OK Cupid, an online dating site, has caused a bit of a stir recently about performing experiments on their users. But even without the ethical questions there’s reason to be skeptical about what their data can actually tell us.
Big Data, the book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, talks about two phenomena they believe will drive a big data revolution: ‘Digital exhaust’ and ‘N equals all’. The first refers to the trail of information we leave behind when using the internet that are the residue of clicks and typing. Read more
In news that will delight statisticians everywhere the distinction between the mean and the median finally has the political profile it deserves.
Yesterday Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK statistical authority, wrote a letter clarifying an ongoing debate between Labour and Conservative politicians on waiting times in accident and emergency rooms. Read more
Racial prejudice is growing in Britain, at least according to the headline on the front of the Guardian newspaper this morning. The paper describes a “Rising tide of race prejudice across Britain” based on new data from the British Social Attitudes Survey.
The BSA asked respondents whether they’d describe themselves as prejudiced against people of other races. The Guardian aggregated those who said they were very prejudiced and those who said they had a little prejudice.
It is true that this proportion has risen recently, from 27 per cent in 2012 to 32 per cent in 2013, but the long term trend is decline.
Last month, in advance of a report on 14 hospital trusts with relatively high death rates, it was widely reported that there had been 13,000 “unnecessary” deaths.
But, as a leading academic points out in today’s British Medical Journal, this demonstrates an epic lack of understanding of the concept of an average.
The 13,000 figure is the difference between the actual number of deaths in the 14 hospitals compared to the “expected” level. But what some writers failed to understand is that the “expected” level equated to the national average. As a result much of the coverage was seriously misleading, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge. Read more