horace's blog

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates.

understandinguncertainty.org 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.

Chance in football

To coincide with the kick off of the football Premier League 2009–2010 we have updated our articles on the role of chance in football, and we have updated our animation to include leagues from across Europe over the past twenty years.

Screening for disease and dishonesty

This is a rather late announcement of pages we have put up on the use of screening tests. Using lie detectors, breast cancer and HIV screening as examples, we show how an apparently accurate test, when applied to a group of people in which only a small proportion have the thing you are trying to detect, will generate many false positives.

Homo heuristicus

An event we are co-hosting with the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology "Homo heuristicus: Why biased minds make better inferences" by Professor Gerd Gigerenzer has once again got us wondering how we can make decisions in an ever uncertain world.

One game to go!

The final matches of the Premier League will be played this weekend. On One game to play! we've put an animation of the season so far, an analysis of whether Manchester United really is the best team, and some predictions for the weekend based on a statistical analysis of the season so far.

So how will Hull do against Man U on Sunday?

Spinning risks

We've got a new animation showing all the ways we could think of for communicating a risk message. In particular, have a look what you can do when using absolute risks, expressed in natural frequencies, and using icons. The photos option is rather good, and we are planning to make it possible for anyone to put in their own examples, their own images, and embed the animation on their website.

We're nearly all at increased risk!!

Monday's headline in the Daily Telegraph: Nine in 10 people carry gene which increases chance of high blood pressure sounds shocking. Next thing they will be telling us that we are all going to die.

Does street lighting really reduce fatal road crashes by 2/3 ?

Cochrane Reviews are usually taken as the gold standard in putting the evidence together to check whether a treatment works. But a new Cochrane Review that examines how much the ‘treatment’ of putting in street lights prevents injuries and saves lives seems to suffer from some major flaws which could mean the claimed benefits from street lighting are greatly exaggerated.

Survival back to 1845

We've added a version of our Survival animation that goes all the way back to 1845 in How long did we live?.
Can you spot the influence of the internal combustion engine in this data?

Florence Nightingale was a statistician!

Florence Nightingale is well known for her selfless nursing of the sick, and her pioneering reform of healthcare. Less well known is that she was also an accomplished statistician! We take a look at some of her finest work.

Nightingale's 'Coxcombs'

Through her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in establishing the importance of sanitation in hospitals. She meticulously gathered data on relating death tolls in hospitals to cleanliness, and, because of her novel methods of communicating this data, she was also a pioneer in applied statistics. We explore the work of Nightingale, and in particular focus on her use of certain graphs which, following misreading of her work, are now commonly known as Nightingale's coxcombs.


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