Collecting the data comes first, but then you have to analyze the data.
Any field that collects and analyzes data relies on statistical techniques to make sense of it all. Modern, more accurate methods should supplant the old ways... but in many cases, they haven't yet.
Will he or won’t he hit the bullseye? Using Bayes’ Theorem, your prediction will be based on how the current match is going - and how he’s played in the past.
The decisions we make in life often come down to Bayes' Theorem, but most of us don't even realise what it is. So how does it work?
How risky is it to swim?
We naturally overestimate the risk of rare events, like shark attacks or terrorism. But there are things you can do to think more rationally about the real risk.
When a player’s on fire, is it hot hands?
Basketball image via www.shutterstock.com.
For 30 years, sports fans have been told to forget about streaks because the 'hot hand' is a fallacy. But a reanalysis says not so fast: Statistics show players really are in the zone sometimes.
A perfect night out involves a lot of chance.
Things tend to revert back to their typical state over time, so we should be careful not to mistake that for some other trend.
When is a pack of cards truly random?
Theatre of dreams.
Fixed odds betting terminals attract all the attention, but something alarming is being overlooked.
Polls are best guesses, votes are real.
AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
People around the world were shocked when Hillary Clinton, ahead in many polls, didn't end up the U.S.' president-elect. But that doesn't mean the polls themselves were wrong.
What makes your brain go all-in on what it thinks you’re seeing?
Chips image via www.shutterstock.com.
How does your brain deal with the ambiguous and variable visual information your eyes collect? Neuroscientists think it bets on what's the most likely version of reality.
Pi is at the center of all circles.
We know pi appears when we talk about circles. But it appears in many other places, too. Why, pi, why?
A mathematician looks at the odds.
Why are some pages of a book of numbers tables more dog-eared than others?
Book image via www.shutterstock.com.
The first digits of numbers in a data set aren't distributed equally. And now you know more than a lot of fraudsters do – and should – when they're making up their phony numbers.
Off to nab a would-be criminal?
Preventing crime before it happens, while saving resources, sounds like a great use of big data. But these calculated probabilities raise big questions about civil liberties.
The original 1812 gerrymander district designed to favor Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry.
The gerrymandered district has been part of the US political landscape for two centuries. Impartial math suggests several methods for drawing fair, competitive congressional districts.
This sign might actually be appealing to treasure hunters in the distant future.
Alan English CPA/Flickr
Our natural difficulties in thinking about the future, low probabilities and considering risk make many of our views about nuclear power problematic.
The die is cast, probably.
Unpredictability is omnipresent in life, from dealing playing cards, through contracting an illness or getting promoted, to the rise or fall of equity markets. For those attempting to make the calls on…
The bigger the promises, the bigger the lie.
As notorious weather predictions go, the “barbecue summer” of 2009 is up there with Michael Fish’s dismissal of the incoming 1987 hurricane. The summer turned out to be wet and windy, and questions were…
Maths can help in the hunt for MH370.
EPA/Australian Department of Defence
That the Malaysian government, with the help of the UK’s INMARSAT, was able to dramatically narrow down the search area for flight MH370, made it seem much more likely that the wreckage of the plane might…
We are used to thinking in probabilities: will it be stormy enough to need an umbrella?
In the lead up to the release next month of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report we are exploring concepts of confidence and certainty in climate science. You…
We share a birthday? Really? What are the chances?
How many people do you have to put into a room before you are guaranteed that at least two of them share a birthday? We all know and love the blissful feeling of winning an argument. Well, trust me, that’s…