Guess the Statistic

Guess what each of these statistics is, given the top 8 countries.

Statistic 1
1. Denmark
2. Canada
3. Russia
4. Norway
5. United States
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Iceland

Statistic 2
1. Australia
2. China
3. Thailand
4. India
5. Israel
6. Mexico
7. United States
8. Philippines

Statistic 3
1. United States
2. El Salvador
3. Turkmenistan
4. Maldives
5. Cuba
6. Thailand
7. Bahamas
8. Seychelles

Statistic 4
1. India
2. Palau
3. Côte d’Ivoire
4. Pakistan
5. United States
6. Australia
7. Nigeria
8. Tanzania
(though there exist good arguments some positional switches should happen)

Statistic 5
1. Bolivia*
2. Ecuador*
3. Colombia
4. Ethiopia
5. Bhutan
6. Eritrea
7. Yemen
8. Mexico
*though there exists a good argument that Ecuador and Bolivia switch places

Statistic 6
1. Russia
2. Kyrgyzstan
3. Canada
4. United States
5. Indonesia
6. Norway
7. Tajikistan
8. Argentina

Statistic 7
1. Venezuela
2. San Marino
3. Costa Rica
4. Panama
5. Ecuador
6. Uruguay
7. Colombia
8. Iceland

Statistic 8
1. India
2. Pakistan
3. China
4. United Kingdom
5. Bangladesh
6. Indonesia
7. Brazil
8. United States


The Game of Subofniqlet


Here’s a game. The challenge: try to communicate a reference to a long string of text (maybe all the elements of a certain set, or even an entire book) with only one string, such that:

  • The string consists of only letters in the text: no spaces or punctuation, or its equivalents. (for instance, the 26 letters of the English alphabet, for books or speeches in English)
  • No letter is used more than once.
  • The string is a subsequence of the text; that is, the letters appear in the text, in that order, possibly with more letters in between.

So, for a given input, someone seeks a subsequence consisting of unique letters that hopefully communicates an idea to others.

As an example,


is probably a fairly good string to reference the lanthanides, with ‘cerim’, ‘pas’, ‘nody’, and ‘lut’ referring respectively to the first, second, third, and last lanthanides.

Here’s some other strings you may be able to recognize.







And here’s a really far stretch:


Guessing Populations

I decided to sit down and guess the current populations of (a) each US state and (b) each sovereign country. Given how often I work with this sort of data, I’d expect to be pretty good at this by now. I think I definitely did do pretty well, at least for the US. Below’s a map summary of results of where my guesses landed, although, of course, if you wish to try this yourself, you should probably not continue reading yet.


North Dakota turned out to be the state for which I most overestimated the population, at 131% of the actual population. I attribute this to overconsidering the effect of its recent boom. I’m not sure how to explain how I underestimated Connecticut’s population so substantially; it was the extreme in the other direction, at 61% of the actual population.


I was really, really shocked when I consulted the list of actual populations and found out Madagascar was over 6 times as populous as I guessed it would be. Kuwait was a mighty surprise too. The most populous country that I failed to guess the population to within 80% to 125% of the actual was Argentina.

Interestingly, my knowledge that Bahrain was ridiculously densely populated didn’t end up actually helping me, because I had no good mental estimator of how large Bahrain as an island was anyway.

The Unjustified Condescension of Anti-Anti-Sports

Hank Green recently released a video titled “Sports are Dumb” (with a thumbnail that says “Sports aren’t dumb?”, to preface the content of the video), suggesting nerdy-types should attempt embracing sports more, a video of surprisingly bad quality compared to what typically comes from Hank Green. All in all, the video takes part in a recent trend of treating anti-sports academic types as having shallow, impulse reasons for their avoidance of sports, when there are multiple solid reasons for not partaking, or even being actively against, sports.

Arguments in the video are not very good. The video makes it seem like eventually generalized hand-waving will stop and a concrete reason for supporting sports will eventually be pronounced, but the hand-waving pervades the entire video punctuated by occasional not-very-justified raw thoughts. Let’s note the problems in the parts of the video that are points.

1. No one is required to give a reason for being uninterested.

Hank’s claim that it’s hard to rationalize being against sports is multiply problematic: there are good reasons to be against sports which Hank conveniently occludes by pretending he can’t come up with anything, but even before this, people shouldn’t have to explain why they are uninterested in something.

Imagine if someone asked you if you wanted to come see the movie tonight, you said you weren’t interested, they asked you why, and you can’t come up with much beyond that you just didn’t feel like it, and that someone judged you for being unable to come up with a reason for lack of interest. Beyond the difficulty of translating gut instincts, the fact that there are usually too many things in the world one could be involved in, and not the opposite problem, means that the burden of justification should be on being interested in something, not being uninterested. “Caring about stuff is good” is an empty statement—there’s only so much care any particular individual can give, so giving more care to one thing is taking away care from another. People don’t have a deficit in things to care about; people have an excess. “You should care more” is never more than “You should care about this instead of that”.

2. There is good reason to not just be uninterested in but against sports.

Hank alludes to the experience many nerds have of being bullied by more athletic types, and claims lack of interest in sports is due to internalizing feelings against sporty types. As for lack of interest itself, there’s the above, but even on top of this, I claim both that (1) sentiments against sports are completely justified for academic types and (2) there are real-life, tangible ways in which the major sports harm society at large.

Continue reading “The Unjustified Condescension of Anti-Anti-Sports”

Geographical Leaders in 8 Different Stats in Pokémon Go

This post consists of 16 charts, showing the top 12 countries and the top 12 cities in 8 Pokémon Go statistics: XP, Distance Walked, Pokémon Caught, Trainings, Battles Won, Berries Fed, Hours Defended, and Legendary Raids Won, as measured by the sum of the quantities of the top 25 players in the country or city, according to the last release of TL40 leaderboards. I used a convention that for a player whose statistic is “Not Disclosed”, I used the number for the next highest player that isn’t “Not Disclosed”, and if there isn’t such a next highest player with quantity disclosed, I used “0”.

Country Leaderboards




Continue reading “Geographical Leaders in 8 Different Stats in Pokémon Go”

How I Define Regions of the United States

Different people define regions of the United States differently. Here’s where I draw the boundaries for 22 regions. Ample notes follow.


  • Each state is in exactly one of Northeast, South, Midwest, and West, usually referred to with “The” before (for instance, “The Midwest”). This is the top-level division. Divisions of the United States should occur with this property for the four major regions.
  • This being said, quite a few of the boundaries among the four major regions are rather debatable, particularly between The Midwest and The South. I tend to refer to Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia as The Midwest, but it’s definitely quite valid to consider some subset of them The South as well. Honestly, I believe I am myself sometimes inconsistent about this. Note that categorizing all four states as The Midwest makes The South coterminous with the Former Confederacy, and there’s a fair argument about making The South constitute more than that (and calling this set the “Former Confederacy”). I am less sympathetic to considering Maryland and Delaware as The South. I am not sympathetic at all to considering Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey The South. That’s just wrong.
  • The Colonial States include not just the 13 states corresponding to the original 13 colonies, but also states that are not these 13 states but were part of the 13 original colonies. Note that this doesn’t include, for instance, Kentucky for Virginia, because that acquisition really happened way too late.
  • New England plus the Mid-Atlantic is precisely The Northeast.
  • The Great Lakes States are in fact precisely the set of states that border the Great Lakes somewhere. Of course, that causes the awkwardness that a Great Lakes State borders the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Deep South is precisely the states Goldwater won minus Goldwater’s home state.
  • The Former Free States comprises of three disjoint portions: a large chunk of states in the general Northeast, Kansas, and Oregon and California on the Pacific coast.
  • The Mountain States are precisely the states for which the majority of the state is in Mountain Time.
  • The Pacific States are the states with a coast on the Pacific Ocean. Note that this is not the set of states in Pacific Time. For this reason, I think considering Nevada a Pacific State is actually an okay definition, although not optimal.
  • There’s quite a fair argument to consider Nevada the Southwest as well, really. Half the state’s population is already that Southwest.
  • Viewing the finished map, one (lack of) feature that surprises me is the fact that northing separates Wyoming from Colorado. I think my gut expected that at least something significant distinguishes the two. Maybe some name for “cluster of states in the north with barely any population” could help make that separation happen.