Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Joy of Stats and the Visigasm

If you have never seen one of Hans Rosling's talks or videos then you need to. He is an example of how you can make the presentation of data both interesting and also clear and simple. Along with Edward Tufte he has made data visualisation an art form. The BBC have recently made a documentary about him and there is also a  Wired article about the Data Visgasm.

Peer Review Again: NASA arsenic based life and the bloggers

A critique of the Science paper by NASA investigators saying that they have discovered a new form of life that does not use phosphorous in the DNA nucleotides has been published on a Blog by a researcher in the field. The response from NASA is to put their fingers in their ears and to say they are not listening because it is not criticism from a peer reviewed journal. This is exactly the same as the authors of "The Spirit Level" who also refused to respond to criticism that was not in peer reviewed journals.

Here is a wired article discussing the NASA response and comparing it to the arguments made by the Church in pre-enlightenment times. I especially like the title - The Wrong Stuff.

The Guardian has an interesting story tracker following events

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Conspiracy and Coincidence

How common is the surname Aylward?

It does not seem too common to me. I cannot remember meeting anyone who has the surname but that might reflect regional variations in surnames. My own surname is not very common outside of its ancestral home in Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

So what are the chances of the surname being involved in two major news events on the same day?

Two BBC news headlines for the 25th of October involved Aylwards.

Violetta Aylward was a nurse who accidentally switched off the life support systems of a tetraplegic man in her care leaving him with brain damage.
Rebecca Aylward was found murdered in woodland after she had been attacked by two teenage boys.

What are the chances of that happening? It did happen and there is obviously no connection but chance patterns arise all around us, and it is difficult to escape trying to read too much into them.