Friday, November 22, 2013

A Little Bit of Statistics Is a Dangerous Thing

Well, I've had a few jabs at statistics this week in posts, so may as well end with another, more strictly humorous one. This is a joke I'd not seen before that comes verbatim from Simon Singh's wonderfully entertaining book "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets":
While heading to a conference on board a train, three statisticians meet three biologists. The biologists complain about the cost of the train fare, but the statisticians reveal a cost-saving trick. As soon as they hear the inspector's voice, the statisticians squeeze into the toilet. The inspector knocks on the toilet door, and shouts: "Tickets, please!" The statisticians pass a single ticket under the door, and the inspector stamps it and returns it. The biologists are impressed. Two days later, on the return train, the biologists showed the statisticians that they have bought only one ticket, but the statisticians reply: "Well, we have no ticket at all." Before they can ask any questions, the inspector's voice is heard in the distance. This time the biologists bundle into the toilet. One of the statisticians secretly follows them, knocks on the toilet door and asks: "Tickets please!" The biologists slip the ticket under the door. The statistician takes the ticket, dashes into another toilet with his colleagues, and waits for the real inspector. The moral of the story is simple: "Don't use a statistical technique that you don't understand."

On a related note I just recently discovered this webpage which focuses on "Simpsons math" as well:

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