A Crash Course in Playing the Numbers

January 29, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer

Spinning Coin 0037 From the science section in today's NY Times comes an essay by Jared Diamond titled "That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer". Mr. Diamond is a well respected author ("Guns, Germs, and Steel" probably his best known) and professor of geography at UCLA. The essay describes how Americans have a differing perception of how dangerous something is versus the rankings of real danger. We exaggerate risks of events beyond our control and underestimate the risks of events we do control. A classic example would be our view of risk in flying versus automobile travel. Conveniently also today in the NY Times Science section is a review of "Naked Statistics" by Charles Wheelan, professor of public policy and economics at Dartmouth. The book describes the nature of statistics not the number crunching. The book evidently focuses on health statistics and how we need to better know what goes into the statistics that so many health choices are based upon. Those who know me best, know that I always want data and want to understand how that data was generated. One of my favorite quotes is - "In God we trust, all others use data". Now to the image of a spinning Sacagawea dollar coin. Statistically we know that when the coin falls it has a roughly equal chance of falling to either side (different coins actually might have a slight bias to one side or the other). I spun the coin on a black piece of foam board and handheld my camera with a Nikkor 85mm lens mounted and the camera set to double expose. Exposure was f4, 1/250 sec. and the light came from a side glass door and overhead skylight. A great deal of trial and error was involved trying to catch both exposures with reasonable focus and the coin caught at the right angle. It took almost 100 spins to get this particular image, but what are the odds of catching it just so?http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/science/naked-statistics-by-charles-wheelan-review.html?ref=science


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