A crash course in understanding numbers

(K. Brent Tomer),

A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics. By Daniel Levitin. Dutton; 292 pages; $28. Viking; £14.99.

PEOPLE take in five times as much information each day as they did in the mid-1980s. With all these data sloshing around it is easy to feel lost. One politician uses a statistic to back up her argument; a newspaper uses another fact to refute it; an economist uses a third to prove them both wrong. In “A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics” Daniel Levitin, an American neuroscientist, shows the reader how to find a way through all this numerical confusion.

A book about statistics can easily be boring. Fortunately, Mr Levitin is the perfect guide. Before becoming an academic he used to work as a stand-up comedian. Drawing on those skills Mr Levitin peppers his book with wisecracks. He uses the phrase “on average, humans have one testicle” to make the point that the mean can be a misleading description of a population. He goes off on interesting tangents, granting the reader some light relief from detailed analysis of sampling and probabilities. Only occasionally is his hokey style annoying.

Using plenty of…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC A crash course in understanding numbers

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