Patrick Runkel

Communicating statistical concepts quickly and clearly is just as critical as being able to calculate them, so I focus on quick, practical insights about statistics to help you make data-driven decisions. Continue Reading »

Does the prospect of a looming U.S. government shutdown depress you? Are you tired of the ongoing game of Chicken played over our federal budget? The dissonant hysterics of deficit drama queens? The glib arrogance of deficit deniers? Then it might be a good time to take a break and focus on something more pleasant. Something you can control. Something you can improve and make more beautiful. Like... Continue Reading
Defects can cause a lot of pain to your customer. They can also cause a lot of pain inside your body. The picture at right shows my broken right clavicle. Ouch! You might think of it as the defective output from my bicycling process, which needs improvement. Sitting around all summer cinched up in a foam orthopedic brace hasn’t exactly been wild and wacky 50s-style fun at the beach. But the injury has... Continue Reading
It’s wildfire season out West. Time to be in awe of the destructive power of Nature. According to active fire maps by the USDA Forest Service, over 300 fires are now burning across a total of 1.5 million acres—including 35 large, uncontained blazes. Shifting winds, humidity, and terrain can quickly alter a fire's intensity. In extreme conditions, flames can reach over 150 feet, with temperatures... Continue Reading
True confession: Nothing fires quickly from the top of my head. At least nothing very lucid or useful. To come up with a good idea, I have to dredge thoughts slowly from the thick sludge and sediment in my brain.  It's not always easy—there are deeply encrusted layers in my cerebral cortex that go all the way back to the Paleozoic era. So coming up with a useful data display—one that uncovers hidden... Continue Reading
My Uncle Joe is always fantasizing about ways to outsmart Father Time. “Suppose you could reverse your aging process at some fixed point in your life,” he says to me, a crazed gleam in his eye. “So you could pick any age to turn the clock backwards and start aging in reverse. What age would you pick to try to maximize your life span?”   In other words, suppose you pick age 75. That means you’d... Continue Reading
Boxers or briefs. Republican or Democrat. Yin or yang. Why is it that life often seems to boil down to two choices? Heck, it even happens when you open the Basic Stats menu in Minitab. You’ll see a choice between a 2-sample t-test and a paired t-test: Which test should you choose? And what’s at stake? Ask a statistician, and you might get this response: "Elementary, my dear Watson. Choose the 2-sample... Continue Reading
A t-test is one of the most frequently used procedures in statistics. But even people who frequently use t-tests often don’t know exactly what happens when their data are wheeled away and operated upon behind the curtain using statistical software like Minitab. It’s worth taking a quick peek behind that curtain. Because if you know how a t-test works, you can understand what your results really mean.... Continue Reading
Unless you’re 3 years old, you probably can’t have things just the way you want them all the time.   You can’t always have peanut butter and ranch dressing on your toast. Or ketchup on your pineapple. Or sugar sprinkles on your peas. But there is one small arena in life over which you can still exert your control.  Tools > Options in Minitab's statistical softwareallows you to change selected default... Continue Reading
  “Shall I compare thee to a standard normal distribution?   Thou art more symmetric and more bell-shaped…”  — Melvin Shakespeare (William’s lesser-known statistician brother) The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that symmetry was one of the primary elements of the universal ideal of beauty. Over 2000 years later, emerging research seems to bear him out.  Studies suggest we tend to be more... Continue Reading
Using a Survey of Aquatic Bugs to Estimate Stream Quality As we click, flip, and scroll through hundreds of sites and channels, cruising for our daily dose of e-thrills, it’s easy to forget there’s a beautiful, wild, creative universe right in our backyards. I had the chance to experience a tiny part of that universe on a recent Saturday afternoon, when a couple of friends, Yolanda and Monika, asked... Continue Reading
by Patrique Roonquel, guest blogger Institut Sacre Bleu I enjoy using Minitab Statistical Software to uncover the vast causal relationships unfolding in the universe all around me.  What kind of novel things have I proven with Minitab? Almost anything you can imagine, mon petite shoe. For example, the fitted line plot below clearly shows one thing:  it’s time for our political parties to stop all the... Continue Reading
Has it happened to you?   You organize a brainstorming session to begin analyzing your process. At the kick-off meeting, several people sit with arms crossed, lips pursed, eyes cast downward. Frequently, they’re the ones who’ve worked at the process for most of their professional lives. “Here we go again. Wasting time to prove the obvious,” their faces say. “I’ve done my job for years. You’re not... Continue Reading
If the title of this post made you think you’d be reading about Abraham Lincoln and Tyra Banks, you’re only half right.  A few weeks ago, statistician and journalist Nate Silver published an interesting post  on how U.S. presidents are ranked by historians. Silver showed that the percentage of electoral votes that a U.S. president receives in his 2nd term election serves as a rough predictor of... Continue Reading
  Lionel Loosefit has been hauled to court for violating the assumptions of regression analysis. On the last day of the trial, the prosecution and defense present their closing arguments. And the fate of Mr. Loosefit is decided by judge and jury... The Prosecution's Summary Prosecutor: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve presented a slew of evidence in this trial. You’ve seen, with your own eyes, every... Continue Reading
Lionel Loosefit has been hauled to court for violating the assumptions of linear regression. On Day 3 of the trial, the court examines the allegation that the residuals in Mr. Loosefit's model exhibit nonconstant variance. The defendant’s mother, Mrs. Lottie Loosefit, has taken the stand on behalf of her son. Defense Attorney: So, Mrs. Loosefit, from what you’ve described to us, your son, Lionel,... Continue Reading
Recap: Lionel Loosefit has been arrested and hauled to court for violating the assumptions of regression analysis. In the previous court session, the prosecution presented evidence to show that the errors in Mr. Loosefit’s model were not normally distributed. Today, the prosecution addresses the second alleged violation: namely, that the errors in the defendant’s regression model are not... Continue Reading
Bailiff: All Rise. The Honorable Judge Lynn E. R. Peramutter presiding.Judge: Please be seated. Bailiff, please read the charges.Bailiff: Your honor, this is the case of the State vs. Lionel Loosefit. The defendant is charged with creating a model that violated the legal requirements for regression. The infractions include: Producing grossly nonnormal errors Producing errors that lack independence Exh... Continue Reading
Whenever something suddenly fell apart, my grandfather used to exclaim “Down goes the meat house!” I don’t know where that expression came from—as a child I often pictured a flabby house of raw meat caving in on itself. (This was decades before Lady Gaga made wearing raw meat dresses...uh...er... fashionable?) My grandfather’s expression still pops into my head when I think about a probit analysis.... Continue Reading
Juicy, butter roasted turkey. Steaming mashed potatoes. Tangy cranberry relish. Delicious candied sweet potatoes. Creamy green bean casserole. Sweet and airy corn bread. Silken pumpkin pie. The traditional Thanksgiving menu has so many mouth-watering dishes on the table, you don’t know where to start. If you savor statistics as much as food, you might feel similarly as you gaze at all of the delicious ... Continue Reading
It’s been a grueling election campaign for Senator William Overstate, or Will Overstate, as he is known by his constituents. Senator Overstate has been running his re-election campaign on a single issue: to make Election Day a national holiday. That sounds good to me! The senator argues that it's difficult for many people to get to the polls on election day because of work—especially those who work ... Continue Reading