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COVID-19 and Vitamin D – data vs noise in science

Statistics analyst Gary Smith: Even if COVID-19 deaths are randomly distributed among the population (and they surely aren’t), data mining will, more likely than not, discover a geographic cluster of victims... (Lots of things can start to appear meaningful.) Read More ›

An eye-opening science-related COVID roundup

Reliance on expertise can, depending on the circumstances, be a form of superstition. And, in short, the numbers solemnly announced by the suits on TV are often just a crock. And none of this is doing the reputation of science any good. Read More ›

Why COVID-19 rates are difficult to compute

Among other things: “Things appear deceptively dire if we calculate death rate solely by reference to reported COVID-19 cases; but the picture is deceptively benign if we measure deaths against an inflated conjecture about the non-reporting population. ” - McCarthy Read More ›

Michael Egnor: The bird does NOT do math

Egnor: Dr. Pepperberg could have been more forthright: Parrots can’t do statistics. No animal (except man) can do statistics, because statistical reasoning is abstract and only human beings are capable of abstract thought. Parrots think concretely—they think of particular things and relations between particular things, but they cannot think without particular things—they can’t think abstractly. Read More ›

Simpson’s Paradox: Numbers are stranger than we think

One outcome of Simpson’s Paradox is that machines cannot replace statisticians in analysing results. A great deal depends on interpretation, as Marks shows. “Clustering remains largely an art.” Read More ›

Proven: If you torture a Big Data enough, it will confess to anything

In his fascinating new book The AI Delusion, economics professor Gary Smith reminds us that computers don’t have common sense. He also notes that, as data gets larger and larger, nonsensical coincidences become more probable, not less. Read More ›

Media are flabby from a diet of junk science

Should we believe them when they tell us that the drinking four cups of coffee daily lowers our risk of death people with spouses live longer? A statistician and a physician team up to explain why not: A subtler manifestation of dishonesty in research is what amounts to statistical cheating. Here is how it works… If you try to answer one question – by asking about levels of coffee consumption, for example, to test whether drinking certain amounts a day are associated with more or less cancer; or whether being married is associated with increased longevity — and test the results with appropriate statistical methods, there is a 5% chance of getting a (nominally) statistically significant result purely by chance Read More ›

Requests for actual statistics FRAUD not unusual, science writer finds

There may be an additional, more sinister explanation for the ongoing reproducibility crisis, he suggests: A stunning report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that researchers often make “inappropriate requests” to statisticians. And by “inappropriate,” the authors aren’t referring to accidental requests for incorrect statistical analyses; instead, they’re referring to requests for unscrupulous data manipulation or even fraud. The authors surveyed 522 consulting biostatisticians and received sufficient responses from 390. Then, they constructed a table (shown below) that ranks requests by level of inappropriateness. For instance, at the very top is “falsify the statistical significance to support a desired result,” which is outright fraud. At the bottom is “do not show plot because it did not show as Read More ›