Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Why you should call your kid 'Loser'
For someone who doesn't read books, I still managed to take in a few chapters of this great book on why things happen from a statistical point of view. The book, titled Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is a great read, even though I haven't read the whole thing. A fundamental issue with most statistics is that they can lie! How many times have you heard that a recent survey discovered that coffee is good for you, and then see another survey discover how bad it is later? Unfortunately, too many people in our society take sureys and studies too seriously without thinking about other explainations for the perceived outcome. The statistics themselves don't lie, but often enough, the interpretation is often skewed to match the desired conclusion (Hopefully, you've figured out that the Smoking doesn't cause lung cancer studies sponsored by the tobacco companies are indeed false!). Before you believe any other study in your life, remember this phrase Correllation is not Causation. What does this mean? Well, just because you see two separate things happening together, it doesn't always mean that one caused the other to happen. Sometimes there is a third reason that something happens and those two incidents are the side effect. This concept is fundamental to every statistician in the world, yet oblivious to the general population. This book shows that to really understand the world, you really have to see it from all sorts of angles. Although nobody's perfect, a good statistician must test all possible factors to a situation before interpreting their outcomes. The book shows us how we really should be getting out studies from the 5 o'clock news, but never do.
Posted by Sarit at 6:11 PM