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## PDF Editor FAQ

What is a historical fact that would sadden most people if they found out?

A doctor infected children with intellectual disabilities housed at the nefarious Willowbrook State School with Hepatitis A to help develop injections against the disease. He was applauded for his work when he passed away, even though he infected incredibly vulnerable people.Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities housed at Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York. (Image: SILive)The entire history of Willowbrook State School is screwed up.Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities were sent to state-run institutes by their parents. One of these institutes was Willowbrook State School, located in Staten Island, New York.A picturesque Willowbrook State School. No one suspected the atrocities that went on inside. (image: Wikipedia)New York State Office for Mental Hygiene funded the building of Willowbrook State School in the 1930′s. The institution finally opened its doors in 1946. Willowbrook was one of the largest state-run institutes ever built.The school could hold up to 4,000 residents, but by 1965, Willowbrook became overcrowded. More than 6,000 children were housed in the institution, despite the maximum capacities set by the state. [1]After receiving complaints from staff members, Senator Robert Kennedy visited Willowbrook. He witnessed deplorable conditions, calling the school a “snake pit” and called for a five-year action plan to improve the school. Yet, Willowbrook remained open until 1987.Staff neglected and abused the peopled living at Willowbrook. Sometimes people were locked in cages and rooms for days. They were crying, covered in their own excrement. Residents, all who were profoundly disabled, rarely got even basic medical attention. Many went days without food.Willowbrook was unregulated and understaffed, but in my opinion, the saddest part was that the residents of Willowbrook were used for scientific and medical research. [2]A head shot of Dr. Sal Krugman, the leader of the WIllowbrook Hepatitis Study. (image U.S. National Library of Medicine Digital Collection)Dr. Saul Krugman worked for New York University, studying childhood vaccines. Starting in 1955, Krugman gained approval from New York State and university to conduct human experiments on patients at Willowbrook. [3]Krugman’s research was for a gamma globulin injection to prevent the spread of hepatitis. He’d purposely infect residents at Willowbrook with samples of hepatitis. But instead of injecting the virus into the patients, Krugman used stool samples from six infected patients and mixed it into the chocolate milk of others to make them ill.Krugman’s justification to his experiments? 90% of patients would get hepatitis during their stay at Willowbrook, so it really didn’t matter if he infected them first. He also justified that his care would be better than the care the patients got from Willowbrook staff.Krugman’s unethical experiments went on for more than 20 years. He defended his work until he died in 1995 and was applauded for his work to developing vaccines for hepatitis without mention of his atrocities. [4]I understand that this was “just the way things were” at the time. But how did no one see Krugman’s unethical practices? How did New York University or New York State let these practices go on for so long? Even if there was no legal recourse, how could someone be so heartless?But I think it’s especially sad that people with disabilities were treated like this up until the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990. It’s only been 30 years since people with disabilities had any rights.Footnotes[1] The horrors of Willowbrook State School [2] Willowbrook, the institution that shocked a nation into changing its laws[3] Against Their Will[4] Saul Krugman, 84; Led Fight to Vanquish Childhood Diseases

How accurate were Nate Silver's predictions for the 2012 Presidential election?

Whether Nate Silver picked who won the election in a given state isn't the right measure to determine how well he did. Getting lucky and shading Florida blue at the last moment was a 50/50 guess and he got lucky. Science is about the error bars. Nate Silver provided his expectation and his uncertainty for each of the results. If you compute [*]$X = ( \text{E} - \text{O})/\sigma$where E is the expected margin of victory of Obama in a given state, O is the result of the election (observed result) and $\sigma$ is the uncertainty in the prediction, then the distribution of X for the 50 states, the district of Columbia, the 3 NE congressional districts and the 2 ME congressional districts should fill out a normal distribution centered at 0 with a variance of 1.The primary criticism from others doing the same type of analysis as Nate Silver was that he was overstating how close the election was. That is, he was making it out to be more of a horse race, when others were saying it was going to be a clear victory for Obama. It ended up being a clear victory for Obama so we should delve into the predictions versus the results to see if we notice any anomalies.What I found using the 50 states and the District of Columbia (I can't find the congressional district election results) is that Nate Silver favored Romney by 0.083 standard deviations and had a standard deviation a of 0.96, just a bit smaller than a normal distribution. If you compute the higher moments, the skewness and kurtosis, you find that the skewness is small and the kurtosis indicates that the distribution is a bit wider than a normal distribution.More or less, this seems to be a resounding success of Nate Silver's model and his incorporation of expert knowledge into the polls. In particular, there had been criticism that his expert knowledge model inflated errors and gave Obama a smaller lead than what he had. There doesn't seem to be any basis for these complaints. There was minuscule slight preference for Romney that is most likely attributable to having a finite sample size of 51 predictions. In particular, this analysis, weighs all states the same, including ones where there was not extensive polling information in the lead up to the election because they weren't swing states, so it's really impressive to hit these on the nose.Silver's biggest misses were West Virginia where Silver predicted a 16.2% victory for Romney and it ended up being 26.8%; however, he attributed a 4.8% uncertainty to this prediction, which results in a X =2.21 (2.21 standard deviations off) anomaly which occurs about once in time in 50 (i.e. you'd expect such a miss). His other miss was Hawaii where he predicted a 33.8% victory for Obama and it ended up being 42.8% with an uncertainty of 3.9%, result in a X= 2.31 (2.31 standard deviations off) anomaly.Here is the distribution of XNothing particularly noteworthy about it, there are two 2+sigma deviations which is what you'd expect in a sample of 51.Here is a comparison of what was expected (green) compared to what was actually observed (blue)So Nate Silver did a great job in aggregate with the polls and it looks like a fairly Gaussian (normal) distribution. The signature of trying to make the race closer than what it seems is inflating the error bars in states that matter. If Obama had a 1.5% lead in a state with a large number of electoral votes and the real uncertainty was 0.25% and you state it at 1.0%, you go from predicting a clear, but close win for Obama to having it be a toss up (the difference between a 6 sigma fluctuation and a 1.5 sigma fluctuation).Most of these states don't matter, there isn't much polling in them because they're predetermined. Obviously importance is a subjective definition, so I created an "importance" weight which is defined as$I = \frac{N_{\text{EV}}}{5 + \left( \Delta/\sigma\right)^2}$where $N_{\text{EV}}$ is the number of electoral votes in a state, $\Delta$ is how far the prediction is apart, and $\sigma$ is the error in the estimate. The 5 simply regulates the expression if the polls are tied (as they were in Florida. The most important states wereFL (5.8), NC (2.8), OH (2.7), VA (2.3), PA (2.0), which more or less identifies the battleground states.Now doing a weighted average of the 50 states plus DC, the average X is now 0.11 in favor of Romney, which is very close to the 0.08 for the aggregate predictions. The primary difference arrises in the standard deviation of the importance weighted predictions, this goes to being 0.49 from 0.96. This is a dramatic drop and does partially validate the Princeton Election Consortium's claim that Silver was over-estimating the errors. If we make the same histogram as above, but now weight each by the importance, the result is in blue belowwhich is noticeably more peaked than a normal distribution in green.The difference is because the 8 most important states all finished within the margin of error, with both FL and NC at less than 0.25.[*] This is assuming that the distribution is quasi-Gaussian, he doesn't provide his likelihood function, so this is about as well as you can do and won't make too much of a difference unless his distributions are really perverse, which would be surprising.

What is the greatest scientific fraud of the past 50 years?

I think the rise and fall of Theranos is the greatest scientific fraud in recent times. The story is fascinating in a sick and twisted way, and the end has yet to be written.Theranos is a company founded in 2003 by then 19-year-old Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes. Her idea was to use a tiny amount of blood obtained by a finger stick and run it through a machine only slightly larger than a microwave oven to diagnose everything from the common cold to HIV.In theory, it’s a great idea. In practice, it could never be made to work. That didn’t stop Holmes, however.** Holmes shows off a “nanotainer.” This was the container that held the blood sample intended to go through her diagnostic machine, which was then supposed to spit out the results of hundreds of sophisticated diagnostic tests.To understand the fraud, it helps to know a little about the woman. To call her interesting and odd would be an understatement.Elizabeth Holmes went from college dropout to tech billionaire and back to being broke in a little over a decade. She now faces millions of dollars in fines and up to 20 years in prison.One of her most unusual qualities is her deep baritone voice. To me, she sounds a bit like Kermit the Frog. Decide for yourself. Those who knew her in her pre-Theranos days say she didn’t always sound like that.Then there is the fact that she almost never blinks. She has a wide-eyed stare and a look that would make even the most hardened skeptics believe that aliens exist.The other odd thing that I’ll talk about is her obsession with Steve Jobs. She idolizes him so much that the vast majority of her wardrobe is black and is mostly made up of black turtlenecks.Back to the fraud part: Her company eventually raised 700 million from venture capitalists and private investors. It had a 10 billion dollar peak valuation in 2014. As I said, it was a good idea and would have made people lots of money if it had worked.But it didn’t work as it was supposed to and that fact was very well and carefully hidden from investors and potential customers. Theranos employees who were aware of the system’s limitations weren’t free to talk because they all had signed non-disclosure agreements that would have penalized them significantly had they blown the whistle.** The Theranos blood-testing device known as “Edison .”The downfall of Theranos began in 2015 when John Carreyrou of The Wall Street Journal did a story on the company. He felt something wasn’t quite right, so he began to dig deeper. What he uncovered was a web of lies and fraud.The company had been taking more and more money from investors when in reality, the Edison could only run a handful of the most rudimentary blood tests. Even then, they weren’t done well.The other more sophisticated tests that the machines were supposed to be performing were farmed out to established laboratories without investor's or patients' knowledge.The Wall Street Journal piece prompted investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) various state attorneys general, private attorneys, and others.When the truth was discovered, Holmes's net worth plummeted from 4.5 billion dollars to almost nothing. The massive multi-billion-dollar company was eventually forced to shut its doors due to bankruptcy.She and former company president Sunny Balwani were charged with “massive fraud” by the SEC in March of 2018. A section of the complaint against them stated that the company had annual reported revenues of $100 million in 2014 when the actual figure was closer to$100,000.Holmes ended up paying a fine of \$500,000, relinquishing the 18.9 million shares she held in the company, giving up control of the company, and being barred from being an officer or director in any public company for ten years.In June of 2018, the State of California indicted Holmes on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. Her trial was supposed to begin in August of 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID pandemic. It has been rescheduled to begin on March 9th, 2021.Holmes has been quoted as saying:“Success is not a matter of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”And that she did. She burnt herself and her company completely to the ground.** For a much deeper dive into this topic, watch The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley | Documentaries | HBO.—If you enjoy reading about history, please check out my new Space, Snapshots of History.

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