What Are the Chances?

Musings on everyday probability

The Atlantic Monthly is criminally misusing statistics

August 28, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
I spent the last week vacationing in South Carolina, where my parent's house seems to have Atlantic Monthly's and Harper's from the dawn of time. What luck, then, that one of the most int...

Statistics in Politics - Lies and Damn Lies

July 2, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
The nice thing about politicians and the newspaper columnists that write about them is that they lie a lot about statistics. That makes writing a blog that points out the errors easy to c...

Let’s make a deal problem

June 12, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
Those of us who grew up with the show Let’s Make a Deal can understand the gyst of the let’s make a deal problem right away. For those of you too young (or old) to remember, here is a summary....

Why are there too many boys in China?

May 9, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
For a long time now, the ratio of males to females in China has been increasing. In fact, one of the most recent articles I could find on it was from 2004, where the ratio stood at around 120 boys to...

What's the chance of rain?

April 15, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
Everyday probability barely shows up in weather forecasts these days. For example, Yahoo's weather will say something like "a few showers" to mean that there is a chance of showers. However, if you ar...

Stocks or Bonds?

March 19, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
A couple of posts ago, I talked about the question of whether to rent or buy (the answer: in the long run, buy; in the s...

7 letter words and 8 card suits

February 24, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
A recent commenter asked whether the following is true: "ETAERIO is the most likely seven-letter word to get in scrabble."   As all scrabble players know, if you use all 7 of yo...

Rent or Buy?

February 12, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
The answer to the age-old question, according to every grandmother out there, is "buy." But do the data really support this?   Housing as an Investment...

Throw away your cold medicine?

January 22, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
A recent article in the New York times touts: "Seawater Seems to Beat Medicine in Fighting Colds." The article g...

Election Math - Update

January 10, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
So my guess was wrong. Clinton won. The question is, was it the various selection biases and undecided voters, the measurement error (polls were on Saturday and Sunday but th...

Election Math

January 7, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
Today's CNN headline screams out "Obama opens double-digit lead over Clinton." When you read the article, you find that the poll,...

Where is the safest place to live?

January 1, 2008 By Alan J. Salzberg
If you figure out where to live by the crime rate, many of the safest places to live are outside the United States, where crime, though lower than it

The lottery: a tax on stupidity?

December 13, 2007 By Alan J. Salzberg
It is often quipped that the lottery is a tax on stupidity (google "lottery: tax on stupidity" and you will see what I mean). I've always been bothered by this for two reasons: 1) one of the first peo...

Hospital infections-what are the chances?

December 1, 2007 By Alan J. Salzberg
For those of us with aging parents, visits to the hospital can become somewhat routine, unfortunately. An overnight stay for minor surgery, as my father recently had, isn't particularly worrisome--exc...

Thanksgiving Brothers

November 22, 2007 By Alan J. Salzberg
I had some role in coming up with these statistics in the New York Times, though I thought it was more li...