Statistics

68 posts
Vaccine researchers discard the start-at-zero rule

I struggled to decide on which blog to put this post. The reality is it bridges the graphical and analytical sides of me. But I ultimately placed it on the dataviz blog because that's where today's story starts. Data visualization has few set-in-stone rules. If pressed for one, I'd likely cite the "start-at-zero" rule, which has featured regularly on Junk Charts (here, here, and here, for example). This rule only...

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Definition of an algorithm

Oftentimes we see “algorithms” referenced in various contexts, but the definition of an algorithm is often unclear. For MIT Technology Review, Kristian Lum describes what an “algorithm” means these days: In statistics and machine learning, we usually think of the algorithm as the set of instructions a computer executes to learn from data. In these fields, the resulting structured information is typically called a model. The information the computer learns...

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About that one-year decline in life expectancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that said life expectancy decreased by a full year in 2020. While the calculation is correct, the interpretation and message from that number is more challenging. For STAT, Peter B. Bach provides context to the measurement: Don’t blame the method. It’s a standard one that over time has been a highly useful way of understanding how our efforts in public...

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AI-generated candy hearts

Continuing her annual tradition, Janelle Shane trained various AI models to generate two-word-all-caps love messages for those chalky Valentine’s Day candy hearts. So deep. So profound. See also Shane’s experiment with generating hearts for somewhat creepy results, as AI often likes to do. Tags: candy, heart, Janelle Shane, neural network

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Living in Data

I’m also looking forward to Jer Thorp’s Living in Data, which comes out later this year but is available for pre-order: In this provocative book, Thorp brings his work as a data artist to bear on an exploration of our current and future relationship with data, transcending facts and figures to find new, more visceral ways to engage with data. Threading a data story through hippo attacks, glaciers, and school...

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The Art of Statistics

While we’re on the topic of Statistics books for the general public, David Spieglhalter’s The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data is also on my reading list. In The Art of Statistics, world-renowned statistician David Spiegelhalter shows readers how to derive knowledge from raw data by focusing on the concepts and connections behind the math. Drawing on real world examples to introduce complex issues, he shows us how...

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The Data Detective

Tim Harford has a new book coming out tomorrow called The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics. Today we think statistics are the enemy, numbers used to mislead and confuse us. That’s a mistake, Tim Harford says in The Data Detective. We shouldn’t be suspicious of statistics—we need to understand what they mean and how they can improve our lives: they are, at heart, human behavior...

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Even with vaccine, probably shouldn’t rush into easing up on restrictions

With vaccines, we might be tempted to jump back into “normal” life before it’s really safe. The New York Times reports on why waiting until March instead of February might be the way to. This is based on estimates from Columbia University researchers, and you can read the preprint here (pdf) by Jeffrey Shaman et al. We’ve come this far already… Tags: Columbia University, coronavirus, model, New York Times, vaccine

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A beautiful curve and its deadly misinterpretation

When the preliminary analyses of their Phase 3 trials came out , vaccine developers pleased their audience of scientists with the following data graphic: The above was lifted out of the FDA briefing document for the Pfizer / Biontech vaccine. Some commentators have honed in on the blue line for the vaccinated arm of the Pfizer trial. Since the vertical axis shows cumulative number of cases, it is noted that...

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Random number generation with lava lamps

Tom Scott explains how Cloudflare uses a wall of lava lamps to generate random numbers. A video camera is pointed at the wall, and the movement in the lamps plus noise from the video provides randomness, which is used to secure websites. Even though computers can do many things on their own, they still need help from the physical world for true unpredictability. The robot overlords aren’t here yet. Tags:...

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