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Estimation

  • In this 1952 short story from the science fiction magazine Galaxy, a statistician notices trends in everything from war and famine to women unexpectedly stripping off their clothes in public. He concludes that the year 1954 is going to be an exceptionally bad year. With his new girlfriend, he runs to the country to hide. As the world collapses around them, he reads his journals and finds an article of interest (because of its presentation of Heinlein's concept of research in the USSR as well as for its mathematical content and significance to the plot). Unfortunately for the protagonist, the implications of the article are worse than even he had imagined. Escaping to the country with his girlfriend was not sufficient precautions to escape the disaster that Dynkowski predicted with his mathematics.

  • A statistician sells her soul to the devil in exchange for guaranteed tenure, but redeems herself by creating a cleverly useless confidence interval. The character understands what a confidence interval actually is, but here the definition is intentionally twisted, to humorous effect. The alternative definition adopted in this fantasy to save the protagonist's soul may even be closer than many of the misconceptions that are often encountered. 

  • … motivation is highest when the probability of success is 50 percent: We don't get involved if the task is too easy or too hard.

    Judith M. Bardwick (1933 – )

  • by Eveline Pye

    Somewhere close, nuclear warheads trundle down a potholed road and I am concerned that,
    though they say the risk is low, no one says what low means and though there may be
    a number trapped on a hard disc, no one knows if it’s even halfway near to being right.

    Then there’s the internal report for the shiplift at Faslane, for when it cradles
    Trident submarines, I worry they had to black out their own best guess so we don’t know the chance
    of a platform collapse, or plane crash, fire, explosion, or even being peppered with plutonium.

    It’s as though the MoD believe disasters won’t happen to them or us, as if they believe
    all swans are white, because every swan they ever saw was white, as if they think
    they understand the fickle migration of birds while beyond their ken, a butterfly flaps

    its chaotic wings, the wind changes direction and somewhere far away a black swan
    takes to the air, lifts its heavy body upwards, defies gravity and soars above us.
    Invisible in the night sky except for its blood red beak –

    a
    dark arrow
    coming towards us
    changing everything.

  • Lyrics copyright by Alan Reifman.
    May sing to the tune of "Moon Shadow" by Cat Stevens

    Within your CI, you get the true value, true value, true value,
    With 95%, you get the true value, true value, true value,

    You get a sample statistic, a sample r, or sample M,
    You then take plus-or-minus two (it’s really 1.96…), standard errors beyond your stat,
    And within this new interval, we can be, so confident,
    That the true value, mu or rho, will be somewhere… inside…, our confidence interval,

    Within your CI, you get the true value, true value, true value,
    With 95%, you get the true value, true value, true value...

  • By Ming-Lun Ho

    The Autumn Wind casts
    Cramer's Theorem Pie
    In CLT's face!

    The CLT ducks
    Cramer's Theorem Pie
    asymptotically.

  • One day there was a fire in a wastebasket in the office of the Dean of Sciences. In rushed a physicist, a chemist, and a statistician. The physicist immediately starts to work on how much energy would have to be removed from the fire to stop the combustion. The chemist works on which reagent would have to be added to the fire to prevent oxidation. While they are doing this, the statistician is setting fires to all the other wastebaskets in the office. "What are you doing?" the others demand.
    The statistician replies, "Well, to solve the problem, you obviously need a larger sample size."

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