Posts in computation

Could Brexit have happened by chance?

As a scientist, watching the Brexit vote was a little bit painful. Though probably not for the reason you’re thinking. No, it wasn’t the politics that bothered me, but the method for making such an incredibly important decision. Let me explain…

Scientists are a bit obsessed with the concept of error. In the context of collecting data and anaylzing it, this takes the form of our “confidence” in the results. If all the data say the same thing, then we are usually pretty confident in the overall message. If the data is more complicated than this (and it always is), then we need to define how confident we are in our conclusions.

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The beauty of computational efficiency

When we discuss “computational efficiency”, you often hear people throw around phrases like \(O(n^2)\) or \(O(nlogn)\). We talk about them in the abstract, and it can be hard to appreciate what these distinctions mean and how important they are. So let’s take a quick look at what computational efficiency looks like in the context of a very famous algorithm: The Fourier Transform.

Briefly, A Fourier Transform is used for uncovering the spectral information that is present in a signal. AKA, it tells us about oscillatory components in the signal, and has a wide range of uses in communications, signal processing, and even neuroscience analysis.

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NIH grant analysis

As I’m entering the final years of graduate school, I’ve been applying for a few typical “pre-doc” fellowships. One of these is the NRSA, which is notorious for requiring you to wade through forests of beaurocratic documents (seriously, their “guidelines” for writing an NRSA are over 100 pages!). Doing so ends up taking a LOT of time.

This got me wondering what kind of success rates these grants have in the first place. For those who haven’t gone through the process before, it’s a bit opaque:

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Craigslist data analysis

In the last post I showed how to use a simple python bot to scrape data from Criagslist. This is a quick follow-up to take a peek at the data.

Note - data that you scrape from Craigslist is pretty limited. They tend to clear out old posts, and you can only scrape from recent posts anyway to avoid them blocking you.

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Scraping craigslist

In this notebook, I’ll show you how to make a simple query on Craigslist using some nifty python modules. You can take advantage of all the structure data that exists on webpages to collect interesting datasets.

First we need to figure out how to submit a query to Craigslist. As with many websites, one way you can do this is simply by constructing the proper URL and sending it to Craigslist. Here’s a sample URL that is returned after manually typing in a search to Craigslist:

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