ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network

Posts Tagged "statistics"

Guest Blog

Where Are the Real Errors in Political Polls?

2012 United States presidential election results by county, on a color spectrum from Democratic blue to Republican red. (Credit: Mark Newman, Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan)

“Clinton crushes Biden in hypothetical 2016 matchup: Poll.” This was the headline of a MSNBC article on July 17, a full two years before the election in question. In the fine print, NBC reported that the margin of error was around 2 to 5 percent, which would appear to be small enough to trust the [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

World Cup Prediction Mathematics Explained

Brazil vs. England in a "friendly" in Rio de Janeiro

The World Cup is back, and everyone’s got a pick for the winner. Gamblers have been predicting the outcome of sporting contests since the first foot race across the savannah, but in recent years a unique type of statistical analysis has taken over the prediction business. Everyone from Goldman Sachs to Bloomberg to Nate Silver’s [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Statistician Creates Alternate Model for College Football Rankings

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) college football rankings are in turmoil. For two weeks in a row, the top-ranked team has been upset by an underdog from central Texas. (Full disclosure: As a Baylor alum who is the daughter and granddaughter of Aggies, I might be just a little smug.) The BCS rankings are a [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Is Pop Music Evolving, or Is It Just Getting Louder?

Classic record jukebox

Music just ain’t what it used to be. At least, that’s the stereotypical lament of each receding generation of music listeners. It’s also one way to read a new study on the evolution of pop music in the past half-century. A group of researchers undertook a quantitative analysis of nearly half a million songs to [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

No Matter How Huge, Mega Millions Jackpot Will Always Be a Bad Bet

lottery ticket for mega millions

Yesterday my father-in-law asked me to buy him $100 in lottery tickets. He is ordinarily the kind of guy who would cite the quip “the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math,” but these are not ordinary times. On Friday night the Mega Millions multi-state lottery will offer a $500 million jackpot, [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Cigarette Additives Increase Toxicity, According to External Analysis

Cigarette maker Philip Morris spent years studying whether additives, such as menthol, added to the toxicity of their smokes. And several published studies—conducted by the company—have claimed that the additives had no impact on the danger of their products.  But thanks to lawsuits against the tobacco industry, a trove of previously secret scientific and corporate [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Let’s make a deal: Revisiting the Monty Hall problem

"Charles Sanders Peirce once observed that in no other branch of mathematics is it so easy for experts to blunder as in probability theory." Thus began an article in the October 1959 Scientific American by the celebrated math columnist Martin Gardner. In fact, as John Allen Paulos observed in last January’s issue ("Animal Instincts" [Advances]), [...]

Keep reading »
Observations

Autism and mammography: Two stories of statistical confusion

whiteboard with figures on it

DENVER—There was substantial public outcry last year when new recommendations for mammograms came out suggesting that women could wait until age 50 to start breast cancer screening—and then only get screened every other year. Figures in support of the new policy were bandied about in the news and in doctors’ offices, regarding lives saved from [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

A Higher Murder Rate than New York and Los Angeles Combined

Non-Violence, a sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in Malmö, Sweden. Image: Francois Polito, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today on the radio, I heard an announcer say, “Chicago has a higher murder rate than New York and Los Angeles combined.” The compassionate human being in me cringed, and the statistical pedant in me also cringed. What does that mean? When I heard, “New York and Los Angeles combined,” I intuitively thought of combining [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

We Only Need to Fill Out 425 Brackets Each to Win Buffett’s Billion

Will your bracket be a slam dunk? Image: Acid Pix, via flickr.

Warren Buffett’s Bracket Challenge* has put even more of a spotlight than usual on March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament. Buffett has offered a billion dollars to anyone who correctly predicts the outcome of all 63 games in the tournament. There are 2 possible outcomes of every game and therefore 263— 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, or about [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

Has Anyone Ever Flipped Heads 76 Times in a Row?

What are the odds? Image: Evelyn Lamb

Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead begins with one of them, Guildenstern (or is it Rosencrantz?), flipping coins. “Heads,” Rosencrantz says, and takes the coin. Guildenstern flips again. “Heads,” Rosencrantz says, and takes the coin. Another flip. “Heads.” Again, “Heads.” Soon we find out that Guildenstern has flipped 76 coins, and all [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

When Numbers Are Used for a Witch Hunt

One of the original Victorian Courtrooms at the Galleries of Justice Museum. Image: Fayerollinson, via Wikimedia Commons.

I recently finished the excellent book Math on Trial by Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez. In it, the authors collect examples where statistical errors have possibly altered the outcome of trials. This weekend I’ll be on a panel about using statistics in science writing, and while the book looked at numbers in the courtroom, many [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

Sex Makes You Rich? Why We Keep Saying “Correlation Is Not Causation” Even Though It’s Annoying

Sex and money: the Bearina IUD, a conceptual intrauterine device design that would incorporate a (thoroughly cleaned, I hope) copper coin. One of the most effective forms of reversible contraception is the copper IUD. Image: Ronen Kadushin

On Saturday, my Twitter feed alerted me to a totally non-sensationalistic Gawker article called More Buck For Your Bang: People Who Have More Sex Make The Most Money. “Scientists in the adonis-laden European country [Germany] found that people who have sex more than four times a week receive a 3.2 percent higher paycheck than those [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

Mathematicians Predict What’s in Your Wallet

It's all about the Washingtons. And that smiley face button. Image: flickr user xJason.Rogersx

When I go to Europe, my pockets rapidly fill up with change. In addition to language barriers that prevent me from quickly understanding how much I owe, I have trouble dealing with the unfamiliar coin denominations. The best way to make 75 cents is to use a fifty cent piece, one twenty, and a five, [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

March Madness Math: Are the “Dreaded Middle Seeds” So Bad?

March Madness always sneaks up on me. I mean, I know that March has started because my dad’s birthday and my wedding anniversary are right at the beginning of the month, but I always end up scrambling to make my NCAA basketball tournament picks the day before games start. Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg has taken the [...]

Keep reading »
Roots of Unity

How Should We Write about Statistics in Public?

I am exited to be attending ScienceOnline in Raleigh, North Carolina later this week. And I’m even more excited to be co-moderating two sessions! One of them, at noon on Thursday, will be about Public Statistics. Hilda Bastian, my partner in crime, has written a cartoon introduction to our session, and I’ve been trying to think of what [...]

Keep reading »
Talking back

Statistical Flaw Punctuates Brain Research in Elite Journals

Neuroscientists need a statistics refresher. That is the message of a new analysis in Nature Neuroscience that shows that more than half of 314 articles on neuroscience in elite journals   during an 18-month period failed to take adequate measures to ensure that statistically significant study results were not, in fact, erroneous. Consequently, at  least some [...]

Keep reading »

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >

X

Email this Article

X