All Questions

860
votes
28answers
467k views

Making sense of principal component analysis, eigenvectors & eigenvalues

In today's pattern recognition class my professor talked about PCA, eigenvectors & eigenvalues. I got the mathematics of it. If I'm asked to find eigenvalues etc. I'll do it correctly like a ...
452
votes
11answers
464k views

How to choose the number of hidden layers and nodes in a feedforward neural network?

Is there a standard and accepted method for selecting the number of layers, and the number of nodes in each layer, in a feed-forward neural network? I'm interested in automated ways of building neural ...
419
votes
9answers
244k views

What is the difference between “likelihood” and “probability”?

The wikipedia page claims that likelihood and probability are distinct concepts. In non-technical parlance, "likelihood" is usually a synonym for "probability," but in statistical usage there is a ...
401
votes
21answers
139k views

The Two Cultures: statistics vs. machine learning?

Last year, I read a blog post from Brendan O'Connor entitled "Statistics vs. Machine Learning, fight!" that discussed some of the differences between the two fields. Andrew Gelman responded favorably ...
393
votes
11answers
428k views

What is the difference between test set and validation set?

I found this confusing when I use the neural network toolbox in Matlab. It divided the raw data set into three parts: training set validation set test set I notice in many training or learning ...
391
votes
9answers
148k views

What is the intuition behind beta distribution?

Disclaimer: I'm not a statistician but a software engineer. Most of my knowledge in statistics comes from self-education, thus I still have many gaps in understanding concepts that may seem trivial ...
376
votes
21answers
181k views

Why square the difference instead of taking the absolute value in standard deviation?

In the definition of standard deviation, why do we have to square the difference from the mean to get the mean (E) and take the square root back at the end? Can't we just simply take the absolute ...
353
votes
25answers
128k views

Python as a statistics workbench

Lots of people use a main tool like Excel or another spreadsheet, SPSS, Stata, or R for their statistics needs. They might turn to some specific package for very special needs, but a lot of things can ...
340
votes
5answers
98k views

How to understand the drawbacks of K-means

K-means is a widely used method in cluster analysis. In my understanding, this method does NOT require ANY assumptions, i.e., give me a dataset and a pre-specified number of clusters, k, and I just ...
332
votes
78answers
153k views

What is your favorite “data analysis” cartoon?

This is one of my favorites: One entry per answer. (This is in the vein of the Stack Overflow question What’s your favorite “programmer” cartoon?.) P.S. Do not hotlink the cartoon without the site's ...
313
votes
16answers
177k views

Bayesian and frequentist reasoning in plain English

How would you describe in plain English the characteristics that distinguish Bayesian from Frequentist reasoning?
302
votes
11answers
130k views

Explaining to laypeople why bootstrapping works

I recently used bootstrapping to estimate confidence intervals for a project. Someone who doesn't know much about statistics recently asked me to explain why bootstrapping works, i.e., why is it that ...
297
votes
3answers
173k views

Relationship between SVD and PCA. How to use SVD to perform PCA?

Principal component analysis (PCA) is usually explained via an eigen-decomposition of the covariance matrix. However, it can also be performed via singular value decomposition (SVD) of the data matrix ...
277
votes
10answers
272k views

Difference between logit and probit models

What is the difference between Logit and Probit model? I'm more interested here in knowing when to use logistic regression, and when to use Probit. If there is any literature which defines it using ...
276
votes
16answers
91k views

Is normality testing 'essentially useless'?

A former colleague once argued to me as follows: We usually apply normality tests to the results of processes that, under the null, generate random variables that are only asymptotically or ...
249
votes
7answers
224k views

When conducting multiple regression, when should you center your predictor variables & when should you standardize them?

In some literature, I have read that a regression with multiple explanatory variables, if in different units, needed to be standardized. (Standardizing consists in subtracting the mean and dividing ...
245
votes
10answers
143k views

How to understand degrees of freedom?

From Wikipedia, there are three interpretations of the degrees of freedom of a statistic: In statistics, the number of degrees of freedom is the number of values in the final calculation of a ...
238
votes
148answers
126k views

Famous statistical quotations

What is your favorite statistical quote? This is community wiki, so please one quote per answer.
232
votes
9answers
414k views

What is the difference between fixed effect, random effect and mixed effect models?

In simple terms, how would you explain (perhaps with simple examples) the difference between fixed effect, random effect and mixed effect models?
230
votes
11answers
156k views

How would you explain Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) to a layperson?

Maybe the concept, why it's used, and an example.
228
votes
14answers
438k views

What is the meaning of p values and t values in statistical tests?

After taking a statistics course and then trying to help fellow students, I noticed one subject that inspires much head-desk banging is interpreting the results of statistical hypothesis tests. It ...
228
votes
6answers
810k views

How to normalize data to 0-1 range?

I am lost in normalizing, could anyone guide me please. I have a minimum and maximum values, say -23.89 and 7.54990767, respectively. If I get a value of 5.6878 how can I scale this value on a scale ...
226
votes
7answers
160k views

Bagging, boosting and stacking in machine learning

What's the similarities and differences between these 3 methods: Bagging, Boosting, Stacking? Which is the best one? And why? Can you give me an example for each?
223
votes
46answers
21k views

What are common statistical sins?

I'm a grad student in psychology, and as I pursue more and more independent studies in statistics, I am increasingly amazed by the inadequacy of my formal training. Both personal and second hand ...
222
votes
6answers
27k views

Is $R^2$ useful or dangerous?

I was skimming through some lecture notes by Cosma Shalizi (in particular, section 2.1.1 of the second lecture), and was reminded that you can get very low $R^2$ even when you have a completely linear ...
221
votes
2answers
151k views

Interpretation of R's lm() output

The help pages in R assume I know what those numbers mean, but I don't. I'm trying to really intuitively understand every number here. I will just post the output and comment on what I found out. ...
217
votes
7answers
59k views

Why is Euclidean distance not a good metric in high dimensions?

I read that 'Euclidean distance is not a good distance in high dimensions'. I guess this statement has something to do with the curse of dimensionality, but what exactly? Besides, what is 'high ...
214
votes
18answers
70k views

What happens if the explanatory and response variables are sorted independently before regression?

Suppose we have data set $(X_i,Y_i)$ with $n$ points. We want to perform a linear regression, but first we sort the $X_i$ values and the $Y_i$ values independently of each other, forming data set $(...
212
votes
9answers
108k views

What's the difference between a confidence interval and a credible interval?

Joris and Srikant's exchange here got me wondering (again) if my internal explanations for the the difference between confidence intervals and credible intervals were the correct ones. How you would ...
210
votes
11answers
59k views

Why does a 95% Confidence Interval (CI) not imply a 95% chance of containing the mean?

It seems that through various related questions here, there is consensus that the "95%" part of what we call a "95% confidence interval" refers to the fact that if we were to exactly replicate our ...
209
votes
10answers
117k views

Is there any reason to prefer the AIC or BIC over the other?

The AIC and BIC are both methods of assessing model fit penalized for the number of estimated parameters. As I understand it, BIC penalizes models more for free parameters than does AIC. Beyond a ...
200
votes
12answers
183k views

What is the difference between data mining, statistics, machine learning and AI?

What is the difference between data mining, statistics, machine learning and AI? Would it be accurate to say that they are 4 fields attempting to solve very similar problems but with different ...
196
votes
13answers
200k views

What are the differences between Factor Analysis and Principal Component Analysis?

It seems that a number of the statistical packages that I use wrap these two concepts together. However, I'm wondering if there are different assumptions or data 'formalities' that must be true to use ...
190
votes
5answers
288k views

What does AUC stand for and what is it?

Searched high and low and have not been able to find out what AUC, as in related to prediction, stands for or means.
190
votes
5answers
74k views

Which “mean” to use and when?

So we have arithmetic mean (AM), geometric mean (GM) and harmonic mean (HM). Their mathematical formulation is also well known along with their associated stereotypical examples (e.g., Harmonic mean ...
189
votes
3answers
17k views

How to know that your machine learning problem is hopeless?

Imagine a standard machine-learning scenario: You are confronted with a large multivariate dataset and you have a pretty blurry understanding of it. What you need to do is to make predictions ...
184
votes
33answers
99k views

What is the best introductory Bayesian statistics textbook?

Which is the best introductory textbook for Bayesian statistics? One book per answer, please.
181
votes
10answers
108k views

How would you explain covariance to someone who understands only the mean?

...assuming that I'm able to augment their knowledge about variance in an intuitive fashion ( Understanding "variance" intuitively ) or by saying: It's the average distance of the data ...
179
votes
11answers
126k views

How should I transform non-negative data including zeros?

If I have highly skewed positive data I often take logs. But what should I do with highly skewed non-negative data that include zeros? I have seen two transformations used: $\log(x+1)$ which has the ...
178
votes
8answers
75k views

Algorithms for automatic model selection

I would like to implement an algorithm for automatic model selection. I am thinking of doing stepwise regression but anything will do (it has to be based on linear regressions though). My problem ...
178
votes
15answers
17k views

What is a data scientist?

Having recently graduated from my PhD program in statistics, I had for the last couple of months began searching for work in the field of statistics. Almost every company I considered had a job ...
176
votes
9answers
568k views

How to summarize data by group in R? [closed]

I have R data frame like this: ...
174
votes
4answers
148k views

What does the hidden layer in a neural network compute?

I'm sure many people will respond with links to 'let me google that for you', so I want to say that I've tried to figure this out so please forgive my lack of understanding here, but I cannot figure ...
162
votes
5answers
99k views

Tradeoff batch size vs. number of iterations to train a neural network

When training a neural network, what difference does it make to set: batch size to $a$ and number of iterations to $b$ vs. batch size to $c$ and number of iterations to $d$ where $ ab = cd $? To ...
157
votes
9answers
30k views

Why the sudden fascination with tensors?

I've noticed lately that a lot of people are developing tensor equivalents of many methods (tensor factorization, tensor kernels, tensors for topic modeling, etc) I'm wondering, why is the world ...
156
votes
3answers
108k views

When should I use lasso vs ridge?

Say I want to estimate a large number of parameters, and I want to penalize some of them because I believe they should have little effect compared to the others. How do I decide what penalization ...
155
votes
74answers
194k views

Statistics Jokes

Well, we've got favourite statistics quotes. What about statistics jokes?
155
votes
21answers
65k views

Does Julia have any hope of sticking in the statistical community?

I recently read a post from R-Bloggers, that linked to this blog post from John Myles White about a new language called Julia. Julia takes advantage of a just-in-time compiler that gives it wicked ...
153
votes
4answers
220k views

How to interpret a QQ plot

I am working with a small dataset (21 observations) and have the following normal QQ plot in R: Seeing that the plot does not support normality, what could I infer about the underlying distribution? ...
153
votes
8answers
290k views

In linear regression, when is it appropriate to use the log of an independent variable instead of the actual values?

Am I looking for a better behaved distribution for the independent variable in question, or to reduce the effect of outliers, or something else?

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