Tag Archives: statistics

Spurious Accuracy

“At one point, the drone was estimated to be approximately 98 feet from the passenger jet.”

“Estimated?”  “Approximately?”  98 feet actually looks astonishingly accurate doesn’t it?  Is someone having a laugh?  No, not exactly; it’s just the sort of thing that happens when people do silly things with numbers.

We’ll come back to that one.  For now, to get an idea of what’s going on, let’s take another example, adapted from Darrell Huff‘s magnificent How to Lie with Statistics

Suppose you’re a would-be statistical researcher and you’ve decided to write something on how long people sleep.  You’re going to talk to 100 people (which isn’t a huge number for a study but things have been published on less data) about it.  And here’s where it starts to go wrong …

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