Coincidence odds are wrong yet again

The Sun today features a story about a family who have had three children all born at 7.43 (two am and one pm). Heartwarming, but the quoted odds of 300,000,000 to one are sadly wrong.

Another priceless infographic from the Times ...

After their previous attempt at a Nightingale rose, here is another ghastly example from today's edition of the Times. Shouldn't someone tell them?


Perhaps Japan's acceptance rate looks more than twice the size of China's

Professeur Poisson still rules

We've previously shown that the number of homicides each day in London followed a Poisson distribution to a remarkable degree - this means that they essentially occur as a random process. Now the same analysis has been repeated by the Home Office in the crime statistics released today - and the Poisson fits very well.

Statistical relics

The bunting was out on Tuesday for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the first statistics department in the world at University College London! UCL was home to the great developments in statistics both before and after the department opened in 1911, with Karl Pearson as Professor of Applied Statistics, endowed by Francis Galton who had just died.

Can odds be awkward? I’d put money on that...

Assiduous readers of understandinguncertainty.org will know that we often refer to odds. Pretty well everyone will have heard of odds, and will at least know that they have something to do with how likely something is to happen. But beyond that, it can get trickier, as an entry in a blog about language has reminded us.

A contender for 'The worst info graphic of 2011' award

iconWe may already have a winner for the 'Worst info graphic of 2011 award' with this panel which appeared in the Times yesterday (Jan 4th).

Stalin had a point

Got a Thunderer column in The Times today - giving local link rather than Times website due to their paywall. Links are provided to to the interesting post-mortems on the 2009 pandemic statistics.

Pure Randomness in Art

Random glassThis article is based on a talk I gave at the recent John Cage exhibition in Kettles Yard gallery in Cambridge. Cage is perhaps best known for his avant-garde music, particularly his silent 1952 composition 4′33″ but also for his use of randomness in “aleatory music”.

Nice probability puzzle

For the last few weeks, Chris Maslanka's excellent maths puzzle column in the Guardian has been running variants on the following problem. Fred and Sam play a game in which the winner is the first to flip a head. They take it in turns, Fred starting. What's the chance that Fred wins? I have been asking this to 6th form audiences and the general response is 2/3 or 3/4, but nobody can say why. Here is the solution I have been using.

Mobile phones and behavioural problems

This article found an association between mobile phone use in pregnancy and behavioural problems in childhood, with an additional association with the child using a mobile phone before they were 7. I was not the only one reported as being sceptical, but the study is predictably getting a lot of coverage particularly in pregnancy advisory websites.

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