It is widely known that if you include a number in a statement, 79% of people will believe you without question. If you include two numbers, then 82.3% of people will take your statement as definitely true.1 Don’t go overboard, of course. If you make a statement such as “01001001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00101100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00101110,” only 1 in 117 will even consider it.2 One of the best way to add numbers to your statements is by means of statistics, and, since we all want to be believed, The Flying News has prepared this handy Guide to Statistics.
We will begin our instructive adventures in statistics by gathering materials. In our office, we keep a collection of dice, some coins, and a large box of doughnuts handy at all times, since we never know when we might need a statistic.
When working with statistics, scientific objectivity is always of the utmost importance. In order to preserve objectivity and prevent bias of any sort from sneakily creeping into your work, always begin your statistical analysis by writing an equation. Which equation? That’s up to you. Just make sure that you have written out a scientific formula before you start flipping coins, rolling dice, or eating doughnuts.
An example will make this clearer. Let’s say you want to do research on the impact of pesticides on human health, and you want to know what percentage of nuclear physicists are concerned about pesticides. You need a statistic. Begin by writing down a formula. You might decide to use the number on your nineteen-sided die multiplied by the number on your six-sided die as the percentage of physicists who are worried about the impact of pesticides in food. You could subtract the three sided die to take account of Markov’s inequality. You might also decide to flip five nickels and use the number of heads as your standard deviation or inter-quartile range. Remember that, whatever formula you use, it’s absolutely vital to have this formula written down before you start collecting your data.
After you have your formula set, the rest is easy. First eat a doughnut, then flip coins and roll dice. Then, using your formula, figure out what the statistic in question is. If you don’t like the result, you can always do further research by rolling again, or even inventing a new formula.
“Fractal Fire,” by Stevo-88. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.