Another Look at Entropy

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Entropy is a term that draws both fear and reverence from the greatest physicists and mathematicians. How do you describe it? What does it even mean? Who in their right mind would want to quantify a phantom concept that's impossible to see or touch?

Wisdom of the Crowds by SingingBanana

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James Grime says "We reveal the answer to my Wisdom of the Crowds competition. I asked you to guess how many jellybeans were in a jar. How close was the wisdom of the crowd, but first we need to answer - which average should we use?".

World cup cephalopod fever

World cup fever is again gripping the globe - well, perhaps not so strongly as last time, but the Women's World Cup football finals are about to begin in Germany. And as the excitement builds, the aquarium chain that brought us Paul the "psychic" octopus is rising to the new challenge. Paul himself has ascended to the great aquarium in the sky, so the search is on for a worthy successor

Another ghastly graphic in the TImes

The Times has got another classic graphic today, which manages to be hideous, misleading and incomprehensible all at the same time - quite a feat. Why is this a pie-chart? Never mind, it all provides fine material for getting laughs when giving talks.


hideous, misleading and incomprehensible all at the same time

Spinning mobile phones

When it comes to causing cancer in humans, is using a mobile phone as risky as talcum powder, or as risky as coffee, or as risky as the notorious insecticide DDT? Actually we don't know, as I explained in my previous blog entry on last week's IARC announcement on mobile phones and brain cancer. That didn't stop the media comparing the risk of mobile phone use with all these things and more. But why did different newspapers make different comparisons?

Mobile phones: where's the uncertainty?

The media in the UK and many other countries have been full this week of stories about mobile phones and brain cancer. Some were really pretty scary - the Daily Express gave a SHOCK WARNING: MOBILE PHONES CAN GIVE YOU CANCER. But others were much more cautious. The BBC reported that a link between phones and cancer was "not clearly established" and that "the evidence was too weak to draw strong conclusions from." What's going on?

Statistician's ESP prediction comes true!

In our article on ESP and the significance of significance, I made a prediction on the controversy surrounding psychologist Daryl Bem's paper "Feeling the Future" - the one that claimed to find evidence for some forms of ESP (extra-sensory perception). "This one will run and run", I boldly prophesied. And so it came to pass.

Coffee and breast cancer

The media today are full of reports that women who drink lots of coffee might reduce their risk of developing one type of breast cancer. For instance, the BBC reported on it here, and the Daily Mail here. But is the evidence really there?

Heart disease screening: where did the uncertainty go?

The UK news media have reported quite extensively a newly published paper by Wald, Simmonds and Morris on screening for cardiovascular disease (CVD) - that is, disease of the heart and blood vessels (principally heart attacks and strokes). The paper concluded that screening should be based on the patient's age alone, and not on other risk factors for CVD. But I'm not going to examine the conclusion - I'm interested in the way the authors dealt with uncertainty.

Paul the Octopus: soon to hit the silver screen

Just up on Youtube is the trailer for the forthcoming feature film about Paul the 'Psychic' Octopus (RIP): not only does it feature DJS explaining the mathematics of Paul, but it includes Bayes theorem. And it is in Tentacular 2D!

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