# Author

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Distinguished Researcher in Computational Statistics

Rick Wicklin, PhD, is a distinguished researcher in computational statistics at SAS and is a principal developer of SAS/IML software. His areas of expertise include computational statistics, simulation, statistical graphics, and modern methods in statistical data analysis. Rick is author of the books Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software and Simulating Data with SAS.

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How to create column names for matrices

Statistical programmers can be creative and innovative. But when it comes to choosing names of variables, often x1, x2, x3,... works as well as any other choice. In this blog post, I have two tips that are related to constructing variable names of the form x1, x2,..., xn. Both tips

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An analysis of subjects in The Far Side cartoons

Loony. Zany. Brilliant. Hysterical. Those are some of the adjectives I use to describe The Far Side® cartoons by Gary Larson from the 1980s and early '90s. I recently rediscovered an old book, The Far Side Gallery 2, which collects some of the best of Larson's wonderfully wacky cartoons. Every

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Sorting rows of a matrix

Sorting is a fundamental operation in statistical programming, and most SAS programmers are familiar with PROC SORT for sorting data sets. But did you know that you can also sort rows of a SAS/IML matrix according to the value of one or more columns? This post shows how. Sorting a

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Simulating a random walk

In my spare time, I enjoy browsing the StackOverflow discussion forum to see what questions people are asking about SAS, SAS/IML, and statistics. Last week, a statistics student asked for help with the following homework problem: I need to generate a one-dimensional random walk in which the step length and

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Need case-insensitive string comparisons? UPCASE!

String comparisons in SAS software are case-sensitive. For example, the uppercase letter "F" and lowercase letter "f" are treated as unique characters. When these two letters represent the same condition (for example, a female patient), the strings need to be handled in a case-insensitive manner, and a SAS programmer might

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How to use transparency to overcome overplotting

Do you have many points in your scatter plots that overlap each other? If so, your graph exhibits overplotting. Overplotting occurs when many points have similar coordinates. For example, the following scatter plot (which is produced by using the ODS statistical graphics procedure, SGPLOT) displays 12,000 points, many of which

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Simulation and sampling in Las Vegas

If you haven't signed up for SAS Global Forum 2011 in Las Vegas, you'd better get moving: February 28 is the last day for early registration and the discounted hotel prices. You should also sign up for the pre-conference statistical tutorials, which are filling up fast! I was tempted to

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Author tip: How to sample efficiently in SAS

Contributed by Rick Wicklin, author of Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software This year at SAS Global Forum 2011, I am presenting a statistical tutorial, "Data Simulation for Evaluating Statistical Methods in SAS". In this course, I show how to create data with known properties (such as skewed or heavy-tailed) and

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Bias and covariance explained to an 11-year-old

I was inspired by Chris Hemedinger's blog posts about his daughter's science fair project. Explaining statistics to a pre-teenager can be a humbling experience. My 11-year-old son likes science. He recently set about trying to measure which of three projectile launchers is the most accurate. I think he wanted to

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How to build a vector from expressions

If you are a statistical programmer, sooner or later you have to compute a confidence interval. In the SAS/IML language, some beginning programmers struggle with forming a confidence interval. I don't mean that they struggle with the statistics (they know how to compute the relevant quantities), I mean that they

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Converting matrix subscripts to indices

Suppose that you want to create a matrix in SAS/IML software that has a special structure, such as a tridiagonal matrix. How do you do it? Or suppose that you want to find elements of a matrix A such that A[i,j] satisfies a certain condition. How do you get the

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A parametric view of love

If you tell my wife that she's married to a statistical geek, she'll nod knowingly. She is used to hearing sweet words of affection such as You are more beautiful than Euler's identity. or My love for you is like the exponential function: increasing, unbounded, and transcendental. But those are

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Scratch-off lottery games: How NOT to design them

Because of this week's story about a geostatistician, Mohan Srivastava, who figured out how predict winning tickets in a scratch-off lottery, I've been thinking about scratch-off games. He discovered how to predict winners when he began to "wonder how they make these [games]." Each ticket has a set of "lucky

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Super Bowl pools and Roman numerals

I enjoyed the Dataists' data-driven blog on the best numbers to choose in a Super Bowl betting pool. It reminded me of my recent investigation of which initials are most common. Because the Dataists' blog featured an R function that converts Arabic numerals into Roman numerals, the blog post also

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Passing arguments by reference: An efficient choice

When you pass a matrix as an parameter (argument) to a SAS/IML module, the SAS/IML language does not create a copy of the matrix. That approach, known as "calling by value," is inefficient. It is well-known that languages that implement call-by-value semantics suffer performance penalties. In the SAS/IML language, matrices

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Divide and count: A test for spatial randomness

Last week I generated two kinds of random point patterns: one from the uniform distribution on a two-dimensional rectangle, the other by jittering a regular grid by a small amount. My show choir director liked the second method (jittering) better because of the way it looks on stage: there are

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Count the number of points in 2D bins

One of my New Year's resolutions is to learn a new area of statistics. I'm off to a good start, because I recently investigated an issue which started me thinking about spatial statistics—a branch of statistics that I have never formally studied. During the investigation, I asked myself: Given an

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Reshaping data from wide to long format

As Cat Truxillo points out in her recent blog post, some SAS procedures require data to be in a "long" (as opposed to "wide") format. Cat uses a DATA step to convert the data from wide to long format. Although there is nothing wrong with this approach, I prefer to

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Count the number of points in bins efficiently

A histogram displays the number of points that fall into a specified set of bins. This blog post shows how to efficiently compute a SAS/IML vector that contains those counts. I stress the word "efficiently" because, as is often the case, a SAS/IML programmer has a variety of ways to

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Test whether a sequence is increasing

The other day I needed to check that a sequence of numerical values was in strictly increasing order. My first thought was to sort the values and compare the sorted and original values, but I quickly discarded that approach because it does not detect duplicate values in a montonic (nondecreasing)