion is whether we should trust the security of modern cryptography.

Dec 15, 2017
Mercedes Benz Machine Learning Research
27:05

This episode features an interview with Rigel Smiroldo recorded at NIPS 2017 in Long Beach California.  We discuss data privacy, machine learning use cases, model deployment, and end-to-end machine learning.

Dec 14, 2017
[MINI] Parallel Algorithms
20:37

When computers became commodity hardware and storage became incredibly cheap, we entered the era of so-call "big" data. Most definitions of big data will include something about not being able to process all the data on a single machine. Distributed computing is required for such large datasets.

Getting an algorithm to run on data spread out over a variety of different machines introduced new challenges for designing large-scale systems. First, there are concerns about the best strategy for spreading that data over many machines in an orderly fashion. Resolving ambiguity or disagreements across sources is sometimes required.

This episode discusses how such algorithms related to the complexity class NC.

Dec 08, 2017
Quantum Computing
47:49

In this week's episode, Scott Aaronson, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, explains what a quantum computer is, various possible applications, the types of problems they are good at solving and much more. Kyle and Scott have a lively discussion about the capabilities and limits of quantum computers and computational complexity.

Dec 01, 2017
Azure Databricks
28:27

I sat down with Ali Ghodsi, CEO and found of Databricks, and John Chirapurath, GM for Data Platform Marketing at Microsoft related to the recent announcement of Azure Databricks.

When I heard about the announcement, my first thoughts were two-fold.  First, the possibility of optimized integrations with existing Azure services.  This would be a big benefit to heavy Azure users who also want to use Spark.  Second, the benefits of active directory to control Databricks access for large enterprise.

Hear Ali and JG's thoughts and comments on what makes Azure Databricks a novel offering.

 

Nov 28, 2017
[MINI] Exponential Time Algorithms
15:55

In this episode we discuss the complexity class of EXP-Time which contains algorithms which require $O(2^{p(n)})$ time to run.  In other words, the worst case runtime is exponential in some polynomial of the input size.  Problems in this class are even more difficult than problems in NP since you can't even verify a solution in polynomial time.

We mostly discuss Generalized Chess as an intuitive example of a problem in EXP-Time.  Another well-known problem is determining if a given algorithm will halt in k steps.  That extra condition of restricting it to k steps makes this problem distinct from Turing's original definition of the halting problem which is known to be intractable.

Nov 24, 2017
P vs NP
38:48

In this week's episode, host Kyle Polich interviews author Lance Fortnow about whether P will ever be equal to NP and solve all of life’s problems. Fortnow begins the discussion with the example question: Are there 100 people on Facebook who are all friends with each other? Even if you were an employee of Facebook and had access to all its data, answering this question naively would require checking more possibilities than any computer, now or in the future, could possibly do. The P/NP question asks whether there exists a more clever and faster algorithm that can answer this problem and others like it.

Nov 17, 2017
[MINI] Sudoku \in NP
18:29

Algorithms with similar runtimes are said to be in the same complexity class. That runtime is measured in the how many steps an algorithm takes relative to the input size.

The class P contains all algorithms which run in polynomial time (basically, a nested for loop iterating over the input).  NP are algorithms which seem to require brute force.  Brute force search cannot be done in polynomial time, so it seems that problems in NP are more difficult than problems in P.  I say it "seems" this way because, while most people believe it to be true, it has not been proven.  This is the famous P vs. NP conjecture.  It will be discussed in more detail in a future episode.

Given a solution to a particular problem, if it can be verified/checked in polynomial time, that problem might be in NP.  If someone hands you a completed Sudoku puzzle, it's not difficult to see if they made any mistakes.  The effort of developing the solution to the Sudoku game seems to be intrinsically more difficult.  In fact, as far as anyone knows, in the general case of all possible examples of the game, it seems no strategy can do better on average than just random guessing.

This notion of random guessing the solution is where the N in NP comes from: Non-deterministic.  Imagine a machine with a random input already written in its memory.  Given enough such machines, one of them will have the right answer.  If they all ran in parallel, one of them could verify it's input in polynomial time.  This guess / provided input is often called a witness string.

NP is an important concept for many reasons.  To me, the most reason to know about NP is a practical one.  Depending on your goals or the goals of your employer, there are many challenging problems you may attempt to solve.  If a problem you are trying to solve happens to be in NP, then you should consider the implications very carefully.  Perhaps you'll be lucky and discover that your particular instance of the problem is easy.  Sudoku is pretty easy if only 2 remaining squares need to be filled in.  The traveling salesman problem is easy to solve if you live in a country where all roads for a ring with exactly one road in and out.

If the problem you wish to solve is not trivial, or if you will face many instances of the problem and expect some will not be trivial, then it's unlikely you'll be able to find the exact solution.  Sure, maybe you can grab a bunch of commodity servers and try to scale the heck out of your attempt.  Depending on the problem you're solving, that might just work.  If you can out-purchase your problem in computing power, then problems in NP will surrender to you.  But if your input size ever grows, it's unlikely you'll be able to keep up.

If your problem is intractable in this way, all is not lost.  You might be able to find an approximate solution to your problem.  Good enough is better than no solution at all, right?  Most of the time, probably.  However, some tremendous work has also been done studying topics like this.  Are there problems which are not even approximable in polynomial time?  What approximation techniques work best?  Alas, those answers lie elsewhere.

This episode avoids a discussion of a few key points in order to keep the material accessible.  If you find this interesting, you should next familiarize yourself with the notions of NP-Complete, NP-Hard, and co-NP.  These are topics we won't necessarily get to in future episodes.  Michael Sipser's Introduction to the Theory of Computation is a good resource.

 

Nov 10, 2017
The Computational Complexity of Machine Learning
47:31

In this episode, Professor Michael Kearns from the University of Pennsylvania joins host Kyle Polich to talk about the computational complexity of machine learning, complexity in game theory, and algorithmic fairness. Michael's doctoral thesis gave an early broad overview of computational learning theory, in which he emphasizes the mathematical study of efficient learning algorithms by machines or computational systems.

When we look at machine learning algorithms they are almost like meta-algorithms in some sense. For example, given a machine learning algorithm, it will look at some data and build some model, and it’s going to behave presumably very differently under different inputs. But does that mean we need new analytical tools? Or is a machine learning algorithm just the same thing as any deterministic algorithm, but just a little bit more tricky to figure out anything complexity-wise? In other words, is there some overlap between the good old-fashioned analysis of algorithms with the analysis of machine learning algorithms from a complexity viewpoint? And what is the difference between strategies for determining the complexity bounds on samples versus algorithms?

A big area of machine learning (and in the analysis of learning algorithms in general) Michael and Kyle discuss is the topic known as complexity regularization. Complexity regularization asks: How should one measure the goodness of fit and the complexity of a given model? And how should one balance those two, and how can one execute that in a scalable, efficient way algorithmically? From this, Michael and Kyle discuss the broader picture of why one should care whether a learning algorithm is efficiently learnable if it's learnable in polynomial time.

Another interesting topic of discussion is the difference between sample complexity and computational complexity. An active area of research is how one should regularize their models so that they're balancing the complexity with the goodness of fit to fit their large training sample size.

As mentioned, a good resource for getting started with correlated equilibria is: https://www.cs.cornell.edu/courses/cs684/2004sp/feb20.pdf

Thanks to our sponsors:

Mendoza College of Business - Get your Masters of Science in Business Analytics from Notre Dame.

brilliant.org - A fun, affordable, online learning tool.  Check out their Computer Science Algorithms course.

Nov 03, 2017
[MINI] Turing Machines
13:54

TMs are a model of computation at the heart of algorithmic analysis.  A Turing Machine has two components.  An infinitely long piece of tape (memory) with re-writable squares and a read/write head which is programmed to change it's state as it processes the input.  This exceptionally simple mechanical computer can compute anything that is intuitively computable, thus says the Church-Turing Thesis.

Attempts to make a "better" Turing Machine by adding things like additional tapes can make the programs easier to describe, but it can't make the "better" machine more capable.  It won't be able to solve any problems the basic Turing Machine can, even if it perhaps solves them faster.

An important concept we didn't get to in this episode is that of a Universal Turing Machine.  Without the prefix, a TM is a particular algorithm.  A Universal TM is a machine that takes, as input, a description of a TM and an input to that machine, and subsequently, simulates the inputted machine running on the given input.

Turing Machines are a central idea in computer science.  They are central to algorithmic analysis and the theory of computation.

Oct 27, 2017
The Complexity of Learning Neural Networks
38:51

Over the past several years, we have seen many success stories in machine learning brought about by deep learning techniques. While the practical success of deep learning has been phenomenal, the formal guarantees have been lacking. Our current theoretical understanding of the many techniques that are central to the current ongoing big-data revolution is far from being sufficient for rigorous analysis, at best. In this episode of Data Skeptic, our host Kyle Polich welcomes guest John Wilmes, a mathematics post-doctoral researcher at Georgia Tech, to discuss the efficiency of neural network learning through complexity theory.

Oct 20, 2017
[MINI] Big Oh Analysis
18:44

How long an algorithm takes to run depends on many factors including implementation details and hardware.  However, the formal analysis of algorithms focuses on how they will perform in the worst case as the input size grows.  We refer to an algorithm's runtime as it's "O" which is a function of its input size "n".  For example, O(n) represents a linear algorithm - one that takes roughly twice as long to run if you double the input size.  In this episode, we discuss a few everyday examples of algorithmic analysis including sorting, search a shuffled deck of cards, and verifying if a grocery list was successfully completed.

Thanks to our sponsor Brilliant.org, who right now is featuring a related problem as their Brilliant Problem of the Week.

Oct 13, 2017
Data science tools and other announcements from Ignite
31:40

In this episode, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Cloud Artificial Intelligence, Joseph Sirosh, joins host Kyle Polich to share some of the Microsoft's latest and most exciting innovations in AI development platforms. Last month, Microsoft launched a set of three powerful new capabilities in Azure Machine Learning for advanced developers to exploit big data, GPUs, data wrangling and container-based model deployment.

Extended show notes found here.

Thanks to our sponsor Springboard.  Check out Springboard's Data Science Career Track Bootcamp.

Oct 06, 2017
Generative AI for Content Creation
34:33

Last year, the film development and production company End Cue produced a short film, called Sunspring, that was entirely written by an artificial intelligence using neural networks. More specifically, it was authored by a recurrent neural network (RNN) called long short-term memory (LSTM). According to End Cue’s Chief Technical Officer, Deb Ray, the company has come a long way in improving the generative AI aspect of the bot. In this episode, Deb Ray joins host Kyle Polich to discuss how generative AI models are being applied in creative processes, such as screenwriting. Their discussion also explores how data science for analyzing development projects, such as financing and selecting scripts, as well as optimizing the content production process.

Sep 29, 2017
[MINI] One Shot Learning
17:39

One Shot Learning is the class of machine learning procedures that focuses learning something from a small number of examples.  This is in contrast to "traditional" machine learning which typically requires a very large training set to build a reasonable model.

In this episode, Kyle presents a coded message to Linhda who is able to recognize that many of these new symbols created are likely to be the same symbol, despite having extremely few examples of each.  Why can the human brain recognize a new symbol with relative ease while most machine learning algorithms require large training data?  We discuss some of the reasons why and approaches to One Shot Learning.

Sep 22, 2017
Recommender Systems Live from FARCON 2017
46:09

Recommender systems play an important role in providing personalized content to online users. Yet, typical data mining techniques are not well suited for the unique challenges that recommender systems face. In this episode, host Kyle Polich joins Dr. Joseph Konstan from the University of Minnesota at a live recording at FARCON 2017 in Minneapolis to discuss recommender systems and how machine learning can create better user experiences. 

Sep 15, 2017
[MINI] Long Short Term Memory
15:29

Thanks to our sponsor brilliant.org/dataskeptics

A Long Short Term Memory (LSTM) is a neural unit, often used in Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) which attempts to provide the network the capacity to store information for longer periods of time. An LSTM unit remembers values for either long or short time periods. The key to this ability is that it uses no activation function within its recurrent components. Thus, the stored value is not iteratively modified and the gradient does not tend to vanish when trained with backpropagation through time.

Sep 08, 2017
Zillow Zestimate
37:11

Zillow is a leading real estate information and home-related marketplace. We interviewed Andrew Martin, a data science Research Manager at Zillow, to learn more about how Zillow uses data science and big data to make real estate predictions.

Sep 01, 2017
Cardiologist Level Arrhythmia Detection with CNNs
32:05

Our guest Pranav Rajpurkar and his coauthored recently published Cardiologist-Level Arrhythmia Detection with Convolutional Neural Networks, a paper in which they demonstrate the use of Convolutional Neural Networks which outperform board certified cardiologists in detecting a wide range of heart arrhythmias from ECG data.

Aug 25, 2017
[MINI] Recurrent Neural Networks
17:06

RNNs are a class of deep learning models designed to capture sequential behavior.  An RNN trains a set of weights which depend not just on new input but also on the previous state of the neural network.  This directed cycle allows the training phase to find solutions which rely on the state at a previous time, thus giving the network a form of memory.  RNNs have been used effectively in language analysis, translation, speech recognition, and many other tasks.

Aug 18, 2017
Project Common Voice
31:14

Thanks to our sponsor Springboard.

In this week's episode, guest Andre Natal from Mozilla joins our host, Kyle Polich, to discuss a couple exciting new developments in open source speech recognition systems, which include Project Common Voice.

In June 2017, Mozilla launched a new open source project, Common Voice, a novel complementary project to the TensorFlow-based DeepSpeech implementation. DeepSpeech is a deep learning-based voice recognition system that was designed by Baidu, which they describe in greater detail in their research paper. DeepSpeech is a speech-to-text engine, and Mozilla hopes that, in the future, they can use Common Voice data to train their DeepSpeech engine.

Aug 11, 2017
[MINI] Bayesian Belief Networks
17:03

A Bayesian Belief Network is an acyclic directed graph composed of nodes that represent random variables and edges that imply a conditional dependence between them. It's an intuitive way of encoding your statistical knowledge about a system and is efficient to propagate belief updates throughout the network when new information is added.

Aug 04, 2017
pix2code
26:59

In this episode, Tony Beltramelli of UIzard Technologies joins our host, Kyle Polich, to talk about the ideas behind his latest app that can transform graphic design into functioning code, as well as his previous work on spying with wearables.

Jul 28, 2017
[MINI] Conditional Independence
14:43

In statistics, two random variables might depend on one another (for example, interest rates and new home purchases). We call this conditional dependence. An important related concept exists called conditional independence. This phrase describes situations in which two variables are independent of one another given some other variable.

For example, the probability that a vendor will pay their bill on time could depend on many factors such as the company's market cap. Thus, a statistical analysis would reveal many relationships between observable details about the company and their propensity for paying on time. However, if you know that the company has filed for bankruptcy, then we might assume their chances of paying on time have dropped to near 0, and the result is now independent of all other factors in light of this new information.

We discuss a few real world analogies to this idea in the context of some chance meetings on our recent trip to New York City.

Jul 21, 2017
Estimating Sheep Pain with Facial Recognition
27:05

Animals can't tell us when they're experiencing pain, so we have to rely on other cues to help treat their discomfort. But it is often difficult to tell how much an animal is suffering. The sheep, for instance, is the most inscrutable of animals. However, scientists have figured out a way to understand sheep facial expressions using artificial intelligence.

On this week's episode, Dr. Marwa Mahmoud from the University of Cambridge joins us to discuss her recent study, "Estimating Sheep Pain Level Using Facial Action Unit Detection." Marwa and her colleague's at Cambridge's Computer Laboratory developed an automated system using machine learning algorithms to detect and assess when a sheep is in pain. We discuss some details of her work, how she became interested in studying sheep facial expression to measure pain, and her future goals for this project.

If you're able to be in Minneapolis, MN on August 23rd or 24th, consider attending Farcon. Get your tickets today via https://farcon2017.eventbrite.com.

Jul 14, 2017
CosmosDB
33:33

This episode collects interviews from my recent trip to Microsoft Build where I had the opportunity to speak with Dharma Shukla and Syam Nair about the recently announced CosmosDB. CosmosDB is a globally consistent, distributed datastore that supports all the popular persistent storage formats (relational, key/value pair, document database, and graph) under a single streamlined API. The system provides tunable consistency, allowing the user to make choices about how consistency trade-offs are managed under the hood, if a consumer wants to go beyond the selected defaults.

Jul 07, 2017
[MINI] The Vanishing Gradient
15:16

This episode discusses the vanishing gradient - a problem that arises when training deep neural networks in which nearly all the gradients are very close to zero by the time back-propagation has reached the first hidden layer. This makes learning virtually impossible without some clever trick or improved methodology to help earlier layers begin to learn.

Jun 30, 2017
Doctor AI
41:50

hen faced with medical issues, would you want to be seen by a human or a machine? In this episode, guest Edward Choi, co-author of the study titled Doctor AI: Predicting Clinical Events via Recurrent Neural Network shares his thoughts. Edward presents his team’s efforts in developing a temporal model that can learn from human doctors based on their collective knowledge, i.e. the large amount of Electronic Health Record (EHR) data.

Jun 23, 2017
[MINI] Activation Functions
14:11

In a neural network, the output value of a neuron is almost always transformed in some way using a function. A trivial choice would be a linear transformation which can only scale the data. However, other transformations, like a step function allow for non-linear properties to be introduced.

Activation functions can also help to standardize your data between layers. Some functions such as the sigmoid have the effect of "focusing" the area of interest on data. Extreme values are placed close together, while values near it's point of inflection change more quickly with respect to small changes in the input. Similarly, these functions can take any real number and map all of them to a finite range such as [0, 1] which can have many advantages for downstream calculation.

In this episode, we overview the concept and discuss a few reasons why you might select one function verse another.

Jun 16, 2017
MS Build 2017
27:37

This episode recaps the Microsoft Build Conference.  Kyle recently attended and shares some thoughts on cloud, databases, cognitive services, and artificial intelligence.  The episode includes interviews with Rohan Kumar and David Carmona.

 

Jun 09, 2017
[MINI] Max-pooling
12:33

Max-pooling is a procedure in a neural network which has several benefits. It performs dimensionality reduction by taking a collection of neurons and reducing them to a single value for future layers to receive as input. It can also prevent overfitting, since it takes a large set of inputs and admits only one value, making it harder to memorize the input. In this episode, we discuss the intuitive interpretation of max-pooling and why it's more common than mean-pooling or (theoretically) quartile-pooling.

Jun 02, 2017
Unsupervised Depth Perception
23:43

This episode is an interview with Tinghui Zhou.  In the recent paper "Unsupervised Learning of Depth and Ego-motion from Video", Tinghui and collaborators propose a deep learning architecture which is able to learn depth and pose information from unlabeled videos.  We discuss details of this project and its applications.

May 26, 2017
[MINI] Convolutional Neural Networks
14:54

CNNs are characterized by their use of a group of neurons typically referred to as a filter or kernel.  In image recognition, this kernel is repeated over the entire image.  In this way, CNNs may achieve the property of translational invariance - once trained to recognize certain things, changing the position of that thing in an image should not disrupt the CNN's ability to recognize it.  In this episode, we discuss a few high-level details of this important architecture.

May 19, 2017
Multi-Agent Diverse Generative Adversarial Networks
29:19

Despite the success of GANs in imaging, one of its major drawbacks is the problem of 'mode collapse,' where the generator learns to produce samples with extremely low variety.

To address this issue, today's guests Arnab Ghosh and Viveka Kulharia proposed two different extensions. The first involves tweaking the generator's objective function with a diversity enforcing term that would assess similarities between the different samples generated by different generators. The second comprises modifying the discriminator objective function, pushing generations corresponding to different generators towards different identifiable modes.

May 12, 2017
[MINI] Generative Adversarial Networks
09:51

GANs are an unsupervised learning method involving two neural networks iteratively competing. The discriminator is a typical learning system. It attempts to develop the ability to recognize members of a certain class, such as all photos which have birds in them. The generator attempts to create false examples which the discriminator incorrectly classifies. In successive training rounds, the networks examine each and play a mini-max game of trying to harm the performance of the other.

In addition to being a useful way of training networks in the absence of a large body of labeled data, there are additional benefits. The discriminator may end up learning more about edge cases than it otherwise would be given typical examples. Also, the generator's false images can be novel and interesting on their own.

The concept was first introduced in the paper Generative Adversarial Networks.

May 05, 2017
Opinion Polls for Presidential Elections
52:59

Recently, we've seen opinion polls come under some skepticism.  But is that skepticism truly justified?  The recent Brexit referendum and US 2016 Presidential Election are examples where some claims the polls "got it wrong".  This episode explores this idea.

Apr 28, 2017
OpenHouse
26:17

No reliable, complete database cataloging home sales data at a transaction level is available for the average person to access. To a data scientist interesting in studying this data, our hands are complete tied. Opportunities like testing sociological theories, exploring economic impacts, study market forces, or simply research the value of an investment when buying a home are all blocked by the lack of easy access to this dataset. OpenHouse seeks to correct that by centralizing and standardizing all publicly available home sales transactional data. In this episode, we discuss the achievements of OpenHouse to date, and what plans exist for the future.

Check out the OpenHouse gallery.

I also encourage everyone to check out the project Zareen mentioned which was her Harry Potter word2vec webapp and Joy's project doing data visualization on Jawbone data.

Guests

Thanks again to @iamzareenf, @blueplastic, and @joytafty for coming on the show. Thanks to the numerous other volunteers who have helped with the project as well!

Announcements and details

Sponsor

Thanks to our sponsor for this episode Periscope Data. The blog post demoing their maps option is on our blog titled Periscope Data Maps.

Periscope Data

To start a free trial of their dashboarding too, visit http://periscopedata.com/skeptics

Kyle recently did a youtube video exploring the Data Skeptic podcast download numbers using Periscope Data. Check it out at https://youtu.be/aglpJrMp0M4.

Supplemental music is Lee Rosevere's Let's Start at the Beginning.

 

Apr 21, 2017
[MINI] GPU CPU
11:03

There's more than one type of computer processor. The central processing unit (CPU) is typically what one means when they say "processor". GPUs were introduced to be highly optimized for doing floating point computations in parallel. These types of operations were very useful for high end video games, but as it turns out, those same processors are extremely useful for machine learning. In this mini-episode we discuss why.

Apr 14, 2017
[MINI] Backpropagation
15:13

Backpropagation is a common algorithm for training a neural network.  It works by computing the gradient of each weight with respect to the overall error, and using stochastic gradient descent to iteratively fine tune the weights of the network.  In this episode, we compare this concept to finding a location on a map, marble maze games, and golf.

Apr 07, 2017
Data Science at Patreon
32:23

 

In this week's episode of Data Skeptic, host Kyle Polich talks with guest Maura Church, Patreon's data science manager. Patreon is a fast-growing crowdfunding platform that allows artists and creators of all kinds build their own subscription content service. The platform allows fans to become patrons of their favorite artists- an idea similar the Renaissance times, when musicians would rely on benefactors to become their patrons so they could make more art. At Patreon, Maura's data science team strives to provide creators with insight, information, and tools, so that creators can focus on what they do best-- making art.

On the show, Maura talks about some of her projects with the data science team at Patreon. Among the several topics discussed during the episode include: optical music recognition (OMR) to translate musical scores to electronic format, network analysis to understand the connection between creators and patrons, growth forecasting and modeling in a new market, and churn modeling to determine predictors of long time support.

A more detailed explanation of Patreon's A/B testing framework can be found here

Other useful links to topics mentioned during the show:

OMR research

Patreon blog

Patreon HQ blog

Amanda Palmer

Fran Meneses

Mar 31, 2017
[MINI] Feed Forward Neural Networks
15:58

Feed Forward Neural Networks

In a feed forward neural network, neurons cannot form a cycle. In this episode, we explore how such a network would be able to represent three common logical operators: OR, AND, and XOR. The XOR operation is the interesting case.

Below are the truth tables that describe each of these functions.

AND Truth Table

Input 1 Input 2 Output
0 0 0
0 1 0
1 0 0
1 1 1

OR Truth Table

Input 1 Input 2 Output
0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 1

XOR Truth Table

Input 1 Input 2 Output
0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 0

The AND and OR functions should seem very intuitive. Exclusive or (XOR) if true if and only if exactly single input is 1. Could a neural network learn these mathematical functions?

Let's consider the perceptron described below. First we see the visual representation, then the Activation function A, followed by the formula for calculating the output.

 

 

Output = A(w_0 \cdot Bias + w_1 \cdot Input_1 + w_2 \cdot Input_2)

 

 

Can this perceptron learn the AND function?

Sure. Let w_0 = -0.6 and w_1 = w_2 = 0.5

What about OR?

Yup. Let w_0 = 0 and w_1 = w_2 = 0.5

An infinite number of possible solutions exist, I just picked values that hopefully seem intuitive. This is also a good example of why the bias term is important. Without it, the AND function could not be represented.

How about XOR?

No. It is not possible to represent XOR with a single layer. It requires two layers. The image below shows how it could be done with two laters.

 

 

In the above example, the weights computed for the middle hidden node capture the essence of why this works. This node activates when recieving two positive inputs, thus contributing a heavy penalty to be summed by the output node. If a single input is 1, this node will not activate.

Universal approximation theorem tells us that any continuous function can be tightly approximated using a neural network with only a single hidden layer and a finite number of neurons. With this in mind, a feed forward neural network should be adaquet for any applications. However, in practice, other network architectures and the allowance of more hidden layers are empirically motivated.

Other types neural networks have less strict structal definitions. The various ways one might relax this constraint generate other classes of neural networks that often have interesting properties. We'll get into some of these in future mini-episodes.

 

Periscope Data

Check out our recent blog post on how we're using Periscope Data cohort charts.

Thanks to Periscope Data for sponsoring this episode. More about them at periscopedata.com/skeptics

Mar 24, 2017
Reinventing Sponsored Search Auctions
41:31

In this Data Skeptic episode, Kyle is joined by guest Ruggiero Cavallo to discuss his latest efforts to mitigate the problems presented in this new world of online advertising. Working with his collaborators, Ruggiero reconsiders the search ad allocation and pricing problems from the ground up and redesigns a search ad selling system. He discusses a mechanism that optimizes an entire page of ads globally based on efficiency-maximizing search allocation and a novel technical approach to computing prices.

Mar 17, 2017
[MINI] The Perceptron
14:46

Today's episode overviews the perceptron algorithm. This rather simple approach is characterized by a few particular features. It updates its weights after seeing every example, rather than as a batch. It uses a step function as an activation function. It's only appropriate for linearly separable data, and it will converge to a solution if the data meets these criteria. Being a fairly simple algorithm, it can run very efficiently. Although we don't discuss it in this episode, multi-layer perceptron networks are what makes this technique most attractive.

Mar 10, 2017
The Data Refuge Project
24:35

DataRefuge is a public collaborative, grassroots effort around the United States in which scientists, researchers, computer scientists, librarians and other volunteers are working to download, save, and re-upload government data. The DataRefuge Project, which is led by the UPenn Program in Environmental Humanities and the Penn Libraries group at University of Pennsylvania, aims to foster resilience in an era of anthropogenic global climate change and raise awareness of how social and political events affect transparency.

 

Mar 03, 2017
[MINI] Automated Feature Engineering
16:14

If a CEO wants to know the state of their business, they ask their highest ranking executives. These executives, in turn, should know the state of the business through reports from their subordinates. This structure is roughly analogous to a process observed in deep learning, where each layer of the business reports up different types of observations, KPIs, and reports to be interpreted by the next layer of the business. In deep learning, this process can be thought of as automated feature engineering. DNNs built to recognize objects in images may learn structures that behave like edge detectors in the first hidden layer. Proceeding layers learn to compose more abstract features from lower level outputs. This episode explore that analogy in the context of automated feature engineering.

Linh Da and Kyle discuss a particular image in this episode. The image included below in the show notes is drawn from the work of Lee, Grosse, Ranganath, and Ng in their paper Convolutional Deep Belief Networks for Scalable Unsupervised Learning of Hierarchical Representations.

 

Feb 24, 2017
Big Data Tools and Trends
30:45

In this episode, I speak with Raghu Ramakrishnan, CTO for Data at Microsoft.  We discuss services, tools, and developments in the big data sphere as well as the underlying needs that drove these innovations.

Feb 17, 2017
[MINI] Primer on Deep Learning
14:28

In this episode, we talk about a high-level description of deep learning.  Kyle presents a simple game (pictured below), which is more of a puzzle really, to try and give  Linh Da the basic concept.

 

 

Thanks to our sponsor for this week, the Data Science Association. Please check out their upcoming Dallas conference at dallasdatascience.eventbrite.com

Feb 10, 2017
Data Provenance and Reproducibility with Pachyderm
40:11

Versioning isn't just for source code. Being able to track changes to data is critical for answering questions about data provenance, quality, and reproducibility. Daniel Whitenack joins me this week to talk about these concepts and share his work on Pachyderm. Pachyderm is an open source containerized data lake.

During the show, Daniel mentioned the Gopher Data Science github repo as a great resource for any data scientists interested in the Go language. Although we didn't mention it, Daniel also did an interesting analysis on the 2016 world chess championship that complements our recent episode on chess well. You can find that post here

Supplemental music is Lee Rosevere's Let's Start at the Beginning.

 

Thanks to Periscope Data for sponsoring this episode. More about them at periscopedata.com/skeptics

Periscope Data

 

 

 

Feb 03, 2017
[MINI] Logistic Regression on Audio Data
20:48

Logistic Regression is a popular classification algorithm. In this episode, we discuss how it can be used to determine if an audio clip represents one of two given speakers. It assumes an output variable (isLinhda) is a linear combination of available features, which are spectral bands in the discussion on this episode.

 

Keep an eye on the dataskeptic.com blog this week as we post more details about this project.

 

Thanks to our sponsor this week, the Data Science Association.  Please check out their upcoming conference in Dallas on Saturday, February 18th, 2017 via the link below.

 

dallasdatascience.eventbrite.com

 

Jan 27, 2017
Studying Competition and Gender Through Chess
34:27

Prior work has shown that people's response to competition is in part predicted by their gender. Understanding why and when this occurs is important in areas such as labor market outcomes. A well structured study is challenging due to numerous confounding factors. Peter Backus and his colleagues have identified competitive chess as an ideal arena to study the topic. Find out why and what conclusions they reached.

Our discussion centers around Gender, Competition and Performance: Evidence from Real Tournaments from Backus, Cubel, Guid, Sanchez-Pages, and Mañas. A summary of their paper can also be found here.

 

Jan 20, 2017
[MINI] Dropout
15:55

Deep learning can be prone to overfit a given problem. This is especially frustrating given how much time and computational resources are often required to converge. One technique for fighting overfitting is to use dropout. Dropout is the method of randomly selecting some neurons in one's network to set to zero during iterations of learning. The core idea is that each particular input in a given layer is not always available and therefore not a signal that can be relied on too heavily.

 

Jan 13, 2017
The Police Data and the Data Driven Justice Initiatives
49:17

In this episode I speak with Clarence Wardell and Kelly Jin about their mutual service as part of the White House's Police Data Initiative and Data Driven Justice Initiative respectively.

The Police Data Initiative was organized to use open data to increase transparency and community trust as well as to help police agencies use data for internal accountability. The PDI emerged from recommendations made by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The Data Driven Justice Initiative was organized to help city, county, and state governments use data-driven strategies to help low-level offenders with mental illness get directed to the right services rather than into the criminal justice system.

Jan 06, 2017
The Library Problem
35:23

We close out 2016 with a discussion of a basic interview question which might get asked when applying for a data science job. Specifically, how a library might build a model to predict if a book will be returned late or not.

 
Dec 30, 2016
2016 Holiday Special
39:33

Today's episode is a reading of Isaac Asimov's Franchise.  As mentioned on the show, this is just a work of fiction to be enjoyed and not in any way some obfuscated political statement.  Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Dec 23, 2016
[MINI] Entropy
16:36

Classically, entropy is a measure of disorder in a system. From a statistical perspective, it is more useful to say it's a measure of the unpredictability of the system. In this episode we discuss how information reduces the entropy in deciding whether or not Yoshi the parrot will like a new chew toy. A few other everyday examples help us examine why entropy is a nice metric for constructing a decision tree.

Dec 16, 2016
MS Connect Conference
42:23

Cloud services are now ubiquitous in data science and more broadly in technology as well. This week, I speak to Mark Souza, Tobias Ternström, and Corey Sanders about various aspects of data at scale. We discuss the embedding of R into SQLServer, SQLServer on linux, open source, and a few other cloud topics.

Dec 09, 2016
Causal Impact
34:13

Today's episode is all about Causal Impact, a technique for estimating the impact of a particular event on a time series. We talk to William Martin about his research into the impact releases have on app and we also chat with Karen Blakemore about a project she helped us build to explore the impact of a Saturday Night Live appearance on a musician's career.

Martin's work culminated in a paper Causal Impact for App Store Analysis. A shorter summary version can be found here. His company helping app developers do this sort of analysis can be found at crestweb.cs.ucl.ac.uk/appredict/.

Dec 02, 2016
[MINI] The Bootstrap
10:37

The Bootstrap is a method of resampling a dataset to possibly refine it's accuracy and produce useful metrics on the result. The bootstrap is a useful statistical technique and is leveraged in Bagging (bootstrap aggregation) algorithms such as Random Forest. We discuss this technique related to polling and surveys.

Nov 25, 2016
[MINI] Gini Coefficients
15:59

The Gini Coefficient (as it relates to decision trees) is one approach to determining the optimal decision to introduce which splits your dataset as part of a decision tree. To pick the right feature to split on, it considers the frequency of the values of that feature and how well the values correlate with specific outcomes that you are trying to predict.

Nov 18, 2016
Unstructured Data for Finance
33:31

Financial analysis techniques for studying numeric, well structured data are very mature. While using unstructured data in finance is not necessarily a new idea, the area is still very greenfield. On this episode,Delia Rusu shares her thoughts on the potential of unstructured data and discusses her work analyzing Wikipedia to help inform financial decisions.

Delia's talk at PyData Berlin can be watched on Youtube (Estimating stock price correlations using Wikipedia). The slides can be found here and all related code is available on github.

Nov 11, 2016
[MINI] AdaBoost
10:39

AdaBoost is a canonical example of the class of AnyBoost algorithms that create ensembles of weak learners. We discuss how a complex problem like predicting restaurant failure (which is surely caused by different problems in different situations) might benefit from this technique.

Nov 04, 2016
Stealing Models from the Cloud
37:06

Platform as a service is a growing trend in data science where services like fraud analysis and face detection can be provided via APIs. Such services turn the actual model into a black box to the consumer. But can the model be reverse engineered?

Florian Tramèr shares his work in this episode showing that it can. The paper Stealing Machine Learning Models via Prediction APIs is definitely worth your time to read if you enjoy this episode. Related source code can be found in https://github.com/ftramer/Steal-ML.

Oct 28, 2016
[MINI] Calculating Feature Importance
13:04

For machine learning models created with the random forest algorithm, there is no obvious diagnostic to inform you which features are more important in the output of the model. Some straightforward but useful techniques exist revolving around removing a feature and measuring the decrease in accuracy or Gini values in the leaves. We broadly discuss these techniques in this episode.

Oct 21, 2016
NYC Bike Share Rebalancing
29:39

As cities provide bike sharing services, they must also plan for how to redistribute bicycles as they inevitably build up at more popular destination stations. In this episode, Hui Xiong talks about the solution he and his colleagues developed to rebalance bike sharing systems.

Oct 14, 2016
[MINI] Random Forest
12:43

Random forest is a popular ensemble learning algorithm which leverages bagging both for sampling and feature selection. In this episode we make an analogy to the process of running a bookstore.

Oct 07, 2016
Election Predictions
21:44

Jo Hardin joins us this week to discuss the ASA's Election Prediction Contest. This is a competition aimed at forecasting the results of the upcoming US presidential election competition. More details are available in Jo's blog post found here.

You can find some useful R code for getting started automatically gathering data from 538 via Jo's github and official contest details are available here. During the interview we also mention Daily Kos and 538.

Sep 30, 2016
[MINI] F1 Score
09:01

The F1 score is a model diagnostic that combines precision and recall to provide a singular evaluation for model comparison.  In this episode we discuss how it applies to selecting an interior designer.

Sep 23, 2016
Urban Congestion
35:19

Urban congestion effects every person living in a city of any reasonable size. Lewis Lehe joins us in this episode to share his work on downtown congestion pricing. We explore topics of how different pricing mechanisms effect congestion as well as how data visualization can inform choices.

You can find examples of Lewis's work at setosa.io. His paper which we discussed during the interview isDistance-dependent congestion pricing for downtown zones.

On this episode, we discuss State of California data which can be found at pems.dot.ca.gov.

Sep 16, 2016
[MINI] Heteroskedasticity
08:57

Heteroskedasticity is a term used to describe a relationship between two variables which has unequal variance over the range.  For example, the variance in the length of a cat's tail almost certainly changes (grows) with age.  On the other hand, the average amount of chewing gum a person consume probably has a consistent variance over a wide range of human heights.

We also discuss some issues with the visualization shown in the tweet embedded below.

Image claiming relationship between income and tickets issued

Sep 09, 2016
Music21
34:38

Our guest today is Michael Cuthbert, an associate professor of music at MIT and principal investigator of the Music21 project, which we focus our discussion on today.

Music21 is a python library making analysis of music accessible and fun. It supports integration with popular formats such as MIDI, MusicXML, Lilypond, and others. It's also well integrated with The Elvis Project, enabling users to import large volumes of music for easy analysis. Music21 is a great platform for musicologists and machine learning researchers alike to explore patterns and structure in music.

Sep 02, 2016
[MINI] Paxos
14:43

Paxos is a protocol for arriving a consensus in a distributed computing system which accounts for unreliability of the nodes.  We discuss how this might be used in the real world in the event of a massive disaster.

Aug 26, 2016
Trusting Machine Learning Models with LIME
35:16

Machine learning models are often criticized for being black boxes. If a human cannot determine why the model arrives at the decision it made, there's good cause for skepticism. Classic inspection approaches to model interpretability are only useful for simple models, which are likely to only cover simple problems.

The LIME project seeks to help us trust machine learning models. At a high level, it takes advantage of local fidelity. For a given example, a separate model trained on neighbors of the example are likely to reveal the relevant features in the local input space to reveal details about why the model arrives at it's conclusion.

In this episode, Marco Tulio Ribeiro joins us to discuss how LIME (Locally Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations) can help users trust machine learning models. The accompanying paper is titled "Why Should I Trust You?": Explaining the Predictions of Any Classifier.

Aug 19, 2016
[MINI] ANOVA
12:55

Analysis of variance is a method used to evaluate differences between the two or more groups.  It works by breaking down the total variance of the system into the between group variance and within group variance.  We discuss this method in the context of wait times getting coffee at Starbucks.

Aug 12, 2016
Machine Learning on Images with Noisy Human-centric Labels
23:11

When humans describe images, they have a reporting bias, in that the report only what they consider important. Thus, in addition to considering whether something is present in an image, one should consider whether it is also relevant to the image before labeling it.

Ishan Misra joins us this week to discuss his recent paper Seeing through the Human Reporting Bias: Visual Classifiers from Noisy Human-Centric Labels which explores a novel architecture for learning to distinguish presence and relevance. This work enables web-scale datasets to be useful for training, not just well groomed hand labeled corpora.

Aug 05, 2016
[MINI] Survival Analysis
14:20

Survival analysis techniques are useful for studying the longevity of groups of elements or individuals, taking into account time considerations and right censorship. This episode explores how survival analysis can describe marriages, in particular, using the non-parametric Cox proportional hazard model.

This episode discusses some good summaries of survey data on marriage and divorce which can be found here.

The python lifelines library is a good place to get started for people that want to do some hands on work.

Jul 29, 2016
Predictive Models on Random Data
36:32

This week is an insightful discussion with Claudia Perlich about some situations in machine learning where models can be built, perhaps by well-intentioned practitioners, to appear to be highly predictive despite being trained on random data. Our discussion covers some novel observations about ROC and AUC, as well as an informative discussion of leakage.

Much of our discussion is inspired by two excellent papers Claudia authored: Leakage in Data Mining: Formulation, Detection, and Avoidance and On Cross Validation and Stacking: Building Seemingly Predictive Models on Random Data. Both are highly recommended reading!

Jul 22, 2016
[MINI] Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) Curve
11:10

An ROC curve is a plot that compares the trade off of true positives and false positives of a binary classifier under different thresholds. The area under the curve (AUC) is useful in determining how discriminating a model is. Together, ROC and AUC are very useful diagnostics for understanding the power of one's model and how to tune it.

Jul 15, 2016
Multiple Comparisons and Conversion Optimization
30:02

I'm joined by Chris Stucchio this week to discuss how deliberate or uninformed statistical practitioners can derive spurious and arbitrary results via multiple comparisons. We discuss p-hacking and a variety of other important lessons and tips for proper analysis.

You can enjoy Chris's writing on his blog at chrisstucchio.com and you may also like his recent talk Multiple Comparisons: Make Your Boss Happy with False Positives, Guarenteed.

Jul 08, 2016
[MINI] Leakage
12:00

If you'd like to make a good prediction, your best bet is to invent a time machine, visit the future, observe the value, and return to the past. For those without access to time travel technology, we need to avoid including information about the future in our training data when building machine learning models. Similarly, if any other feature whose value would not actually be available in practice at the time you'd want to use the model to make a prediction, is a feature that can introduce leakage to your model.

Jul 01, 2016
Predictive Policing
36:01

Kristian Lum (@KLdivergence) joins me this week to discuss her work at @hrdag on predictive policing. We also discuss Multiple Systems Estimation, a technique for inferring statistical information about a population from separate sources of observation.

If you enjoy this discussion, check out the panel Tyranny of the Algorithm? Predictive Analytics & Human Rights which was mentioned in the episode.

Jun 24, 2016
[MINI] The CAP Theorem
10:32

Distributed computing cannot guarantee consistency, accuracy, and partition tolerance. Most system architects need to think carefully about how they should appropriately balance the needs of their application across these competing objectives. Linh Da and Kyle discuss the CAP Theorem using the analogy of a phone tree for alerting people about a school snow day.

Jun 17, 2016
Detecting Terrorists with Facial Recognition?
33:10

A startup is claiming that they can detect terrorists purely through facial recognition. In this solo episode, Kyle explores the plausibility of these claims.

Jun 10, 2016
[MINI] Goodhart's Law
10:56

Goodhart's law states that "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure". In this mini-episode we discuss how this affects SEO, call centers, and Scrum.

Jun 03, 2016
Data Science at eHarmony
42:43

I'm joined this week by Jon Morra, director of data science at eHarmony to discuss a variety of ways in which machine learning and data science are being applied to help connect people for successful long term relationships.

Interesting open source projects mentioned in the interview include Face-parts, a web service for detecting faces and extracting a robust set of fiducial markers (features) from the image, and Aloha, a Scala based machine learning library. You can learn more about these and other interesting projects at the eHarmony github page.

In the wrap up, Jon mentioned the LA Machine Learning meetup which he runs. This is a great resource for LA residents separate and complementary to datascience.la groups, so consider signing up for all of the above and I hope to see you there in the future.

May 27, 2016
[MINI] Stationarity and Differencing
13:38

Mystery shoppers and fruit cultivation help us discuss stationarity - a property of some time serieses that are invariant to time in several ways. Differencing is one approach that can often convert a non-stationary process into a stationary one. If you have a stationary process, you get the benefits of many known statistical properties that can enable you to do a significant amount of inferencing and prediction.

May 20, 2016
Feather
23:04

I'm joined by Wes McKinney (@wesmckinn) and Hadley Wickham (@hadleywickham) on this episode to discuss their joint project Feather. Feather is a file format for storing data frames along with some metadata, to help with interoperability between languages. At the time of recording, libraries are available for R and Python, making it easy for data scientists working in these languages to quickly and effectively share datasets and collaborate.

May 13, 2016
[MINI] Bargaining
15:03

Bargaining is the process of two (or more) parties attempting to agree on the price for a transaction.  Game theoretic approaches attempt to find two strategies from which neither party is motivated to deviate.  These strategies are said to be in equilibrium with one another.  The equilibriums available in bargaining depend on the the transaction mechanism and the information of the parties.  Discounting (how long parties are willing to wait) has a significant effect in this process.  This episode discusses some of the choices Kyle and Linh Da made in deciding what offer to make on a house.

May 06, 2016
deepjazz
29:53

Deepjazz is a project from Ji-Sung Kim, a computer science student at Princeton University. It is built using Theano, Keras, music21, and Evan Chow's project jazzml. Deepjazz is a computational music project that creates original jazz compositions using recurrent neural networks trained on Pat Metheny's "And Then I Knew". You can hear some of deepjazz's original compositions on soundcloud.

Apr 29, 2016
[MINI] Auto-correlative functions and correlograms
14:58
When working with time series data, there are a number of important diagnostics one should consider to help understand more about the data. The auto-correlative function, plotted as a correlogram, helps explain how a given observations relates to recent preceding observations. A very random process (like lottery numbers) would show very low values, while temperature (our topic in this episode) does correlate highly with recent days.
 
See the show notes with details about Chapel Hill, NC weather data by visiting:
 
 
Apr 22, 2016
Early Identification of Violent Criminal Gang Members
27:05

This week I spoke with Elham Shaabani and Paulo Shakarian (@PauloShakASU) about their recent paper Early Identification of Violent Criminal Gang Members (also available onarXiv). In this paper, they use social network analysis techniques and machine learning to provide early detection of known criminal offenders who are in a high risk group for committing violent crimes in the future. Their techniques outperform existing techniques used by the police. Elham and Paulo are part of the Cyber-Socio Intelligent Systems (CySIS) Lab.

Apr 15, 2016
[MINI] Fractional Factorial Design
11:09

A dinner party at Data Skeptic HQ helps teach the uses of fractional factorial design for studying 2-way interactions.

Apr 08, 2016
Machine Learning Done Wrong
25:21

Cheng-tao Chu (@chengtao_chu) joins us this week to discuss his perspective on common mistakes and pitfalls that are made when doing machine learning. This episode is filled with sage advice for beginners and intermediate users of machine learning, and possibly some good reminders for experts as well. Our discussion parallels his recent blog postMachine Learning Done Wrong.

Cheng-tao Chu is an entrepreneur who has worked at many well known silicon valley companies. His paper Map-Reduce for Machine Learning on Multicore is the basis for Apache Mahout. His most recent endeavor has just emerged from steath, so please check out OneInterview.io.

Apr 01, 2016
Potholes
41:22

Co-host Linh Da was in a biking accident after hitting a pothole. She sustained an injury that required stitches. This is the story of our quest to file a 311 complaint and track it through the City of Los Angeles's open data portal.

My guests this episode are Chelsea Ursaner (LA City Open Data Team), Ben Berkowitz (CEO and founder of SeeClickFix), and Russ Klettke (Editor of pothole.info)

Mar 25, 2016
[MINI] The Elbow Method
15:14

Certain data mining algorithms (including k-means clustering and k-nearest neighbors) require a user defined parameter k. A user of these algorithms is required to select this value, which raises the questions: what is the "best" value of k that one should select to solve their problem?

This mini-episode explores the appropriate value of k to use when trying to estimate the cost of a house in Los Angeles based on the closests sales in it's area.

Mar 18, 2016
Too Good to be True
35:11

Today on Data Skeptic, Lachlan Gunn joins us to discuss his recent paper Too Good to be True. This paper highlights a somewhat paradoxical / counterintuitive fact about how unanimity is unexpected in cases where perfect measurements cannot be taken. With large enough data, some amount of error is expected.

The "Too Good to be True" paper highlights three interesting examples which we discuss in the podcast. You can also watch a lecture from Lachlan on this topic via youtube here.

Mar 11, 2016
[MINI] R-squared
13:20

How well does your model explain your data? R-squared is a useful statistic for answering this question. In this episode we explore how it applies to the problem of valuing a house. Aspects like the number of bedrooms go a long way in explaining why different houses have different prices. There's some amount of variance that can be explained by a model, and some amount that cannot be directly measured. R-squared is the ratio of the explained variance to the total variance. It's not a measure of accuracy, it's a measure of the power of one's model.

Mar 04, 2016
Models of Mental Simulation
39:44
 
Feb 26, 2016
[MINI] Multiple Regression
18:29

This episode is a discussion of multiple regression: the use of observations that are a vector of values to predict a response variable. For this episode, we consider how features of a home such as the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and square footage can predict the sale price.

Unlike a typical episode of Data Skeptic, these show notes are not just supporting material, but are actually featured in the episode.

The site Redfin gratiously allows users to download a CSV of results they are viewing. Unfortunately, they limit this extract to 500 listings, but you can still use it to try the same approach on your own using the download link shown in the figure below.

Feb 19, 2016
Scientific Studies of People's Relationship to Music
42:14

Samuel Mehr joins us this week to share his perspective on why people are musical, where music comes from, and why it works the way it does. We discuss a number of empirical studies related to music and musical cognition, and dispense a few myths about music along the way.

Some of Sam's work discussed in this episode include Music in the Home: New Evidence for an Intergenerational Link,Two randomized trials provide no consistent evidence for nonmusical cognitive benefits of brief preschool music enrichment, and Miscommunication of science: music cognition research in the popular press. Additional topics we discussed are also covered in a Harvard Gazette article featuring Sam titled Muting the Mozart effect.

You can follow Sam on twitter via @samuelmehr.

Feb 12, 2016
[MINI] k-d trees
14:11

This episode reviews the concept of k-d trees: an efficient data structure for holding multidimensional objects. Kyle gives Linhda a dictionary and asks her to look up words as a way of introducing the concept of binary search. We actually spend most of the episode talking about binary search before getting into k-d trees, but this is a necessary prerequisite.

Feb 05, 2016
Auditing Algorithms
42:58

Algorithms are pervasive in our society and make thousands of automated decisions on our behalf every day. The possibility of digital discrimination is a very real threat, and it is very plausible for discrimination to occur accidentally (i.e. outside the intent of the system designers and programmers). Christian Sandvig joins us in this episode to talk about his work and the concept of auditing algorithms.

Christian Sandvig (@niftyc) has a PhD in communications from Stanford and is currently an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Information at the University of Michigan. His research studies the predictable and unpredictable effects that algorithms have on culture. His work exploring the topic of auditing algorithms has framed the conversation of how and why we might want to have oversight on the way algorithms effect our lives. His writing appears in numerous publications including The Social Media Collective, The Huffington Post, and Wired.

One of his papers we discussed in depth on this episode was Auditing Algorithms: Research Methods for Detecting Discrimination on Internet Platforms, which is well worth a read.

Jan 29, 2016
[MINI] The Bonferroni Correction
14:29

Today's episode begins by asking how many left handed employees we should expect to be at a company before anyone should claim left handedness discrimination. If not lefties, let's consider eye color, hair color, favorite ska band, most recent grocery store used, and any number of characteristics could be studied to look for deviations from the norm in a company.

When multiple comparisons are to be made simultaneous, one must account for this, and a common method for doing so is with the Bonferroni Correction. It is not, however, a sure fire procedure, and this episode wraps up with a bit of skepticism about it.

Jan 22, 2016
Detecting Pseudo-profound BS
37:37

A recent paper in the journal of Judgment and Decision Making titled On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit explores empirical questions around a reader's ability to detect statements which may sound profound but are actually a collection of buzzwords that fail to contain adequate meaning or truth. These statements are definitively different from lies and nonesense, as we discuss in the episode.

This paper proposes the Bullshit Receptivity scale (BSR) and empirically demonstrates that it correlates with existing metrics like the Cognitive Reflection Test, building confidence that this can be a useful, repeatable, empirical measure of a person's ability to detect pseudo-profound statements as being different from genuinely profound statements. Additionally, the correlative results provide some insight into possible root causes for why individuals might find great profundity in these statements based on other beliefs or cognitive measures.

The paper's lead author Gordon Pennycook joins me to discuss this study's results.

If you'd like some examples of pseudo-profound bullshit, you can randomly generate some based on Deepak Chopra's twitter feed.

To read other work from Gordon, check out his Google Scholar page and find him on twitter via @GordonPennycook.

And just for fun, if you think you've dreamed up a Data Skeptic related pseudo-profound bullshit statement, tweet it with hashtag #pseudoprofound. If I see an especially clever or humorous one, I might want to send you a free Data Skeptic sticker.

 
Jan 15, 2016
[MINI] Gradient Descent
14:51

Today's mini episode discusses the widely known optimization algorithm gradient descent in the context of hiking in a foggy hillside.

Jan 08, 2016
Let's Kill the Word Cloud
15:03

This episode is a discussion of data visualization and a proposed New Year's resolution for Data Skeptic listeners. Let's kill the word cloud.

Jan 01, 2016
2015 Holiday Special
14:22

Today's episode is a reading of Isaac Asimov's The Machine that Won the War. I can't think of a story that's more appropriate for Data Skeptic.

Dec 25, 2015
Wikipedia Revision Scoring as a Service
42:56

In this interview with Aaron Halfaker of the Wikimedia Foundation, we discuss his research and career related to the study of Wikipedia. In his paper The Rise and Decline of an open Collaboration Community, he highlights a trend in the declining rate of active editors on Wikipedia which began in 2007. I asked Aaron about a variety of possible hypotheses for the phenomenon, in particular, how automated quality control tools that revert edits automatically could play a role. This lead Aaron and his collaborators to develop Snuggle, an optimized interface to help Wikipedians better welcome new comers to the community.

We discuss the details of these topics as well as ORES, which provides revision scoring as a service to any software developer that wants to consume the output of their machine learning based scoring.

You can find Aaron on Twitter as @halfak.

Dec 18, 2015
[MINI] Term Frequency - Inverse Document Frequency
10:17

Today's topic is term frequency inverse document frequency, which is a statistic for estimating the importance of words and phrases in a set of documents.

Dec 11, 2015
The Hunt for Vulcan
41:31

Early astronomers could see several of the planets with the naked eye. The invention of the telescope allowed for further understanding of our solar system. The work of Isaac Newton allowed later scientists to accurately predict Neptune, which was later observationally confirmed exactly where predicted. It seemed only natural that a similar unknown body might explain anomalies in the orbit of Mercury, and thus began the search for the hypothesized planet Vulcan.

Thomas Levenson's book "The Hunt for Vulcan" is a narrative of the key scientific minds involved in the search and eventual refutation of an unobserved planet between Mercury and the sun. Thomas joins me in this episode to discuss his book and the fascinating story of the quest to find this planet.

During the discussion, we mention one of the contributions made by Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier which involved some complex calculations which enabled him to predict where to find the planet that would eventually be called Neptune. The calculus behind this work is difficult, and some of that work is demonstrated in a Jupyter notebook I recently discovered from Paulo Marques titled The-Body Problem.

Thomas Levenson is a professor at MIT and head of its science writing program. He is the author of several books, including Einstein in Berlin and Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist. He has also made ten feature-length documentaries (including a two-hour Nova program on Einstein) for which he has won numerous awards. In his most recent book "The Hunt for Vulcan", explores the century spanning quest to explain the movement of the cosmos via theory and the role the hypothesized planet Vulcan played in the story.

Follow Thomas on twitter @tomlevenson and check out his blog athttps://inversesquare.wordpress.com/.

Pick up your copy of The Hunt for Vulcan at your local bookstore, preferred book buying place, or at the Penguin Random House site.

Dec 04, 2015
[MINI] The Accuracy Paradox
17:04

Today's episode discusses the accuracy paradox. There are cases when one might prefer a less accurate model because it yields more predictive power or better captures the underlying causal factors describing the outcome variable you are interested in. This is especially relevant in machine learning when trying to predict rare events. We discuss how the accuracy paradox might apply if you were trying to predict the likelihood a person was a bird owner.

Nov 27, 2015
Neuroscience from a Data Scientist's Perspective
40:18

... or should this have been called data science from a neuroscientist's perspective? Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy this discussion with Laurie Skelly. Laurie earned a PhD in Integrative Neuroscience from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. In her life as a social neuroscientist, using fMRI to study the neural processes behind empathy and psychopathy, she learned the ropes of zooming in and out between the macroscopic and the microscopic -- how millions of data points come together to tell us something meaningful about human nature. She's currently at Metis Data Science, an organization that helps people learn the skills of data science to transition in industry.

In this episode, we discuss fMRI technology, Laurie's research studying empathy and psychopathy, as well as the skills and tools used in common between neuroscientists and data scientists. For listeners interested in more on this subject, Laurie recommended the blogs Neuroskeptic, Neurocritic, and Neuroecology.

We conclude the episode with a mention of the upcoming Metis Data Science San Francisco cohort which Laurie will be teaching. If anyone is interested in applying to participate, they can do so here.

Nov 20, 2015
[MINI] Bias Variance Tradeoff
13:35

A discussion of the expected number of cars at a stoplight frames today's discussion of the bias variance tradeoff. The central ideal of this concept relates to model complexity. A very simple model will likely generalize well from training to testing data, but will have a very high variance since it's simplicity can prevent it from capturing the relationship between the covariates and the output. As a model grows more and more complex, it may capture more of the underlying data but the risk that it overfits the training data and therefore does not generalize (is biased) increases. The tradeoff between minimizing variance and minimizing bias is an ongoing challenge for data scientists, and an important discussion for skeptics around how much we should trust models.

Nov 13, 2015
Big Data Doesn't Exist
32:28

The recent opinion piece Big Data Doesn't Exist on Tech Crunch by Slater Victoroff is an interesting discussion about the usefulness of data both big and small. Slater joins me this episode to discuss and expand on this discussion.

Slater Victoroff is CEO of indico Data Solutions, a company whose services turn raw text and image data into human insight. He, and his co-founders, studied at Olin College of Engineering where indico was born. indico was then accepted into the "Techstars Accelarator Program" in the Fall of 2014 and went on to raise $3M in seed funding. His recent essay "Big Data Doesn't Exist" received a lot of traction on TechCrunch, and I have invited Slater to join me today to discuss his perspective and touch on a few topics in the machine learning space as well.

Nov 06, 2015
[MINI] Covariance and Correlation
14:29

The degree to which two variables change together can be calculated in the form of their covariance. This value can be normalized to the correlation coefficient, which has the advantage of transforming it to a unitless measure strictly bounded between -1 and 1. This episode discusses how we arrive at these values and why they are important.

Oct 30, 2015
Bayesian A/B Testing
30:11

Today's guest is Cameron Davidson-Pilon. Cameron has a masters degree in quantitative finance from the University of Waterloo. Think of it as statistics on stock markets. For the last two years he's been the team lead of data science at Shopify. He's the founder of dataoragami.net which produces screencasts teaching methods and techniques of applied data science. He's also the author of the just released in print book Bayesian Methods for Hackers: Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Inference, which you can also get in a digital form.

This episode focuses on the topic of Bayesian A/B Testing which spans just one chapter of the book. Related to today's discussion is the Data Origami post The class imbalance problem in A/B testing.

Lastly, Data Skeptic will be giving away a copy of the print version of the book to one lucky listener who has a US based delivery address. To participate, you'll need to write a review of any site, book, course, or podcast of your choice on datasciguide.com. After it goes live, tweet a link to it with the hashtag #WinDSBook to be given an entry in the contest. This contest will end November 20th, 2015, at which time I'll draw a single randomized winner and contact them for delivery details via direct message on Twitter.

Oct 23, 2015
[MINI] The Central Limit Theorem
13:07

The central limit theorem is an important statistical result which states that typically, the mean of a large enough set of independent trials is approximately normally distributed.  This episode explores how this might be used to determine if an amazon parrot like Yoshi produces or or less waste than an African Grey, under the assumption that the individual distributions are not normal.

Oct 16, 2015
Accessible Technology
38:44

Today's guest is Chris Hofstader (@gonz_blinko), an accessibility researcher and advocate, as well as an activist for causes such as improving access to information for blind and vision impaired people. His background in computer programming enabled him to be the leader of JAWS, a Windows program that allowed people with a visual impairment to read their screen either through text-to-speech or a refreshable braille display. He's the Managing Member of 3 Mouse Technology. He's also a frequent blogger primarily at chrishofstader.com.

For web developers and site owners, Chris recommends two tools to help test for accessibility issues: tenon.io and dqtech.co.

A guest post from Chris appeared on the Skepchick blogged titled Skepticism and Disability which lead to the formation of the sister site Skeptibility.

In a discussion of skepticism and favorite podcasts, Chris mentioned a number of great shows, most notably The Pod Delusion to which he was a contributor. Additionally, Chris has also appeared on The Atheist Nomads.

Lastly, a shout out from Chris to musician Shelley Segal whom he hosted just before the date of recording of this episode. Her music can be found on her site or via bandcamp.

Oct 09, 2015
[MINI] Multi-armed Bandit Problems
12:47

The multi-armed bandit problem is named with reference to slot machines (one armed bandits). Given the chance to play from a pool of slot machines, all with unknown payout frequencies, how can you maximize your reward? If you knew in advance which machine was best, you would play exclusively that machine. Any strategy less than this will, on average, earn less payout, and the difference can be called the "regret".

You can try each slot machine to learn about it, which we refer to as exploration. When you've spent enough time to be convinced you've identified the best machine, you can then double down and exploit that knowledge. But how do you best balance exploration and exploitation to minimize the regret of your play?

This mini-episode explores a few examples including restaurant selection and A/B testing to discuss the nature of this problem. In the end we touch briefly on Thompson sampling as a solution.

Oct 02, 2015
Shakespeare, Abiogenesis, and Exoplanets
58:14

Our episode this week begins with a correction. Back in episode 28 (Monkeys on Typewriters), Kyle made some bold claims about the probability that monkeys banging on typewriters might produce the entire works of Shakespeare by chance. The proof shown in the show notes turned out to be a bit dubious and Dave Spiegel joins us in this episode to set the record straight.

In addition to that, out discussion explores a number of interesting topics in astronomy and astrophysics. This includes a paper Dave wrote with Ed Turner titled "Bayesian analysis of the astrobiological implications of life's early emergence on Earth" as well as exoplanet discovery.

Sep 25, 2015
[MINI] Sample Sizes
13:22

There are several factors that are important to selecting an appropriate sample size and dealing with small samples. The most important questions are around representativeness - how well does your sample represent the total population and capture all it's variance?

Linhda and Kyle talk through a few examples including elections, picking an Airbnb, produce selection, and home shopping as examples of cases in which the amount of observations one has are more or less important depending on how complex the underlying system one is observing is.

Sep 18, 2015
The Model Complexity Myth
30:01

There's an old adage which says you cannot fit a model which has more parameters than you have data. While this is often the case, it's not a universal truth. Today's guest Jake VanderPlas explains this topic in detail and provides some excellent examples of when it holds and doesn't. Some excellent visuals articulating the points can be found on Jake's blog Pythonic Perambulations, specifically on his post The Model Complexity Myth.

We also touch on Jake's work as an astronomer, his noteworthy open source contributions, and forthcoming book (currently available in an Early Edition) Python Data Science Handbook.

Sep 11, 2015
[MINI] Distance Measures
12:44

There are many occasions in which one might want to know the distance or similarity between two things, for which the means of calculating that distance is not necessarily clear. The distance between two points in Euclidean space is generally straightforward, but what about the distance between the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the ocean? What about the distance between two sentences?

This mini-episode summarizes some of the considerations and a few of the means of calculating distance. We touch on Jaccard Similarity, Manhattan Distance, and a few others.

Sep 04, 2015
ContentMine
53:11

ContentMine is a project which provides the tools and workflow to convert scientific literature into machine readable and machine interpretable data in order to facilitate better and more effective access to the accumulated knowledge of human kind. The program's founder Peter Murray-Rust joins us this week to discuss ContentMine. Our discussion covers the project, the scientific publication process, copywrite, and several other interesting topics.

Aug 28, 2015
[MINI] Structured and Unstructured Data
13:20

Today's mini-episode explains the distinction between structured and unstructured data, and debates which of these categories best describe recipes.

Aug 21, 2015
Measuring the Influence of Fashion Designers
24:42

Yusan Lin shares her research on using data science to explore the fashion industry in this episode. She has applied techniques from data mining, natural language processing, and social network analysis to explore who are the innovators in the fashion world and how their influence effects other designers.

If you found this episode interesting and would like to read more, Yusan's papers Text-Generated Fashion Influence Model: An Empirical Study on Style.com and The Hidden Influence Network in the Fashion Industry are worth reading.

Aug 14, 2015
[MINI] PageRank
08:29

PageRank is the algorithm most famous for being one of the original innovations that made Google stand out as a search engine. It was defined in the classic paper The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine by Sergey Brin and Larry Page. While this algorithm clearly impacted web searching, it has also been useful in a variety of other applications. This episode presents a high level description of this algorithm and how it might apply when trying to establish who writes the most influencial academic papers.

Aug 07, 2015
Data Science at Work in LA County
41:26

In this episode, Benjamin Uminsky enlightens us about some of the ways the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk leverages data science and analysis to help be more effective and efficient with the services and expectations they provide citizens. Our topics range from forecasting to predicting the likelihood that people will volunteer to be poll workers.

Benjamin recently spoke at Big Data Day LA. Videos have not yet been posted, but you can see the slides from his talk Data Mining Forecasting and BI at the RRCC if this episode has left you hungry to learn more.

During the show, Benjamin encouraged any Los Angeles residents who have some time to serve their community consider becoming a pollworker.

Jul 29, 2015
[MINI] k-Nearest Neighbors
08:33

This episode explores the k-nearest neighbors algorithm which is an unsupervised, non-parametric method that can be used for both classification and regression. The basica concept is that it leverages some distance function on your dataset to find the $k$ closests other observations of the dataset and averaging them to impute an unknown value or unlabelled datapoint.

Jul 24, 2015
Crypto
01:24:42

How do people think rationally about small probability events?

What is the optimal statistical process by which one can update their beliefs in light of new evidence?

This episode of Data Skeptic explores questions like this as Kyle consults a cast of previous guests and experts to try and answer the question "What is the probability, however small, that Bigfoot is real?"

Jul 17, 2015
[MINI] MapReduce
12:48

This mini-episode is a high level explanation of the basic idea behind MapReduce, which is a fundamental concept in big data. The origin of the idea comes from a Google paper titled MapReduce: Simplified Data Processing on Large Clusters. This episode makes an analogy to tabulating paper voting ballets as a means of helping to explain how and why MapReduce is an important concept.

Jul 10, 2015
Genetically Engineered Food and Trends in Herbicide Usage
34:56

The Credible Hulk joins me in this episode to discuss a recent blog post he wrote about glyphosate and the data about how it's introduction changed the historical usage trends of other herbicides. Links to all the sources and references can be found in the blog post.

In this discussion, we also mention the food babe and Last Thursdayism which may be worth some further reading. Kyle also mentioned the list of ingredients or chemical composition of a banana.

Credible Hulk mentioned the Mommy PhD facebook page. An interesting article about Mommy PhD can be found here. Lastly, if you enjoyed the show, please "Like" the Credible Hulk facebook group.

Jul 03, 2015
[MINI] The Curse of Dimensionality
10:57

More features are not always better! With an increasing number of features to consider, machine learning algorithms suffer from the curse of dimensionality, as they have a wider set and often sparser coverage of examples to consider. This episode explores a real life example of this as Kyle and Linhda discuss their thoughts on purchasing a home.

The curse of dimensionality was defined by Richard Bellman, and applies in several slightly nuanced cases. This mini-episode discusses how it applies on machine learning.

This episode does not, however, discuss a slightly different version of the curse of dimensionality which appears in decision theoretic situations. Consider the game of chess. One must think ahead several moves in order to execute a successful strategy. However, thinking ahead another move requires a consideration of every possible move of every piece controlled, and every possible response one's opponent may take. The space of possible future states of the board grows exponentially with the horizon one wants to look ahead to. This is present in the notably useful Bellman equation.

Jun 26, 2015
Video Game Analytics
31:00

This episode discusses video game analytics with guest Anders Drachen. The way in which people get access to games and the opportunity for game designers to ask interesting questions with data has changed quite a bit in the last two decades. Anders shares his insights about the past, present, and future of game analytics. We explore not only some of the innovations and interesting ways of examining user experience in the gaming industry, but also touch on some of the exciting opportunities for innovation that are right on the horizon.

You can find more from Anders online at andersdrachen.com, and follow him on twitter @andersdrachen

Jun 19, 2015
[MINI] Anscombe's Quartet
09:07

This mini-episode discusses Anscombe's Quartet, a series of four datasets which are clearly very different but share some similar statistical properties with one another. For example, each of the four plots has the same mean and variance on both axis, as well as the same correlation coefficient, and same linear regression.

 

The episode tries to add some context by imagining each of these datasets as data about a sports team, and why it can be important to look beyond basic summary statistics when exploring your dataset.

Jun 12, 2015
Proposing Annoyance Mining
30:49

A recent episode of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe included a slight rant by Dr. Novella and the rouges about a shortcoming in operating systems.  This episode explores why such a (seemingly obvious) flaw might make sense from an engineering perspective, and how data science might be the solution.

In this solo episode, Kyle proposes the concept of "annoyance mining" - the idea that with proper logging and enough feedback, data scientists could be provided the right dataset from which they can detect flaws and annoyances in software and other systems and automatically detect potential bugs, flaws, and improvements which could make those systems better.

As system complexity grows, it seems that an abstraction like this might be required in order to keep maintaining an effective development cycle.  This episode is a bit of a soap box for Kyle as he explores why and how we might track an appropriate amount of data to be able to make better software and systems more suited for the users.

Jun 09, 2015
Preserving History at Cyark
23:19

Elizabeth Lee from CyArk joins us in this episode to share stories of the work done capturing important historical sites digitally. CyArk is a non-profit focused on using technology to preserve the world's important historic and cultural locations digitally. CyArk's founder Ben Kacyra, a pioneer in 3D capture technology, and his wife, founded CyArk after seeing the need to preserve important artifacts and locations digitally before they are lost to natural disasters, human destruction, or the passage of time. We discuss their technology, data, and site selection including the upcoming themes of locations and the CyArk 500.

Elizabeth puts out the call to all listeners to share their opinions on what important sites should be included in The Cyark 500 Challenge - an effort to digitally preserve 500 of the most culturally important heritage sites within the next five years. You can Nominate a site by submitting a short form at CyArk.org

Visit http://www.cyark.org/projects/ to view an immersive, interactive experience of many of the sites preserved.

Jun 05, 2015
[MINI] A Critical Examination of a Study of Marriage by Political Affiliation
10:24

Linhda and Kyle review a New York Times article titled How Your Hometown Affects Your Chances of Marriage. This article explores research about what correlates with the likelihood of being married by age 26 by county. Kyle and LinhDa discuss some of the fine points of this research and the process of identifying factors for consideration.

May 29, 2015
Detecting Cheating in Chess
44:35

With the advent of algorithms capable of beating highly ranked chess players, the temptation to cheat has emmerged as a potential threat to the integrity of this ancient and complex game. Yet, there are aspects of computer play that are measurably different than human play. Dr. Kenneth Regan has developed a methodology for looking at a long series of modes and measuring the likelihood that the moves may have been selected by an algorithm.

The full transcript of this episode is well annotated and has a wealth of excellent links to the things discussed.

If you're interested in learning more about Dr. Regan, his homepage (Kenneth Regan), his page on wikispaces, and the amazon page of books by Kenneth W. Regan are all great resources.

May 22, 2015
[MINI] z-scores
10:26

This week's episode dicusses z-scores, also known as standard score. This score describes the distance (in standard deviations) that an observation is away from the mean of the population. A closely related top is the 68-95-99.7 rule which tells us that (approximately) 68% of a normally distributed population lies within one standard deviation of the mean, 95 within 2, and 99.7 within 3.

Kyle and Linh Da discuss z-scores in the context of human height. If you'd like to calculate your own z-score for height, you can do so below. They further discuss how a z-score can also describe the likelihood that some statistical result is due to chance. Thus, if the significance of a finding can be said to be 3σ, that means that it's 99.7% likely not due to chance, or only 0.3% likely to be due to chance.

May 15, 2015
Using Data to Help Those in Crisis
34:47

This week Noelle Sio Saldana discusses her volunteer work at Crisis Text Line - a 24/7 service that connects anyone with crisis counselors. In the episode we discuss Noelle's career and how, as a participant in the Pivotal for Good program (a partnership with DataKind), she spent three months helping find insights in the messaging data collected by Crisis Text Line. These insights helped give visibility into a number of different aspects of Crisis Text Line's services. Listen to this episode to find out how!

If you or someone you know is in a moment of crisis, there's someone ready to talk to you by texting the shortcode 741741.

May 08, 2015
The Ghost in the MP3
35:22

Have you ever wondered what is lost when you compress a song into an MP3? This week's guest Ryan Maguire did more than that. He worked on software to issolate the sounds that are lost when you convert a lossless digital audio recording into a compressed MP3 file.

To complete his project, Ryan worked primarily in python using the pyo library as well as the Bregman Toolkit

Ryan mentioned humans having a dynamic range of hearing from 20 hz to 20,000 hz, if you'd like to hear those tones, check the previous link.

If you'd like to know more about our guest Ryan Maguire you can find his website at the previous link. To follow The Ghost in the MP3 project, please checkout their Facebook page, or on the sitetheghostinthemp3.com.

A PDF of Ryan's publication quality write up can be found at this link: The Ghost in the MP3 and it is definitely worth the read if you'd like to know more of the technical details.

May 01, 2015
Data Fest 2015
27:23

This episode contains converage of the 2015 Data Fest hosted at UCLA.  Data Fest is an analysis competition that gives teams of students 48 hours to explore a new dataset and present novel findings.  This year, data from Edmunds.com was provided, and students competed in three categories: best recommendation, best use of external data, and best visualization.

Apr 28, 2015
[MINI] Cornbread and Overdispersion
15:47

For our 50th episode we enduldge a bit by cooking Linhda's previously mentioned "healthy" cornbread.  This leads to a discussion of the statistical topic of overdispersion in which the variance of some distribution is larger than what one's underlying model will account for.

Apr 24, 2015
[MINI] Natural Language Processing
13:27

This episode overviews some of the fundamental concepts of natural language processing including stemming, n-grams, part of speech tagging, and th bag of words approach.

Apr 17, 2015
Computer-based Personality Judgments
31:56

Guest Youyou Wu discuses the work she and her collaborators did to measure the accuracy of computer based personality judgments. Using Facebook "like" data, they found that machine learning approaches could be used to estimate user's self assessment of the "big five" personality traits: openness, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Interestingly, the computer-based assessments outperformed some of the assessments of certain groups of human beings. Listen to the episode to learn more.

The original paper Computer-based personality judgements are more accurate than those made by humansappeared in the January 2015 volume of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

For her benevolent Youyou recommends Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior by Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell, and Thore Graepel. It's a similar paper by her co-authors which looks at demographic traits rather than personality traits.

And for her self-serving recommendation, Youyou has a link that I'm very excited about. You can visitApplyMagicSauce.com to see how this model evaluates your personality based on your Facebook like information. I'd love it if listeners participated in this research and shared your perspective on the results via The Data Skeptic Podcast Facebook page. I'm going to be posting mine there for everyone to see.

Apr 10, 2015
[MINI] Markov Chain Monte Carlo
15:50

This episode explores how going wine testing could teach us about using markov chain monte carlo (mcmc).

Apr 03, 2015
[MINI] Markov Chains
11:29

This episode introduces the idea of a Markov Chain. A Markov Chain has a set of states describing a particular system, and a probability of moving from one state to another along every valid connected state. Markov Chains are memoryless, meaning they don't rely on a long history of previous observations. The current state of a system depends only on the previous state and the results of a random outcome.

Markov Chains are a useful way method for describing non-deterministic systems. They are useful for destribing the state and transition model of a stochastic system.

As examples of Markov Chains, we discuss stop light signals, bowling, and text prediction systems in light of whether or not they can be described with Markov Chains.

Mar 20, 2015
Oceanography and Data Science
33:15

Nicole Goebel joins us this week to share her experiences in oceanography studying phytoplankton and other aspects of the ocean and how data plays a role in that science.

 

We also discuss Thinkful where Nicole and I are both mentors for the Introduction to Data Science course.

Last but not least, check out Nicole's blog Data Science Girl and the videos Kyle mentioned on her Youtube channel featuring one on the diversity of phytoplankton and how that changes in time and space.

Mar 13, 2015
[MINI] Ordinary Least Squares Regression
18:07

This episode explores Ordinary Least Squares or OLS - a method for finding a good fit which describes a given dataset.

Mar 06, 2015
NYC Speed Camera Analysis with Tim Schmeier
16:56

New York State approved the use of automated speed cameras within a specific range of schools. Tim Schmeier did an analysis of publically available data related to these cameras as part of a project at the NYC Data Science Academy. Tim's work leverages several open data sets to ask the questions: are the speed cameras succeeding in their intended purpose of increasing public safety near schools? What he found using open data may surprise you.

You can read Tim's write up titled Speed Cameras: Revenue or Public Safety? on the NYC Data Science Academy blog. His original write up, reproducible analysis, and figures are a great compliment to this episode.

For his benevolent recommendation, Tim suggests listeners visit Maddie's Fund - a data driven charity devoted to helping achieve and sustain a no-kill pet nation. And for his self-serving recommendation, Tim Schmeier will very shortly be on the job market. If you, your employeer, or someone you know is looking for data science talent, you can reach time at his gmail account which is timothy.schmeier at gmail dot com.

Feb 27, 2015
[MINI] k-means clustering
14:20

The k-means clustering algorithm is an algorithm that computes a deterministic label for a given "k" number of clusters from an n-dimensional datset.  This mini-episode explores how Yoshi, our lilac crowned amazon's biological processes might be a useful way of measuring where she sits when there are no humans around.  Listen to find out how!

Feb 20, 2015
Shadow Profiles on Social Networks
38:37

Emre Sarigol joins me this week to discuss his paper Online Privacy as a Collective Phenomenon. This paper studies data collected from social networks and how the sharing behaviors of individuals can unintentionally reveal private information about other people, including those that have not even joined the social network! For the specific test discussed, the researchers were able to accurately predict the sexual orientation of individuals, even when this information was withheld during the training of their algorithm.

The research produces a surprisingly accurate predictor of this private piece of information, and was constructed only with publically available data from myspace.com found on archive.org. As Emre points out, this is a small shadow of the potential information available to modern social networks. For example, users that install the Facebook app on their mobile phones are (perhaps unknowningly) sharing all their phone contacts. Should a social network like Facebook choose to do so, this information could be aggregated to assemble "shadow profiles" containing rich data on users who may not even have an account.

Feb 13, 2015
[MINI] The Chi-Squared Test
17:32

The χ2 (Chi-Squared) test is a methodology for hypothesis testing. When one has categorical data, in the form of frequency counts or observations (e.g. Vegetarian, Pescetarian, and Omnivore), split into two or more categories (e.g. Male, Female), a question may arrise such as "Are women more likely than men to be vegetarian?" or put more accurately, "Is any observed difference in the frequency with which women report being vegetarian differ in a statistically significant way from the frequency men report that?"

Feb 06, 2015
Mapping Reddit Topics with Randy Olson
29:57

My quest this week is noteworthy a.i. researcher Randy Olson who joins me to share his work creating the Reddit World Map - a visualization that illuminates clusters in the reddit community based on user behavior.

Randy's blog post on created the reddit world map is well complimented by a more detailed write up titled Navigating the massive world of reddit: using backbone networks to map user interests in social media. Last but not least, an interactive version of the results (which leverages Gephi) can be found here.

For a benevolent recommendation, Randy suggetss people check out Seaborn - a python library for statistical data visualization. For a self serving recommendation, Randy recommends listeners visit the Data is beautiful subreddit where he's a moderator.

Jan 30, 2015
[MINI] Partially Observable State Spaces
12:45

When dealing with dynamic systems that are potentially undergoing constant change, its helpful to describe what "state" they are in.  In many applications the manner in which the state changes from one to another is not completely predictable, thus, there is uncertainty over how it transitions from state to state.  Further, in many applications, one cannot directly observe the true state, and thus we describe such situations as partially observable state spaces.  This episode explores what this means and why it is important in the context of chess, poker, and the mood of Yoshi the lilac crowned amazon parrot.

Jan 23, 2015
Easily Fooling Deep Neural Networks
28:25

My guest this week is Anh Nguyen, a PhD student at the University of Wyoming working in the Evolving AI lab. The episode discusses the paper Deep Neural Networks are Easily Fooled [pdf] by Anh Nguyen, Jason Yosinski, and Jeff Clune. It describes a process for creating images that a trained deep neural network will mis-classify. If you have a deep neural network that has been trained to recognize certain types of objects in images, these "fooling" images can be constructed in a way which the network will mis-classify them. To a human observer, these fooling images often have no resemblance whatsoever to the assigned label. Previous work had shown that some images which appear to be unrecognizable white noise images to us can fool a deep neural network. This paper extends the result showing abstract images of shapes and colors, many of which have form (just not the one the network thinks) can also trick the network.

Jan 16, 2015
[MINI] Data Provenance
10:56

This episode introduces a high level discussion on the topic of Data Provenance, with more MINI episodes to follow to get into specific topics. Thanks to listener Sara L who wrote in to point out the Data Skeptic Podcast has focused alot about using data to be skeptical, but not necessarily being skeptical of data.

Data Provenance is the concept of knowing the full origin of your dataset. Where did it come from? Who collected it? How as it collected? Does it combine independent sources or one singular source? What are the error bounds on the way it was measured? These are just some of the questions one should ask to understand their data. After all, if the antecedent of an argument is built on dubious grounds, the consequent of the argument is equally dubious.

For a more technical discussion than what we get into in this mini epiosode, I recommend A Survey of Data Provenance Techniques by authors Simmhan, Plale, and Gannon.

Jan 09, 2015
Doubtful News, Geology, Investigating Paranormal Groups, and Thinking Scientifically with Sharon Hill
31:28

I had the change to speak with well known Sharon Hill (@idoubtit) for the first episode of 2015. We discuss a number of interesting topics including the contributions Doubtful News makes to getting scientific and skeptical information ranked highly in search results, sink holes, why earthquakes are hard to predict, and data collection about paranormal groups via the internet.

Jan 03, 2015
[MINI] Belief in Santa
09:55

In this quick holiday episode, we touch on how one would approach modeling the statistical distribution over the probability of belief in Santa Claus given age.

Dec 26, 2014
Economic Modeling and Prediction, Charitable Giving, and a Follow Up with Peter Backus
23:43

Economist Peter Backus joins me in this episode to discuss a few interesting topics. You may recall Linhda and I previously discussed his paper "The Girlfriend Equation" on a recent mini-episode. We start by touching base on this fun paper and get a follow up on where Peter stands years after writing w.r.t. a successful romantic union. Additionally, we delve in to some fascinating economics topics.

We touch on questions of the role models, for better or for worse, played a role in the ~2008 economic crash, statistics in economics and the difficulty of measurement, and some insightful discussion about the economics charities. Peter encourages listeners to be open to giving money to charities that are good at fundraising, and his arguement is a (for me) suprisingly insightful logic. Lastly, we have a teaser of some of Peter's upcoming work using unconventional data sources.

For his benevolent recommendation, Peter recommended the book The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell, and for his self-serving recommendation, follow Peter on twitter at @Awesomnomics.

Dec 19, 2014
[MINI] The Battle of the Sexes
18:04

Love and Data is the continued theme in this mini-episode as we discuss the game theory example of The Battle of the Sexes. In this textbook example, a couple must strategize about how to spend their Friday night. One partner prefers football games while the other partner prefers to attend the opera. Yet, each person would rather be at their non-preferred location so long as they are still with their spouse. So where should they decide to go?

Dec 12, 2014
The Science of Online Data at Plenty of Fish with Thomas Levi
58:46

Can algorithms help you find love? Many happy couples successfully brought together via online dating websites show us that data science can help you find love. I'm joined this week by Thomas Levi, Senior Data Scientist at Plenty of Fish, to discuss some of his work which helps people find one another as efficiently as possible.

Matchmaking is a truly non-trivial problem, and one that's dynamically changing all the time as new users join and leave the "pool of fish". This episode explores the aspects of what makes this a tough problem and some of the ways POF has been successfully using data science to solve it, and continues to try to innovate with new techniques like interest matching.

For his benevolent references, Thomas suggests readers check out All of Statistics as well as the caretlibrary for R. And for a self serving recommendation, follow him on twitter (@tslevi) or connect withThomas Levi on Linkedin.

Dec 05, 2014
[MINI] The Girlfriend Equation
16:11

Economist Peter Backus put forward "The Girlfriend Equation" while working on his PhD - a probabilistic model attempting to estimate the likelihood of him finding a girlfriend. In this mini episode we explore the soundness of his model and also share some stories about how Linhda and Kyle met.

Nov 28, 2014
The Secret and the Global Consciousness Project with Alex Boklin
41:45

I'm joined this week by Alex Boklin to explore the topic of magical thinking especially in the context of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret", and the similarities it bears to The Global Consciousness Project (GCP). The GCP puts forward the hypothesis that random number generators elicit statistically significant changes as a result of major world events.

Nov 21, 2014
[MINI] Monkeys on Typewriters
03:05

What is randomness? How can we determine if some results are randomly generated or not? Why are random numbers important to us in our everyday life? These topics and more are discussed in this mini-episode on random numbers.

Many readers will be vaguely familar with the idea of "X number of monkeys banging on Y number of typewriters for Z number of years" - the idea being that such a setup would produce random sequences of letters. The origin of this idea was the mathemetician Borel who was interested in whether or not 1,000,000 monkeys working for 10 hours per day might eventually reproduce the works of shakespeare.

We explore this topic and provide some further details in the show notes which you can find over at dataskeptic.com

Nov 14, 2014
Mining the Social Web with Matthew Russell
50:19

This week's episode explores the possibilities of extracting novel insights from the many great social web APIs available. Matthew Russell's Mining the Social Web is a fantastic exploration of the tools and methods, and we explore a few related topics.

One helpful feature of the book is it's use of a Vagrant virtual machine. Using it, readers can easily reproduce the examples from the book, and there's a short video available that will walk you through setting up the Mining the Social Web virtual machine.

The book also has an accompanying github repository which can be found here.

A quote from Matthew that particularly reasonates for me was "The first commandment of Data Science is to 'Know thy data'." Take a listen for a little more context around this sage advice.

In addition to the book, we also discuss some of the work done by Digital Reasoning where Matthew serves as CTO. One of their products we spend some time discussing is Synthesys, a service that processes unstructured data and delivers knowledge and insight extracted from the data.

Some listeners might already be familiar with Digital Reasoning from recent coverage in Fortune Magazine on their cognitive computing efforts.

For his benevolent recommendation, Matthew recommends the Hardcore History Podcast, and for his self-serving recommendation, Matthew mentioned that they are currently hiring for Data Science job opportunities at Digital Reasoning if any listeners are looking for new opportunities.

Nov 07, 2014
[MINI] Is the Internet Secure?
26:11

This episode explores the basis of why we can trust encryption.  Suprisingly, a discussion of looking up a word in the dictionary (binary search) and efficiently going wine tasting (the travelling salesman problem) help introduce computational complexity as well as the P ?= NP question, which is paramount to the trustworthiness RSA encryption.

With a high level foundation of computational theory, we talk about NP problems, and why prime factorization is a difficult problem, thus making it a great basis for the RSA encryption algorithm, which most of the internet uses to encrypt data.  Unlike the encryption scheme Ray Romano used in "Everybody Loves Raymond", RSA has nice theoretical foundations.

It should be noted that although this episode gives good reason to trust that properly encrypted data, based on well choosen public/private keys where the private key is not compromised, is safe.  However, having safe encryption doesn't necessarily mean that the Internet is secure.  Topics like Man in the Middle attacks as well as the Snowden revelations are a topic for another day, not for this record length "mini" episode.

Oct 31, 2014
Practicing and Communicating Data Science with Jeff Stanton
36:57

Jeff Stanton joins me in this episode to discuss his book An Introduction to Data Science, and some of the unique challenges and issues faced by someone doing applied data science. A challenge to any data scientist is making sure they have a good input data set and apply any necessary data munging steps before their analysis. We cover some good advise for how to approach such problems.

Oct 24, 2014
[MINI] The T-Test
17:03

The t-test is this week's mini-episode topic. The t-test is a statistical testing procedure used to determine if the mean of two datasets differs by a statistically significant amount. We discuss how a wine manufacturer might apply a t-test to determine if the sweetness, acidity, or some other property of two separate grape vines might differ in a statistically meaningful way.

Oct 17, 2014
Data Myths with Karl Mamer
48:29

This week I'm joined by Karl Mamer to discuss the data behind three well known urban legends. Did a large blackout in New York and surrounding areas result in a baby boom nine months later? Do subliminal messages affect our behavior? Is placing beer alongside diapers a recipe for generating more revenue than these products in separate locations? Listen as Karl and I explore these claims.

Oct 10, 2014
Contest Announcement
12:18

The Data Skeptic Podcast is launching a contest- not one of chance, but one of skill. Listeners are encouraged to put their data science skills to good use, or if all else fails, guess!

The contest works as follows. Below is some data about the cumulative number of downloads the podcast has achieved on a few given dates. Your job is to predict the date and time at which the podcast will recieve download number 27,182. Why this arbitrary number? It's as good as any other arbitrary number!

Use whatever means you want to formulate a prediction. Once you have it, wait until that time and then post a review of the Data Skeptic Podcast on iTunes. You don't even have to leave a good review! The review which is posted closest to the actual time at which this download occurs will win a free copy of Matthew Russell's "Mining the Social Web" courtesy of the Data Skeptic Podcast. "Price is Right" rules are in play - the winner is the person that posts their review closest to the actual time without going over.

More information at dataskeptic.com

Oct 08, 2014
[MINI] Selection Bias
14:31

A discussion about conducting US presidential election polls helps frame a converation about selection bias.

Oct 03, 2014
[MINI] Confidence Intervals
11:30

Commute times and BBQ invites help frame a discussion about the statistical concept of confidence intervals.

Sep 26, 2014
[MINI] Value of Information
14:10

A discussion about getting ready in the morning, negotiating a used car purchase, and selecting the best AirBnB place to stay at help frame a conversation about the decision theoretic principal known as the Value of Information equation.

Sep 19, 2014
Game Science Dice with Louis Zocchi
47:28

In this bonus episode, guest Louis Zocchi discusses his background in the gaming industry, specifically, how he became a manufacturer of dice designed to produce statistically uniform outcomes. 

During the show Louis mentioned a two part video listeners might enjoy: part 1 and part 2 can both be found on youtube. 

Kyle mentioned a robot capable of unnoticably cheating at Rock Paper Scissors / Ro Sham Bo. More details can be found here

Louis mentioned dice collector Kevin Cook whose website is DiceCollector.com 

While we're on the subject of table top role playing games, Kyle recommends these two related podcasts listeners might enjoy: 

The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast (on which host Kyle was recently a guest) had a great episode "Dungeons and Dragons - The Devil's Game?" which explores claims of D&Ds alleged ties to skepticism. 

Also, Kyle swears there's a great Monster Talk episode discussing claims of a satanic connection to Dungeons and Dragons, but despite mild efforts to locate it, he came up empty. Regardless, listeners of the Data Skeptic Podcast are encouraged to explore the back catalog to try and find the aforementioned episode of this great podcast. 

Last but not least, as mentioned in the outro, awesomedice.com did some great independent empirical testing that confirms Game Science dice are much closer to the desired uniform distribution over possible outcomes when compared to one leading manufacturer.

Sep 17, 2014
Data Science at ZestFinance with Marick Sinay
31:25

Marick Sinay from ZestFianance is our guest this weel.  This episode explores how data science techniques are applied in the financial world, specifically in assessing credit worthiness.

 

Sep 12, 2014
[MINI] Decision Tree Learning
13:29

Linhda and Kyle talk about Decision Tree Learning in this miniepisode.  Decision Tree Learning is the algorithmic process of trying to generate an optimal decision tree to properly classify or forecast some future unlabeled element based by following each step in the tree.

Sep 05, 2014
Jackson Pollock Authentication Analysis with Kate Jones-Smith
49:49

Our guest this week is Hamilton physics professor Kate Jones-Smith who joins us to discuss the evidence for the claim that drip paintings of Jackson Pollock contain fractal patterns. This hypothesis originates in a paper by Taylor, Micolich, and Jonas titled Fractal analysis of Pollock's drip paintings which appeared in Nature. 

Kate and co-author Harsh Mathur wrote a paper titled Revisiting Pollock's Drip Paintings which also appeared in Nature. A full text PDF can be found here, but lacks the helpful figures which can be found here, although two images are blurred behind a paywall. 

Their paper was covered in the New York Times as well as in USA Today (albeit with with a much more delightful headline: Never mind the Pollock's [sic]). 

While discussing the intersection of science and art, the conversation also touched briefly on a few other intersting topics. For example, Penrose Tiles appearing in islamic art (pre-dating Roger Penrose's investigation of the interesting properties of these tiling processes), Quasicrystal designs in artAutomated brushstroke analysis of the works of Vincent van Gogh, and attempts to authenticate a possible work of Leonardo Da Vinci of uncertain provenance. Last but not least, the conversation touches on the particularly compellingHockney-Falco Thesis which is also covered in David Hockney's book Secret Knowledge

For those interested in reading some of Kate's other publications, many Katherine Jones-Smith articles can be found at the given link, all of which have downloadable PDFs.

Aug 29, 2014
[MINI] Noise!!
16:04

Our topic for this week is "noise" as in signal vs. noise.  This is not a signal processing discussions, but rather a brief introduction to how the work noise is used to describe how much information in a dataset is useless (as opposed to useful).

Also, Kyle announces having recently had the pleasure of appearing as a guest on The Conspiracy Skeptic Podcast to discussion The Bible Code.  Please check out this other fine program for this and it's many other great episodes.

Aug 22, 2014
Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia with Susan Gerbic
01:09:59

Our guest this week is Susan Gerbic. Susan is a skeptical activist involved in many activities, the one we focus on most in this episode is Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, an organization working to improve the content and citations of Wikipedia. 

During the episode, Kyle recommended Susan's talk a The Amazing Meeting 9 which can be found here

Some noteworthy topics mentioned during the podcast were Neil deGrasse Tyson's endorsement of the Penny for NASA project. As well as the Web of Trust and Rebutr browser plug ins, as well as how following the Skeptic Action project on Twitter provides recommendations of sites to visit and rate as you see fit via these tools. 

For her benevolent reference, Susan suggested The Odds Must Be Crazy, a fun website that explores the statistical likelihoods of seemingly unlikely situations. For all else, Susan and her various activities can be found via SusanGerbic.com.

Aug 15, 2014
[MINI] Ant Colony Optimization
15:07

In this week's mini episode, Linhda and Kyle discuss Ant Colony Optimization - a numerical / stochastic optimization technique which models its search after the process ants employ in using random walks to find a goal (food) and then leaving a pheremone trail in their walk back to the nest.  We even find some way of relating the city of San Francisco and running a restaurant into the discussion.

Aug 08, 2014
Data in Healthcare IT with Shahid Shah
57:14

Our guest this week is Shahid Shah. Shahid is CEO at Netspective, and writes three blogs: Health Care Guy, Shahid Shah, and HitSphere - the Healthcare IT Supersite.

During the program, Kyle recommended a talk from the 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium entitled Transforming "Digital Silos" to "Digital Care Enterprise" which was hosted by our guest Shahid Shah.

In addition to his work in Healthcare IT, he also the chairperson for Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance, an non-profit organization that, amongst other activities, is hosting an upcoming conference. The 3rd annual OSEHRA Open Source Summit: Global Collaboration in Healthcare IT , which will be taking place September 3-5, 2014 in Washington DC.

For our benevolent recommendation, Shahid suggested listeners may benefit from taking the time to read books on leadership for the insights they provide. For our self-serving recommendation, Shahid recommended listeners check out his company Netspective , if you are working with a company looking for help getting started building software utilizing next generation technologies.

Aug 01, 2014
[MINI] Cross Validation
0

This miniepisode discusses the technique called Cross Validation - a process by which one randomly divides up a dataset into numerous small partitions. Next, (typically) one is held out, and the rest are used to train some model. The hold out set can then be used to validate how good the model does at describing/predicting new data.

Jul 25, 2014
Streetlight Outage and Crime Rate Analysis with Zach Seeskin
33:29

This episode features a discussion with statistics PhD student Zach Seeskin about a project he was involved in as part of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship.  The project involved exploring the relationship (if any) between streetlight outages and crime in the City of Chicago.  We discuss how the data was accessed via the City of Chicago data portal, how the analysis was done, and what correlations were discovered in the data.  Won't you listen and hear what ws found? 

Jul 18, 2014
[MINI] Experimental Design
15:43

This episode loosely explores the topic of Experimental Design including hypothesis testing, the importance of statistical tests, and an everyday and business example.

Jul 11, 2014
The Right (big data) Tool for the Job with Jay Shankar
49:59

In this week's episode, we discuss applied solutions to big data problem with big data engineer Jay Shankar.  The episode explores approaches and design philosophy to solving real world big data business problems, and the exploration of the wide array of tools available.

 

Jul 07, 2014
[MINI] Bayesian Updating
11:24

In this minisode, we discuss Bayesian Updating - the process by which one can calculate the most likely hypothesis might be true given one's older / prior belief and all new evidence.

Jun 27, 2014
Personalized Medicine with Niki Athanasiadou
57:14

In the second full length episode of the podcast, we discuss the current state of personalized medicine and the advancements in genetics that have made it possible.

Jun 20, 2014
[MINI] p-values
16:36

In this mini, we discuss p-values and their use in hypothesis testing, in the context of an hypothetical experiment on plant flowering, and end with a reference to the Particle Fever documentary and how statistical significance played a role.

Jun 13, 2014
Advertising Attribution with Nathan Janos
01:16:29

A conversation with Convertro's Nathan Janos about methodologies used to help advertisers understand the affect each of their marketing efforts (print, SEM, display, skywriting, etc.) contributes to their overall return.

Jun 06, 2014
[MINI] type i / type ii errors
11:01

In this first mini-episode of the Data Skeptic Podcast, we define and discuss type i and type ii errors (a.k.a. false positives and false negatives).

May 30, 2014
Introduction
03:56

The Data Skeptic Podcast features conversations with topics related to data science, statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the like, all from the perspective of applying critical thinking and the scientific method to evaluate the veracity of claims and efficacy of approaches.

This first episode is a short discussion about what this podcast is all about.

May 23, 2014