I review — and provide derivations for — some basic properties of Normal distributions. Topics currently covered: (i) Their normalization, (ii) Samples from a univariate Normal, (iii) Multivariate Normal distributions, (iv) Central limit theorem.

# Author: Jonathan Landy

## Model AUC depends on test set difficulty

The AUC score is a popular summary statistic that is often used to communicate the performance of a classifier. However, we illustrate here that this score depends not only on the quality of the model in question, but also on the difficulty of the test set considered: If samples are added to a test set that are easily classified, the AUC will go up — even if the model studied has not improved. In general, this behavior implies that isolated, single AUC scores cannot be used to meaningfully qualify a model’s performance. Instead, the AUC should be considered a score that is primarily useful for comparing and ranking multiple models — each at a common test set difficulty.

## Deep reinforcement learning, battleship

Here, we provide a brief introduction to reinforcement learning (RL) — a general technique for training programs to play games efficiently. Our aim is to explain its practical implementation: We cover some basic theory and then walk through a minimal python program that trains a neural network to play the game battleship.

## Hyperparameter sample-size dependence

Here, we briefly review a subtlety associated with machine-learning model selection: the fact that the optimal hyperparameters for a model can vary with training set size, $N.$ To illustrate this point, we derive expressions for the optimal strength for both $L_1$ and $L_2$ regularization in single-variable models. We find that the optimal $L_2$ approaches a finite constant as $N$ increases, but that the optimal $L_1$ decays exponentially fast with $N.$ Sensitive dependence on $N$ such as this should be carefully extrapolated out when optimizing mission-critical models.

## Linear Regression

We review classical linear regression using vector-matrix notation. In particular, we derive a) the least-squares solution, b) the fit’s coefficient covariance matrix — showing that the coefficient estimates are most precise along directions that have been sampled over a large range of values (the high variance directions, a la PCA), and c) an unbiased estimate for the underlying sample variance (assuming normal sample variance in this last case). We then review how these last two results can be used to provide confidence intervals / hypothesis tests for the coefficient estimates. Finally, we show that similar results follow from a Bayesian approach.

Last edited July 23, 2016.

## Average queue wait times with random arrivals

Queries ping a certain computer server at random times, on average $\lambda$ arriving per second. The server can respond to one per second and those that can’t be serviced immediately are queued up. What is the average wait time per query? Clearly if $\lambda \ll 1$, the average wait time is zero. But if $\lambda > 1$, the queue grows indefinitely and the answer is infinity! Here, we give a simple derivation of the general result — (9) below.

## Improved Bonferroni correction factors for multiple pairwise comparisons

A common task in applied statistics is the pairwise comparison of the responses of $N$ treatment groups in some statistical test — the goal being to decide which pairs exhibit differences that are statistically significant. Now, because there is one comparison being made for each pairing, a naive application of the Bonferroni correction analysis suggests that one should set the individual pairwise test sizes to $\alpha_i \to \alpha_f/{N \choose 2}$ in order to obtain a desired family-wise type 1 error rate of $\alpha_f$. Indeed, this solution is suggested by many texts. However, implicit in the Bonferroni analysis is the assumption that the comparisons being made are each mutually independent. This is not the case here, and we show that as a consequence the naive approach often returns type 1 error rates far from those desired. We provide adjusted formulas that allow for error-free Bonferroni-like corrections to be made.

[edit (7/4/2016): After posting this article, I’ve since found that the method we suggest here is related to / is a generalization of Tukey’s range test — see here.]

[edit (6/11/2018): I’ve added the notebook used below to our Github, here]

## Independent component analysis

Two microphones are placed in a room where two conversations are taking place simultaneously. Given these two recordings, can one “remix” them in some prescribed way to isolate the individual conversations? Yes! In this post, we review one simple approach to solving this type of problem, Independent Component Analysis (ICA). We share an ipython document implementing ICA and link to a youtube video illustrating its application to audio de-mixing.