Posts filed under Blogs (16)

December 31, 2012


  • Merriam-Webster gives their most-searched words of 2012.  At the top, “capitalism” and “socialism”, especially during the US election and the health insurance debates.  As Fred Clark points out, this means a depressingly large number of Americans were constructing political arguments of the form “According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, X is defined as …” 
  • FakeAPStyleBook on Twitter advises journalists: “When quoting from a news release, pick the most nonsensical sentences to let people know what it’s like to have to read those things.” 
  • Almost 75% of Kiwis oppose testing ‘legal highs’ on animals.  It would be interesting to know the figure among those who think these drugs should be legal and regulated.  If you think they should be comprehensively banned or, at the other extreme, just left alone, then presumably you would be against requiring animal tests.
  • In the same Herald survey, 29% were against animal testing for any purpose whatsoever.  That’s a slightly higher level of opposition to modern medicine than I would have expected.
  • Stuff had a good story about celebrity bad science, from the UK charity Sense About Science
December 17, 2012


  • A zombie story:  Stuff has an opinion piece about chocolate and intelligence, based on the joke article in the New England Journal of Medicine back in October. We covered what was wrong with it then, and showed that you get better correlation with the number of letters in the country’s name than with chocolate consumption.  [Update: the piece is really from an Australian publication, with a light makeover for the Kiwi audience.]
  • A better joke.  An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looks at the impact on clinical trials if the world ends on December 21, as the Mayan calendar does not give the slightest suggestion will happen.
  • Language Log examines the inability of journalists around the world to get the basic numbers right in reporting a study on water chlorination and allergies (a story that the NZ media seem to have had the good sense not to pick up).
  • “Good data-driven journalism both publishes as much data as possible, and uses the data to drive conclusions, rather than simply dropping numbers into a foreordained article.”  Felix Salmon, complaining about a New York Times story.
  • The American Statistical Association has a new prize for “Causality in Statistics Education”, aimed at encouraging the teaching of basic causal inference in introductory statistics courses.
October 4, 2012

Science communication training through blogging

Mind the Science Gap is a blog from the University of Michigan:

Each semester, ten Master of Public Health students from the University of Michigan participate in a course on Communicating Science through Social Media. Each student on the course is required to post weekly articles here as they learn how to translate complex science into something a broad audience can understand and appreciate. And in doing so they are evaluated in the most brutal way possible – by you: the audience they are writing for!

The post that attracted me to the blog was on sugar and hyperactivity in kids, not just for the science, but because someone has actually found a good use for animated GIFs in communicating information: click to see the effect, since embedding it in WordPress seems to kill it.

Citizen Statistician

Citizen Statistician is a new blog from Rob Gould and others at the Department of Statistics, UCLA. The blog discusses statistics in the age of the “Data Deluge”, an age in which data are large, complex, everywhere visible, accessible, and where data analysis tools are available to everyone.

To date, they’ve been discussing how to get personal Fit Bit data and Yelp data.

We’ve also added the blog to our list of recommended sites down the sidebar of Stats Chat.

August 13, 2012

What Wells actually said, in context

The aphorism that adorns StatsChat is actually a paraphrase, by the statistician Samuel Wilks in a 1951 speech, of what H.G. Wells wrote.  The full paragraph from Wells’  Mankind in the Making (1904) is

Modern, too, is the development of efficient mathematical teaching; so modern that for too many schools it is still a thing of tomorrow. The arithmetic (without Arabic numerals, be it remembered) and the geometry of the mediaeval quadrivium were astonishingly clumsy and ineffectual instruments in comparison with the apparatus of modern mathematical method. And while the mathematical subjects of the quadrivium were taught as science and for their own sakes, the new mathematics is a sort of supplement to language, affording a means of thought about form and quantity and a means of expression, more exact, compact, and ready than ordinary language. The great body of physical science, a great deal of the essential fact of financial science, and endless social and political problems are only accessible and only thinkable to those who have had a sound training in mathematical analysis, and the time may not be very remote when it will be understood that for complete initiation as an efficient citizen of one of the new great complex world-wide states that are now developing, it is as necessary to be able to compute, to think in averages and maxima and minima, as it is now to be able to read and write. This development of mathematical teaching is only another aspect of the necessity that is bringing the teaching of drawing into schools, the necessity that is so widely, if not always very intelligently perceived, of clearheadedness about quantity, relative quantity, and form, that our highly mechanical, widely extended, and still rapidly extending environments involve.

In 1904, it was reasonable to describe the analytic techniques needed to make `endless social and political problems’ accessible and to achieve `clearheadedness about quantity, relative quantity, and form’ as “mathematics”.  Today we would usually call these “statistics”, although “numeracy”, or “don’t they teach you anything in school these days” would also be possible translations.

It’s also worth emphasizing, for the benefit of those seeing change and decay in all around, that teaching these basic calculating and thinking techniques in public schools was something Wells was proposing as a major reform in education.

October 11, 2011

The Best Statistics Blogs of 2011

Here’s a great collection of 50 statistics blogs which were chosen, amongst other factors, for being nice and accessible to non-statisticians. We also have a list of blogs in our sidebar which has many in common with theirs.

(Of course, we’d love to see Stats Chat included in their list next year! Help us spread the word too.)