Tag: probability

Perceptions of Probability and Numbers
Back in 2011 I wrote about “words of estimative probability“; the quantitative ranges we apply to ambiguous words and phrases, based on Sherman Kent’s research for the CIA in the 1960s. In 2015, Reddit user zonination duplicated the study using /r/samplesize. His resulting post in /r/dataisbeautiful made the longlist for the 2015 Kantar Information is…

Micromorts and Understanding the Probability of Death
Understanding probabilities is hard (viz.) — and it’s especially so when we try to understand and take rational decisions based on very small probabilities, such as oneina million chance events. How, then, to communicate risks on a similar level, too? The answer is to use a more understandable scale, such as micromorts; “a unit of…

The Numbers in Our Words: Words of Estimative Probability
Toward the end of this month I will almost certainly post the traditional Lone Gunman Year in Review post. Exactly how likely am I to do this? Am I able to quantify the probability that I’ll do this? By using the phrase “almost certainly”, I already have. To provide unambiguous, quantitative odds of an event…

Learn Statistics, Damn You!
Thanks to my moderate knowledge of statistics, I know that I have a lot more to learn in the field and should never make assumptions about data or analyses (even my own). Because of this I share a grievance with Zed Shaw who says that “programmers need to learn statistics or I will kill them all”.…

Being Rational About Risk
Leonard Mlodinow—physicist at Caltech and author of The Drunkard’s Walk, a highlypraised book looking at randomness and our inability to take it into account—has an interview in The New York Times about understanding risk. Some choice quotes: I find that predicting the course of our lives is like predicting the weather. You might be able to…

The Birthday Problem
I’ve heard of this ‘problem’ numerous times before, as I’m sure many others have too. Nonetheless, everytime I do hear it, it fascinates me. The birthday problem (or paradox, as it’s often referred), looks at the probability of two or more people from a randomly chosen set of people sharing a birthday. In a group…