// archives

Numerical Op-Ed

This category contains 8 posts

A Mathematical Model Makes Predictions. That’s it.

It bugs me no end when I hear “the model shows…”  In science evidence is the only thing that “shows” anything.  The only thing worse is “the model proves…”  That’s like asking for directions then turning to your passenger and saying “that proves it: the only way to get from here to there is that [...]

Teach about confirmation bias. Please.

I am on a mission to spread the news of this transformational (yes!) exercise for all teachers of all subjects, but especially scientists. It is called the Wason* 2-4-6 Task, (I’ve seen it referred to as the 2-4-8 test). It is the best exercise I’ve ever seen for demonstrating the perils of confirmation bias.  It [...]

The Patriots, the Nobel Laureate, and the power of uncertainty

Chemistry Nobel Laureate Roderick MacKinnon has done a wonderful (by which I mean numerically sound) analysis of the analysis of the Patriots’ footballs.  This is yet another example of the cost of not understanding uncertainty:  was it $2 million?  If Brady would like me to teach him, I’ll take a mere half of that. Analysis of [...]

Effect and substance, not p

There is an excellent resource by Paul Ellis at: http://effectsizefaq.com where I just clicked on http://effectsizefaq.com/2010/05/30/how-do-researchers-confuse-statistical-with-substantive-significance/ This page talks about the problem with p-level being the be-all and end-all of way too many scientific studies.  You might be aware that there is discussion about this in the scientific literature.  (I think statisticians deserve prizes for [...]

Graphing advice

How to Make Truly Terrible Graphs: A Tutorial David L. Streiner, special guest contributor and co-author of excellent statistics texts Part 1 – Introduction   In 1968, when I was writing up my doctoral thesis, I needed to make some graphs showing how the different groups changed over time under various conditions. There were no [...]

Kill My Book

Flashy new techniques get a lot of press, sometimes deservedly so:  technical breakthroughs often lead to breakthroughs in understanding as well.  But in the struggle for game-changing insights and the fame (funding) they bring, the tried, and more importantly true, gets lost in the shuffle.  The person who has to teach the intro class is pitied, [...]

Bayes explained very nicely

http://meandering-through-mathematics.blogspot.com/2011/05/bayesian-theory.html I found this link to be a very helpful description of Bayes’ theorem.    

Great Stats Blog Site

A recent post on the Simply Statistics blog takes on a sort-of-hot topic in statistics: what errors actually matter, and how are they best quantified and reported when you are using statistics to infer something about a population.  Best, in this case, means best at making accurate predictions.  The two camps are the Frequentists and the [...]

Birth of the Blog

This blog, like the book Lab Math from which it springs (incompletely formed), will be about numbers. I will endeavor to:

1. showcase the basic and the practical, not the challenging or even the advanced;

2.. provide straightforward guidance for the unenthusiastic (“just do it exactly this way”);

3.. provide refreshers for those needing refreshment (whether they know it or not.)