Tag Archives: statistics

Beyond the Shadow of a Drought: Southwest U.S. Megadrought Nears Certainty

A dry riverbed in California.
Photo courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The risk of a severe, multi-decade drought hitting the Southwest United States by the end of the century could reach as high as 99 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue along current lines, says a paper by a team of scientists from Cornell University, Columbia University and NASA.

Read/listen to my full story at KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk:
Worst Case: Megadrought Risk Near 99 Percent Under Current Greenhouse Emissions

The Topsy-Turvy World of Trendspotting

Poster of Alexander Trend forecasters project everything from staffing and hiring needs to next year’s “it” color. Through a combination of instinct, experience, statistical modeling and not a little bit of finger-crossing, they tell clients where best to place their billion-dollar bets. Even granting the occasional self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s never been an easy gig, and the consequences of failure can be ruinous.

Today, big data is changing the field, providing unprecedented amounts of information even as it churns out predictive algorithms no one quite understands. In this article, I take a look at the past and future of this prognosticative trade and examine …

How Trend Forecasters Work

Top 5 Large Hadron Collider Findings

Photo of man examining accelerator
Photo courtesy CERN

When physicists at CERN cranked up the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on Sept. 10, 2008, they had high (if contradictory) hopes. Like a child at Christmas, they wanted to get exactly what was on their wish list – the Higgs boson, some proof of supersymmetry – but also yearned for some wonderful surprise; because, if everything they predicted was right on the money, then particle physicists might well weep, for they would have no new worlds to conquer.

Years later, the LHC still hasn’t destroyed the planet or crushed physicists’ hopes. In fact, it’s made some amazing and somewhat perplexing discoveries. In this article, I take a (relatively) nontechnical look back at five the five most major findings so far.

5 Discoveries Made By the Large Hadron Collider (So Far)

The Causation-Correlation Conflation

Not equal signThe question of cause  has haunted science and philosophy from their earliest days, in part because humans are wired for pattern-matching and confirmation bias. For all our supposed rationality, we confuse coincidence with correlation and correlation with causality.

Consequently, scientists must carefully design and control their experiments to remove bias, circular reasoning, self-fulfilling prophecies and hidden variables. They must respect the requirements and limitations of their methods, draw from representative samples and not overstate their results. Sometimes, however, that’s easier said than done. Read on to hear about…

10 Correlations that are Not Causations

The Art of the Bunt: Deconstructing Dickey’s “Tricky Hit”

Aki Iwamura lays down a bunt. Photo by imagesbyferg.

Bunting, says Bill James of Sabermetrics fame, is “the only play in baseball that both sides applaud.” But years ago, every player – even sluggers like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle – used bunting as a fundamental part of the game, and some coaches still prefer the bankable bunt when it comes to advancing runners, especially when a weak hitter steps to the plate.

Whatever your viewpoint, there’s little doubt that bunting is an art. Read on for the ins-and-outs of this venerable and controversial technique.

How Bunting Works