Sunday, October 02, 2005

Learning Math with Paul Krugman, Part Two

In the previous installment of Learning Math with Paul Krugman, Professor Krugman showed us how to fudge presidential polling data to make it say whatever we want it to say, so that when we lose we can claim that we were cheated.

It is a paradoxical yet fundamental truth of Mathematics that the larger the numbers are, the easier it is to tamper with them (Zogby's Law). Every good CPA knows that it's much easier to "lose" a million dollars of Walmart's money than it is to cover up a $20 shortfall in an office football pool. Only a true Grandmaster of Fuzzy Math can work successfully with the very small numbers.

Alas, the results are not always guaranteed. Witness Krugman's recent attempt to pretend that the number 5 is the number 3, with an intellectual audacity not seen since Parapsychology adopted Quantum Mechanics. Too bad the shrinking violets at The New York Times' editorial board were unable to appreciate such a bold creative effort, or they would not have printed this jellyfish retraction:
"In describing the results of the ballot study by the group led by The Miami Herald in his column of Aug. 26, Paul Krugman relied on the Herald report, which listed only three hypothetical statewide recounts, two of which went to Al Gore. There was, however, a fourth recount, which would have gone to George W. Bush. In this case, the two stricter-standard recounts went to Mr. Bush. A later study, by a group that included The New York Times, used two methods to count ballots: relying on the judgment of a majority of those examining each ballot, or requiring unanimity. Mr. Gore lost one hypothetical recount on the unanimity basis."

Once again mathematical innovation is stifled by the hobgoblins of tiny philistine minds.