Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. ~Gregg Easterbrook

I love what can be done with statistics. In my old life I had policy responsibility for certain aspects of Scottish homelessness stats. So this morning I've been interested in listening to all the coverage of the Shelter press release on the back of the Cathy Come Home anniversary. I think Shelter apply a multiplier to homeless applications to derive the number of children affected by homelessness. But I won't argue the point either way as everyone cuts stats to suit their own particular point of view.

Yesterday I came across this site, numericlife,this blogger clearly has a real love of numbers. The post I read mentioned the Miniature Earth Project and I liked how they chose to present this information:


"If we could turn the population of the earth into a small community of 100 people, keeping the same proportions we have today, it would look something like this ...
1) 47 live in an urban area;
2) 61 Asians, 12 Europeans, 16 Africans;
3) 9 are disabled;
4) 33 Christian, 18 Muslins, 16 are non-religious;
5) 6 people own 59% of entire wealth of the community;
6) if you have a bank account, you are one of the 30 wealthiest people in the world;
7) this community spend more than $1.12 trillion dollars on military expenditures, but only $0.1 trillion dollars on development aid."
......
See more at: The Miniature Earth Project

A few more quotes on stats:

I always find that statistics are hard to swallow and impossible to digest. The only one I can ever remember is that if all the people who go to sleep in church were laid end to end they would be a lot more comfortable. ~Mrs. Robert A. Taft

After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, "Lies - damned lies - and statistics," still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of. ~Leonard Courtney, speech, August 1895, New York, "To My Fellow-Disciples at Saratoga Springs," printed in The National Review (London, 1895)

The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus. ~Laplace, Théorie analytique des probabilités, 1820


I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live. ~Louis D. Brandeis


The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic. ~Joe Stalin, comment to Churchill at Potsdam, 1945


I could prove God statistically. Take the human body alone - the chances that all the functions of an individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity. ~George Gallup

4 Comments:

Blogger Shinga said...

What an enjoyable and thought-provoking collection of vignettes on statistics!

Regards - Shinga

12:03 am  
Blogger blkbutterfly said...

i came by here yesterday with the full intention of commenting on your last post. but, i fell asleep and all my thoughts are lost.

at any rate, i loved this post. for some reason, i've always liked stats. perhaps because it was the first time in life i was good at math. or perhaps i like the way the #s can be used to "prove" just about any point so that i can then refute it.

oh, and i always find the Earth Project thing to be so poignant.

3:24 am  
Blogger PI said...

'...this sacred truth - that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.'
Francis Hutcheson

10:25 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks all. I wrote a big reply but blogger ate it!

Shinga thanks for looking in, I'd love to check out your blog, but blogger has overwritten your link, sigh!

Blkb, another thing we share, a love of stats.

Pi, a nice quote, which would be fine depending on who defines the morals and how they chose to legislate.

10:51 am  

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