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Introduction to QuantLib training with Luigi Ballabio

19-21 October, London

Understanding Uncertainty's Blog


Wiped Out

December 17, 2011 Comments (0)

Appearing on Winter Wipeout today. Enough said. Looking deranged at the prospect of the Big Balls Wrote an article for the Times, which appeared as this.

BBC website headline wrong shock horror

December 8, 2011 Comments (0)

Bowel cancer screening 'does cut deaths', said the BBC News website today, in a report on a study using data from the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, published in the magnificently named journal Gut. Wow, I thought, that was quick, the programme has been going only since 2006 and didn't cover the whole country till 2010. Have they really found clear evidence of an effect on death rates already? Well, no, they haven't. The story is a bit more complicated and subtle than the...

Why it’s important to be pedantic about sigmas and commas

December 3, 2011 Comments (0)

The BBC reported last week that evidence for the Higgs Boson is “around the two-sigma level of certainty” and provides further explanation: Particle physics has an accepted definition for a "discovery": a five-sigma level of certainty. The number of standard deviations, or sigmas, is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance rather than a real effect” This is nice and clear, but also wrong. The number of sigmas does not say 'how unlikely the result...

Are the Brits really fatter than other Europeans?

November 27, 2011 Comments (0)

Lots of press reports in the last couple of days on how UK women are the fattest in Europe, for example in the Daily Mail and on the BBC News website. I'm still in Berlin, and it was in the papers here too. The tabloid-style Berliner Kurier went with the headline "Man, they are fat, man", while the N24 news service went with "British and Maltese are the fattest Europeans". But is it another dodgy league table? Well, yes, though for different reasons from those we've looked at here or here. And...

The next Piccadilly line train is leaving from ....

November 19, 2011 Comments (0)

Kings Cross Station now not only has a platform 9$\frac{3}{4}$, but also a platform 0. And for the numerically challenged, there are repeated announcements that 'customers are advised that Platform 0 is situated next to Platform 1' I suppose the Underground platforms will now have to be given complex numbers. [That is an unofficial entry from the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge, for next year's Round Britain Mathematical Joke competition.]...

The risk of queuing?

November 8, 2011 Comments (0)

Got a short article in the Times today about the UK Border Agency relaxing its checks over the summer. I wish I had included the following interesting information provided by the excellentHome Office Immigration Statistics April-June 2011. In 2010 there were around 100,000,000 admissions to the UK , and around 19,000 non-asylum individuals were refused entry. That's around 1 in 5000 admissions, about 35 plane-loads. So someone should be able to estimate how many people were admitted who would...

Another doubtful league table?

November 1, 2011 Comments (0)

David Cameron has prominently commented on the recent performance tables concerning adoption in local authorities, in particular the proportion of children whose adoption placement occurs within 12 months. But are the local authorities really as different as they have been made out to be? The league tables are available here but only give percentages. Considerable searching is necessary to find the raw numbers on which these percentages are based, but it is possible to eventually discover...

A probability paradox?

October 31, 2011 Comments (0)

I recently tweeted a link to this problem drawn on a blackboard, which got a lot of retweets. Multiple Choice: If you choose an answer to this question at random, what is the chance you will be correct? A) 25% B) 50% C) 60% D) 25% This is a fun question whose paradoxical, self-referential nature quickly reveals itself – A) seems to be fine until one realizes the D) option is also 25%. A quick search reveals hundreds of discussion contributions of this problem, for example here and here and from...

A Maserati for £1

October 17, 2011 Comments (0)

After Dave and Angela Dawes won £101 million on the Euromillions lottery, Radio 5 Live asked me to comment on the different ways one could win a decent amount of money for £1. I chose £100,000, which will buy you a shiny new Maserati ( a Ferrari would be about double that). The recording of my interview is here, and here are the details of my calculations, which I hope are roughly correct. National Lottery There are 49 balls and if your choice of 6 numbers matches 5 winning balls plus the...

Surgeons create Frankenstein numbers?

September 29, 2011 Comments (0)

The BBC News website and Radio 4 news both led this morning on the Royal College of Surgeons' report on emergency surgery. The BBC web site states that 'A report by the college highlights figures that show that about 170,000 patients undergo emergency abdominal operations each year. Of these, 100,000 will develop complications and 25,000 of these patients will die.' The actual RCS report, on the other hand, says that ‘In the UK, 170,000 patients undergo higher risk non-cardiac surgery each...