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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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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 [...]

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