Statistics and dance!

January 14, 2014

Never quite got the hang of some of those pesky statistical concepts? Help is at hand. There are a series of videos that explain what you need to know… through dance. Here’s one explaining sampling and standard error. Have a look:

Fantasy factoids

May 18, 2010

A factoid is something that looks like a fact but which is usually invented. It often gains credibility from being in print. Indeed some claim that when a factoid has been in the quality press five times it actually becomes a ‘fact’! Sounds a bit far fetched to me, and the five-times business is probably a factoid in itself. Here is a typical list…

Time and motion experts have established that over the average life span of 74.5 years we spend:

  • 7 years in the bathroom
  • 5 years waiting in queues
  • 1 year searching for ‘lost’ objects
  • 8 months opening junk mail
  • 5 months talking to call-centres

This list was widely quoted but I have made one of the facts up, can you guess which? Also there is something decidely fishy about the times quoted for most of these activities. Try converting them to the amount of time spent each day.

Photo credit: Suat Eman/

How to beat the odds

April 11, 2010

Fascinating stuff probability, get your head round this: Generally speaking when you make a choice it can be a good one, a middling (average) one or a bad one. And it follows that if you have nothing else to go on your chance of making a below average choice is one in three. However if you assess an opportunity and reject it, and accept the next opportunity that is at least as good as the one you rejected, your chance of making a below average choice is now one in nine (a one-in-three followed by another one-in-three). And turning it the other way up, looking at above average choices, this approach must improve your chances of making a good call. In fact if the opportunity you rejected was above average then you are bound to make a good choice. And working through all the other combinations, without using the ‘assess it & reject it’ approach, your chances of making a below average or any other choice are stuck at one-in-three; whereas with the ‘rule’, as there is more than one way of making a good choice, your chances of making a good one are now six-in-nine. So using this approach your overall chance of making a good choice has doubled…

PS: This only works when you can learn something about the relative merits of different choices. Sadly it will not help you win the Lottery.

Duff statistics

April 1, 2010

A House of Commons research team has concluded that watching sport and playing sport are not the same thing. A bit of a problem as one of the justifications for hosting the 2012 Olympics was that we would all become obsessed with sport: doing it that is. But it turns out this isn’t right, despite the Government adding some rather dubious sports to the list. For example, more people mowing the lawn or walking the dog are signs that we are taking this whole Olympics thing seriously. You think I’m kidding don’t you… That reminds me I must take the dog hurdling.


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