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03 February 2008


"Statistics are like loose women. Once you get them, they let you do what you want with them."
Walt Michaels, former New York Jets Coach

Well, I don't know if that is the comparison that I would have come up with, but most able minded folks get the point I'm sure.

Statistics come in every conceivable shape and size.

Sales people use and abuse them to an annoying level:

  • 20% more that the previous version for the same price (though the price went way up before the size did, still insuring a profit leap for the seller)
  • Our candy bar has 40% less fat than the leading competitor (who had 400% more fat to begin with, making the point mostly moot)
Many stats are historic in nature:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. (unless you are a drunk woman, driving 90 miles an hour on a dirt road frequented by cows, then DWI would be your leading cause of death)
  • 3213 - number of head or brain injuries suffered by Iraq war vets
  • $11.7 Billion dollars - that is how much Exxon-Mobil made in green, hard cash after paying their bills in the last 3 month's of 2007. Let me repeat: pure profit, 3 months, 11.7 Billion bones.
Some stats are predictive:

  • 5 men will die in a fireworks accident this year.
  • Actors who win Oscars live 3.6 years longer than those never nominated.

And some are downright silly:

  • The tip of a 1/3 inch long hour-hand on a wristwatch travels at 0.00000275 mph.
  • The longest recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds!

And you can be assured that the Super Bowl pundits will be slathered in statistical knowledge before, during and after the game. The one stat that most matters to sports fans around the world though will be the final stat ... the final score.

Any stats drive you nuts or that are particulary noteworthy?


Tammy said...

I took statistics at college and I can tell you I have never ever used them since.

Two Date Diva said...

I do stats for a living and let me tell you, they all drive you nuts. And they should all be taken with a grain of salt. It's all in how you ask the question my friend.;)

Deb in OPKS said...

I used to work for the State Auditor and we tried hard to not misrepresent the numbers. It is so easy to "lie with numbers."

Kat Wilder said...

The only statistics I like are the ones that confirm what I instinctively "know." The rest of 'em are just, well, numbers. And too many of 'em, if you ask me.

And, in the end, the Giants won, and I just knew they would ...

L.A. Mama said...

I took stats in undergrad school for a Psych degree and again in grad school for a Masters in Education. Stats are just numbers. They don't tell the whole story and they never will. That is why I value qualitative research versus quantitative research. But, to answer your question...the stats that bug me the most are stats related to breastfeeding, contraceptive use and breast cancer.

Another thing that I know for sure is that before "buying into" any stat, one needs to follow the trail of money to the source of the study. WHO has the most to gain from the study and WHO funded the study???

L.A. Mama said...


I was also a Quality Assurance Specialist for Child Support Enforcement in the states of Tennessee and Kansas. I audited hundreds of thousands of child support cases to ensure the quality of services that custodial and non custodial parents were given. I made sure that all local, state and federal guidelines were being met. I NEVER lied or tried to make my stats say something else...

Deb in OPKS said...

I.A. Mama is so right! Follow the money trail!

BTW Mike, forgot to tell you I gave you an award. Come check it out if you haven't already.

Michael M. said...

I'm reminded of the line in "Peggy Sue Got Married" when Kathleen Turner (40 year old who has returned to her younger self as a 17 year old in high school). She got caught doodling instead of doing Algebra work. Teacher says "you need this when you grow up" She say..."I happen to know for a FACT that I will never need this!". Love that...because I always hated Algebra too.

Michael M. said...

One of the tricks some government's play is by re-classifying crimes as something else so as to "lower the crime rate". I.e. instead of murder, it is a hate crime, ergo the murder rate drops.....