The United States recently reached a negative COVID-19 milestone – more than 1 Million deaths. I started to think about writing this blog post last December when the count was ‘only’ 800,000. How do we understand, appreciate and communicate large numbers?Continue reading “Magnitude and context”
Can Moneyball save the unicorn?
The answer is no, but Moneyball might be a nudge in the right direction. I was born and live in Greenland where unicorns (also known as narwhals) roam beneath the waves. In most other cultures, unicorns are horsy creatures who roam somewhere over the rainbow. In western cultures (as defined by those who read Harry Potter) killing a unicorn is an unspeakably evil deed. It used to be different, at least for the sea creature.Continue reading “Can Moneyball save the unicorn?”
Dangers of combining averages
Misinterpreting statistics is not a rare phenomenon and happens everywhere in the world. Very often it happens by the use of averages, as many understand statistics as the “science of averages,” but also with use of percentages, indices and other statistics.Continue reading “Dangers of combining averages”
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.Continue reading “Significant fitness”
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.Continue reading “Candy cane shortages and the importance of variation”
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.Continue reading “Horror aequi …”
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?Continue reading “How typical is a “median person”?”
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.Continue reading “There’s no evidence that …”
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.”Continue reading “Coronavirus baby bust?”
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.Continue reading “Uncertainty is a funny thing: musings on wildfire and COVID”