It's back to school season, and at my house that's already meant a lot of math. Both of my kids are taking quantitative science courses along with math courses, so every few nights I'm getting to help with math-related homework of one sort or another. It's an interesting opportunity to see what I remember and don't remember from when I took those classes, and what comes easier with more experience and what doesn't. Fundamental principles seem to stick better than specific techniques. For example, I helped my son with a … [Read more...] about Science Corner: Back to Math Class

# statistics

## Science Corner: One Is The Likeliest Number

Take a list of numbers. Maybe it's your lab's itemized expenses, or the prices from a week's grocery shopping, or a list of values for physical constants. Look at just the leading digit of all those numbers. So if the number is $1.59 then you get a 1, or if it's 3.14 then you get a 3, and so forth. Now count up all the 1s, 2s, 3s, etc. What do you expect you'll find? Are you imagining a roughly equal amount of each of the nine possible digits? If so, you are in good company, because that's a common expectation. But … [Read more...] about Science Corner: One Is The Likeliest Number

## Science in Review: “Prediction is hard, especially about the future”

SS asks: What makes statistical modeling different from, say, new age methods of trying to predict the future? If you live on the east coast of the United States and paid any attention to the news in the past week, you couldn't get away from statistical models. There are US models & European models, all trying to answer the same questions: How much snow will fall, in what cities, and when? I live north of Pittsburgh, on the outer edge of this particular storm's path. One day the models said the storm was tracking … [Read more...] about Science in Review: “Prediction is hard, especially about the future”

## Science Reader Question: The Human Touch

What makes statistical modeling different from, say, new age methods of trying to predict the future? Foretelling the birth of a child to a young woman used to be the domain of angels, but a few years ago the statistical models at Target started making those predictions too. When a teenager received diaper coupons in the mail, her father was outraged, then chagrined when it turned out Target knew more about his daughter than he did. … [Read more...] about Science Reader Question: The Human Touch

## Science Reader Question: So You’d Like to Win a $1.5B Jackpot

SS asks: What makes statistical modeling different from, say, new age methods of trying to predict the future? When the multi-state lottery jackpots reach staggering 10 digit totals, someone in my office will organize a lottery pool. And because I'm the closest thing we have to a statistician, they hope I'll pick the numbers. The request is made with a dismissive chuckle, yet underlined with hope that I really can crack the lottery code. Unfortunately, expecting statistics to tell you winning numbers is asking the … [Read more...] about Science Reader Question: So You’d Like to Win a $1.5B Jackpot