Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Your lab results are positive for…

If you ever get a positive result for a medical condition, you need to read this article (even though it is somewhat difficult) to realize what false positives mean.

The problem with p-values

Academic psychology and medical testing are both dogged by unreliability. The reason is clear: we got probability wrong

David Colquhoun | 11 October, 2016 | aeon

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October 20, 2016 Posted by | health, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

What I Learned from Losing $200 Million

In summary: illusion of control. And that stress amplifies it.

What I Learned from Losing $200 Million

The 2008 financial crisis taught me about the illusion of control, and how to give it up.

By Bob Henderson | December 24, 2015 | Nautilus

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | behaviour, economics, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clinical trials skewing medical science

Scary. Read the original article to see the graphs and link to the clinical trial simulation game.

Clinical trials: Spilling the beans

Failure to publish the results of all clinical trials is skewing medical science

Jul 25th 2015 | The Economist

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August 28, 2015 Posted by | health, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Science Isn’t Broken

Wonderful article explaining why we can’t take each scientific study as “truth”, yet science is still providing us with the best answers.  Make sure you read it at the origin, so you can play with the interactive graph.

The Scientific Method: Science Isn’t Broken

It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for.

By Christie Aschwanden | Aug 19, 2015 | FiveThirtyEight

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August 25, 2015 Posted by | statistics | , , , | Leave a comment

Margarine linked to divorce?

Just because there seems to be a connection between two things, it doesn’t necessarily prove causation.  A website tales a humorous look at statistical correlations.  Report from BBC News:

 

Spurious correlations: Margarine linked to divorce?

A website set up by a student at Harvard teaches us to look carefully at statistics. And it’s fun at the same time.

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May 26, 2014 Posted by | statistics | , , | Leave a comment

Unreliable research

If you think you can rely on scientific research as truth, you’d be wrong, according to this article. I certainly will be much more skeptical of research from now on.  Well explained, a must-read article from The Economist:

Unreliable research:

Trouble at the lab

Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not

The Economist, Oct 19th 2013

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April 8, 2014 Posted by | information, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

The 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet

I didn’t realize so much data is available on the internet…wow.  From MIT’s Technology Review, December 3, 2010:

The 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet

If you want to simulate the Earth, you’ll need data on the climate, health, finance, economics, traffic and lots more. Here’s where to find it.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | information, statistics | , , | Leave a comment

Why we think rituals can influence results

From Michael Shermer’s article I already learned that people see patterns even when there is none. The article below points out that this type of behaviour was also observed in pigeons!  From BBC News Magazine, 14 September 2011:

Go Figure: Why we think rituals can influence results

By Michael Blastland

We all have lucky rituals or charms but why do we see meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, asks Michael Blastland.

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September 15, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, statistics | , , , | Leave a comment

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Our innate instincts to recognize the probabilities of dangers are not always accurate (or useful) in our modern world.  But if you understand this, you can use your rational mind to try to alter your behaviour accordingly.  From Discover magazine, July-August 2011 edition:

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Humans have a perplexing 
tendency to fear rare threats such as shark attacks while blithely 
ignoring far greater risks like 
unsafe sex and an unhealthy diet. Those illusions are not just 
silly—they make the world a more dangerous place.


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September 12, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, emotions, statistics | , , | 1 Comment

What Health Stats Really Mean

Statistical illiteracy becomes a big problem when people make health decisions.  So why isn’t statistics taught to everyone early in school?  And more importantly, why isn’t it a requirement for doctors?

From Scientific American Mind,  April 8, 2009:

Knowing Your Chances: What Health Stats Really Mean

Learn how to put aside unjustified fears and hopes and how to weigh your real risk of illness–or likelihood of recovery

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October 6, 2009 Posted by | decision making, health, statistics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment