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Comment author: Nornagest 03 June 2015 04:52:36PM *  2 points [-]

You've cited some examples of people who, it is undeniable, are successful, but who also happen to fit your argument. But equally there are many successful businesspeople who did not study maths/CS/physics

If only there were some way of quantifying this.

Comment author: ChrisT 03 June 2015 04:54:51PM 0 points [-]

nice link

Comment author: JonahSinick 03 June 2015 03:55:47AM *  1 point [-]

Of course not by chance: there is a common cause -- high IQ.

Supposing his IQ to be at the 1 in 10k level (at the level of standard deviations, it's very unlikely that he's much higher than this, on priors). There are 400 such Americans of each age. What fraction do you think do publishable math or TCS research as college sophomores?

Bill Gates also famously dropped out of college. Does that warrant a Bayesian update, too? (Peter Thiel probably thinks so :-D)

Yeah, it's an update in the direction of it being a good idea for people of his demonstrated ability by that age and with his ambitions to drop out.

Comment author: ChrisT 03 June 2015 02:56:46PM 3 points [-]

I'm a bit confused about the point that you are trying to make here. As far as I can see there is nothing in this about social class in the traditional meaning of the phrase. It's about your view that people who study quantitative subjects (rather than poor benighted arts students like me) do better in "business", make more money, and become more successful.

You've cited some examples of people who, it is undeniable, are successful, but who also happen to fit your argument. But equally there are many successful businesspeople who did not study maths/CS/physics (John Paulson, hedge fund manager, started NYU doing film studies) and there are many examples of people with qualifications that you would probably argue show them to be intellectually gifted, who have completely failed in business (the example par excellence here is Long Term Capital Management, stuffed full of PhDs from top schools).

A key in this whole discussion is to define success. If you are just using money to keep score, then consider Tom Cruise, who didn't attend any university and is worth around half a bill.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 May 2015 02:22:56PM 0 points [-]

And I failed my first go at Machine Learning, and nearly failed my first go at Intro to Statistics!

(Because I hadn't taken continuous probability first, and was depressed.)

What was it like from the inside, hitting that wall? Math is a particularly easy subject to hit a wall in, because if you're lacking a prerequisite of some sort, all of a sudden everything you're seeing turns to apparent nonsense.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Is Scott Alexander bad at math?
Comment author: ChrisT 07 May 2015 07:16:13AM 0 points [-]

Actually I found it very difficult to understand how it had happened. At school I was one of the best, I enjoyed maths, I understood the concepts and mostly found it easy. At University that all reversed: I was one of the worst, I couldn't do the assignments, I found the lectures boring, and I thoroughly disliked it. I found it very hard to comprehend how such a complete reversal had happened. And more than 15 years later, I still don't really get it... It's rather destabilising when you can't do the thing you expected to devote three years of your life to!

Comment author: [deleted] 04 May 2015 07:50:52PM *  3 points [-]

I also think it's weird that I see a lot of people throwing around 'good at math' and 'bad at math' as if those terms mean the same thing to everyone. Some people mean Calculus III, some people mean Fields Medal or thereabouts, and some people mean somewhere in between. Whether someone is good or bad will depend on what people mean.

Well, I certainly find it plausible that most reasonably intelligent (ie: at the mean to one standard deviation above) people can learn math to the level of, say, a first-year undergrad, or an advanced high-schooler. For one thing, some countries have more advanced and rigorous math curricula for high-schoolers than others ("engineering-major calculus" and linear algebra are reasonably common in high school curricula), and yet their class-failure rate, to my very limited knowledge, seems to vary with the quality of the pedagogy rather than being uniformly higher.

Could most people of such an intelligence level also learn an entire undergraduate math major? I don't know: nobody is trying that experiment. I do think most of the people who already complete engineering, natural science, or computer-science degrees could probably complete undergraduate math -- but nobody is trying the experiment of controlling the "double major" variable, either. Instead we discourage physics, engineering, and comp sci majors who don't voluntarily double-major from doing additional theoretical math courses in favor of the applied math they need for their own domain (ie: algebra for the quantum physicist, differential equations and optimization for the engineer, logic and computability for the computer scientist). And that's when they take a theoretical track, instead of just cutting out to the applications ASAP!

Could most people who do PhD-level research work in other natural and formal sciences do work in mathematics? At the research level, the distinction has collapsed: they partly already do! I've actually heard it said that you're not really well-prepared for PhD-level CS or physics if you didn't double-major in math, or for PhD-level biology if you didn't take an undergrad major or minor in statistics, anyway. You certainly can't work in type theory or machine learning (to bang on my own interests) these days without using and doing research-level work in "math" as an inherent part of your own research field.

It's very hard to make the relevant inferences when we lack data on what happens when we try to teach people math instead of using math as a weed-out subject, and then jumping out from behind a bush at young researchers in the other sciences yelling, "SHOULDA LEARNED MORE MATH!".

In response to comment by [deleted] on Is Scott Alexander bad at math?
Comment author: ChrisT 06 May 2015 07:37:25AM 0 points [-]

I'm finding this discussion very interesting because of my personal background. The general population would describe me as "good at maths". I would describe myself (because of context) as "bad at maths". I was one of the best all the way through high school and then started an undergraduate maths course known for being challenging. After a few weeks I completely hit a wall and couldn't progress any further with it. (I changed course to music.) My sister, father and brother-in-law all completed a whole undergraduate course in maths - I couldn't finish the first year. So I think I am bad at maths.

Following on: I think I have a much deeper aesthetic understanding of music than my father and sister. They, the "better" mathematicians, are excellent musicians, but in a functional sense. I'd say that I, the "worse" mathematician, have a much more profound insight into music than they do.

Comment author: G0W51 04 November 2014 03:42:21PM 0 points [-]

If you don't know how prevalent iron overload is, then you can't know that men tend to have it, so I suggest editing you comment to say "some men have iron overload" instead of "men tend to have iron overload."

Comment author: ChrisT 10 December 2014 03:54:16PM 1 point [-]

Iron overload / haemochromatosis occurs in approx 0.5% of the population of Northern European origin (and less in other ethnicities). Undiagnosed and untreated the iron will build up in the liver and other organs and cause a variety of unpleasant side effects. Venesection is the standard treatment, though I suggest that less than 0.5% of the population is not significant enough to explain the other studies.

Source: http://www.haemochromatosis.org.uk/index.html