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The devil is in the detail

On August 2, 2021, the US government announced it had met its goal of 70% vaccinated. But what does that mean? 70% of what? And what does vaccinated mean? Well, they meant that 70% of US adults has received at least one dose of vaccine. That actually means 59% of the population in the United States has received at least one shot (and thereby are fairly well protected against the COVID-19 disease with the possible exception of the delta variant). It corresponds to 69% of those 12 and over (who are eligible for the vaccine in the US). But in terms of the entire population, those fully vaccinated (with one or two doses, depending on the vaccine used) make up 50%. The risk of catching the disease for vaccinated people is relatively low, but much higher for unvaccinated individuals.

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The devil is in the detail
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There’s no evidence that …

More exposure means more opportunities to mutate. More selection pressure means more variants. This is certainly true for COVID-19 and it might also be true for political rhetoric. The many additional news conferences, press briefings and talk radio slots brought on by the pandemic are perfect conditions for breeding new sound bites and rhetorical tricks. Angry journalists and members of the public provide the selection pressure, weeding out the phrases that fall flat.

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There’s no evidence that …
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A year of statisticians reacting to the news

“We don’t exactly have a track record of selling most of our work to the world, do we?” wrote Janine Illian in her 18 May 2021 post, Found in TranslationThis blog is one way we, as a community, can share the value of statistical insights with the world, from making personal decisions to national policies. Just over a year ago, a suggestion within the ISI’s Committee on Public Voice led to the creation of a committee and then the start of this blog. The main purpose of the blog was for statisticians “to share our approach to reading the news, the questions we ask, and the conclusions we make (or don’t make).” 

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A year of statisticians reacting to the news
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Coronavirus baby bust?

Early in the pandemic, people started speculating about potential effects on birth rates. I started talking about news and research that asked the question, “Will coronavirus cause a baby boom, or is that just a myth?” At the time, I ended with a not-so-satisfying “we’ll know in about 9 months.”

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Coronavirus baby bust?
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Data speak louder than words

Nigeria is blessed with both natural and human resources. For this reason, it is often referred to as the giant of Africa. Harnessing these resources to increase the potential of Nigerians through increased employment, quality education and entrepreneurship cannot be down played.

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Data speak louder than words
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Uncertainty is a funny thing: musings on wildfire and COVID

It’s a cliché at this point for news articles to compare COVID spread to a wildfire. But the start of meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere this past week coincides with the start of the north American wildfire season, and COVID still rages across the planet, so bear with me a moment for another take on this metaphor. 

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Uncertainty is a funny thing: musings on wildfire and COVID
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One country’s problem, nobody’s problem, everybody’s problem

When we think about massive migrations and humanitarian crises in the last five to ten years, we probably first picture the migrant waves caused by the conflict in Syria that started in 2011. After 10 years of civil war, 6.6 million people have been forced out of that country, and, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 6.7 million more remain internally displaced. More than 90% of Syrian migrants have found refuge in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Migrants also flee to European countries like Greece, Germany, and Sweden. This unfortunate and sad episode of human suffering might eclipse the second largest migratory movement and humanitarian crisis of recent years: the Venezuelan diaspora.

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One country’s problem, nobody’s problem, everybody’s problem
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Found in translation

We were songbirds, we were Greek Gods

We were singled out by fate

We were quoted out of context – it was great.

Prefab Sprout, “Electric guitars”
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Found in translation
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Where will the rocket land?

“No, you are almost certainly not going to be hit by a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a rocket hurtling back to Earth. That said, the chances are not zero.”  Thus The New York Times on May 6 writing about the impending reentry of the first stage of the Chinese CZ-5B rocket, which had been launched the day before to test a spacecraft prototype.  Unlike most rockets sent into orbit these days, which are designed to either burn up in the atmosphere or land in the ocean, this rocket stage would experience an “uncontrolled re-entry” and crash in an unknown location.

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Where will the rocket land?
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Peanut butter, anyone?

There is a lot of talk about how this ghastly pandemic is affecting the economy. The other day, I came across an article in the The New York Times which focused on one facet of this topic: inflation in the UK. Forecasting inflation right now is difficult because of the pandemic: sudden changes in consumer spending, disruptions in supply chains, and government interventions ameliorate its effects.

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Peanut butter, anyone?