The following first appeared on Junk Charts on Feb 12:
At one level, Numbers Rule Your World (see here) is a primer on statistical thinking. If you are reading Junk Charts, you already know its importance.
In putting together the book, I gave myself these four challenges:
- No equations
In order to make the book accessible to as many as possible, I borrowed the story-telling style of Freakonomics and The Tipping Point. This, the need to transform numbers into words, comes naturally having worked in business analytics for a long time; readers of Junk Charts will recognize how I always look for the message behind the numbers. And no equations means no equations.
- No toy problems
No Monty Hall problem, no birthday problem, no urn problems, no St. Petersburg's paradox. Not only have these topics been covered well by others, they are good for teaching but ultimately unrealistic. I want to cover statisticians who have harnessed real data to make socially important decisions, such as telling us what makes us sick, setting insurance rates, evaluating SAT questions, catching thiefs.
- Long-form stories
The book is organized around five statistical principles, with a pair of stories illuminating broad aspects of each principle. Each story is developed in rich detail, bringing out the players, the background, the numbers, the conflicts that form the process of applying science. In this way, the book's structure is different from The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, which can sometimes feel episodic.
- Contemporary examples
Nearly everything in the book occurred in the last two or so decades. Statistical thinking is evergreen. I left the standard historical examples on the cutting floor -- Fisher's tea-tasting ladies, Student's brewery experiments, Galton's regression studies, etc. (For those who enjoy history, and can read math, Stigler's two books on the history of statistics are not to be missed.)
Here are the five key principles:
1. The discontent of being averaged: Always ask about variability
2. The virtue of being wrong: Pick useful over true
3. The dilemma of being together: Compare like with like
4. The sway of being asymmetric: Heed the give-and-take of two errors
5. The power of being impossible: Don't believe what is too rare to be true
Come back for more on these, or get the book.