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Probabilities: The Little Numbers That Rule Our Lives, 2nd Edition by Peter Olofsson

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8

Guessing Probabilities: Enter the Statisticians

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND BEAUTIFUL LIES?

I'd better admit it right away: This chapter is about statistics. Wait, don't put the book away just yet! I know from years of teaching that most people find statistics about as exciting as watching wet paint dry and as pleasurable as root canal work. When I wrote the proposal for this book, I mentioned how I therefore deliberately wanted to avoid the word statistics in the book title. One of the reviewers pointed out that although it is true that many people perceive statistics as boring, many also perceive probability as scary. Well, people buy scary books, don't they? But if you ever found probability to be a scary subject, I hope that I have helped you overcome some of your fears by now.

My next mission is to show you that statistics is not always that boring, which may be a more challenging task. You may have suffered through one of those college courses where your head started spinning from all the significance levels, type one and two errors, p-values, and questions about whether two samples were heteroscedastic. Or you may think that statistics is all about some guy with thick glasses staring at page after page of census data, trying to decide whether the population of Luckenbach, Texas has changed in the last decade. And sure, statistics can be about all those things (except that census data will not provide much useful information about Luckenbach as those of you who have been there ...

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