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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Of Higgs and Sigmas

What are the confidence intervals of confidence intervals, and other thoughts....

With a significant announcement from CERN on the Higgs boson presumed to be just hours away, KW Regan enters the fray with this interesting post about science, sigmas, and levels of significance:

http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/the-higgs-confidence-game/

…an excerpt therefrom:
"The high rate of disappearing significance overall is still puzzling. Its extent in human sciences was detailed exactly one year ago in a disturbing article by Jonah Lehrer for The New Yorker. If 250 researchers try the same experiment, one would expect 2 or so of them to get  deviations (in either direction). The world will then see 2 or so published papers from them, but nary a peep from the 248 who failed and gave up quickly and forgot about it. Thus a significant result may appear independently confirmed when it was actually just by chance, and those failing to reproduce it will then peep up loudly. The effect is equally pernicious with 250 different experiments, especially given a fair chance of a lower-confidence positive from a test deemed related enough to corroborate the original."

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