Tag: statistics

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…

Psychic Numbing and Communicating on Risk and Tragedies
I’ve been preoccupied lately with the developing aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake. Unlike other disasters on a similar or greater scale, I’m finding it easier to grasp the real human cost of the disaster in Japan as my brother lives in Kanagawa Prefecture and therefore there are less levels of abstraction between me and those directly…

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…

The Statistics of Wikipedia’s Fundraising Campaign
Yesterday, 15th January 2011, Wikipedia celebrated its tenth birthday. Just over two weeks before, Wikipedia was also celebrating the close of its 2010 fundraising campaign where over sixteen million dollars was raised from over half a million donors in just fifty days. The 2010 campaign was billed as being datadriven, with the Wikipedia volunteers “testing…

Outliers, Regression and the Sports Illustrated Myth
By appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sportsmen and women become jinxed and shortly thereafter experience bouts of bad luck, goes the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx myth. ‘Evidence’ of the myth comes in the form of many individuals and teams who have died or, more commonly, simply experienced bad luck in their chosen vocation shortly after…

Statistical Significance Explained
If you didn’t read the House of Commons Library’s statistical literacy guides recently (or you need a refresher on what, exactly, statistical significance means), then you can do much worse than student Warren Davies’ short rundown on the meaning of statistical significance: In science we’re always testing hypotheses. We never conduct a study to ‘see…

Political Risk Assessments
“Safety is never allowed to trump all other concerns”, says Julian Baggini, and without saying as much governments must consistently put a price on lives and determine how much risk to expose the public to. In an article for the BBC, Baggini takes a comprehensive look at how governments make risk assessments and in the process discusses…

Statistical Literacy Guides
I am suitably impressed by the clarity and breadth of the House of Commons Library’s statistical literacy guide on How to spot spin and inappropriate use of statistics (pdf, via @TimHarford). A quick dig around the archives revealed a full series of statistical literacy guides (all pdf), all of which are fantastically readable, accessible and comprehensive. These…

The Evidence on Breastfeeding
In an article the Royal Statistical Society announced as the runnerup in their annual Awards for Statistical Excellence in Journalism, Helen Rumbelow thoroughly investigates the welldebated subject of breastfeeding. The conclusion of the piece is that much of the evidence in support of breastfeeding is massively misrepresented or inherently flawed. “The evidence to date suggests…

Why Designers Need Statistics
The proliferation of infographics online is helping to make a broad, somewhat statistically illiterate, audience aware of important data and trends. For those designing these infographics, therefore, there is a need that they understand their process intimately–from data collection to illustration–in order to analyse it honestly and with meaning. Through a “showcase of bad infographics”,…