Damn Statistics

Statistics are a basic component of science research. We use them all the time to summarize data and in some cases they're the only way we can even infer anything at all from huge amounts of incoming data. DNA microarrays are a good example with often over 20,000 datapoints in each array, each point having numberous numbers associated with it. Unfortunately published scientific results are often misused by journalists not familiar with statistics. An article on the STATS website illustrates this quite well. Raw Food and Osteoporosis, currently on their front page, shows how Dr. Luigi Fontana's qualified results were misreported in several publications.

Benjamin Disraeli's famous quote "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." notwithstanding, statistics are a valuable and necessary tool in many disciplines, certainly in science. They are subject to abuse however so you should always check the original source for them. The popular media has a very bad track record regarding disseminating correct statistics. End of soapbox!


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