Guest Articles

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.

We love to publish contributed articles, and this is the page which lists all those contributions. If you would like to contribute yourself, do get in touch and tell us what you'd like to publish.

Women listen and men look? How to best communicate risk to support decision making

Verena Rieser

When my family plans a trip to the beach in Scotland, there is always a high chance of rain. So I always pack everything: from sunscreen to waterproofs. But would I have reached the same conclusion listening to the weather forecast on the radio or when checking the weather app on my phone? And would my husband have done the same?

Could a 'safest' option on sat navs save lives?

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by TobyJ

Since the start of our relationship my partner and I disagreed about the best way to travel the approximately hour long journey between our homes on either side of the peak district. She preferred the well lit M60 and M62 route, feeling that it is considerably safer. I preferred the Woodhead pass, the quicker route which winds its way over the hills, and was after all suggested by Google Maps.

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).

Data overload?

30 minutesThe government announced last week that it would be greatly expanding the amount of data which it shares with the rest of us. Its white paper spells out the detailed principles of the new approach, and there is much in it to commend. It addresses many of the hideous features of government data at the moment, such as departments' habit of publishing in proprietary formats (usually Excel); the fact that data cannot necessarily be re-used without obtaining explicit permission; and the lack of coherence between different datasets on essentially the same topic.

Three-fold variation in UK bowel cancer death rates (?)

I've taken the headline from this BBC story. The three-fold variation is between Rossendale, in Lancashire, where there were 9 deaths per 100,000 people, and Glasgow City, where there were 31 deaths per 100,000. It's based on this press release from the charity Beating Bowel Cancer,

Another Look at Entropy

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?

Quantifying the Risk of Natural Catastrophes

Shane LatchmanHow do companies prepare for the financial impact of natural catastrophes? How can they possibly have an idea of what the potential cost can be for events that haven't yet happened? Shane Latchman explains the way companies in the insurance industry are using catastrophe models to help make sense of a very uncertain future...

Skill or Chance in the Indian Premier League

by Pelham Barton

CricketDo the results in the 2009 Indian Premier League Table (20-over cricket) show more variation between the teams than one would expect if the results of single matches were completely random?

Convicted on Statistics?

by Vincent Scheureri

Vincent Scheurer"… we do not convict people in these courts on statistics.
It would be a terrible day if that were so."
Mr Justice Harrison, R v. Sally Clark. November 1999ii