statistics

This year's PISA results have caused predictable headlines, but do the statistics add up?

In the previous article we looked at a psychological study which claims to provide evidence that certain types of extra-sensory perception exist, using a statistical method called significance testing. But do the results of the study really justify this conclusion?

In March 2011 a highly respected psychology journal published a paper claiming to provide evidence for extra-sensory perception (ESP). The claim was based largely on the results of a very common statistical procedure called significance testing. The experiments provide an excellent way into looking at how significance testing works and at what's problematic about it.

How many people died? It's one of the first questions asked in a war or violent conflict, but it's one of the hardest to answer. In the chaos of war many deaths go unrecorded and all sides have an interest in distorting the figures. The best we can do is come up with estimates, but the trouble is that different statistical methods for doing this can produce vastly different results . So how do we know how different methods compare?

Probabilities and statistics: they are everywhere, but they are hard to understand and can be counter-intuitive. So what's the best way of communicating them to an audience that doesn't have the time, desire, or background to get stuck into the numbers? This article explores modern visualisation techniques and finds that the right picture really can be worth a thousand words.

As the Wimbledon 2011 Championships hove into view, memories will be reawakened of the match of epic proportions that took place last year between the American John Isner and the Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. So just how freaky was their titanic fifth set and what odds might a bookmaker offer for a repeat?

Insurance companies offer protection against rare but catastrophic events like hurricanes or earthquakes. But how do they work out the financial risks associated to these disasters? Shane Latchman investigates.

By cleverly cross-referencing different databases it can be possible for evil adversaries to reveal intimate information about individuals. Given that it's hard these days to keep your details off these databases, what can be done to protect privacy? We talk to Cynthia Dwork from Microsoft, whose talk at the ICM showcases some mathematical tools to keep our details safe.

How do you judge the risks and benefits of new medical treatments, or of lifestyle choices? With a finite health care budget, how do you decide which treatments should be made freely available on the NHS? Historically, decisions like these have been made on the basis of doctors' individual experiences with how these treatments perform, but over recent decades the approach to answering these questions has become increasingly rational.
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