Research interests

My research interests are pretty varied, and have resulted in papers published in 20+ different journals. But they do fall into some broad themes:

  • How do we know what we (think) we know ? Using statistical methods to make sense of new findings, and avoiding logical and inferential traps.
  • Using probability theory to deal with uncertainty : in both its principal forms – aleatory, where uncertainty is due to randomness (eg the outcome of dice-throws), and epistemic, where it’s the result of lack of knowledge (eg the outcome of horse races).
  • The science of everyday frustrations  : Why do headphone cables, flex, string etc so often become tangled up ? Why are there so many odd socks  ? Why does toast land butter-down so often ?
  • Strange but true: Examples and case-studies for pedagogic use and entertainment, such as ways of predicting coincidences and optimal gambling strategies.
  • The application of science to long-standing mysteries: These range from the origins of Shakepeare’s career as a playwright and the cause of the darkening of Iapetus to analysis of the notorious D’Agapeyeff Cipher and what the thought processes of conspiracy theorists may be telling us about how the brain works.

Below are some examples with full-text PDFs; just get in touch via the form below if you want more.

  •  Medical statistics

Methods for assessing the credibility of clinical trial outcomes Drug Inf J 35(4) 1468-1478 (2001). An online calculator for applying these methods is available here.

Why should clinicians care about Bayesian methods? J Stat Plan Inf 94(1) 43-58 2001

What are the implications of optimism bias in clinical research ? (with Chalmers, I) The Lancet 367 (9509) 449-450 2006

Medical progress depends on animal models – doesn’t it ? J Roy Soc Med 101 (2) 95-98 (2008)

  • Inference & decision theory

Base-rate errors and rain forecasts Nature 382 (6594) 766 (1996)

Inference with legal evidence – common sense is necessary but not sufficient Med Sci Law 44(3) 189-192 (2004)

Decision-theoretic limits on earthquake prediction Geophys J Intl 131 (3) 526-529 (1997)

  • Computation

 Neural computation in stylometry I: An application to the works of Shakespeare and Fletcher (with T V N Merriam) Lit & Ling Comp 8 (4) 203-209 (1993)

Neural computation in stylometry II: An application to the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe (with T V N Merriam) Lit & Ling Comp 9 (1) 1 -6 (1994)

Shakespeare v Fletcher: A stylometric analysis by radial basis functions (with Lowe, D.) Comp & Hum 29 (6) 449-461 (1995)

  • Astronomy/astrophysics

The darkening of Iapetus and the origin of Hyperion Qtr J Roy Astr Soc 33 253

Is Proxima really in orbit around aCen A/B ? (with Gilmore, G), MN Roy Astr Soc 261(1) L5-L7 (1993)

The close approach of stars in the Solar Neighbourhood Qtr J Roy Astr Soc 35, 1 (1994)

  • Pedagogic

String theory in science lessons: the investigation of a notoriously knotty problem Sch Sci Rev 96(356) 69-74 (2015)

Why do people believe weird things? Significance 2(4) 182-184 (2005)

Storks deliver babies (p = 0.008)Teaching Statistics 22 (2) 36-38 (2000)

Tumbling toast, Murphy’s Law and the fundamental constants



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