Archive for April, 2011

Eggs-plosion in the aftermath of Easter

I’ve become accustomed to hard-boiling an egg for my breakfast so I was pleased to see a surplus of Easter eggs after celebrating this holiday last Sunday. My dexterity for shelling eggs is not a-pealing (ha ha) so I decided to try an eggs-periment: Microwave an Easter egg just long enough to heat it up and loosen it up for eggs-traction. If I’d have quit after my first try of 15 seconds, I may’ve succeeded. But the egg just didn’t feel hot enough so I added more time. Kapow! The eggs-plosion left nothing more than a millimeter of shell intact. The uniformity of organic matter throughout the inner surface of the microwave oven was very interesting, I think – quite impressive.

Although I consider this to be a very successful experiment, it’s one that I don’t feel needs to be replicated. My colleagues at Stat-Ease have provided a number of suggestions for another eggs-periment such as boiling the Easter eggs in vinegar or baking them. This creates a looser shell, they say.

Feel free to provide other ideas, but keep in mind that disaster seems to lurk behind me whenever I try an experiment. My failures tend to be quite spectacular. But, on the other hand, that’s what makes experimentation so eggs-citing!

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An Easter experiment for those who still believe a bunny bears eggs* *(Beware of the green ones!)

Today’s Saint Paul Pioneer Press “Bulletin Board” provides an idea on how to provide some added delight for any children who still believe in the Easter Bunny: Have them plant one of their jelly beans, then watch for it to grow into a lollipop.  Doesn’t that sound like a fun experiment!

By the way, be careful with the green jelly beans – they cause acne (p<0.05) according to this exhaustive statistical-study of every available color.

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Winter not loosening its icy grip on Spring

I woke up to snow yesterday morning. It couldn’t quite cover the greening grass underneath, nor did it seem to discourage the budding bushes. Today the snow has disappeared and the near 40 degree F temperature seems mild with the power of April’s sun and the abatement of fierce northern winds. However, our Canadian neighbors are not faring quite as well, as evidenced by this very cool (literally and figuratively) photo from my sister – a resident of Calgary. Notice how the snow fingers feature icy nails — chilling!

When will Winter finally loosen up and let Spring spring free, eh? Maybe May…

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Armed and dangerous – switchblades and statistics

(Warning: Quirky material ahead =>)

Seeing this CBS News about Maine legalizing switchblades for one-armed people reminded me of a riddle about limbs that’s posed by some statisticians for educational purposes.  Here it is: “The great majority of people in [fill in your country here] have more than the average number of [choose either arms or legs here].”

For an answer {UK, legs}, see this posting on averages by Kevin McConway, Professor of Applied Statistics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at The Open University.  I heard this riddle also from Hans Rosling in his BBC TV program on “The Joy of Statistics.”*  He spoke of his home country of Sweden, whose inhabitants on average have 1.999 legs.

I’m quitting while I’m ahead.  Oops, this makes me wonder if I have an average number of heads – a scary thought, my hunch being that I’m below average for this.  I never imagined that averages could be so creepy!

*See this StatsMadeEasy blog on Rosling


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Supreme Court overturns tyranny of statistical significance

In today’s Wall Street Journal, The Numbers Guy (Carl Bialik) reports on a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court that companies cannot hide behind statistical significance (lack thereof in this case) as an excuse for nondisclosure of adverse research.  He passes along this practical advice:

“A bigger effect produced in a study with a big margin of error is more impressive than a smaller effect that was measured more precisely.”

— Stephen Ziliak, economics professor

However, this legal analysis of the ruling cautions that statistical significance remains relevant for assessing materiality of an adverse event.

Given all this, we can be certain of only one thing – more lawsuits.