Statistics

2013 International Year of Statistics

2013 is the International Year of Statistics! What, you didn’t know??? It’s actually pretty cool: there are nearly 2000 organizations – universities, government agencies, schools, societies and research institutions – from over 120 countries participating in the activities. Here’s a map (from Smith College students Sarah Alper and Brittany Claiborne): What’s great is the diversity

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Measuring the Immeasurable?

In statistics, we draw conclusions from data. But to get data, we need to be able to measure the variable(s) that we are interested in. Measuring can be very crude (say, a trait is absent or present) or rather sophisticated (the expression levels of large numbers of genes). In the social sciences or in medicine,

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The Hot Hand

The hot hand is a term used in basketball to describe a player making a series of successful throws at the basket, i.e., getting “hot”. But it seems that we, as humans, are too fast at jumping at the conclusion that someone is “hot” just because we saw some impressive streak of successes in a

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Like Risk? Be an Actuary!

Do you like risk? Or, more precisely, do you like to assess and quantify risk and put a price on it (the premium that insurance collects)? If yes, consider becoming an actuary. This profession almost always makes the top 10 in the various best jobs lists (like this one, which also includes mathematicians and statisticians, both

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Mathematics and the Iranian Elections

One of the many things I love about mathematics is that results initially discovered in one realm pop up in surprising places. A terrific example is Benford’s law of digit bias (those taking Math 341 in the fall will get to learn a lot more about this!). Benford’s law says that for many data sets,

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Adverse Events: Making Sense of Drug Ads and Labels

Recent concerns of serious side effects in drugs (culminating in the withdrawals of blockbuster drugs such as Merck’s Vioxx) have lead to an increased public interest in the safety and toxicity of pharmaceutical products. Drug safety data are commonly included in drug labels or the fine print on the second page of high-gloss magazine advertisements.

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Math is Music

Almost 30 years ago, something happened that made introductory statistics harder to teach. Students didn’t suddenly become less teachable, nor did professors forget their craft. It was that we began to switch from teaching statistics as a mathematics course to teaching the art and craft of statistics as its own discipline. When statistics was viewed as

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