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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Devlin Delivers... and so do the Kaplans

Another great post (...he says "rant" in this case) from Keith Devlin, regarding the Body-Mass Index (BMI), forensic DNA profiling, and emperors with or without garments:

http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_02_11.html

Here's a bit therefrom to wet your appetite:
"The fact is, in the era of DNA identification, judges and juries simply cannot avoid getting to grips with the relevant math. Identification hinges on those calculations. There may be no way of avoiding bringing mathematicians into court to explain how the calculations are done. But for that to be effective, those judges and juries need first to learn (and accept) that human intuitions about probabilities are hopelessly unreliable."
There is a lot more information around the Web about the statistics of DNA forensics and common misperceptions (...sometimes by people who should know better).

On a pertinent side-note, I'm currently reading "Chances Are..." by Michael and Ellen Kaplan. It's a slightly older volume (2006), so I probably won't write a full review of it, but I have already read enough to say I'm very much enjoying it (one of the best books I've seen on probabilities for a mass audience), and so recommend it to all who have an interest in the topic. Here's a NY Times review of the volume:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/books/31book.html

1 comment:

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There may be no way of avoiding bringing mathematicians into court to explain how the calculations are done.