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Introduction to QuantLib training with Luigi Ballabio

19-21 October, London

Understanding Uncertainty's Blog


Press Complaints Commission decide on '13,000 needless deaths' story

November 4, 2013 Comments (0)

I was of a number of complainants to the Press Complaints Commission about the Sunday Telegraph story headlined 13,000 died needlessly at 14 worst NHS trusts, as the Telegraph journalists had been explicitly told by the originator of the figures, Professor Brian Jarman, that this was an inappropriate interpretation. My objections were expressed in an article in the British Medical Journal. The Press Complaints Commission has now told me that “The Commission decided that the Sunday Telegraph...

Probability and stats feature strongly in 'Core maths' proposals for 16-18 year olds

October 14, 2013 Comments (0)

The government is pushing ahead with proposals for a maths qualification to be taken by 16-18 year-olds who got at least a grade C in Maths GCSE but are not doing maths A level. Further details were released on October 8th by the Department of Education, coinciding with the release of a report by the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) from its 'expert panel on core mathematics'. This report includes the 'indicative content' contained in the table below The importance of...

September 19th is Huntrodds day!

September 21, 2013 Comments (0)

When on holiday at Whitby we took this photo of this extraordinary memorial to Mr and Mrs Huntrodds. As you can read, they were both born on September 19th 1600, married on September 19th, had 12 children and then both died within 5 hours of each other on their joint 80th birthday on September 19th 1680. Now that's an impressive 'coincidence' - if it can be considered that. After all, they presumably chose to marry, and when to marry, so the really odd thing is when they died. But was there...

Probability and stats in GCSE Maths

August 4, 2013 Comments (0)

The current consultation on GCSE subject content and assessment objectives for Mathematics GCSE features major changes for probability and statistics. I encourage everyone with an interest to respond (before 20th August): here is my personal take on the topic. The proposals are as follows: Probability record and describe the frequency of outcomes of probability experiments using tables and frequency trees apply ideas of randomness, fairness and equally likely events to calculate expected...

Fatality risk on Boris-bikes?

July 7, 2013 Comments (0)

I was saddened by the death on Friday of a Boris-bike rider in Whitechapel High Street, particularly as I am a frequent and enthusiastic user of the scheme. But as a statistician, I also immediately wonder about the risks of riding these bikes. Transport for London report that between December 2010 and 31st May 2013 there were around 22,000,000 Barclays Cycle Hire (the official name) trips in London. There were 750,000 trips in May, so let’s assume that by July 7th there were around 23,000,000...

Speed cameras, regression-to-the-mean, and the Daily Mail (again)

June 7, 2013 Comments (0)

It was interesting to hear ‘regression-to-the-mean’ being discussed on the Today programme this morning, even if the quality of the debate wasn’t great. The issue was the effectiveness of speed cameras, which tend to get installed after a spate of accidents. Since bad luck does not last, accidents tend to fall after such a ‘blip’, and this fall is generally attributed to the speed camera, whereas it would have happened anyway: this is what is meant by ‘regression-to-the-mean’. The report from...

How can 2% become 20%? Ask the Daily Mail.

June 4, 2013 Comments (0)

The Daily Mail’s headline below is unequivocal – statins cause a 20% increase in muscle problems. Unfortunately, the ‘20%’ is complete nonsense - the study on which this story is based claims that taking statins increased the risk of muscle problems from 85% to 87%. And even that claim is highly dubious. How can the Daily Mail get it so wrong? The ‘20%’ is a basic statistical error promoted by a misleading abstract and press release from JAMA Internal Medicine – associated with the...

Court of Appeal bans Bayesian probability (and Sherlock Holmes)

February 25, 2013 Comments (0)

..when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth (Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four, ch. 6, 1890) In a recent judgement the English Court of Appeal has not only rejected the Sherlock Holmes doctrine shown above, but also denied that probability can be used as an expression of uncertainty for events that have either happened or not. The case was a civil dispute about the cause of a fire, and concerned an appeal against a decision in the...

What's more dangerous - the bute or the burger?

February 15, 2013 Comments (0)

There is reasonable public outrage at possible criminal conspiracies to adulterate meat products with horsemeat, and additional concerns raised about the presence of the anti-inflammatory known as bute. While not in any way questioning this concern about adulteration with a chemical compound, it is helpful to get a sense of magnitude. When bute was given as a human medicine, was reported to be associated with a serious adverse reaction in 1 in 30,000 (over a whole course of treatment), but at...

Squaring the square, in glass

January 22, 2013 Comments (0)

Here is my latest stained glass effort, seen on a snowy day. It is a 'square of squares', where all the constituent squares are of different sizes. Here are the dimensions - It is copied from the logo of the Trinity Mathematical Society, who point out that it is the unique smallest simple squared square (smallest in that it uses the fewest squares, and simple in that no proper subset of the squares of size at least 2 forms a rectangle). It was proved to be the smallest such square by...