Thursday, November 10, 2005

Apples are Apples

The Brussels Journal goes into their message on the failure of the EU system. But in their message is a very important learning tool.

Ah, didn’t Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy say earlier that “20 to 40 cars torched each night” was the normal rate?

Yes, he did, but the official figures are generally understood to be underreported. As this discussion (in French) between firemen shows, when one car is set alight but two cars next to it are destroyed in the same fire, the statistics count it as only one case of car torching, not three. And when a car is set alight, but is not damaged beyond repair, it is not included in the statistics either. Hence doubling or tripling the official figure is not considered to be unrealistic. Some people even put the number at 50,000 “car-becues” per year. This is almost 140 in a “normal” night.

Mark Twain said something about Lies, D@mned Lies , and Statistics... this is a very true point. When it comes to domestic US crime stats the numbers often do not mean what they say. The infamous "more likely to be shot by some one living in your own home" stat is you are more likely to be shot by some one who lives within 500 feet of you.

Where did this stat come from you ask? why from Chicago....

500 feet in urban chicago puts entirely different demographics on the crimes then 500 feet from say Aurora ,Illinois.

In Japan a husband can kill his wife and child, then kill himself and all the deaths are classified as a "suicide"

People always want to say "We are the best" and they come up with ways to say it. The problem however is what my roomate and I call the ESPN effect because of the ludicrous stats many sports casters pull up ( which is at its worst on ESPN)

"The Pittsburgh Steelers are undefeated when at home on monday night football since coach Bill Cowher is at the helm.

Ok lets review... many teams don't make it to Monday Night football. So Undefeated on monday night football is a legitimate stat, but just barely

Undefeated at home: a pretty good stat.

Undefeated @Home on monday night football.... how many times have they had home monday night football games?

Undefeated @ home on monday night with Coach Cowher: an utterly meaningless stat.

Statistics can provide meaningful context when they are -used- in a meaningful way

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