Chance News 113
January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018
“The court will not rely on extrapolated numbers from tiny samples sizes and otherwise flawed data.”
Statistic of last year
On lawnmowers and terrorists again: the danger of using historical data alone for decision-making
by Norman Fenton, Probability and Law blog,
A case for math, not ‘gobbledygook,’ in judging partisan voting maps
by Adam Liptak, New York Times, 15 January 2018
Chief Justice John Roberts famously said that proposed statistical measures of partisan gerrymandering struck him as "sociological gobbledygook." But in many cases it is impossible to avoid technical issues, and the Court needs to make informed decisions.
The article cites a report It’s a fact: Supreme Court errors aren’t hard to find (ProPublica, 17 Oct 2017), where we read
The review found an error in a landmark ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts used erroneous data to make claims about comparable rates of voter registration among blacks and whites in six southern states. In another case, Justice Anthony Kennedy falsely claimed that DNA analysis can be used to identify individual suspects in criminal cases with perfect accuracy.
Leading probability researchers confounded by three coworkers wearing same shirt color on same day
The Onion, 18 January 2018
A lovely spoof on coincidence stories. We read the following breathless quote from "researchers":
We at least have models for something like two people coming to work wearing the same shoes or both getting a haircut the day before, but this is the equivalent of lightning striking in the same place hundreds of times in a row. We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board on probability analysis entirely.
Football decision theory
Force overtime? Or go for the win?
by Jesse Walker, Jane L. Risen, Thomas Gilovich and Richard Thaler , New York Times, 27 February 2018
In the final minutes of a game, teams may be faced with the choice of making a 1-point kick to tie the game, or going for a 2-point conversion that would win. Going for the tie may seem safer, but is it the best strategy?
(Mis)interpreting exit polls
The 2016 exit polls led us to misinterpret the 2016 election
by Thomas Edsall, New York Times, 29 March 2018
Cites  this record of exit polling data.
Jo Hardin sent the following article to the Isolated Statisticians e-mail list.
- The man who cracked the lottery
- by Reid Forgrave, New York Times Magazine, 3 May 2018
The article begins, "When the Iowa Attorney General's office began investigating and unclaimed lottery ticket worth millions, an incredible string of unlikely winners came to light--and a trail that pointed to an inside job."
Jeanne Albert sent a link to a Vermont story in a similar vein:
- More than luck? VTDigger investigates big wins on small games.
- by Katy Savage, VTDigger.org, 26 April 2018
Hurricane Maria death tolls
Why are the death tolls in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria so different?
by Sheri Fink, New York Times, 2 June 2018
Mediterranean diet controversy
That huge Mediterranean diet study was flawed. But was it wrong?
by Gina Kolata, New York Times, 13 June 2018
Pew Research Center "Decoded"
Decoded is a new resource from the Pew Research Center. As described on the Welcome page:
Pew Research Center’s main website offers plenty in the way of polished reports, data visualizations and interactives. But there are also lots of methodological musings, puzzles and tangles that you would see if you could flip those picture-perfect research products over (metaphorically speaking)... At Decoded, you’ll find blog posts about some paths taken and some narrowly avoided, including experiments that intrigued us but never saw the light of day.
Among the intriguing technical tools you will find here are the following: