Big Data, Plainly Spoken (aka Numbers Rule Your World)

Comments on statistical thinking in current events by Kaiser Fung, author of "Numbers Rule Your World: the hidden influence of probability and statistics in everything you do" and "Numbersense: How to use Big Data to your advantage"

Latest articles

Behind the proposed strengthening of FDA vaccine approval rules

News just broke that the FDA may announce more "rigorous" standards for a coronavirus vaccine to get approved. This indicates a willingness to listen to some of the critics of the perceived rushed job. The specific rules mentioned in this Washington Post article are: 1) Participants must be followed for a median of at least two months, starting from...

Notes on the Moderna vaccine trial protocol 2

This is Part 2 of my notes about the Moderna vaccine trial. Read Part 1 here. *** Durability of Protection As described in the last post, the full analysis will not take place until middle of 2021, so the vaccine developers are hoping that their vaccine would show enough during the first or second interim analysis to accelerate the time line. Early...

Good news from Cornell

Source: Redbubble.com Some colleges and universities have re-opened for in-person classes for the fall term. Previously, I examined the Cornell model (link), which outlines a very aggressive plan for preventing the virus from entering the campus, and then snipping transmission chains during the semester. Also, we learned that several schools that...

Notes on the Moderna vaccine trial protocol 1

Bending to outside pressure, Moderna has made public one of the documents submitted to the FDA that provide more details on how they are running the vaccine trial. (PDF here) This is a reassuring move, and I applaud them for taking this step. In a previous post, I raised two key questions I would like to find answers to, and after reading all 135...

Masks and vaccines

United Nations Covid-19 Response Wasn't planning on blogging today but the news cycle won't leave me alone :) CDC Director Dr. Redfield made a bit of a stir yesterday when he told Congress - and I paraphrase - that masks may offer individuals greater protection than vaccines. This is a very thoughtful statement which rewards some further comments....

Confusion over case trends and positivity ratios, an aftertaste of targeted testing

We are now experiencing the aftertaste of targeted (aka triage) testing, a policy that has unsavory consequences that were predictable (link). Targeted testing is the idea that only people with severe symptoms or at high risk of infection should get tested for the novel coronavirus. Compared to a broad-based testing plan (whether comprehensive or randomized),...

I feel sad for those who had to roll out the methodology change announced by BLS for seasonal adjustment

Imagine running a McDonald's franchise. We need lots and lots of potatoes. Over a year, we order 2400 cases, an average of 200 per month. Each December, more people dine out and our sales jump. We order 300 cases, which is 50 percent more than an average month. (For simplicity, let's say February sales dip to 100 cases which gets us back to the monthly...

What to make of the vaccine pledge

Investors have schedules: they want to make a return of at least x percent within y years. Science does not follow schedules. That's why vaccine manufacturers got into trouble when the U.S. government keeps seting deadlines for when a coronavirus vaccine will come to market. The anticipated arrival date of late October defies belief. It implies that...

Story-first thinking

There are two types of people when it comes to using data. I call them "data first" and "story first". The natural mode seems to be "story first". Calling this "narrative fallacy" or "confirmation bias" creates the impression that the default mode is "data first", and being "story first" is an aberration. I believe it's the opposite. Being "data first"...

A story about poop, and the scientific method

These headlines flooded the media last week. I'm listing the first five results selected by my search engine. University of Arizona is screening for COVID-19 via dorms poop (New York Post) University of Arizona says it prevented COVID-19 outbreak by testing students feces (Daily Mail) Poop test stop COVID-19 outbreak at University of Arizona (Science)...

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