## Monday, December 19, 2011

### Stats Made Ez: Why We Need Statistics!

This is the first in a series of short articles that will discuss basic stats. Learning about stats will help you think in terms of probabilities, and allow you to gain a better understanding of research data.

Statistic: 1 number that summarizes a property of a set of numbers (Osbaldiston, 2011)

One of the key reasons of why we need statistics is to be able to effectively conduct research. Without the use of statistics it would be very difficult to analyze the collected data and make decisions based on the data. Statistics give us an overview of the data and allow us to make sense of what is going on. Without statistics, in many cases, it would be extremely difficult to find meaning in the data. Statistics provides us with a tool to make an educated inference.

Most scientific and technical journals contain some form of statistics. Without an understanding of statistics, the statistical information contained in the journal will be meaningless. An understanding of basic statistics will provide you with the fundamental skills necessary to read and evaluate most results sections. The ability to extract meaning from journal articles, and the ability to evaluate research from a statistical perspective are basic skills that will increase your knowledge and understanding of the article of interest.

Gaining knowledge in the area of statistics will help you become a better-informed consumer. Of course, statistics can be used or misused. Some individuals do mislead with statistics. If you understand basic statistical concepts, you will be in a better position to evaluate the information you have been given.

In future articles will be discussing: mean, median, mode, range, standard deviation, t-tests, correlation coefficient, and many other statistical concepts.

## Saturday, December 17, 2011

### "Person-Who" Statistics

Results of scientific studies are stated in probabilistic terms. Science is not in the business of making claims of absolute certainty (refer to bead model of truth). When science describes, predicts or explains something, it is understood that the conclusion is tentative. This willingness to admit fallibility is probably one of science’s biggest strengths. In virtually every other area of knowledge acquisition, admitting fallibility is not a virtue, but a severe weakness.

Person-who statistics: situations in which well-established statistical trends are questioned because someone knows a “person who” went against the trend (Stanovich, 2007). For example, “Look at my grandpa, he is ninety years old, has been smoking since he was in thirteen, and is still healthy”, implying smoking is not bad for health. Learning to think probabilistically is an important trait that can increase one's ability to think more accurately. Person-who statistics is a ubiquitous phenomenon.

Research shows people have a difficult time thinking probabilistically. People like things stated in terms of absolute. However, many things cannot be explained in those terms, and in fact when referring to causation in everyday life we are often wrong. Determining what causes something is not as simple as we would like to think.

The conclusions drawn from scientific research are probabilistic- generalizations that are correct most of the time, but not every time. People often weight anecdotal evidence more heavily than probabilistic information. This is an error in thinking, and leads to bad decisions, and often, irrational thinking.

References

Stanovich, K. (2007). How To Think Straight About Psychology. Boston, MA: Pearson.

## Monday, December 5, 2011

### How I became Interested In Science

Kevin Akers

It took a good deal of thinking to try and remember when and why I became interested in science. I think that it is hard to narrow it down to just one or two things. I was always a pretty good student in high school and college, and I would guess that some of my teachers probably instilled a basic interest of various science topics in me. I became interested in science primarily when I began reading on my own after I graduated instead of reading for a particular class. I found it frustrating when each week according to the news it seemed like the same food alternated between being horrible for you and being great for you. I was also frustrated when a reporter would spend thirty seconds or so attempting to describe a scientific discovery, but obviously had little idea what it meant or how it was discovered. Along with some other factors, I think I basically wanted to find out for myself how a variety of things worked and how scientists knew what they knew.