As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

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.

Probability and stats in GCSE Maths

The current consultation on GCSE subject content and assessment objectives for Mathematics GCSE features major changes for probability and statistics.

I encourage everyone with an interest to respond (before 20th August): here is my personal take on the topic.

The proposals are as follows:

Fatality risk on Boris-bikes?

I was very saddened by the death on Friday of a Boris-bike rider in Whitechapel High Street, particularly as I am a frequent and enthusiastic user of the scheme. But as a statistician, I also immediately wondered how surprised I should be about the fact that this was the first fatality of the bikes.

Speed cameras, regression-to-the-mean, and the Daily Mail (again)

It was interesting to hear ‘regression-to-the-mean’ being discussed on the Today programme this morning, even if the quality of the debate wasn’t great. The issue was the effectiveness of speed cameras, which tend to get installed after a spate of accidents. Since bad luck does not last, accidents tend to fall after such a ‘blip’, and this fall is generally attributed to the speed camera, whereas it would have happened anyway: this is what is meant by ‘regression-to-the-mean’.

How can 2% become 20%?

The Daily Mail headline below is unequivocal – statins cause a 20% increase in muscle problems.


Court of Appeal bans Bayesian probability (and Sherlock Holmes)

..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.


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