Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Probability Theory

Now that I've published some code, a risk arises that someone might read it, and thereby discover that the code does not really conform with my project description. I should really rewrite it as quickly as possible, to minimise the risk of discovery, but there is a theoretical matter I should like to address first.

After writing my blog of 9 August 2009, I thought I had stumbled across something worthy of more formal publication. So I contacted my doctoral supervisors at UWA, and some people at the Institute for Objective Measurement, but to cut a long story short nothing has happened.

To be honest I was looking for help with the theory as much as a co-author. The probability theory was a bit out of my depth, so I was looking for someone who knew more about it. But apart from one pragmatic and generally expedient former supervisor, who offered to "help" (which really means proof read), because he felt sorry for me, I drew a blank.

I guess I have this fantasy of communicating with intelligent people of like interest, like you read about in books or see in TV docos about famous scientists; but it never really works out. I am not trying to put myself on a plane with famous scientists, but I am a qualified and published academic in a certain field, and it is disappointing to me that I have failed to track down anyone of like mind, either when I was enrolled at the university or since.

I had two supervisors, one of whom checked for grammatical and spelling mistakes and the other of whom checked for calculation errors. They did a good job, and I passed, but it was intellectually disappointing that they never really understood where I was coming from or what I was driving at.

And during that time I published five papers in refereed journals in three countries, the UK, Australia, and the US, and I had not one item of correspondence arising from any of them. I had emails from people interested in my website, but nothing from the printed journals.

So why do I want to publish in a refereed journal again? Fair question. Partly a litmus test, for approval rating, and partly, because, rightly or wrongly, they look good on a CV or personal web site. But it is not that important.

What is important, whether I am writing for a journal or a blog, is that I get right what I am trying to say. And having failed to find an academic who is either qualified or interested to help me, I shall simply have to gem up on the theory myself.

The good news is what social scientists and especially educationalists find esoteric and rarefied, scientists in other areas find bog standard. So the stuff I need to learn is available in undergraduate text books for mathematics and the natural sciences. I shall use the Probability and statistics EBook, published by UCLA. I have referred to it before, and probably mentioned that it is quite fun to read, with lots of graphic examples.

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