This article is actually fastidious: How spammers generate random comments for blogs

Last week Chris Hemedinger posted an article about spam that is sent to SAS blogs and discussed how anti-spam software helps to block spam. No algorithm can be 100% accurate at distinguishing spam from valid comments because of the inherent trade-off between specificity and sensitivity in any statistical test. Therefore, […]
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How to format decimals as fractions in SAS

Yesterday I blogged about the Hilbert matrix. The (i,j)th element of the Hilbert matrix has the value 1 / (i+j-1), which is the reciprocal of an integer. However, the printed Hilbert matrix did not look exactly like the formula because the elements print as finite-precision decimals. For example, the last […]
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For pi day: A continued fraction expansion of pi

Many geeky mathematical people celebrate "pi day" on March 14, because the date is written 3/14 in the US, which is evocative of the decimal representation of π = 3.14.... Most people are familiar with the decimal representation of π. The media occasionally reports on a new computational tour-de-force that […]
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Fundamental theorems of mathematics and statistics

Although I currently work as a statistician, my original training was in mathematics. In many mathematical fields there is a result that is so profound that it earns the name "The Fundamental Theorem of [Topic Area]." A fundamental theorem is a deep (often surprising) result that connects two or more […]
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Ulam spirals: Visualizing properties of prime numbers with SAS

Prime numbers are strange beasts. They exhibit properties of both randomness and regularity. Recently I watched an excellent nine-minute video on the Numberphile video blog that shows that if you write the natural numbers in a spiral pattern (called the Ulam spiral), then there are certain lines in the pattern […]
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A Christmas tree matrix

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Last year a fractal made thee! O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, A heat map can display thee! O tree of green, adorned with lights! A trunk of brown, the rest is white. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, A heat map can display […]
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Secret Santa: What is the probability that someone pulls her own name from a hat?

Each year my siblings choose names for a Christmas gift exchange. It is not unusual for a sibling to pick her own name, whereupon the name is replaced into the hat and a new name is drawn. In fact, that "glitch" in the drawing process was a motivation for me […]
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Rotating matrices

This article is about rotating matrices. No, I don't mean "rotation matrices," I mean rotating matrices. As in turning a matrix 90 degrees in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. I was reading a program written in MATLAB in which the programmer used a MATLAB function called ROT90, which rotates a […]
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How to tell whether a sequence of heads and tails is random

While walking in the woods, a statistician named Goldilocks wanders into a cottage and discovers three bears. The bears, being hungry, threaten to eat the young lady, but Goldilocks begs them to give her a chance to win her freedom. The bears agree. While Mama Bear and Papa Bear block […]
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Do dryer balls reduce drying time?

Editor's Note: My 8th grade son, David, created a poster that he submitted to the 2013 ASA Poster Competition. The competition encourages students to display "two or more related graphics that summarize a set of data, look at the data from different points of view, and answer specific questions about […]
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