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Statistics in the News

Blog posts and articles that look at how statistics are used in news reports, current events, and sports

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Are you going to be a witch today? Batman? Jedi? You're not alone according to National Retail Federation statistics on top costumes and Halloween spending trends. Last-minute candy shopping? Check out kidzworld.com’s list of the top 10 candies for Halloween. And of course, you have to plan your daily candy consumption to match the limits on free sugar recommended by the World Health Organization... Continue Reading
There may not be a situation more perilous than being a character on Game of Thrones. Warden of the North, Hand of the King, and apparent protagonist of the entire series? Off with your head before the end of the first season! Last male heir of a royal bloodline? Here, have a pot of molten gold poured on your head! Invited to a wedding? Well, you probably know what happens at weddings in the show. ... Continue Reading
One of the biggest pieces of international news last year was the so-called "Brexit" referendum, in which a majority of voters in the United Kingdom cast their ballots to leave the European Union (EU). That outcome shocked the world. Follow-up media coverage has asserted that the younger generation prefers to remain in the EU since that means more opportunities on the continent. The older... Continue Reading
B'gosh n' begorrah, it's St. Patrick's Day today! The day that we Americans lay claim to our Irish heritage by doing all sorts of things that Irish people never do. Like dye your hair green. Or tell everyone what percentage Irish you are. Despite my given name, I'm only about 15% Irish. So my Irish portion weighs about 25 pounds. It could be the portion that hangs over my belt due to excess potatoes... Continue Reading
My colleague Cody Steele wrote a post that illustrated how the same set of data can appear to support two contradictory positions. He showed how changing the scale of a graph that displays mean and median household income over time drastically alters the way it can be interpreted, even though there's no change in the data being presented. When we analyze data, we need to present the results in... Continue Reading
When you’re working in Minitab and prepping your data for analysis, it’s common to group data into categories that imply a specific order, such as Low, Medium, High or Beginning, Middle, End. But if the data were to appear in a different order in tables and graphs (for example, Beginning, End, Middle), the result could be confusing, and might distract from your message. Fortunately, with Minitab’s va... Continue Reading
In week 16 of the 2016 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns were able to avoid going into the history books as only the second team to finish the season 0-16. They claimed their first and only win of the season after San Diego missed a last-second field goal. While they came very close to going winless, the statistics paint a very different picture of the odds of that occurrence.  Going 0-16 is hard. Usi... Continue Reading
As we enter late December, snow is falling here on the East Coast of the United States. The official start to winter is on December 21, 2016, but it’s certainly not uncommon to see snowflakes flying before this date. If you live in the U.S., you know the winter of 2015 was one for the record books. In fact, more than 90 inches of snow fell in Boston in the winter of 2015! Have you ever wondered how... Continue Reading
It's that time of year again. The time when eggs get nogged, pudding gets figgy, and it becomes socially acceptable to speak in rhyme. So on that note, and with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, I bring you this timely and heartfelt PSA. Enjoy. Twas the week before Christmas, and I couldn't be bothered, to make sure that our tree, had quite enough water."A sprinkling of needles on the carpet, I... Continue Reading
by Matt Barsalou, guest blogger I know that Thanksgiving is always on the last Thursday in November, but somehow I failed to notice it was fast approaching until the Monday before Thanksgiving. This led to frantically sending a last-minute invitation, and a hunt for a turkey. I live in Germany and this greatly complicated the matter. Not only is Thanksgiving not celebrated, but also actual turkeys... Continue Reading
The season of change is upon us here at Minitab's World Headquarters. The air is crisp and clear and the landscape is ablaze in vibrant fall colors. As I drove to work one recent morning, I couldn't help but soak in the beauty surrounding me and think, "Too bad everything they taught me as a kid was a lie." You see, as a boy growing up in New Hampshire, I was told that the sublime beauty of autumn... Continue Reading
Regardless of who you support in the upcoming U.S. election, we can all agree that it’s been a very bumpy ride! It’s been a particularly chaotic election cycle. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could peek into the future and see potential election results right now? That’s what we'll do in this post! In 2012, I used binary logistic regression to predict that President Obama would be reelected for a second... Continue Reading
Today, September 16, is World Ozone Day. You don't hear much about the ozone layer any more. In fact, if you’re under 30, you might think this is just another trivial, obscure observance, along the lines of International Dot Day (yesterday) or National Apple Dumpling Day (tomorrow). But there’s a good reason that, almost 30 years ago, the United Nations designated today to as a day to raise... Continue Reading
There may be huge potential benefits waiting in the data in your servers. These data may be used for many different purposes. Better data allows better decisions, of course. Banks, insurance firms, and telecom companies already own a large amount of data about their customers. These resources are useful for building a more personal relationship with each customer. Some organizations already use... Continue Reading
The college football season is here, and this raises a very important question: Is Alabama going to be undefeated when they win the national championship, or will they lose a regular-season game along the way? Okay, so it's not a given that Alabama is going to win the championship this year, but when you've won 4 of the last 7 you're definitely the odds-on favorite. However, what if we wanted to take... Continue Reading
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated their star ratings on July 27. Turns out, the list of hospitals provide a great way to look at how easy it is to get random samples from data within Minitab. Say for example, that you wanted to look at the association between the government’s new star ratings and the safety rating scores provided by hospitalsafetyscore.org. The CMS score... Continue Reading
Figures lie, so they say, and liars figure. A recent post at Ben Orlin's always-amusing mathwithbaddrawings.com blog nicely encapsulates why so many people feel wary about anything related to statistics and data analysis. Do take a moment to check it out, it's a fast read. In all of the scenarios Orlin offers in his post, the statistical statements are completely accurate, but the person offering... Continue Reading
The Olympic games are about to begin in Rio de Janeiro. Over the next 16 days, more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries will be competing in 306 different events. That's the most events ever in any Olympic games. It's almost twice as many events as there were 50 years ago, and exactly three times as many as there were 100 years ago. Since the number of Olympic events has changed over time,... Continue Reading
Have you ever accidentally done statistics? Not all of us can (or would want to) be “stat nerds,” but the word “statistics” shouldn’t be scary. In fact, we all analyze things that happen to us every day. Sometimes we don’t realize that we are compiling data and analyzing it, but that’s exactly what we are doing. Yes, there are advanced statistical concepts that can be difficult to understand—but... Continue Reading
Last Tuesday Night, Major League Baseball announced the rosters for tomorrow's All-Star game in San Diego. Immediately, as I'm sure was anticipated, people began talking about who made it and who didn't. Who got left out, and who shouldn't have made it. As a fun little exercise, I decided to take a visual look at the all-star teams, to see what kind of players were selected. I looked at position... Continue Reading