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.

statin-muscles-mail.jpg

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.

What's more dangerous - the bute or the burger?

There is reasonable public outrage at possible criminal conspiracies to adulterate meat products with horsemeat, and additional concerns raised about the presence of the anti-inflammatory known as bute.

Squaring the square, in glass

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

trinity-glass2-small.jpg

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

sqsqbig.png

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.

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