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1203
votes
27answers
763k views

Making sense of principal component analysis, eigenvectors & eigenvalues

In today's pattern recognition class my professor talked about PCA, eigenvectors and eigenvalues. I understood the mathematics of it. If I'm asked to find eigenvalues etc. I'll do it correctly like ...
705
votes
11answers
838k 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 ...
589
votes
12answers
411k 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 ...
510
votes
11answers
587k 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 ...
509
votes
14answers
208k 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 ...
504
votes
22answers
260k 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 ...
490
votes
3answers
341k 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 ...
472
votes
20answers
161k 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 ...
415
votes
5answers
150k 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 ...
406
votes
14answers
255k views

Bayesian and frequentist reasoning in plain English

How would you describe in plain English the characteristics that distinguish Bayesian from Frequentist reasoning?
386
votes
11answers
165k 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 ...
377
votes
18answers
142k 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 $(...
375
votes
26answers
134k 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 ...
374
votes
7answers
335k 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 ...
370
votes
80answers
172k views

What is your favorite "data analysis" cartoon?

Data analysis cartoons can be useful for many reasons: they help communicate; they show that quantitative people have a sense of humor too; they can instigate good teaching moments; and they can help ...
354
votes
9answers
681k 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?
352
votes
12answers
332k 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 ...
349
votes
7answers
1.4m 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 ...
344
votes
16answers
121k 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 ...
314
votes
8answers
114k 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 ...
311
votes
5answers
307k views

What is the trade-off between batch size and 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 ...
302
votes
13answers
175k 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 ...
283
votes
8answers
199k 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?
282
votes
9answers
157k 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 difference between confidence intervals and credible intervals were the correct ones. How you would ...
277
votes
16answers
513k 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 ...
274
votes
13answers
86k 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 ...
273
votes
151answers
141k views

Famous statistical quotations

What is your favorite statistical quote? This is community wiki, so please one quote per answer.
273
votes
8answers
210k views

What should I do when my neural network doesn't learn?

I'm training a neural network but the training loss doesn't decrease. How can I fix this? I'm not asking about overfitting or regularization. I'm asking about how to solve the problem where my ...
271
votes
6answers
418k 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.
270
votes
2answers
203k 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. ...
266
votes
6answers
39k 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 ...
259
votes
11answers
177k views

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

Maybe the concept, why it's used, and an example.
256
votes
10answers
146k 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 ...
256
votes
6answers
463k views

What is batch size in neural network?

I'm using Python Keras package for neural network. This is the link. Is batch_size equals to number of test samples? From ...
256
votes
12answers
184k 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 ...
245
votes
46answers
25k 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 ...
244
votes
14answers
268k 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 ...
242
votes
3answers
23k 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 ...
225
votes
6answers
156k views

How to choose a predictive model after k-fold cross-validation?

I am wondering how to choose a predictive model after doing K-fold cross-validation. This may be awkwardly phrased, so let me explain in more detail: whenever I run K-fold cross-validation, I use K ...
223
votes
38answers
134k views

What is the best introductory Bayesian statistics textbook?

Which is the best introductory textbook for Bayesian statistics? One book per answer, please.
222
votes
8answers
105k 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 ...
219
votes
13answers
201k 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 ...
215
votes
5answers
84k 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 ...
215
votes
4answers
310k views

When (and why) should you take the log of a distribution (of numbers)?

Say I have some historical data e.g., past stock prices, airline ticket price fluctuations, past financial data of the company... Now someone (or some formula) comes along and says "let's take/use ...
214
votes
4answers
96k views

ROC vs precision-and-recall curves

I understand the formal differences between them, what I want to know is when it is more relevant to use one vs. the other. Do they always provide complementary insight about the performance of a ...
213
votes
13answers
167k 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 ...
209
votes
4answers
368k 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? ...
208
votes
9answers
91k views

Why is Newton's method not widely used in machine learning?

This is something that has been bugging me for a while, and I couldn't find any satisfactory answers online, so here goes: After reviewing a set of lectures on convex optimization, Newton's method ...
199
votes
4answers
187k 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 ...
194
votes
8answers
412k 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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