Friday, September 26, 2008

Just how close can this get?

Slashdot is hosting a story on some brilliant work done by Mike Sheppard (a graduate student in statistics in Michigan). Using some pretty simple math, Mike shows just how close the last two elections were. His analysis can be found here. In short he observed:

"There have been 12 Presidential elections that were decided by less than a 1% margin; meaning if less than 1% of the voters in certain states had changed their mind to the other candidate the outcome of the entire election would have been different."

The last two elections were in this group. According to his analysis, in the 2000 election, had less than 300 voters had a change of heart, the outcome would have been different. From a probabilistic standpoint, the Bush victory in 2000 practically happened by chance.

Now, I bring this up for two reasons. First, as you'll see in future posts, I've been examining how the electoral college system biases our political structure so that the religious right has a greater influence on a national level than their demographic size. Second, since many of the social issues haven't changed, this clearly demonstrates the importance of getting out every single vote in this modern political environment.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Welcome aboard to the blog Scientia Publica (the latin for "knowledge open to all" or "science of the people"). This site is meant to be a repository for some of my personal ruminations on the current state of the world, mainly through the perspective of my training as a scientist.

That training was focused in the area of something called Cognitive Neuroscience, in which I received a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. So I've had a blend of training in diverse fields such as psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, statistics, biology, physics, and physiology. Along with obviously guiding my research, this broad background sculpts my perspective on the political and social landscape around me. So this is how the world looks through eyes trained to see the subtle hidden structure natural systems