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Thursday, September 15, 2011

SF conferences & E. Lehmann

I’m jumping off the Island for a bit.  Destination: San Francisco, a conference on “The Experimental Side of Modeling” .  Kuru makes a walk on appearance in my presentation, “How Experiment Gets a Life of its Own”.  It does not directly discuss statistics, but I will post my slides.

The last time I was in SF was in 2003 with my econometrician colleague, Aris Spanos.  We were on our way to Santa Barbara to engage in an unusual powwow on statistical foundations at NCEAS*, and stopped off in SF to meet with Erich Lehmann and his wife, Julie Shaffer.   We discussed, among other things, this zany idea of mine to put together a session for the Second Lehmann conference in 2004 that would focus on philosophical foundations of statistics. (Our session turned out to include David Freedman and D.R. Cox).

I got to know Lehmann, Neyman’s first student, in 1997.  One day, I received a bulging, six-page, handwritten letter from him in tiny, extremely neat scrawl (and many more after that).  The letter is back in my attic in Virginia but I remember it contained two especially noteworthy pieces of information, one intriguing, the other quite surprising.  The intriguing one (I’ll come back to the surprising one another time, if reminded) was this:  He told me he was sitting in a very large room at an ASA meeting where they were shutting down the conference book display (or maybe they were setting it up), and on a very long, dark table sat just one book, all alone, shiny red.  He said he wondered if it might be of interest to him!  So he walked up to it….  It turned out to be my Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge (1996, Chicago), which he reviewed soon after:

*The National Center For Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara.

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