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Psycho History, it's what they wanna give me

Psychohistory, the imaginary scientific field created by Isaac Asimov in his "Foundation" series, may no longer be fiction:
Song Chaoming, for instance, is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He is a physicist, but he moonlights as a social scientist. With that hat on he has devised an algorithm which can look at someone’s mobile-phone records and predict with an average of 93% accuracy where that person is at any moment of any day. Given most people’s regular habits (sleep, commute, work, commute, sleep), this might not seem too hard. What is impressive is that his accuracy was never lower than 80% for any of the 50,000 people he looked at.
Full article at The Economist.
posted by Strange Interlude on Feb 26, 2013 - 39 comments

Wikipedia page view analysis 2012

"The best way to reach the highest levels of Wikipedia popularity are to be a celebrity who (a) dies, or (b) plays the Super Bowl halftime show". Examining the popularity of Wikipedia articles: catalysts, trends, and applications. See also the annotated Top 25 Report. Previously: Wikipedia in 2012.
posted by stbalbach on Feb 6, 2013 - 11 comments

Nuts

Yesterday, the Nielsen Company released a report showing that same-sex partnered households in America shop about 16% more than the average US household. Broken down into categories, Nielsen observes that gay couples drink a ton, while lesbian couples eat an awful lot of cottage cheese.
posted by schmod on Jan 31, 2013 - 63 comments

Don't Tell Hillary Swank

Hilary/Hillary: The Most Poisoned Baby Name in US History in which Hilary Parker, Ph.D. candidate in Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, uses her statistical mojo to determine just how unique was the drop-off of babies named Hilary/Hillary the year after Bill Clinton was elected President.
posted by oneswellfoop on Jan 30, 2013 - 83 comments

Instrumental lying by parents in the US and China

The practice of lying to one's children to encourage behavioral compliance was investigated among parents in the US (N = 114) and China (N = 85). The vast majority of parents (84% in the US and 98% in China) reported having lied to their children for this purpose. Within each country, the practice most frequently took the form of falsely threatening to leave a child alone in public if he or she refused to follow the parent. Crosscultural differences were seen: A larger proportion of the parents in China reported that they employed instrumental lie-telling to promote behavioral compliance, and a larger proportion approved of this practice, as compared to the parents in the US. This difference was not seen on measures relating to the practice of lying to promote positive feelings, or on measures relating to statements about fantasy characters such as the tooth fairy. Findings are discussed with reference to sociocultural values and certain parenting-related challenges that extend across cultures. [HTML] -- [PDF] [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 23, 2013 - 82 comments

Could I BE having any less sex?

The One Where Someone Calculated How Many People The Friends Slept With and a graph. (via)
posted by crossoverman on Jan 4, 2013 - 30 comments

Wonky graphs of 2012

2012: The year in graphs - as picked by the Washington Post Wonkblog's favorite economists, political scientist, politicians and other wonkys.
posted by Artw on Dec 28, 2012 - 17 comments

291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die

As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
posted by hat on Dec 14, 2012 - 11 comments

direct realism

The Nature of Computation - Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Dec 1, 2012 - 19 comments

Skill-Luck Continuum

"We have little trouble recognizing that a chess grandmaster’s victory over a novice is skill, as well as assuming that Paul the octopus’s ability to predict World Cup games is due to chance. But what about everything else?" [Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success]
posted by vidur on Nov 20, 2012 - 16 comments

How happy are we?

The UK Office of National Statistics is measuring and reporting on more than just money as a measure of national success The ONS has started a process of measuring and reporting on national wellbeing. They've also made some very pretty animations with the information
posted by Gilgongo on Nov 20, 2012 - 11 comments

What's gonna happen outside the window next?

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong
posted by cthuljew on Nov 18, 2012 - 55 comments

Sasha Issenberg: the new science of winning campaigns

A Vast Left-Wing Competency: "How Democrats became the party of effective campaigning — and why the GOP isn’t catching up anytime soon." Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab, has been writing a series of posts on Slate that focus on different aspects of "the new science of winning campaigns". [more inside]
posted by flex on Nov 8, 2012 - 103 comments

Most children: 13 - Samwise Gamgee & Rose Cotton

Lord Of The Rings: Statistics (part of LOTRProject)
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 23, 2012 - 23 comments

A Handsome Atlas: 19th Century Data Visualizations

Rank of states and territories in population at each census: 1790 - 1890
Political History (Supremecy of Parties and Popular Vote)
Insanity (1870)
and more at
A Handsome Atlas: The Amazing and Incredible Statistical Atlases of the United States of America compiled in the final decades of the Nineteenth Century. [via projects]
posted by carsonb on Sep 12, 2012 - 11 comments

The Association of Religion Data Archives: Churchgoers give far less than they think

"Parting with treasure easier said than done: Churchgoers give far less than they think" is the latest feature article from the Association of Religion Data Archives, which "strives to democratize access to the best data on religion." The site includes a browsable archive of religious survey data, a quick statistical roundup, international religious profiles, feature articles on topics like the rise of Mormons, Muslims and nondenominational churches in the USA ("nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country...Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger"), links to sources like the 2010 U.S. Religious Census, a Religion Research Hub (with tutorials and helpful advice on best practices when theorizing, conceptualizing and measuring religious behavior) and lots more.
posted by mediareport on Aug 30, 2012 - 25 comments

Just in time for Football Manager 2013

As you know, Bob, Bill James revolutionised baseball with sabermetrics, statistical analyisis of how the game is actually played. In football (soccer that is) this revolution is long overdue, as it has largely lagged behind American sports in its use of data analysis. Now however there's a chance for somebody clever to become football's Bill James, as Manchester City is going to release all player data and analysises from the 2011-12 season.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 16, 2012 - 50 comments

Quantifying the Gender Gap in Philosophy

Molly Paxton, Carrie Figdor, and Valerie Tiberius have a new paper in Hypatia quantifying the gender gap in philosophy (pdf). [more inside]
posted by Jonathan Livengood on Jul 30, 2012 - 51 comments

"Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men."

It's Not Just NYC: Across America, Only Black and Brown People Get Arrested for Pot - "New York City (previously), the pot-bust capital of the Western world, is notorious for the racial skewing (previously) of its marijuana arrests. Over the last 15 years, more than 85 percent of the half-million-plus people charged with misdemeanor possession there have been black or Latino. But the racial ratios of reefer roundups are equally extreme—if not worse—in scores of other U.S. cities." Same (trailer) as it (PDF) ever was? (video)
posted by mrgrimm on Jul 24, 2012 - 60 comments

Stop measuring happiness!

Happyism: The Creepy New Economics of Pleasure. Economist Dierdre McCloskey, in the New Republic, digs into the mathematical underpinnings of the scientific study of happiness. Executive summary: she doesn't like what she finds.
posted by escabeche on Jun 17, 2012 - 26 comments

Is innumeracy harming the quality of medical care?

Since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against screening for prostate cancer, the debate has been furious. In fact, screening rates are likely to remain high, because most urologists disagree with the recommendations. One argued, "If you don’t do it, it’s negligent." (The debate is not new. Previously on Metafilter.) [more inside]
posted by Mr.Know-it-some on Jun 12, 2012 - 38 comments

Tails of the unexpected

Tails of the Unexpected: "Normality has been an accepted wisdom in economics and finance for a century or more. Yet in real-world systems, nothing could be less normal than normality. Tails should not be unexpected, for they are the rule." An eminently human-readable explanation of why normal models fail to describe the uncertainties of our abnormal world. [more inside]
posted by ecmendenhall on Jun 9, 2012 - 19 comments

Teach them well and let them lead the way

According to the U.S. census bureau, from July 2010 to July 2011, more than half of all babies born were members of minority groups, a first for the United States. [more inside]
posted by cashman on May 16, 2012 - 59 comments

37 ways to procrastinate but tell yourself you are working

37 Data-ish blogs you should know about
posted by shothotbot on May 4, 2012 - 10 comments

"It All Turns On Affection"

Last night, author and farmer Wendell Berry delivered a powerful lecture [video; full text here includes portions not delivered verbally] to a full house on the occasion of his accepting the National Endowment of the Humanities' Jefferson Award. The famous PC holdout has appeared previously in the blue, but this lecture is not to be missed. Here is soul nourishment for the long-time Berry follower, and for the newcomer a superb introduction to one of our time's greatest intellects. [more inside]
posted by maniabug on Apr 25, 2012 - 27 comments

Francis Galton

galton.org is an exhaustive website devoted to the life and works of the statistical pioneer and "father of eugenics" Francis Galton, inventor of the scatterplot, the correlation coefficient, fingerprint identification, and who knows what else. Almost all of Galton's books and papers are reproduced here, some in scanned form and some in searchable .pdf, from his major books to his letters to Pigeon Fancier's Journal. A short selection after the fold. [more inside]
posted by escabeche on Apr 25, 2012 - 11 comments

To read or not to read

How to read a paper is a series by Trisha Greenhalgh in BMJ, the British Medical Journal, that explains how to critically read and apply the biomedical literature. Deciding what the paper is about. Assessing methodological quality. Statistics for the non-statistician: parts I and II. Drug trials, diagnostic and screening tests, economic analyses, systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PDF), and qualitative research (PDF).
posted by grouse on Apr 19, 2012 - 14 comments

The Cox Proportional Hazard Model on Fire

The Hunger Games Survival Analysis is kinda neat, but also an interesting use of statistics (a basic chi-square test and a more sophisticated survival analysis) in solving not-quite-real world problems. In this case, whether the Lottery in the Hunger Games was rigged and what factors predict the winner of the Games. This work joins a tradition of analyses of the world of Panem, such as whether the economy was realistic, the problems of teserrae inflation, and this (slightly problematic, as the first link points out) application of game theory. [more inside]
posted by blahblahblah on Apr 12, 2012 - 10 comments

Oops, I may have added a few zeroes

“I bought into this idea for a long time that it was superior labor productivity that caused most manufacturing job losses,” said Rob Atkinson, of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. “Then I began to dig into the numbers.” An upcoming report argues that the price savings that U.S. factories have realized from outsourcing have incorrectly shown up as gains in U.S. output and productivity. This bias may have accounted for as much as half of the growth of U.S. manufacturing output from 1997 to 2007. (sl Wash. Post link to print version so everyone can read it.)
posted by Benny Andajetz on Mar 19, 2012 - 27 comments

88 cents for the same job

Just in time for International Womens Day, it's Narrow the Gap, a look at the unbalanced payrolls of American workers based on US Department of Labor statistics from a variety of industries.
posted by mathowie on Mar 8, 2012 - 42 comments

The trouble with value-added-modeling

Value-added model scores for teachers: some disturbing scatterplots. Gary Rubinstein finds a lot of noise and very little signal in the VAM scores of 18,000 New York teachers, recently released by the Bloomberg administration under a Freedom of Information Act Request. (VAM previously on MetaFilter.)
posted by escabeche on Mar 6, 2012 - 104 comments

"You can do precise statistics about what's in your database, and may be completely wrong about the world."

The Body Counter Meet Patrick Ball, a statistician who's spent his life lifting the fog of war. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 3, 2012 - 5 comments

How Basketball-Reference Got Every Box Score

Dick Pfander's obsession with basketball box scores means that every NBA box score in the league's history is now accessible.
posted by reenum on Feb 1, 2012 - 13 comments

The rise and fall of personal computing

The rise and fall of personal computing - A neat (and in some ways, stark) visualization of the impact of mobile devices on computing
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jan 18, 2012 - 150 comments

“This is about more than a definition. It is about how seriously we take this as a country"

Almost one year after Congressional Republicans tried to limit the definition of rape to only include "force" (previously), the Department of Justice is redefining the term--but this time to to expand it dramatically:
The outdated definition that has been governing national rape statistics since 1929, “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” has been updated to "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” According to Susan D. Carbon, director of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, the previous definition “excluded an untold number of victims.” For the first time, men will be included in national rape statistics, as well as those raped while unable to give consent due to intoxication or other mental and physical incapacity.

posted by zombieflanders on Jan 6, 2012 - 47 comments

Causes Are Hard

Trials and Errors. Jonah Lehrer's latest piece in Wired is a sort of sequel to his earlier article in the New Yorker on the decline effect (previously). Where that article focused on the institutional factors interfering with the accumulation of truth, this one focuses on the philosophical issues of causation and correlation in modern science. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Jan 5, 2012 - 22 comments

London by the Numbers

Infographics that give a little insight into the history of public transport(ation) in the UK.
posted by Eideteker on Dec 28, 2011 - 7 comments

Monte Carlo

The year was 1945. Two earthshaking events took place: the successful test at Alamogordo and the building of the first electronic computer. Their combined impact was to modify qualitatively the nature of global interactions between Russia and the West. No less perturbative were the changes wrought in all of academic research and in applied science. On a less grand scale these events brought about a [renaissance] of a mathematical technique known to the old guard as statistical sampling; in its new surroundings and owing to its nature, there was no denying its new name of the Monte Carlo method (PDF). -N. Metropolis
Conceptually talked about on MeFi previously, some basic Monte Carlo methods include the Inverse Transform Method (PDF) mentioned in the quoted paper, Acceptance-Rejection Sampling (PDFs 1,2), and integration with and without importance sampling (PDF).
posted by JoeXIII007 on Dec 17, 2011 - 13 comments

Two PDFs about PDFs

An "Exciting Guide to Probability Distributions" from the University of Oxford: part 1, part 2. (Two links to PDFs)
posted by JoeXIII007 on Dec 15, 2011 - 17 comments

“Easy read” should not mean “easy write.”

One of the delights of the books and the blog is the authors’ willingness to play with ideas and consider alternative explanations. But unquestioning trust in friends and colleagues combined with the desire to be counterintuitive appear in several cases to have undermined their work. They—and anyone who wishes to convey economics and statistics to a popular audience—just need to take the next step and avoid, in any given example, privileging one story over all other possibilities.
Freakonomics: What Went Wrong?
posted by RogerB on Dec 13, 2011 - 52 comments

"Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it."

Correlation or Causation? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question.
posted by beaucoupkevin on Dec 13, 2011 - 29 comments

You must be yolking...

"So, if the probability of finding an egg with two yolks is 1/1000 - then to find the likelihood of discovering four in a row you simply multiply the probabilities together four times. One thousand to the power of four brings us to the grand total of one trillion...

If true that would mean the event that occurred in Jen's kitchen was a trillion-to-one event. But is it true? No is the short answer."

posted by Petrot on Dec 10, 2011 - 38 comments

Ye Olde Moneyball

"The time has passed when the public will any longer swallow the palpable falsehood that a home run is no better than a scratch single." (PDF) Before Brad Pitt; before Michael Lewis, before Billy Beane; before Bill James; and long, long, before the Society for American Baseball Research, there was F.C. Lane. [more inside]
posted by mrgrimm on Dec 9, 2011 - 6 comments

Hey girl, I'm sorry I said 'multivariate' when I meant 'multivariable'.

Do you think Ryan Gosling is sexy? Do you think statistics are sexy? If so, you might enjoy this.
posted by Midnight Rambler on Dec 5, 2011 - 35 comments

Cigarette smoking: an underused tool?

Serum hemoglobin is related to endurance running performance. Smoking is known to enhance serum hemoglobin levels ... alcohol may further enhance this beneficial adaptation.
A recent paper by Kenneth Myers in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviews the potential benefits of smoking for endurance atheletes. [more inside]
posted by nangar on Nov 26, 2011 - 35 comments

Washington's Blog on Unemployment

Today I am sharing with you an article arguing that unemployment rates during the Great Depression were overstated, that current unemployment rates are understated and that the two sets of data considered in combination indicate that we are are firmly in Depression-era levels of unemployment.
posted by jason's_planet on Nov 12, 2011 - 78 comments

R-via-REST

OpenCPU provides a RESTful interface to the popular open-source statistical package R, enabling the user to perform calculations and create publication-quality or web-embeddable visualizations via standard web requests.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Nov 10, 2011 - 17 comments

"Try not to think too hard."

Found on a classroom chalkboard: The best statistics question ever. [more inside]
posted by jbickers on Oct 28, 2011 - 264 comments

The global reach of social networks

Social network popularity around the world in 2011 as determined by Google search statistics. [more inside]
posted by OverlappingElvis on Oct 21, 2011 - 22 comments

Wake Me Up When September Ends

After beating the Texas Rangers on Sept. 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. Fast forward one excruciating month to a dead heat with Tampa coming into tonight's bitter imbroglio. Boston struggles ahead of laughingstock Baltimore by a single run until a rain delay clears the field, leaving them in the surreal position of rooting for the hated Yankees playing down in Florida. They can only watch from the sidelines as the rival Rays, tied with Boston in the pennant race but down 7-0 against New York, roar back to life with six runs in the eighth inning and a tie run on the final pitch at the bottom of the ninth. And then, after blowing two different strikes that would have salvaged the game, Boston loses to Baltimore, completing what is arguably the worst late-breaking collapse in the history of major league baseball.
posted by Rhaomi on Sep 28, 2011 - 196 comments

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