Tag Archives: nrc

Narcissistic personality disorder, the NRC rankings, and finite metric spaces in Slate

I have a piece in Slate today about the classification of personality disorders in the new DSM, and the NRC graduate school rankings.  OK, they don’t really let me mention finite metric spaces in Slate.  But that’s what’s going on behind the lines, and it’s a problem I’ve been wrestling with.  Let’s say you have a finite metric space M; that is, a finite set of points with assigned distances between them.  Now there’s a whole world of algorithms (multidimensional scaling and its many cousins) to embed M in a Euclidean space of some reasonably small dimension without messing up the metric too much.  And there’s a whole world of heirarchical clustering algorithms that embed M in the set of leaves of a tree.

But I don’t really know a principled way to decide which one of these things to do.

Stuff there wasn’t room for in the piece — I should have mentioned Ian Hacking’s book Mad Travelers, which gives a very rich humanistic account of the process by which categories of mental illness are generated.  And when I talked about the difficulty of crushing a finite metric down to one dimension, I should have linked to Cosma Shalizi’s “g, a statistical myth”


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We’re number 6 through 15!

The new NRC rankings have now been released.  It’ll be fun to dig through these — I don’t yet see a giant spreadsheet available online, but you can use the search tool at phds.org to see how the rankings look for math departments.  As the title suggests, the rankings have big error bars around them:  the top of the list looks like

  • 1-4 Princeton
  • 1-3 Berkeley
  • 2-5 Harvard
  • 2-6 NYU
  • 4-9 Stanford
  • 4-12 Michigan
  • 4-11 Yale
  • 5-11 MIT
  • 5-16 Penn State
  • 6-15 Wisconsin
  • 8-28 UCLA
  • 9-25 Columbia
  • 10-28 UCSD
  • 9-32 Cal Tech
  • 9-30 Texas
  • 10-37 Brown

Some departments are already complaining about the quality of data used in the rankings — with some justice, sounds like.

Update: Nathan Dunfield was kind enough to post a spreadsheet with the data on math departments to Google Docs.

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