Posts Tagged ‘statistics’
From stat-enthusiast (and full-time law student) Tyler Vigen, entertaining examples of patterns that map in compelling– but totally-inconsequential– ways…
More (and larger) examples at the sensational Spurious Correlations.
* a maxim widely repeated in science and statistics; also rendered: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P). It addresses the post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“affirming the consequent”) logical fallacy
As we think before we leap, we might send energetic (really energetic) birthday greetings to Enrico Fermi; he was born on this date in 1901. A physicist who is best remembered for (literally) presiding over the birth of the Atomic Age, he was also remarkable as the last “double-threat” in his field: a genius at creating both important theories and elegant experiments. As recently observed, the division of labor between theorists and experimentalists has since been pretty complete.
The novelist and historian of science C. P. Snow wrote that “if Fermi had been born a few years earlier, one could well imagine him discovering Rutherford’s atomic nucleus, and then developing Bohr’s theory of the hydrogen atom. If this sounds like hyperbole, anything about Fermi is likely to sound like hyperbole.”
From Google Maps, an altogether-engrossing geographical trivia game: Smarty Pins.
* Terry Pratchett
As we find our bearings, we might spare a thought for Florence Nightingale; she died on this date in 1910. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring. Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health. Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair).
“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have”*…
From the always-amazing Randall Munroe, who reminds us that bacteria still outweigh us thousands to one– and that’s not counting the pounds of them in each of our bodies…
* “The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.”
― David Attenborough, Life on Earth
As we watch our weight, we might send carefully-calculated birthday greetings to John Graunt; he was born on this date in 1620. A London haberdasher by trade, Graunt was fascinated the human tide that swelled around him– a fascination that led him to create the first statistically-based estimation of the population of London in his book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, undertaken as Charles II and other officials were trying to create a system to warn of the onset and spread of bubonic plague in the city. Profiled as one of Aubrey’s Brief Lives, Graunt has been called the first statistician, the first demographer, and was in any case the first statistician to become a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
It’s that time again– the Games are underway…
The Olympics promise many things–triumph of the human spirit, amazing athletic prowess, upsets and underdogs–but the most modern games are ultimately nothing if not a massive, global spectacle. Gustavo Sousa, a painter and creative director at Mother’s London office, was interested in exploring behind the pomp and circumstance. “Events like these can be a good time for reflection.” Oceaniaeuropeamericaasiaafrica illustrates stripped-down statistics from each region through simple scale shifts of the tournament’s iconic quintet of overlapping loops.“The rings represent healthy competition and union, but we know the world isn’t perfect. Maybe understanding the differences is the first step to try to make things more equal.”
* “faster, higher, stronger”– the Olympic motto
As we settle in for the marathon, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that Louis Lassen served the first “hamburger” sandwich… at least, according to the Library of Congress.
Louis Lassen, founder of Louis’ Lunch, ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches to local factory workers. Because he didn’t like to waste the excess beef from his daily lunch rush, he ground it up, grilled it, and served it between two slices of bread — and America’s first hamburger was created.
It will not surprise readers to know that there are many other claimants to that singular honor.
Louis Lassen (source)
From Vali Chandrasekaran, on BusinessWeek.com: Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question. Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.
As we recalibrate our conclusions, we might send amplified birthday wishes to musician, composer, and inventor Les Paul; he was born on this date in 1915. Paul was an accomplished jazz and country songwriter and guitarist; but he is surely best remembered as a pioneer in the development of the solid-body electric guitar (and an early adopter of techniques like over-dubbing, tape delay, and multi-track recording)– that’s to say, as a father of rock and roll.
Les Paul, playing a Gibson Les Paul (source)
In danger no longer! (source)
Gawker reports [from the Hindustan Times] that Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority has issued a list of 1,700 words [and phrases] it considers “offensive and obscene,” and has demanded that mobile providers begin filtering them from text messages as of Monday. The list, which contains hundreds of familiar swear words as well as some truly puzzling choices, is meant to curb SMS spamming, according the PTA, which it defines as “the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient.”
Some of the words:
Flogging the dolphin
Go to hell
The full list is on Google Docs, here… after a careful consideration of which, your correspondent will be choosing his words more carefully.
As we reconsider our morning glazed donut, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that the American Statistical Association was formed in a meeting at the Boston home of the American Education Society by William Cogswell, teacher, fund-raiser for the ministry, and genealogist; Richard Fletcher, lawyer and U.S. Congressman; John Dix Fisher, physician and pioneer in medical reform; Oliver Peabody, lawyer, clergyman, poet, and editor; and Lemuel Shattuck, statistician, genealogist, publisher, and author of perhaps the most significant single document in the history of public health to that date.
Over the next few decades, the membership grew to over 100, including Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell, Herman Hollerith, Andrew Carnegie, and President Martin Van Buren; by 1939, the roll had expanded to 3,000. But it was after World War Two, and the explosion in the physical and social sciences, that the organization began to balloon. Today the ASA has over 17,000 members, and 23 special interest section (like Business and Economics; Biometrics, and Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental).
Mark Twain quotes Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”; H.G. Wells avers that “Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting scripture”; but the remarkable Hans Rosling begs to differ…
Rosling, a physician and medical researcher who co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden and the Gapminder Foundation (with his son and daughter-in-law), and developed the Trendalyzer software that represents national and global statistics as animated interactive graphics (e.g., here), ha become a superstar on the lecture circuit. He brings his unique insight and approach to the BBC with The Joy of Stats…
It’s above at full length, so takes a while to watch in toto– but odds are that one will enjoy it! [UPDATE: since this post was published, the full version has been rendered "private"; unless and until it's reposted in full, the taste above will have to do. Readers in the UK (or readers with VPNs that terminate in the UK) can see the full show soon after it airs on BBC Four on Thursday the 13th on the BBC iPlayer. As a further consolation, here is statistician Andrew Gelman's "Five Books" interview-- his choice of the five best books on statistics-- for The Browser. ]
As we realize that sometimes we can, after all, count on it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine (originally anonymously) published his case for the independence of the American Colonies, “Common Sense”… and after all, as Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace pointed out (in 1820), “the theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus.”
source: University of Indiana