Blog Archives

Some statistics about nutrition statistics

May 26, 2015
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I only read nutrition studies in the service of this blog but otherwise, I don't trust them or care. Nevertheless, the health beat of most media outlets is obsessed with printing the latest research on coffee or eggs or fats or alcohol or what have you. Now, the estimable John Ioannidis has published an editorial in BMJ titled "Implausible Results in Human Nutrition Research". John previously told us about the…

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Should I tell students that the maximum score in the class is 137?

May 22, 2015
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This op-ed by Richard Thaler caught my attention because I have a similar experience. In my statistics classes, I have noticed a pattern: if the mid-term exam is hard, with a lower average score (say 75-80%), the students look crestfallen and feel that they did not learn; eventually, when it comes to evaluating the instructor, I receive lower grades, with comments indicating that I have not taught them properly to…

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Shaking up expectations for pension benefits

May 20, 2015
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Shaking up expectations for pension benefits

Ted Ballachine wrote me about his website Pension360 pointing me to a recent attempt at visualizing pension benefits in various retirement systems in the state of Illinois. The link to the blog post is here. One of the things they...

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Five Not-to-be-Missed Ideas about Big Data

May 18, 2015
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If I believed in upvoting, I would be clicking my fingers bent on this op-ed article that appeared in the New York Times at the beginning of May. It's written by "data scientists" at Facebook and Google. (Thanks Dean Eckles for drawing my attention to it!) Here are a list of important ideas not to be missed: The things we can measure are never exactly what we care about When…

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Talking past the consumer on customer data

May 12, 2015
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I mentioned the Harvard Business Review article on business use of customer data in the "Big Data" era. In the previous post, I looked at the nature of the evidence used by the authors. In this post, ignoring my discomfort with some of the evidence, I examine the conclusions of the article. *** The report has a three-part structure: the first section describes the issues; the second section communicates results…

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But or because more information

May 11, 2015
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But or because more information

Wall Street Journal uses this paired bar chart to show the favorable/unfavorable ratings of potential GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential elections. (link to original) This chart form is fine. From this chart, we can easily see which candidates have...

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Deflategate 3: nature of evidence

May 7, 2015
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Deflategate 3: nature of evidence

Last time we heard about Deflategate on this blog, Warren Sharp compiled some statistics on fumble rates, showing that the Patriots were unusually good at avoiding fumbles. (link, link) I thought the level of analysis was "above average" and remarked that statistical evidence of this type can only get you so far. The metric is indirect, and it does not speak to causation. The official investigators have now issued their…

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Putting a final touch on Bloomberg’s terrific chart of social movements

May 7, 2015
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Putting a final touch on Bloomberg’s terrific chart of social movements

My friend Rhonda D. wins a prize for submitting a good chart. This is Bloomberg's take on the current Supreme Court case on gay marriage (link). Their designer places this movement in the context of prior social movements such as...

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Story time, known unknowns and the endowment effect in an HBR article on customer data

May 6, 2015
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Story time, known unknowns and the endowment effect in an HBR article on customer data

Harvard Business Review devotes a long article to customer data privacy in the May issue (link). The article raises important issues, such as the low degree of knowledge about what data are being collected and traded, the value people place on their data privacy, and so on. In a separate post, I will discuss why I don't think the recommendations issued by the authors will resolve the issues they raised.…

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Painting the full picture of the employment situation

May 5, 2015
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Painting the full picture of the employment situation

It's very frustrating to read the mainstream articles about the recent unemployment report. For example, the New York Times said "U.S. Jobless Claims Hit 15-year Low." (link) At this point, everyone should be aware of how employment statistics, in particular,...

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