Squaring the square, in glass

Here is my latest stained glass effort, seen on a snowy day.

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It is a 'square of squares', where all the constituent squares are of different sizes. Here are the dimensions -

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Alcohol in pregnancy and IQ of children

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).

Is it possible to improve your chances of winning big in the National Lottery?

Jonathan ClarkeThis 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).

More lessons from L'Aquila

The L’Aquila story gets even murkier.

The Continuing Tragedy of L’Aquila

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.

Rats and GM

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].

Explaining 5-sigma for the Higgs: how well did they do?

Warning, this is for statistical pedants only.

Higgs: is it one-sided or two-sided?

Announcements about the Higgs Boson are invariably framed in terms of the number of sigmas, with 5-sigmas needed for a ‘discovery’. Media outlets helpfully explain what this means by translating 5-sigmas to a probability, which is almost invariably misreported as a probability of the hypothesis that it is all just statistical error e.g.

Data overload?

30 minutesThe government announced last week that it would be greatly expanding the amount of data which it shares with the rest of us. Its white paper spells out the detailed principles of the new approach, and there is much in it to commend. It addresses many of the hideous features of government data at the moment, such as departments' habit of publishing in proprietary formats (usually Excel); the fact that data cannot necessarily be re-used without obtaining explicit permission; and the lack of coherence between different datasets on essentially the same topic.

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