We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “science

A data detective

You did a cool experiment, you have some interesting data, and you found something unexpected! Great, but what does it mean? Sometimes the answer isn’t as straightforward as you may hope. That’s the problem for the day, I found something in my data that makes no sense and the worst part is I have no idea what it means. It’s definitely something, so now I need to go through the steps of making sense of it. That’s the problem with doing something new, you have no frame of reference for the result.

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Summer teaching

It’s that time of the year again! We’re taking on undergrad and high school students for the summer research program! An exciting chance for people to get their hands dirty and learn what it’s like to work in a lab. The best part is that most of the people attending are paid! That’s right, undergrads are paid to be there. That also means I get to put on my teacher hat, which I absolutely love. Today we’re going to talk about what I’m teaching and I’ll probably spend a bit of time talking about how much I enjoy teaching, let’s go!

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The last day of the conference

Today’s the day! The last day that is, the final day of the conference I’m attending. The past few days I’ve talked about different aspects of conferences in general and I’ve touched on why virtual conferences are important, needed, and should be the norm. I’ve also talked about the difficulties presenting at a live conference when you have disabilities that make public speaking a challenge. Today I figure we can round out the topic by covering some of the good things about conferences and why you want to attend when you can.

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Presentation anxiety

Today is day two (of three) for the first conference of the year for me (more here). Presenting live is always a challenge and the difference between a good presentation and an okay presentation (any attempt is at least an okay attempt in my opinion) is a combination of planning, practicing, and luck. Of course there are things that can make this particularly difficult, for example one of the issues I have is aphasia, so while I can write normally (mostly), speaking can be a challenge. This is particularly apparent when I’m stressed, so presentations are a challenge.

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The first conference of the year

Today marks the start of the first conference of the year for me. This was the one that was unfortunately named far too similarly to the other conference I was awarded a slot to speak at (here). It’s three days long and is completely virtual (thankfully!) so I won’t be traveling just yet even though things are relaxing (far too early in my opinion). I figure today since I’ll be doing that we can discuss why I’m happy that we made the switch to virtual and why I am angry that it’s going to change soon.

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The CDC guidelines and you

The CDC announced that YOU NO LONGER NEED TO WEAR A MASK… if vaccinated. Yep they put the important part in nice tiny font and after a year of people actively putting others at risk because they would rather throw a fit about wearing a mask than help stop the spread. Roughly just over a third (~36% as of this writing) of the population has been vaccinated. What’s troubling is the large number of epidemiologists and scientists in general were shocked by the CDC announcement. So what now?

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The first in-person meeting

Well today we met as a lab for the first time since the pandemic hit in person. I wasn’t a fan, still am not a fan, but didn’t get a choice in the matter so I went. Thankfully everyone was masked and agreed that it was probably for the best since in my case specifically, I work with a very vulnerable population. It was nice to see everyone, but it was mostly a waste of time, mostly.

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Meetings and more meetings

Today was going to be about my meeting yesterday with my Co-PI, buuuut it turns out that I have even more news than that! How did that happen? Well I got an email from my main-PI asking me about my plans for the summer, when I wanted to finish the long, horrible, project I’ve been trying to work through, and more importantly, my funding situation. After some emailing back and forth things are looking dare I say good?

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So I shot myself in the foot

Ever say something dumb and immediately regret it? Yeah I made a huge mistake and ended up giving myself a ton of work for no reason. Well there was a reason, it just wasn’t needed. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but the good news is I got the work done. Okay, fine I’ll explain, it’s not a long story, but it is a funny one (at least now that the work is finished). It’s also a good reminder to never do that one again.

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Data mysteries

Data processing, it’s mind numbing sometimes. I guess it depends on the dataset you’re working on, but in this case it’s just a formatting thing. Literally copy, paste, rearrange, things like that. The issue is the volume of data you’re working with. The whole thing can take hours just to get done properly, but with any luck you’ll only have to do it the once. Most of the time I’m not that lucky, the last dataset I worked with for my Co-PI I reformatted five or six different times. While that isn’t the topic of the day, it’s a good way to start the conversation of the day.

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Journal paper update

With all the things going on I never got the chance to talk about some non-class news. The downside is it’s not good news, but on the scale of horrible things to happen recently it’s not that bad. Back in February I submitted a paper for journal publication and we got rejected. Not great news, but the reviewers were not super critical and with some minor changes we should be able to resubmit it. I figure today we can go over the stuff that needs to happen now since I’m the first author.

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Flexible coding for data visualization

My main-PI has an odd habit of wanting us to edit things as we’re presenting them. I’ve watched this happen and had to do it myself. Suddenly you find yourself editing a paper/grant/etc. and forgetting how to spell your name because you’re so flustered. It isn’t just papers though, it’s our visualizations that we make. He will ask us to go in and change things as they are being shown. This has happened to me several times already and more often than not I’m ready for it. So today I figured I would go over some of the things I do to make sure that I don’t spend the entire time sweating over edits to my code.

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Apparently I’m close?!

We’re talking about it again, the fact that every week for the past 5 weeks now I’ve been given tasks to do and then presenting on them the following week. It’s been… hard. However, my main-PI gave me hope that the end of all this is close, at least that’s the hope. He said I was close, so today we’re going to talk (as usual vaguely) about what I have left to do before this weeks meeting and why I cannot wait to be done with this.

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When you don’t want to say no

In undergrad I had a discussion with my advisor, or rather he was more of a mentor, he wasn’t technically an advisor. It went something like this, I don’t know what to do next because it all seems so interesting. He argued that it was a good problem to have and while I have generally narrowed down my focus (I am doing a PhD after all), I still have an issue with focusing my excitement. It’s like being at Disneyland and trying to force yourself to go on just a single ride your entire trip. I don’t wanna, I want all the knowledge!

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On the prefrontal cortex and abuse

Adulthood is often thought of as the point where you’re done developing. Most states for example don’t allow anyone under 21 to drink because that was where we drew the line, but we allow people as young as 18 (here in the US) to join the military, vote, etc. You may think that this would be roughly where we stop developing and that would explain the somewhat artificial line we’ve drawn. The truth is much stranger than that and when it comes to the brain you don’t develop evenly.

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Journal club

Okay, get this I completely skipped over the fact that my Co-PI started a “journal club” for our little lab. I say little because for the longest time it was just the two of us and the research coordinator (who is amazing by the way!), but now we have not one, but two others in the lab. It’s nice not having to do a lot of extra work, but different topic for another time. We formed a journal club a short 8 weeks ago and every other week one of us sends out a research paper they find interesting about a week prior to our biweekly meetings and then that person presents on it. This week it’s my turn and of course, the universe is against me.

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Fun with coding!

Yesterday I worked and worked, then I worked some more. By the time I called it quits it was well past my normal stopping time. The problem was that nothing was going right yesterday. When I finally gave up I had gotten exactly nothing done. It was one of those days as a collogue said sometimes you just have to power through it. The problem is I don’t have the time to just power through. Which reminded me of how I normally deal with stress, which is funny and I recommend others do this too.

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Another week in review

A week ago exactly I gave a review of the week I had and a look at the week coming up. I thought it was so much fun I’m doing it again, because that’s what passes for fun around here. Who knows maybe I’ll do this regularly! Basically a lot has happened this week and now is a good time to catch everyone up on some of the oddball things I’ve done and things I may have missed in favor of freaking out about the work I’m doing. So let’s just jump into my semi-traditional introduction, then we can look back and ahead. It’s fun for everyone!

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I’m giving a talk!

Well I slipped through the cracks yet again! It hurts me to admit that I’ve probably earned this one. The 7th annual BRAIN initiative investigators meeting is coming (in June) and I was selected for a Trainee Highlight Award. Is it a big deal? Probably not, but I’ll take a win when I can get it. Today we’re going to dive into what exactly this means for me and why even little victories should be celebrated. Is it a little victory? I mean they did pick me, so what does that say about them?

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A week in review

I figure it’s a good time for the recap of the week. I mean there was a lot going on and while I want to spend some more time on my “in statistics” series, I also really need a break. So instead of spending a lot of time making sure the information I’m presenting is accurate, concise(ish), and (with luck) well thought out, I figure it would be easier to talk about the things I’ve had to do this week and the things I get to look forward to! Joy, welcome to life as a PhD candidate.

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Defining parametric tests in statistics

We’ve been throwing around the term a lot in this series. I’ve been saying in parametric statistics this, in parametric statistics that, but I kept putting off giving a definition. It’s not because it’s hard to understand, it’s just that typically when you’re doing statistics you already know if you’re using a parametric test, but because we try to make no assumptions in this series, we’re going to put this to bed once and for all. Today we’re talking about parametric statistics!

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Independence in statistics

A while back we introduced the central limit theorem, it was a way to take data and make it normal (gaussian) as if by magic, which is one of the assumptions needed for parametric statistics (the most commonly used kind). Today we’re introducing another assumption, that the data are independent. The idea of independent events is probably straightforward, but it’s yet another bedrock of statistics that we should talk about in depth to help us understand why things are the way they are.

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Variance in statistics

Sometimes you just want to kick a distribution right in the mean.

Variance, it’s one of those concepts that get’s explained briefly then you find yourself using it over and over. Now that I have a free moment, I figure it’s about time to revisit the “simple” concept and just take a minute to apricate why we have to deal with variance so often and why we try so hard to minimize it when we’re doing experiments. Just like the discussion about the mean, there’s some subtilty that goes into the idea of variance and it’s square root cousin standard deviation and we skip over it in favor of getting into more complex topics.

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Scientific figures are hard!

Well now, part of the work I needed to get done this week involved making some new figures. Actually I had added work dumped on me yesterday that I got done just as quickly thankfully. However, there’s a bunch of other figures I need to make that are due… tomorrow! Ah! So of course instead of actually making them I’m here to talk about how big a pain figures are and why we (the scientific community) stress out about them so much.

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Clinical research in a pandemic

Male and female characters scientists or lab attendants working in science laboratory using microscope, lab glassware, vector flat illustration. Scientific research, experiment, science and education.

One of the more interesting things about the pandemic is that everything at the university level shut down. They still send out emails suggesting that everyone wants to go back to in person classes, but they haven’t followed through with that threat. Human participant research has been halted and even though we’re probably going back to “normal” in the fall, right now nothing is happening. That’s at the university level though, clinical research is a different story.

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Another approaching deadline!

Well it’s going to be down to the wire this week. It’s good to know we’re keeping the theme, if you’ve been following along for awhile you already know it’s always down to the wire. This week is particularly challenging because I have competing interests for the time I have. There’s only 24 hours in a day, so there’s only so much work that can get done. I would prefer to not do it at the last minute, but here we are… again.

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Fun with Rstudio

Okay, not really. Having to use R is a pain. I’m not a fan and the structure they use is very confusing to me as someone who uses MATLAB on a regular basis. I understand matrices, I regularly make and successfully work with higher dimensional matrices ( > 3, which hurts your brain to think about a 20+ dimensional matrix, but hey whatever gets the job done). R on the other hand feels foreign and the commands feel clunky.

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The lonely cultist

Listen closely as I am going to divulge a secret from the universe. It will be so earth shattering that you will forever remember this movement. There will be an irrevocable before and after. It has taken me decades to uncover this secret and as the sole owner and guardian of it, I am trusting part of it to you. You can be a part of something larger than yourself, find secret truths, and if you are ready to receive them, find your own. There are secrets in this life hidden just beyond human sight and they are waiting for you to find them. They are calling out to you in the wind. Do you hear them? Are you ready?

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On failure

Maybe it’s the hangover from yesterday’s news about my fellowship, but I feel like I got backed over repeatedly by a truck. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of the future, or all the work I still need to get done for tomorrow, maybe it’s a lot of things. Somedays I wish I could just pause, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to stop and don’t really know what I would do with myself if I did. Actually I do know, since I can recall at least one time in my life where I hit the pause button and it didn’t end well.

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NDSEG fellowship result

Applying for a fellowship is sort of like creating a time capsule. The lag between when you submit it and when you hear anything back can be 6 or more months, long enough that you’ve completely forgotten that you applied. Or at the very least it isn’t at the forefront of your brain anymore. I’ve kept an eye on my application sporadically, I know people who check weekly and I’m sure there are plenty who don’t check at all until the results are sent out. It’s a slow motion car crash, you hope for the best, but it’s no longer in your control.

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The long data processing road

Okay I’m taking another break from the “in statistics” posts, at least for today since the next topic is going to be a long multi-day post worth of stuff and I need an easier post for today. I have way too much stuff going on at the moment to organize a long post! In any case, I figure I could give an update to the data I’ve been working with and how that whole mess is going. It’s mind numbing and exhausting work, but not in the way you would think.

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The Bonferroni correction in statistics

Well we’re doing it, today we’re talking about the Bonferroni correction, which is just one of many different ways to correct your analysis when you’re doing multiple comparisons. There are a lot of reasons you may want to do multiple comparisons and your privacy is our main concern so we won’t ask why. Instead we’re going to talk about how to adjust your alpha (chances of making a type 1 error) so you don’t end up making a mistake.

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One-tailed vs. two-tailed tests in statistics

Sit right back because we’re telling a troubling tale of tails full of trials, twists, and turns. The real question is, will we run out of words that start with t during this post? It will be tricky, but only time will tell. When do we use a two-tailed test vs. a one-tailed test and what do tails have to do with tests anyway? With a little thought, I think we can tackle the thorny topic. In short, let’s talk tails!

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The p-value in statistics

We’ve been dancing around the p-value for some time and gave it a good definition early on. The p-value is simply the probability that you’ve made a type one error, the lower the p-value the less chance you have of making a type one error, but you increase your probability that you’ll make a type two error (errors in statistics for more). However, just like with the mean, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the p-value so let’s go!

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The z-score in statistics

Okay, time to get back to statistics, if only for today! P-value, z-score, f-statistic, there are a lot of ways to get information about the sample of data you have. Of course, they all tell you something slightly different about the data and that information is useful when you know what the heck it is even trying to tell you. For that reason we’re diving into the z-score, it’s actually one of the more intuitive (to me anyway) measurements so let’s talk about it!

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EEG cleaning progress

Yesterday’s coding work went better than expected! That may or may not bode will for the rest of the week, but hey at least I’m sort of ahead of schedule. Today I figure we can take a quick look at what I’ve been doing with the data and why. This will be part informative and part me complaining about how everything has to be so damned hard (basically the usual around here). Mostly it will just be some visuals of the things I’ve had to change to get everything looking like my main-PI wants, he’s got a particular style he likes so a lot of large text, bolded labels, etc.

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The juggling act

The middle colorful plot, it’s called a spectrogram and if you notice the colorbar to the right has values ranging up to 25,000, that’s not right…

Blogging and coding and writing, oh my! There’s a lot to get done, seems like a running theme around here doesn’t it? If it were possible to clear some of it off my plate it wouldn’t be so bad, but the sad truth is deadlines seem to like to group together and there are quite a few coming up. Most of them are for my class so I can’t really miss those even if I wanted to. My research deadlines I can’t really miss either, not without some consequences anyway. So we’re back to juggling everything, but as we’ve seen in the past, I’m pretty good at this.

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The new to-do list

It’s been busy! So busy I was trying to find time to write while working on the million other things I have going on. Since I have a moment, I thought now would be as good a time as any to go over the big list my main-PI gave me to do before next week. It’s a long, long, long list and as you may expect, he’s pretty far removed from the situation, so I don’t think he realizes how difficult it is to do what he’s asking, but we’re doing any anyway! Thankfully I’ve gotten pretty good at coding, the bad side is that it’s not my code I’m working with, so that’s the start of my struggles.

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Twice the work, half the… fun?

I work with… Braiiiiins!! Well yesterday I touched on an experiment I did waaaay back in October-ish of last year! With the way things are going it feels like five years not 5 months, but what can you do? My main-PI has started to not so gently or subtly push me to process the data to his satisfaction and start working on the publication of the results. There’s been a lot going on that has pulled me away from the project, from the end of December to the middle of February I was working on grants, but now there isn’t a whole lot stopping me from working on this project almost exclusively… if you don’t include the other grant I’m writing and the fellowship I’m supposed to apply for.

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A PhD proposal defense

Not mine, at least not yet. A colleague of mine is defending his PhD proposal today and while I was going to wait until I did mine to go over the details about how that works and why we do it, I figured today was as good a time as any to do it. Besides I probably (definitely) repeat myself a lot around here, but that’s the catch with blogging daily. So let’s get into what a proposal defense is and why it’s important, shall we?

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COVID variants and our future

Awhile back I wrote a post on everything you needed to know about the COVID vaccine (here), I talked about the science, my experience with it (as someone who got vaccinated very early on), and more importantly why you should feel safe getting your shots too. Very ominously I mentioned that the target for the vaccine was the spike protein because it would (ideally, but not for sure) be conserved across mutations, well it’s time for an update and the news isn’t great.

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The mean in statistics

Yeah it seems simple, I mean (no pun intended) the mean is just the average! Yet as with so many different things in statistics there’s more to the mean than meets the eye! We’re going to go into why the mean is important, why it’s our best guess, why it may not always be your best option, and why we work so hard to find the mean sometimes! It seems simple, but I promise today we’re answering a lot of the big “why’s” in statistics, so let’s go!

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The Tukey test in statistics

No, not turkey, Tukey, although they are pronounced very similar (depending on who you ask I guess? I’ve seen people pronounce it “two-key”). Any way, today we’re saving our job and the wrath that comes with failure. The mad scientist boss of ours tasked us with testing mind control devices and determining statistically which one (if any) worked. After the last failure, we now had four new devices to test, so we couldn’t use the same method as before. However, an assistant’s work is never done, we didn’t finish the job! That’s what we’re going to do today.

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The ANOVA in statistics

Image from: Listening a great sci-fi movie (in my opinion)

Our mad scientist is back and this time they are not taking any chances! After statistical failure in the last example, they created not just one, but four mind control prototypes! We’ve been tasked with determining if they are working or face certain DOOOOOOOM! Sure, working for a mad scientist can be stressful, but we can do this… right? I’ve been dreading this post and you’ll see why, there’s a lot to cover before we solve the mystery, so let’s dive into it!

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Significance in statistics

That feeling when your p-value is lower than your alpha, aww yeah! But what does it really mean? It’s one thing to say there is significance and on the surface it means the two things are different “enough” to be considered two things, but I think there’s a simpler way to explain it. So today we’re going to talk about what significance actually means in the practical sense. Maybe it’s super obvious, but it never hurts to state it anyway.

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The f-test in statistics

Yep, we’re getting right back into it. I’m still working out things from yesterday, so we can just talk more statistics. This will be an interesting one and hopefully it will be pretty straightforward. The f-test, which in this case is really the f-test to compare two variances. You may have guessed, but the t-test uses the t-distribution (sort of like the normal), well the f-test uses the f-distribution, which is nothing like the normal! Let’s dive in, shall we?

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A roadblock

I haven’t spoken with my Co-PI about this yet because I’m angry. Like fist balled, white knuckled, want to scream into some endless void angry. This was not the post for today, but I’ve learned a long time ago that I should get things out instead of bottling it up and letting it eat me alive. It’s the reason I’m still here today and one minor step to my success in not falling into the abyss that is depression. I am angry and I need to chose my next words carefully, because as you’ll see, I have no power here.

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A meeting with my two PI’s

Yeah it feels pretty dangerous…

If I could make a comedy TV show about my life, I would call it my two PI’s and I would get into hilarious situations while trying to make both of them happy. Mostly you would see me get a lack of sleep and sort of feel like I’m running on a treadmill, going as fast as I can, but getting nowhere. It’s not all bad and I respect my two PI’s, but there’s a saying about having too many hands in the cookie jar and sometimes it feels like that’s what is happening. It’s a lot like the old game “telephone” where I’m given information to pass along between the two, so we’re all going to meet… *cue dramatic music*

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Confidence intervals in statistics

Wait… this is the wrong kind of confidence!

Well since our mad scientist from yesterday’s post is on a short break, today we’re going to fill in some of the gaps that post brought into view. First up is the confidence interval. There are some subtle points here, so this should help clarify a few things that may not have been clear yesterday. We’re going to do a somewhat deep dive into what the heck we’re doing when we talk confidence interval and why the standard deviation of our data is important in determining the values.

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The t-test in statistics

mind reading

Welcome fellow mad scientist enthusiasts, the last time we talked statistics, we found ourselves in an interesting situation and we need to figure out if the mind control device that was developed is actually working. We introduced the idea of a two population problem and today we’re going to use something called a t-test to determine if our mad scientist succeeded.

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