Blogs

Monkeys and Shakespeare

I was lucky enough to get included in the Horizon programme on Infinity last night, talking about the old monkey-Shakespeare issue. Of course most of my rambling contribution was (rightly) cut, so here’s a few background details for anyone interested.

The risks of Eggstasy

There has been extensive coverage of a box of 6 eggs found to be all double-yoked:an event that was given odds of a trillion to 1 against. This was based on the British Egg Information Service saying 0.1% ( 1 in 1000) eggs were double-yoked, and so getting six of these required these odds to be multiplied 6 times. In fact this gives 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, but which was reported as a trillion (now usually taken as 1,000,000,000,000).

The Daily Mail did a good demolition of this story, and it is a good example of what can go wrong when people try and work out chances.

Some risk announcements!

Some items to watch

Slightly embarrassing video

A video has gone on Youtube called Professor Risk as part of a series made for the Cambridge 800 years anniversary. To be honest it's a bit lightweight when it comes to risk, and all the subtle bits got cut. We filmed a whole lot more including my GP taking my blood, discussing statins and screening for prostate cancer. All on the cutting-room floor. Good point: Stephen Fry does the intro voiceover. Bad point: me in my jim-jams.

Can you rank hospitals like football teams?

Elsewhere on this site we talk about the difficulties in making reliable rankings of footbal teams, but at least people can agree that winning matches is a reasonable way to measure the quality of a team. Hospitals are different - even something 'obvious' such as mortality statistics may not be the best way to asses patient safety. This is an article that appeared in the Times on December 2nd, with suitable links added.

Ecstasy and equasy, heroin and hang-gliding

This appeared in the Times on November 3rd and is based on the excellent lecture that got David Nutt sacked as chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (although he might still be in post if he had only added that it was delivered in his personal capacity). Nutt has suffered the consequences of repeatedly breaking the taboo of comparing the risks of the legal and wholesome (horse-riding) or long-established (alcohol and smoking), with the illegal and "impure" Ecstasy and cannabis.
The version below contains links to sources and a few comments and corrections.

What's the chance you've slept with a celebrity?

Brits three romps from celeb sex” headlined the Sun on Friday, adding that “boffins at Cambridge University have calculated every person in the UK is linked to a star through their sexual partners — with just three steps separating the average person from a steamy celeb romp”.

Some recent coverage

Random events tend to cluster, and just to illustrate this we've suddenly got a burst of coverage of our work:

    Chance in football

    To coincide with the kick off of the football Premier League 2009–2010 we have updated our articles on the role of chance in football, and we have updated our animation to include leagues from across Europe over the past twenty years.

    Screening for disease and dishonesty

    This is a rather late announcement of pages we have put up on the use of screening tests. Using lie detectors, breast cancer and HIV screening as examples, we show how an apparently accurate test, when applied to a group of people in which only a small proportion have the thing you are trying to detect, will generate many false positives.

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