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Originally posted to Grundstuffe on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking and Community Spotlight.

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My Familiarity with Statistics is:

9%19 votes
36%70 votes
43%84 votes
9%18 votes

| 191 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  And sure enough, according to the 2005 CIA ... (16+ / 0-)

    World Factbook, the sex ratio at birth in Liechtenstein was 1.01 males to 1.00 females, which is slightly fewer males than would be predicted.  This is probably just random statistical noise, but my favorite example of correlation emphatically not proving causation (because of confounding variables) was provided by a professor at Johns Hopkins medical school.  He said you could "prove" statistically that, at least in Maryland, eating crabs made people's skin get darker, and eating oysters made their skin get lighter.  (At least that would be the case were it not for the fact that crabs are mostly eaten in the summer, and that oyster season is exclusively in months ending with the letter "r.")

    Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

    by leevank on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:44:14 PM PDT

  •  And sure enough, according to the 2005 CIA ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112, ban nock, HeyMikey

    World Factbook, the sex ratio at birth in Liechtenstein was a slightly lower than expected 1.01 males to 1.00 females.  It's really embarrassing that the Smithsonian would run this without any reference to its statistical significance, or lack thereof.

    Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

    by leevank on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:47:18 PM PDT

  •  As I like to say (14+ / 0-)

    it would be a very big coincidence if there never was a coincidence.

    warning: snark above

    by NE2 on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 09:03:51 PM PDT

  •  H.L. Mencken (10+ / 0-)

    "The average man does not get pleasure out of an idea because he thinks it is true; he thinks it is true because he gets pleasure out of it."

  •  I took a year of statistics and it has been (9+ / 0-)

    Perhaps the most valuable course I took. Not because I used it in my work but because it enables me to evaluate all sorts of information by being able to see if variables are left out, sample size, etc. when looking at studies, be they medical, political, economic, etc. Just being aware that correlation is not causation is important in many cases. And certainly understanding that if something has a 95% probability, that means that sometimes the other 5% might show up.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:03:27 AM PDT

    •  Tell Your Instructor (8+ / 0-)

      If one of my students were to write and say something like this, I would be the happiest man alive.  It would be evidence that I had done something valuable in my life.

      Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

      by alain2112 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 08:54:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was 30 years ago and I no longer live in (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alain2112, Wee Mama, Larsstephens

        The same city so I won't be able to tell my instructor that. But you are right, he did something valuable for me.

        You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

        by sewaneepat on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 10:02:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Look him up and send him an email or call him! (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ebohlman, sewaneepat, 2dot, alain2112, Edge PA

          When I was a teenager, I had a doctor who helped me through a very rough patch in my life.  Years later, when I was living halfway across the country, I happened to be in his hometown on business, and called the telephone number listed to his name to thank him.  His wife answered the phone, and said that he had died from injuries in an accident a year or so previously, but she was incredibly gracious and appreciative for the fact that I had thought to try to contact him.

          The best teacher I ever had in my life was a college professor who was a notoriously tough grader for people who didn't really do the work, but who was a GREAT teacher if you were willing to put forth the effort required.  I took three courses from him, got A's in all of them, and I'm convinced that his recommendation got me my first job.  A few years later, I got a call from a student in my former department asking for a donation, and I asked the student whether they had taken any courses from this professor, and how they liked him -- and that I would like to give the professor a call and tell him how important he had been in my life.  The student told me that the professor was currently in the hospital, and very close to death from brain cancer.

          PLEASE, if you have a teacher or other person who has been important in your life, TELL THEM!  It will be important to them, and it will make you feel better than if you wait too long.

          Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

          by leevank on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 09:23:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  you left out an option on your poll (5+ / 0-)

    "never had a class but find them interesting"

    I'm not at all surprised about the Smithsonian. On subjects of interest to me I read everything I can get ahold of, and sometimes even in magazines such as Scientific American I can find glaring mistakes. I wish there were a way to fund peer review articles other than behind a paywall.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:30:32 AM PDT

    •  True (3+ / 0-)

      I think this shows I have spent too much time at university, and I overlook all the autodidacts in this world.

      Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

      by alain2112 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 08:47:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Or, completed statistics courses in college. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alain2112, HeyMikey, ban nock, ebohlman

      . . .Statistics classes were the only math classes really liked in business school. (I think I took three or four. If only there was a drug for my hatred of algebra, I would have enjoyed calculus too. (don't ask me why the algebra in statistics didn't bother me.  Yes i know statistics was interesting.  I was fascinated by distributions.)  

      If we are going to elect Democrats, lets elect real ones!

      by waztec on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 09:16:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In mathematics, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alain2112

        often a topic only "comes alive" when you can find a practical use for it involving something that interests you. The standard conventions for teaching math don't, for the most part, take this into account.

        Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

        by ebohlman on Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 03:19:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  To simplify things, you might want to emphasize (8+ / 0-)

    just how tiny the population of Liechtenstein is (35,000) and how this anecdote portrays the hazards of small sample sizes . .. .

    •  It's not really a small sample size, (5+ / 0-)

      because it's not a sample. It's just small numbers, but it's the whole universe--just a very small universe. Except, of course in the statistical concept that this year's numbers are (or are not) samples dawn from an infinite hypothetical universe.

      "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

      by CitizenJoe on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 08:31:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah OK, good point they didn't sample (4+ / 0-)

        the population, they measured the entire set.

        So I should have said small test size, rather than sample size.

        But in a way, this amplifies my point! (just think how whacked the results would have been if they had just sampled the population!)

        •  True. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alain2112

          "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

          by CitizenJoe on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 08:47:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Seems like small sample size to me. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            alain2112

            They used births in Liechtenstein for one year as proof of pregnancy practices in Europe. Ways the sample could've been bigger:

            * use multiple years

            * use a bigger geographical area (bigger population)

            I'm not a statistician, just a lawyer. Which means I'm expected to sound like I know what I'm talking about, even when I have no friggin' clue. So I hope one of the actual statisticians here will chime in.

            I do know a smidgen about statistics because they are important to a particular kind of case I handle regularly. But only a smidgen.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 10:01:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Small yes, sample, no. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              HeyMikey, alain2112

              If they had taken, say, a random 10% of the births, that would have been a sample.
              But the small number is the critical issue; my objection to the word "sample" is only a quibble. Kinda sorry I mentioned it.

              "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

              by CitizenJoe on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:45:32 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Need to explain random chance variation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112

    A nice explanation of why Lichtenstein is birthing more boys than girls (this year).

    The only thing missing is a discussion of random variation - that there exists some random variation in natural phenomena, and we can expect that the proportion of boy and girl births fluctuates year to year, and some years, we will observe more boys born, and other years we will observe more girls born.

    Understanding that we expect some variation in the proportion of boys and girls born then naturally leads to a discussion of the meaning and utility of the average.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 06:08:04 AM PDT

  •  The author of the Smithsonian article-- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, alain2112

    --really owes the world an update and explanation.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 07:23:57 AM PDT

    •  The explanation seems to be taking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alain2112, Larsstephens

      material unquestioningly out of the "CIA Fact Book"

      (I would have posted that earlier but was laughing too hard at that prime example of irony)

      Or perhaps this is the same Cadre of Smithsonians who thought that sponsoring a Creationist exhibition was a good idea . .. .

      •  Ouch! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        I did not know that there were creationists at the Smithsonian.  It makes sense, upon reflection, as the anti-science types have been remarkably persistent at burrowing their moles into the nation's public intellectual infrastructure.

        Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies have nothing to lose but their chains -Marx (-8.75,-8.36)

        by alain2112 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 09:48:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They claim they were duped . . .. . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alain2112, Larsstephens

          (more or less)

          The controversy over the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's decision to allow a documentary based on "intelligent design" -- the theory that life is so meticulously complex that a divine intelligence must have designed it -- to be played at one of its theaters ended in compromise yesterday: The film will be shown, but the screening fee required by the museum (in this case, $16,000) won't be accepted and the museum will withdraw its customary co-sponsorship.
          •  you are being a wee bit misleading (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens

            The nutter movie was NOT an officially sponsored event of the Smithsonian--the nutters simply rented the Smithsonian's exhibit hall, like any other group can do. The Smithsonian did not make the movie, did not endorse it, and did not have anything whatever to do with its contents.  All the Smithsonian did was rent the exhibit hall to the movie's exhibitors.

            •  OK, the block quote was clearly too long (0+ / 0-)

              for you to get all the way to the end (sorry!!) so I'll re-paste the relevant part:

              The film will be shown, but the screening fee required by the museum (in this case, $16,000) won't be accepted and the museum will withdraw its customary co-sponsorship.
              The point being that the film at one time was co-sponsored by the Smithsonian.  After a large outcry, they wormed and wiggled their way out of that.

              And no, they didn't even rent the room, again the blurb I gave said they didn't take the $$s.  Not sure if it's possible to rent something for $0.  That's more like giving it away for free.

              •  I read it just fine (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Larsstephens

                It's still misleading.  The Smithsonian was just renting out the theater.  It does that for anyone who asks.

                The part of the article that specifies this:

                In April, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to advocating intelligent design, asked the Smithsonian for permission to screen the hour-long documentary for a private viewing and reception. The museum often rents out its theaters -- as long as the content of the material screened is not religious or political. . . .

                Like any other event at the venue, it would be technically "co-sponsored" by the Smithsonian.

              •  now I wonder if you are unable to read (0+ / 0-)
                And no, they didn't even rent the room, again the blurb I gave said they didn't take the $$s.  Not sure if it's possible to rent something for $0.  That's more like giving it away for free.
                Umm, the reason they refused the money was to disassociate themselves from the film--a film they did not produce and did not agree with:
                "We have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research," said a museum statement.  . . .

                In its statement yesterday, the Smithsonian said it will honor the agreement to screen the film June 23, but that it does not endorse the film and will not accept the agreed-upon fee offered for the auditorium.

                There is nothing anywhere in any Smithsonian museum that is in any way shape or form sympathetic to creationism.  Nowhere.  Nothing. At all.
                •  As I mentioned in the very first post, I never (0+ / 0-)

                  implicated the Smithsonian as a whole of being pro-Creationist or anti-Evolution.

                  But clearly, as I said right at the top, there was a group of people that had somehow infiltrated the organization that allowed and enabled creationists to take over the agenda, to the extent that the institute co-sponsored a pro-Creationist film.

                  Which isn't all that surprising considering that this occurred during the Bush Administration.

                  However, I'm concerned that the Obama administration has not been at all vigilant at rooting out all the Bush-implanted Creationists (the same problem exists in the Justice department, EPA, etc, etc of course).

        •  I can assure you with 100% confidence, there is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          absolutely nothing anywhere in the Smithsonian that is in any way even remotely supportive or sympathetic to creationists.

          There is a HUGE display hall that focuses solely on the evolution of humans, the "David H Koch Hall of Human Origins" (yes, THAT "David H Koch"). Throughout the museum, in every section are signs depicting and explaining the effects of evolution on life past and present. The museum bookstore has several titles debunking creationism.

          The entire place is one big fat "fuck you" to creationism.

  •  THANK YOU. Innumeracy is a POLITICAL problem. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112, Larsstephens, Dbug, ebohlman

    Too few people thinking mathematically is a significant reason why they fail to grasp many important political truths. Like:

    * Food Stamps and foreign aid do not contribute significantly to the deficit.

    * Declining GDP, and corresponding declining tax revenues, can increase the deficit more than spending cuts reduce it.

    * When 99% of scientists conclude global warming is caused by people and is dangerous, it's foolish to disagree.

    On and on.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 10:07:25 AM PDT

  •  Third possibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112, Tim DeLaney

    Something odd might be the result of selection

    Something odd might be the result of statistical variance.

    Something odd might be the result of skewed sampling.

    To give you an example of the third possibility.
    The census reliably reports significantly more married women than married men.
    they ain't  or divorced, those are different columns.
    I strongly doubt bigamists. The result, after all, come from household surveys. "Don't put my name down on the form, dear. I'm down on the form with my other wife," doesn't sound very likely.

    So what is the reason?

  •  I've been reading Nate Silver's Book, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112, Edge PA

    "The Signal and the Noise -- Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't." There's some math, but it's not very hard for me (and I'm thinking I need to learn some more statistics). I wonder if the internet has any information about statistical analysis.

    I'm about halfway through the book. He's covered a variety of topics about predicting the future. There's a chunk about predicting which minor league baseball players will become major league stars (and which ones won't). Then there's a chunk about predicting the weather (which is a task that requires major computing power and lots of data). Nowadays, we can track hurricanes and predict where they'll make landfall with much better accuracy than in the really old days (when Galveston was almost wiped out).

    By the way, Silver is the guy whose website Fivethirtyeight.com predicted the results of the last presidential election and because of his website, he was hired by the NY Times (and I know that, in the Senate, he missed North Dakota and maybe one other race). He's a very smart guy. And he once made posts about politics on Daily Kos, which he mentions in the book.

    It's an excellent explanation of using statistics to predict the future. But I haven't finished reading it yet.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 08:05:23 PM PDT

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