Archive for the 'Statistical Reasoning' category

"Is it the pot that made him lazy DM?"

"What we need are one-handed scientists!" - Sen Edmund Muskie

The title is a question that is most frequently asked by a parent or close relative of an individual (typically male) who is in the early adult years. Said parent is clearly distressed by the career choices made/not made by their son, grandson or nephew who (they have finally acknowledged to themselves) smokes a lot of dope. Has for years and shows no signs of quitting.
The pot smoker has, of course, turned out to be a disappointment to their relatives in one way or another, typically vocationally. And they ask me, almost pleadingly, frequently with a tinge of self-flagellation, to confirm their suspicion that the pot smoking is at the root of junior's lack of gumption.
I have to tell them that nobody can satisfactorily answer this question for them. Not me, not science. Not with any confidence of certainty, anyway.

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The normal distribution, multiple comparisons and risks of false alarm

I often think to myself that if we could effectively teach one single concept to all citizens, get them to really understand it and apply it to life we would all be better off. It has relevance for so many facets of our public and private decision making; ofttimes ignorance of this concept makes for a dismal political or personal outcome.
Brazillion Thoughts has an English-language translation of a post originally written by Karl at Ecce Medicus.
The traslation reads in part:

Many times, in my practice, I am required to explain some statistical concepts to my patients in order to make them avoid some frequent pitfalls. The most common concept I explain is what is "normal" in lab exams. Let's suppose someone invents a new lab test to measure the glucose in the blood. How would we determine what are the normal values for this test?

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