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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 »

 Sheriff Taylor: Remember the talk we had awhile back about Pp?Barney: Keep talking like a potty mouth, Andy, and Aunt Bea’s going to wash your mouth out with soap!Sherriff Taylor (sighs): So you remember that Pp is the ratio of the specification spread to—Barney (interrupts): —the process spread! Yeah, yeah, I got all that. And the smaller your car (process spread), relative to its parking space... Continue Reading
Sheriff Taylor: What’s wrong Barney?Barney: Someone spilled alphabet soup all over my capability output! Wait till I catch the practical joker who did this!! They’ll be sorry!!Sheriff Taylor: That’s not alphabet soup, Barney. Those are capability indices.Barney: I don’t see any indecisives, Andy. I just see a big mess of letters: Cp, Pp, Cpk, Ppk, Cpm, PPM…LMAO!Sheriff Taylor: LMAO is not part of... Continue Reading

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Despite the mountain of statistics backing the relative safety of air travel, I’m a nervous flyer. If a plane hits turbulence, I turn a light shade of olive green and start panting like a sick dog. When I look around the plane compartment, everyone else seems bored and unconcerned. Me? I’m clutching the arm rest, as 10,000 tiny ballerinas turn pirouettes in the pit of my stomach. It’s a visceral... Continue Reading
Muntasir Mamun and Mohammad Ujjal are riding across the U.S. on a bicycle built for two. As they pedal in sync from Seattle to New York, they're not only gazing at our purple mountains’ majesty and amber waves of grain. They’re also keeping their eyes peeled for plastic soda bottles, glass beer bottles, and styrofoam cups! These self-dubbed “trashmaniacs” are collecting and recording every piece of... Continue Reading
In response to a previous post, a reader asked about the best way to represent variation in data. The reader was specifically asking about error bars, which are sometimes displayed on graphs as standard deviation (SD), standard error (SE), or confidence intervals (CIs). I'd like to broaden the implications of this excellent question. What does each estimate of variation tell you—and what doesn’t it... Continue Reading
Unless you’ve been marooned on a desert island, you've probably been hearing a lot of hullaboo about the Higgs boson particle over the last few days. Scientists claim they’ve finally proven the existence of this long sought-after “God particle,” which supports the standard model of the universe by identifying the particle that gives mass to other particles like protons and electrons.If you’re keen... Continue Reading
The doctor’s advice to beat the heat? Chuck it all and head to the nearest lake, river, or ocean. Stick your bare feet in the cold water, and avoid all strenuous activity—except maybe skipping stones. Yes, it’s a perfect time to lazily hone your technique and prepare for the upcoming Pennsylvania Qualifying Stone Skipping Tourney. Every year, amateur and professional skippers congregate on the... Continue Reading
The 2012 U.S. presidential campaign is kicking into high gear. And you know what that means. Political memes will soon be hatching from their electronic eggs, flying through myriad channels of the media, and buzzing annoyingly in your ears.Memes are kernels of content that spread rapidly across the internet. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny their proliferation or their impact on our... Continue Reading
The other day I stopped at a fast food joint for the first time in a while. After I ordered my food, the cashier asked me if I wanted to upgrade to the “Super-Smiley-Savings-Meal” or something like that, and I said, “Sure.”   When it came, I was astounded to see the gargantuan soda cup. I don’t know how many ounces it was, but you could have bathed a dachshund in it. If I drank all the Coke that... Continue Reading
In my last blog, we looked at how a single data entry error can cruelly sabotage your statistical analysis. And if that doesn't scare you silly, maybe this will. The frequency of data entry errors can be as high as 27%, even when using the conservative "double-entry" method to record each data value twice.So what can you do? Besides make offerings to appease Ate, the ancient Greek goddess of... Continue Reading
The demands of modern life can make us very distracted.   We should all do our best to slow down and not make sally mistakes. But it can be tough.   With information coming at us from all directions, it's easy to get side-tracked and lose your …um, whatever. But it's critical to prevent careless erors from creeping into your data. Because if you're not careful, a lot of innocent men may wind up... Continue Reading
I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful we no longer live in a time when we feel compelled to swig swamp-root juice any time we want to feel better. The field of medicine couldn’t advance by relying solely on subjective anecdotes and testimonials, like those for Dr. Kilmer’s cure-all. Using statistical analyses, we can now objectively evaluate various preventions and treatments in measurable,... Continue Reading
If your measurement system depends on subjective decision-making, it’s critical to evaluate its consistency and accuracy. Lately, I’ve been bottle-feeding my work colleagues skunky and sour beer to see how well they can identify defective grog.   Now it’s time to evaluate my (hic) go/no-go gage in Minitab using an Attribute Agreement Analysis. How well did our appraisers do? Let's look at the ... Continue Reading
I’ve been hiding empty beer bottles in my office lately. I hope no one finds them. My boss is in the next office and he's already asked about the occasional "clinking sounds.” I told him I’m practicing castanets for the Minitab talent show. But it's not what you think. Inspired by the relationship between beer and statistics, I'm conducting an attribute agreement analysis of beer appraisals.... Continue Reading
It’s a well-known fact that consumption of beer leads to improved statistical quality analysis. Before you start pounding beers at your desk to get your p-values lower than alpha, let me explain. It’s a famous story in the history of statistics, and one that bears retelling for St. Patrick’s Day. A Painstaking Process in the Land of Patricks In the early 1900s, the Guinness Brewery in Dublin was... Continue Reading
Poring over a printout of radio signals in the late 1970s, an astronomer at the Big Ear telescope at Ohio State University was flabbergasted to discover what appeared to be a big ole “How-Do-You-Do?” from space aliens, jumping out from the everyday mish-mash of earthly radio signals. He circled the signal and recorded his amazement in the margin in red:      The signal appeared to come from the... Continue Reading
“How do you write your blogs?" someone asked me the other day. “It’s really simple," I replied. "I just apply the infinite monkey theorem.” According to the infinite monkey theorem, if enough monkeys type randomly on a keyboard for a long enough time (infinity), they will be almost certain to produce any given text: a play by Shakespeare, the U.S. Constitution, or Minitab Help.A key premise is the... Continue Reading
When you think of design of experiments (DOE), what types of applications come to mind? Do visions of camshafts, widgets, capacitors, resistors, and other industrial thingamabobs dance in your head?   If so, that's probably because DOE has such powerful and successful applications in manufacturing. Those experiments often involve changing levels of physical factors, such as temperature or pressure... Continue Reading
  The Bickersons Battle Over Alpha Meet Betty and Bart Bickerson, husband and wife quality analysts who work at different companies. Betty and Bart argue about everything. They argue whether grey is a color. They argue whether tomato is a fruit. They argue whether the chicken came before the egg, and whether the egg tastes better fried, scrambled, or poached. But their relationship didn’t get really... Continue Reading
In my last blog, we compared fatality rates on Himalayan peaks to determine which mountain provides the biggest challenge for would-be mountaineers in search of death thrills.  Of course, if you’re an adventure/trekking company, you have another goal: to guide thrill-seeking mountaineers to the peak safely. You want to protect your customers from experiencing the ultimate defect: death.So you need... Continue Reading