09 May 2012

Drinking doesn't solve problems?

They say that alcohol doesn't solve any problems. As a septic sceptic, I beg to differ. We've already seen how prosperous our society would be if we stopped this Occupy Wall Street nonsense, stopped polluting our minds with Zeitgeist films and just started using beer as our currency. But the problem solving solution that is alcohol is even more powerful than that.

Guinness. Because drinking Guinness is good for you.

The need for Student's t-distribution

Suggest that you work for Guinness brewery. You are in charge of monitoring the quality of the barley. Let's suggest that they're precious with their barley and do not wish for you to fill their quincunx with barley every time you are meant to evaluate the amount of blarney in the barley. 


A quincunx, or bean machine. Because flicking beans is good for you.

It appears that they're more choosy about applying one of Francis Galton's inventions to barley than they are about applying one of his others (eugenics) to the barley. They're even more choosy to allow you to sample Guinness, so you're stuck at your wits' end. What to do? Well, if your name is William Sealy Gosset, you just let your wits end a little further.


What is Student's t-distribution?

I have no idea, but that has not stopped me before. We know that Mr Gosset has to separate the good barley from the blarney barley. We also know that Mr Gosset cannot sample too much barley, let alone sample too much Guinness. We need to determine the average quality of the barley. That is, given that the barley has been sampled quite a bit so even though we do not know the standard deviation of the barley, we assume a normal distribution. And from a few samples, we estimate the average quality of the barley, or the mean.

William Sealy Gosset, who used Student as a pseudonym. He got tired of flicking barley.

Student's t-distribution estimates the mean when you do not know the standard deviation but you're fairly certain that you have a normal distribution. The more samples you take, the closer you get to the real quality of the barley. At least, that was Mr Gosset's excuse to sample more Guinness.

Student's t-distribution can also be used to determine other parameters of the population of barley, but the long and short of it is that you do not have plenty of samples to work from and you'd like to jump to conclusions so you can spend more time drinking Guinness.


How does Student's t-distribution work?

A normal distribution is what you'd get if you flicked your beans into the quincunx all day. The standard deviation is how far your beans get flicked from the centre. We assume the same bell shape for our distribution, but we do not flick any beans. No, we get Mr Gosset to rub a few beans between his fingers and Robert is your mother's brother. 

Now we have flicked enough beans to know we'd have a normal distribution and we'd like to know from sampling a few beans how high the middle bar of the bean machine gets stacked. Thanks to Student's t-distribution, we can work it out. And they say that alcohol doesn't solve problems!

02 May 2012

Pretoria is Pretoria

I don't particularly care what you want to call a street. All I know is each time the Pretoria municipality (I am uncertain of its name at this stage) tries to change names, they're upsetting enough people to such an extent that there is legal action.

Some Boer commando that apparently never happened in South Africa. Because we all know history in South Africa started with Apartheid, right?


Nation building my lillywhite ass

This cannot possibly be indicative of 'nation building' when the municipality alienates its own people to such an extent each time. Who cares what the road is called? A rose by any other name and all that. Fact remains service delivery has not exactly improved, and isn't this what we pay rates and taxes for after all?

It appears that the municipality is fighting the law of identity. Well, good luck to them.

On another note, a list of proposed Pretoria name changes indicates the following:

All I can make of this is that there's a guy named Steve Biko who has to tie the shoes of the mayor every morning, because clearly sher is retarded (sher is my third-person, singular personal pronoun that indicates 'he or she', in case you were wondering).

What is the point of taking three distinct roads and naming them all the same name? What exactly is the point of taking another road and splitting it up into four different sections, each with its own name? Surely, you could've left that road in tact (or split it into Church and Steve Biko, for argument's sake) and then you could've named the three similar roads unique names? Goes to show, there's no rational thought behind the name changes. It's all about ideology or (idle-LOL-ogy).

Boer is beautiful too

Perhaps Steve was right: Black is beautiful. But Boer can be beautiful too, and just like people still refer to Istanbul as Constantinople colloquially, people are going to refer to Pretoria as Pretoria for centuries to come. Name changing to enforce your hegemony is not particularly effective, so why not focus on potholes and service delivery? You know, the reasons why we pay the municipality?

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