Welcome to the site that tries to make sense of chance, risk, luck, uncertainty and probability. Mathematics won't tell us what to do, but we think that understanding the numbers can help us deal with our own uncertainty and allow us to look critically at stories in the media.
..when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
(Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four, ch. 6, 1890)
In a recent judgement the English Court of Appeal has not only rejected the Sherlock Holmes doctrine shown above, but also denied that probability can be used as an expression of uncertainty for events that have either happened or not.
There is reasonable public outrage at possible criminal conspiracies to adulterate meat products with horsemeat, and additional concerns raised about the presence of the anti-inflammatory known as bute.
Some of the coverage of yesterday's story about drinking in pregnancy and IQ of children was not entirely accurate. The Times reported that 'women who drink even a couple of glasses of wine a week during pregnancy are risking a two-point drop in their child's IQ', and 'children whose mothers drank between 1 and 6 units a week - up to three large glasses of wine - had IQs about two points lower '(than mothers who did not drink).
This was the question I asked myself several years ago when making the decision to play the nation's favourite flutter on a regular basis. I couldn't improve the chances of my chosen numbers being selected but could I give myself a better chance of not sharing my winnings if my numbers were selected? The numbers which come out of the machine are random, but the numbers which people choose are not random (unless selected using the Lucky Dip option).
As in ‘Boffins jailed for not predicting earthquake’, the 6-year sentences and massive fines handed out to the Italian seismologists have been largely portrayed by the media and commentators outside Italy as an attack on science, and the prosecution ridiculed as expecting the scientists to have been able to predict the earthquake.
With others, I made some comments for the press about the recent paper (abstract, figures and tables freely available here) on cancer in rats fed GM maize and Monsanto's Roundup pesticide.
[ Full paper should also be available here].