Monday, October 24, 2011

Counting Babies: Is the cat out of the bag?

Last week, Brad Sharlott, Associate Professor of Journalism at Northern Kentucky University, posted 'Virtual Proof "Ruffles" is Trig: Time to Put the Ruffles Theory to Bed' at Political Gates. At first he posted a 3-picture composite of as many as three babies. Later, he updated the post with a 4-picture composite of as many as four babies. By the way, I am aware that the text of his post argued that there was only one baby.

This morning, there was this exchange in the comments of his post 'Ears, camera angles, and the "null hypothesis":'

Click the image to enlarge it.

Brad posted 'Ears, camera angles, and the "null hypothesis"' at his own blog, after posting at Political Gates.

From Ghostbuster's comment, the hypothesis is "the images we have access to can prove this point one way or another," and its null hypothesis is "the images we have access to cannot prove this point one way or another."

An alternative hypothesis is "the images we have access to cannot prove this point one way or another," and its null hypothesis is "the images we have access to can prove this point one way or another."

Sharlott wrote of the first hypothesis, "Exactly. That being true, you would be ill-advised to push the argument that there are different children involved. That is precisely the point I want everyone to take from this series I have done."

It appears as though Sharlott concurs with Ghostbuster's assertion that he (Sharlott) presented a "false dilemna."

Would Sharlott say of the alternate hypothesis, "you would be ill-advised to push the argument that there are not different children involved?"

Couldn't Sharlott conclude that it would be ill-advised to decide anything about the baby count with just one of those hypotheses? Either of them? Both of them?

The hypotheses are easier to understand written this way:
1) The images we have access to can prove this point, and its null hypothesis is the images we have access to cannot prove this point.


2) The images we have access to cannot prove this point, and its null hypothesis is the images we have access to can prove this point.
Here is an even easier way to grasp the concept of hypothesis (and null hypothesis). Hypothesis: Otomorphenanan is an effective ear analgesic; Null hypothesis: it is not an effective ear analgesic. It is a concept used in drug trials, but the first time I've seen it used to identify a person was at Brad Sharlott's post.

Whatever your opinion of the foregoing may be, there is one very important hypothesis that should have been tested first, before the post at Political Gates appeared: Does ear shape individually identify a person? Like fingerprints? DNA? Even facial features? Isn't the post at Political Gates dependent -- assuming for the sake of argument that the pictures appear to be pictures of the same baby -- dependent on an assumption that ear shape individually identifies a person? Even if that hypothesis could be established with 95% certainty, would the pictures presented at Political Gates be adequate for an analysis under that hypothesis? Are they sufficiently sharp? Are they controlled for camera, lens, sensor, camera and lens settings, lighting, camera distance from the subject, camera shift and camera rotation relative to the subject to draw any conclusions using a hypothesis (if it could be established) that ears individually identify a person?

With these hypotheses, it can be said that we cannot be absolutely sure, using the published pictures, whether there was one baby or more than one baby. And, of course, before using any pictures, we would have to be certain that ears individually identify a person. And then, of course, we would need to be sure that our pictures were adequate for analysis based on that hypothesis.

The cat that should be out of the bag is that Brad Sharlott doesn't know how many babies there were, even though he appeared to be arguing at Political Gates that there was only one baby.

Note: In his post at Political Gates, Professor Sharlott attacked the blogger whose post began the more-than-one-baby discussion. This morning, that blogger expressed his ideas about Sharlott's post, here.

That's my $0.02. I suppose we're going to see more slow Palin-news days.


0>w/hole>1 said...

"As I understand it" -- and I don't pretend to understand it -- the ear-thing is significant not b/c it's an idnetifier as such but rather it's an unscrambling an omlette type thing -- you can't go from a bendy ear to a smooth ear developmentally.

But again, I don't know what I'm talking about, and I base my mostly-ignorance on articles I barely skimmed, so...

Joie Vouet said...

0>w/hole>1, I need to step up my reading game, too. Trying to explain things is even more difficult, but I try, because I often don't know what I think unless I write.

I wonder if Brad is going going to write about whether the pregnancy comparison photos prove anything.

Anonymous said...

Great post - logical, reasonable and well presented.

It is fair to note though that the ruffled ears photo did not begin the dialogue on the possibility of there being more than one baby known as Trig.

The ruffled ear photos did not emerge as such until May of 2009 and the discussion of two-babies began back in the 2008 campaign. The presentation of the ruffled ear photos some 8 months later only added to the already existing theory.

I left a comment to Prof. Scharlott attempting to explain that his theory on the ears - even if true - still did not rule out the possibility of there being more than one baby

And of course my comment was overlooked. After all, I'm only the crazy person who believes a photo full of missing arms and legs, heads of hair with no bodies might 'possibly' have been faked to showcase our Sarah being better at something than she actually 'is'.

And I still would like to hear from anyone in Wasilla or Juneau who saw Trig with earforms in place during the summer of 2008 when Sarah purportedly took her newborn to work every day.

Joie Vouet said...

ozmud, Thanks. I could change it, but it may have been Gryphen's post that made the idea widespread. People can decide for themselves.

Tom said...

The biggest problem I have with Scharlott is that he presents his arguments as definitive. He's extremely obnoxious and dismissive in that regard (especially the way he dismissed Ozmud's work on the fake half-marathon photo and race). Basically, he's an asshole.

nancydrew said...

I dunno. I'm just truly tired of the 'we know' people, thousands of miles away from the action. Which is why I keep hoping the paper trail of these small potatoes Alaska religious mafia wannabes will finally catch up with them, either through a careful sifting through documents, fraud investigations and IRS/FEC involvement.

And Tom and ozmud. This time the photo evidence is indisputable. The Palin tag team ran (no pun intended) a 'running' scam for 'guts and glory.' So microcosmically pathetic.

Anonymous said...

@Joie - Ack! I did not in any way mean that you weren't being fair. yOu were... My comment was directed solely towards Prof. Scharlott.

From the beginning he has offered his opinions as if they are brand new discoveries, completely ignoring that he was walking down a road the rest of us had already travelled. He was 'one of' several people who speculated that Sarah wore a pregnancy prosthesis - that the (original) museum photo of Sarah showed a squarish belly band where a large belly should have been - yet his discussions read as if the discoveries were his own. He's given credit (just barely) to a couple of other bloggers (Gryphen included, in the beginning) but ignores the community as a whole.

And - having a bit of clinical psychology under my belt personally, I am irritated that he uses only one piece of information to draw a conclusion for an entire theory. The ruffled ears are not the only piece of the multiple-baby puzzle.

I hadn't actually meant to vent in here - but wow once the gush starts - rofl...

It is not uncommon for two sets of experts to have differing opinions. Happens all the time.

Joie Vouet said...

ozmud, I didn' think that you thought that I was being unfair. I meant I could change, "Professor Sharlott attacked the blogger whose post began the more-than-one-baby discussion," to something like, "Professor Sharlott attacked the blogger whose post popularized the more-than-one-baby discussion."

Jean said...

Over at IM, a comment from RJM said, Todd applied for and was granted a license plate TRIPP that we've seen on Bristols truck. The plate was approved in March of '08.
Who is the TRIPP the plate referred to? If there was a TRIPP in March of '08, it could be the year old child Levi picked up at the Palins home in March of '09.
RJM said he found out through his job and didn't think much about it until he read about the custody hearings on Tripp and then put the info together. He/she said that's all they know but wanted to get it out.Did Bristol and her dad know about Tripp in March of 2008? How would anyone be so sure of a birth that supposedly didn't happen until Dec. '08, and the fact that it would be a boy. Bristol had a baby or two in early '08, is the only answer that makes sense. Therefor the statement, "Tripp was Trig before he was Tripp", is even more interesting.

Hoo Haa said...

One can´t even begin to study human anatomy without knowing the meaning of ¨bilateral symmetry.¨

It is pretty fundamental.

Glaringly fundamental.

I stopped reading at that point.