Thursday, March 23, 2006

It had to be done

As usual, pundits are being stupid about how the final four has never consisted of all #1 seeds, and therefore you're stupid if you have them all in your bracket. A wee bit of probability. Most of the calculation is suppressed to prevent massive boredom.

If each #1 seed has a 40% chance of making the final four. Then the chances of all four making it are about 2.5%. Given that the tournament has had 32 teams for only 27 years, that leaves it a coin flip whether we would have had all four there by now. These numbers are also (roughly) compatible with another actual result, which is that all four have made the elite eight exactly four times.
Is 40% a reasonable number? Look at the distribution of results: 41.6% of the top seeds have in fact made it over the years.
Three top seeds: 3
Two top seeds: 13
One top seed: 10
No top seeds: 1

So duh, right? Well, no. There appear to be a lot of people who don't think it's just a matter of probability.
(If it didn't happen in '93, one of the greatest years ever for college basketball, it might never happen. The only No. 1 to miss the party was Indiana, which might have had the best team in the country until Alan Henderson hurt his knee late in the year. The Hoosiers were beaten in the regional final in St. Louis by No. 2 seed Kansas.)

So the odds are stacked heavily against Duke, Connecticut, Villanova and Memphis advancing en masse to Indy. Don't count on seeing it.
Pat Forde.
That's true. With the four teams in the sweet sixteen, the chances that they'll all make the final four are still pretty bad. But unless one of the teams is mis-seeded (sup, Memphis?) the chances they'll make are as good as, or better than the teams that end up there.

In conclusion, this has been massively boring, but to the extent that you trust me you can be confident that it all works out and the guy lecturing you about why you shouldn't pick all #1 seeds is a hack.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Professors Ftw

Some people somewhere are peeved about sabbaticals. "Paying Teachers Not to Teach" and such.

The short rhetorical answer: Professors are exploited. These people are so smart and so well educated and you're paying them a pittance to teach when they really should be running the world.

The longer answer takes into account the quality of life issues, peculiar features of the market incentives concerning Ph.Ds and the substantial benefits that sabbaticals confer on the academic world, and admits that on the whole professors get a fair deal that isn't in need of substantial alteration in either direction. For a portion of that long answer, check the left2right post up there including the comments, and this bit from Keith Burgess Jackson in the rare moment when I'd agree with him.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Terrorism is not a success term

If you're a student of philosophy, you will eventually get yourself in trouble by saying "Oh, I'm a philosopher." Not only will your parents immediately feel a great sense of shame, no matter how far away from you they are, but also the person you are speaking to will think that you consider yourself the equal of Plato, Hume and Nietzsche. In the ordinary way of speaking, 'philosopher' and 'good philosopher' are nearly synonymous terms, in the way that 'Olympic athlete' and 'talented Olympic athlete' are. But really, 'philosopher' is more like 'plumber'. Not everyone is a plumber, and it takes a certain sort of skill that most people lack. But there's still such a thing a bad plumber.

Well, Mohammed Taheri-azar is just as much a terrorist as he is a philosopher. I just wouldn't want to hire him in either capacity.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The zeroth course in statistics

Given that we know that students give higher evaluations when they receive less work and get better grades, we know we should be somehow correcting evaluations based on the average grade in the course. There are a lot of technical details concerning the proper corrective, and fully removing the impact of grades seems like a bad strategy (after all, bad professors sometimes cause bad grades by teaching poorly), but doing nothing is just wrong. Figure out some way to offset harsh grading and low workloads, and then tell professors about it so that they'll have less of an incentive to be slack.

Wanna tell me I missed something obvious?

Libertarians are weird

From a comment on a crooked timber post concerning inequality:
Do you disagree with Dave’s contention that society is not a race, a but a cooperative productive endeavor?
I'm unsure what he could be asserting. Descriptively, there's a problem with Darwin. As an ideal, it sounds weird coming from a libertarian (I don't find his post particularly bothersome though).