Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tyler Vigen…. Correlate THIS!

Readers have been clamoring non-stop for another scintillating mathematician “profile” (well, not really, that's more like a KellyAnne Conway alternative factoid), so without further ado….

The hottest thing going in mathematics these days is statistics/probability (I mean other than the 613 books out this year on calculus), so figured a profile of a statistician was in order (just a short while back I mentioned several that I follow on Twitter)… BUT, I rarely do what I ought… so instead, will briefly profile a former law student...

In case you think that makes no sense, well not so fast Stephen Hawking wannabes! In recent years this particular law student had one of the most popular stat-related websites of anyone on the entire Web (in fact, he turned it into a little book). If you’ve followed math much at all on the internet over that time you likely already know of Tyler Vigen and his “Spurious Correlations” site. IF you’re NOT familiar with Tyler’s work, he regularly posts graphs of variables that seem to correlate VERY strongly, even though they have no logical reason for doing so (he's generated ~85,000 graphs!). So for example, here’s one of his graphs:

Or, for something less pleasant to think about:

Perhaps that even makes sense to you!? Anyway, you get the idea…. (statistics that are ludicrous... with or without fat tails). 

But of course who says these correlations aren’t real!?  “Correlation is not causation” is not so simple, my friend.  As every third-grader knows by now, a butterfly flying over the Indian Ocean in April may cause a hurricane in Miami in October (or, the election of neo-fascists in two of the world’s oldest democracies later on… but I digress). Perhaps A does not directly cause B, but perhaps A does cause Q which causes R which causes X which causes Y which causes Z, which, causes... B! Well then!… (Hey, it could happen... and does!).

In any event, here's Tyler explaining his site in his own words:

So back to our main focus….  the profile of Tyler Vigen, known anagrammatically as “Ever Tingly”:

Ever, I mean Tyler, was born in Burnsville, Minnesota on Feb. 13, 1991 (the same year that "Silence of the Lambs" came out and fava beans with a fine chianti became a thing). That makes him an Aquarium, just like myself, and accounting for the constant ’sink or swim’ feeling I've had throughout life. No, no, truth-be-told, the 'Age of Aquarius' ended long ago, and ever since Reagan we’ve been floundering deplorably in the Age of Rush Limbaugh (not completely unlike what 1930s Germany experienced... in fact the correlation gets closer and closer over time; some sort of regression to the mean... and reprehensible).

Tyler earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University in Minnesota and worked in the National Guard in areas of geospatial analysis and satellite imagery and other data. From there he went on to Harvard Law School, thus missing out on a real education at Pomona College, but his technical interests and computer programming continued. He created his “Spurious Correlations” website while at Harvard, writing a program to search out misbegotten statistical flukes (each one of which Republicans ponder super-seriously). He also wrote other programs to assist students along their way.
He graduated Harvard in 2016 but was not interested in pursuing a career in law (which is a shame because I may need a good lawyer before the current Administration, known colloquially as the 4th Reich, comes ignominiously to a grinding halt, just maybe around Christmas!). But I can't really blame Tyler; I mean if there are two things the world is awash in, it's lawyers and people who write calculus books.

Tyler, by the way, pronounces his last name “VEE-Gun,” just like that cult of San Francisco hippies who, unlike the rest of incorrigible human riff-raff, actually takes ethics seriously. Tyler got married earlier this year and now lives and works in Chicago as a management consultant for Boston Consulting Group, where, if you can believe this, John Legend, Mitt Romney, and Bibi Netanyahu all previously worked (probably Carl Yastrzemski too, but I haven't verified that). There, Tyler makes use of his programming skills, and, I assume if Government contracts are involved, is eligible to become a whistleblower.

Tyler seems to have been inactive on Twitter for about a year, but he does have a Facebook page where Mark Zuckerberg violates his rights each-and-every day while stealing his identity to put up for sale on the Dark Web, right alongside Jared Kushner's (no, I’m kidding of course, Mark would never do that... but Jack Dorsey, not so sure).

I hope that while he was at Harvard, Tyler taught those lawyers-to-be some statistics — we need more lawyers who understand statistics… heck, we need more mathematicians... and, more 12th graders for that matter... who understand statistics, if America is to be saved!

That's about all my crack investigative team could dig up on Tyler, but we wish him well in all future endeavors, and caution him to moderate his margarine consumption. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm in the middle of exploring any budding correlation between presidents committing treason and impeachment... and I don't mean spurious.

Check out all the prior math profiles here: 

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