Not so anomalous after all?

Good Math, Bad Math reports that the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Group (PEAR) has lost its funding. GMBM is also very critical of their stats and calls their results fakes. Oh dear.

I find myself in a difficulty here. GMBM simply asserts that:
“The problem with PEAR was that they were sure that their experiments would show positive results, and they used shoddy experimental techniques and invalid mathematical analyses to make the results look positive. They never, in 20-odd years of work, managed to create statistically significant results. But they didnt let that stop them: they massaged the data to create positive results, and then tried to justify the ways they manipulated the data using techniques that ranged from sloppy to outright dishonest.”

and, in more detail:
“Given a huge database consisting of sequences of random numbers, you expect to see small deviations. If it never deviated from the mean, you would actually conclude that the data was fake; you expect to see some fuzz. Now, take that huge quantity of data (theyre generating 200 bits per second at each of 98 different random number generators); and take a swath of time (minutes to hours) associated with an “event”, and see if you can find a one-second period of time for which the random numbers deviate from the expected mean. For any event, at any point in time, you can probably find a “significant” deviation for a couple of seconds; and they consider one second enough to be meaningful.

They actually make data from their generators available through their website; when I get a chance, Im going to try to prove my point by trying a few dates that have no particular significance to anyone but me: the times my children were born (7/30/2000, 9:35am, and 4/10/2003, 8:40pm), the tenth anniversary of my wedding (the specific 20 minutes of the ceremony) (6/5/2004, 2-2:20pm), and the only time my dog every bit anyone (that being me, for freaking out while he vomited all over my house on, I think, 7/10/1998, around 5pm).

Ill let you know the results.”

Ive emailed him to ask if he ever did try it!

My difficulty is that
(a) I wish GMBM had been more precise in his criticisms
(b) as a non-mathemtaician, however, I wouldnt understand them if he was.


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