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Significant fitness

Last September, in my efforts to recover from a knee injury, I hired a personal trainer.  When we made the original plan, it ended on 31 December 2021 and he added the slogan “New Year, New You” to the plan. It’s the new year and, thankfully, big progress. I just committed for another three months and I’m really looking forward to every single upcoming workout. It’s fun! However, like many new things, there are new insights and … surprise surprise, some are statistical.

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Significant fitness
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Candy cane shortages and the importance of variation

It’s the holiday season in much of the world, and this year that means not just early sunsets and school breaks but also supply chain woes.  Everything, from puzzles and hot sauce to peppermint candy canes, is in short supply this month, as the global economy struggles to get items from point A to point B.

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Candy cane shortages and the importance of variation
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Horror aequi …

…or fear of repeating a word is very common in the media. It’s a journalistic compulsion that is detrimental to clear communication and understanding – but easy to avoid.

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Horror aequi …
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How typical is a “median person”?

Last week, references to a “median person” showed up enough times in my life to spur me to write this post.  I think the use of an “average person” is still more popular, but this “median person” seems to be gaining popularity too.  Regardless, as attached to a person, the concept is essentially the same – it’s an appealing way to take a collection of averages (or medians) calculated for each of many measured characteristics and conceptually construct a new individual, as least hypothetically. The question that doesn’t get asked enough — Who, if anyone, does an individual constructed in this way actually “look” like?  

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How typical is a “median person”?
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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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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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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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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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Numbers and their baggage

Numbers often get the spotlight in news stories.  Sometimes they deserve the front stage as valuable information describing a situation that would be hard, if not impossible, to adequately capture without them.  But, they can also easily mislead.  All numbers in the news come with baggage. For some numbers, the baggage is out in the open like a carry on, but for many it is of unknown form, size, and weight – and hidden deep in the baggage compartment.

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Numbers and their baggage
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How to save yourself using a bit of logic and statistics

Logical versus emotional motives. Perceptions versus observed numbers. We are always facing a fight between two sides of the same coin. When we feel anxious, scared, or worried, we look for certainty. Several examples arise in day-life activities. 

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How to save yourself using a bit of logic and statistics