Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Statistics. How would you even start to write a post about statistics? 

At the moment, I’m in the process of throwing together a doctoral thesis. Having gathered all the data, I’m now at the stage of putting it all in the one place in order to analyse it. Said analysis involves diving deep into the very shallow waters of my statistical knowledge. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

Did you hear about the three statisticians who went hunting? They spotted a deer in a clearing up ahead, and the first statistician took a shot at it, falling short by a good ten metres. The second statistician also took a shot, but he overshot by ten metres. The third statistician shouted ‘we got him!’

Look, I didn’t say it was very funny.

I don’t really mind data analysis. In fact, it can be rather jolly when all goes to plan. The trick is to stay within what you understand, even if that doesn’t give you much room. In fact, there’s probably only enough room to stand up. On one leg. But it will suffice.

I have two programs to help me. Good old Microsoft Excel and the dreaded Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). With Excel, your data can be made to look nice and be set out in a intuitive way. SPSS will do your statistical calculations for you, but won’t let you have any fun. Most of my day was spent trying to make Excel and SPSS play nicely and not fight. 

Even when I was elbow deep in my number-crunching exploits, I was able to spare a thought for my faithful blogue readers. Knowing that they’d take a keen interest, I romped on over to The Strip Generator, in order to construct a schematic account of the data analysis process.


I was going to riddle this post with some amusing statistics courtesy of Google, but didn’t quite find the energy. However, I’m sure that at least 79.2% of you will have some statisical tit-bits that are interesting and with which you might entertain the rest of us.

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4 Comments on “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

  1. Jamie Angus Says:

    I was going to riddle this post with some amusing statistics courtesy of Google, but didn’t quite find the energy. However, I’m sure that at least 79.2% of you will have some statisical tit-bits that are interesting and with which you might entertain the rest of us.

    Fat chance. On a completely unrelated note I (having recently recovered from a nasty bout of chicken pox) have bounced back bigger and better then ever and am ready to resume my duties as your cultural leader and guide. I don’t think you should be watching Spiderman 3 but I DO think you should be drooling over the upcoming David Fincher thriller Zodiac which promises to be a taut, psychological cat-and-mouse thriller. Also look out for 28 Weeks Later and This is England. The latter is supposed to be particularly good, from that bloke that did Dead Mans Shoes. As far as books go I’m rereading Wuthering Heights (perhaps my feverish delirium hasn’t completely abated yet after all), and I have a hankering to read Jane Eyre but am worried it’ll be crap so can you read it first and let me know please? Thanks. Also read Slaughterhouse-5. It’s very short so don’t worry.

    This blasted chicken pox has made me feel very peculiar. I seem to have acquired a hankering for various foodstuffs that would have repulsed me before. Peanut butter and licorice being cases in point. Such cravings are very uncommon in someone as sedate and repressed as me. Perhaps I’m pregnant.

  2. Doug Says:

    I have Zodiac, This is England and (especially) 28 Weeks Later in my sights. Fear not, sonny boy. I did happen across Spider-man 3, which wasn’t bad.

    Readingwise, I almost picked up Slaughterhouse 5 yesterday, but opted instead for Northern Lights, a grubby irreligious tract the likes of which has not been seen since your ‘Theoretical Perspectives in Psychology’ essay.

    I thought it would be interesting to see what all the fuss is about.

    Oh, and dispense with the period dramas. They’ve had their day, mostly.

  3. Jamie Says:

    Oh you’ll probably like the His Dark Materials trilogy although they are indeed irreligious tracts. Far more so than my blistering diatribe on theoretical perspectives which earned me a paltry 14 (and some funny looks from Paul Gardner to boot). It was too ahead of its time, too progressive and as such was little understood. Much like my 12 line “novella” on colour perception.

  4. Doug Says:

    Those were happy days. You could prepare for exams in the best possible way (i.e. knowing the questions in advance) or do absolutely nothing, and it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the mark you got.

    I seem to recall that the central thesis of your visual perception essay was that colour vision emerged in order that monkeys could find bananas lying on the ground. Brilliant.

    What I’d give to read your blistering diatribe now.

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