Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How real stylometry works

"Using stylometry one is able to compare texts to determine authorship of a particular work.... According to my source, the NSA was able to the use the ‘writer invariant’ method of stylometry to compare Satoshi’s ‘known’ writings with trillions of writing samples from people across the globe. By taking Satoshi’s texts and finding the 50 most common words, the NSA was able to break down his text into 5,000 word chunks and analyse each to find the frequency of those 50 words. This would result in a unique 50-number identifier for each chunk. The NSA then placed each of these numbers into a 50-dimensional space and flatten them into a plane using principal components analysis. The result is a ‘fingerprint’ for anything written by Satoshi that could easily be compared to any other writing."

Note: real stylometry uses 5,000-word chunks, but the Interpreter thinks 300-word chunks are probative.
"The NSA then took bulk emails and texts collected from their mass surveillance efforts. First through PRISM (a court-approved front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts) and then through MUSCULAR(where the NSA copies the data flows across fiber optic cables that carry information among the data centers of Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and Facebook) the NSA was able to place trillions of writings from more than a billion people in the same plane as Satoshi’s writings to find his true identity. The effort took less than a month and resulted in positive match.
"This wasn’t the first time efforts had been made to unearth the identity of Satoshi using stylometry. Various reporters and members of the Bitcoin community have used various open source stylometry tools to attempt to uncover the true identity of Bitcoin’s creator. Their problem? They didn’t have access to trillions of emails from a billion people and they weren’t able to plug them into a supercomputer. The NSA’s proprietary software, bulk email collection ability, and computing power made it possible for them to conclusively identify Satoshi."

Saturday, May 27, 2017


The fallacy of the peer review system is so widely known that I don't comment much on it any more. Nowhere is peer review more superficial and result oriented than at the Interpreter. Still, once in a while I notice an egregious case that deserves to be noticed.

Here, Matt Ridley comments on a widely publicized example.

Date: 24/05/17Matt Ridley, The Times
The latest university prank is embarrassing to academia and hilarious for the rest of us. Philosophy professor Peter Boghossian and mathematician Dr James Lindsay made up a learned paper on the “conceptual penis” as a “gender-performative, highly fluid social construct” that is “the conceptual driver behind much of climate change”, stuffed it full of random jargon and fake references and then got it through peer review into an academic journal.
True, it was a low-grade, pay-to-publish journal of the kind that has proliferated recently as a money-making venture, but the authors were recommended to try that journal by a serious journal, and the peer review was genuine. As the authors have written of their own work: “We don’t understand it either. Nobody does. This problem should have rendered it unpublishable in all peer-reviewed, academic journals.”

This happened last year, too, when Professor Mark Carey published an even more absurd paper arguing that “a critical but overlooked aspect of the human dimensions of glaciers and global change research is the relationship between gender and glaciers” and introducing “feminist glaciology”. In that case, however, the professor continues to insist, against all evidence, that he was serious. Science magazine gave him a lengthy, softball interview to justify his work after it was laughed at on the internet. I still think he’s a joker in deep cover.

Neither paper would have been published if it had not fitted the prejudices of much of academia: leftist, postmodern, relativist, feminist and moralising. “The academy is overrun by left-wing zealots preaching dangerous nonsense,” says Boghossian. “They’ve taught students to turn off their rational minds and become moral crusaders.”

As a system of ensuring quality in research, peer review is in deep trouble. It allows established academics to defend their pet ideas and reward their chums. Its one-sided anonymity, in which the referee retains his anonymity but the author does not, could hardly be better designed to ensure cronyism.

Worse, as a recent report by Donna Laframboise, a Canadian investigative journalist, concluded: “A journal’s decision to publish a paper provides no assurance that its conclusions are sound . . . Fraudulent research makes it past gatekeepers at even the most prestigious journals. While science is supposed to be self-correcting, the process by which this occurs is haphazard and byzantine.”

Peer review’s flaws now allow people with an axe to grind to dismiss even the most rigorous and careful of science along with the nonsense. It’s time for science, and the softer social sciences in particular, to get their house in order.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Peer approval

I haven't written here for a while because nothing has changed in the citation cartel of what passes for LDS scholarship. They still refuse to even inform LDS people that there are alternatives to the Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography, other than to criticize them.

While LDS scholars and educators do great work in their fields of specialty, when it comes to Church-related matters, they are no better or worse than "ordinary" members of the Church. If you're a member of the Church who studies the scriptures and the words of the modern prophets and apostles, there is no reason to defer to these scholars and educators. 

In many cases, LDS scholars and educators seem more motivated to justify their long-held positions than to re-evaluate them. I hope that will change in the future. In the meantime, read what they say, write, and teach with a open, but skeptical, mind.