Welcome to Understanding Uncertainty

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.

The Norm Chronicles, By Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter, is now available for purchase! Some reviews are here, and here


'Tails you win: the science of chance' aired on BBC4 at 9pm on October 18th. The video trailer is up on Youtube

If you want to see where all the numbers came from in the programme, we've prepared a page of all the gory details.

Do you have a coincidence story? David Spiegelhalter is collecting them over at http://cambridgecoincidences.org.


Elsewhere on UnderstandingUncertainty:

It's cherry-picking time: more poorly reported science being peddled to journalists

Yesterday the Daily Mail trumpeted “For every hour of screen time, the risk of family life being disrupted and children having poorer emotional wellbeing may be doubled”, while the Daily Telegraph said that "for every hour each day a child spent in front of a screen, the chance of becoming depressed, anxious or being bullied rose by up to 100 per cent”.

More deaths due to climate change? Or maybe not.

Coverage of a paper just published by Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health included dramatic headlines such as the Guardian's Heat-related deaths in the UK will rise 257% by 2050 because of climate change. But a closer look at the numbers in the paper paints a rather different picture.

How surprising was the cluster of cycle deaths in London?

More or Less recently featured Jody Aberdein talking about the cluster of 6 cycle deaths in London over a 2 week period.

The paper with the details of the analysis can, for a while, be freely obtained from Significance magazine.

PISA statistical methods - more detailed comments

In the Radio 4 documentary PISA - Global Education Tables Tested, broadcast on November 25th, a comment is made that the statistical issues are a bit complex to go into.

Complaint about the Press Complaints Commission

What a strange organisation the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is. They say that a press article is inaccurate, but consider it reasonable that the inaccurate headline remains uncorrected.

Press Complaints Commission decide '13,000 needless deaths' story was inaccurate

I was of a number of complainants to the Press Complaints Commission about the Sunday Telegraph story headlined 13,000 died needlessly at 14 worst NHS trusts, as the Telegraph journalists had been explicitly told by the originator of the figures, Professor Brian Jarman, that this was an inappropriate interpretation.

New content for GCSE Maths announced

Following the consultation discussed previously on this blog, the Department for Education has announced the revised content for GCSE Mathematics.

Compared to the current content, the most notable changes are (a) separation of probability and statistics, (b) removal of the data-cycle, (c) increased material.

The proposed content for probability is as follows:

Probability and stats feature strongly in 'Core maths' proposals for 16-18 year olds

The government is pushing ahead with proposals for a maths qualification to be taken by 16-18 year-olds who got at least a grade C in Maths GCSE but are not doing maths A level.

September 19th is Huntrodds day!

When on holiday at Whitby we took this photo of this extraordinary memorial to Mr and Mrs Huntrodds.

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