### MC Monte Carlo - Gridding It Up In the Likeli-Hood

At the end of the term in my Ay117 Astrostats course, the students gave 15-minute oral presentations or poster presentations describing their final projects. The morning of presentations was organized like a Keck Science Meeting, so that students not only learned the primary course material, but also gained valuable practice in giving scientific presentations.

Of the many highlights from this year's session was Scott Barenfeld's performance of his latest single from his upcoming Astrostats hip hop album. It was most certainly the best rap performance of the day.

Griddin' it up in the Likeli-hood
From the upcoming debut album
Straight Outta Inverse Compton

Scott Barenfeld (CIT 1st year)
March 19, 2013

They call me MC Monte Carlo
Be runnin' my code 'till tomorrow
I take the random walk
So don't sit there and squawk
If you need my routines, you can borrow.
I doin' my Bayesian stat stu ff
Comin' up with posteriors off the cu ff
It's Bayes' Theorem yo
You frequentists can go
No root n error bars, son, I had enough.
Findin' your $\mu$ and $\sigma$
Don't have to be such an enigma
Just get the likelihood
You really really should
Then Aaron and John will dig ya!

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…

### An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:

It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…