Archive for March, 2013

George Box–a giant in the field of industrial design of experiments (DOE)

George Box passed away this week at 94.  Having a rare combination of numerical and communication skills along with an abundance of common sense, this fellow made incredible contributions to the cause of industrial experimenters.  For more about George, see this wonderful tribute by John Hunter.

My memorable stories about Box both relate to his way with words that cut directly to a point:

  • In 1989 at the Annual Quality Congress in Toronto seeing him open his debate with competing guru Genichi Taguchi by throwing two words on an overhead projector–“Obscurity” and “Profundity”, and then after a dramatic pause, adding the not-equal sign between them.  This caused Taguchi’s son Shin to leap up from the front row and defend his father.  This cause the largest crowd I have ever seen at a technical conference to produce a collective gasp that one only rarely experiences.
  • In 1996 at a DOE workshop in Madison, Wisconsin enjoying his comeback to a very irritating disciple of Taguchi who kept interrupting the lecture: “If you are going to do something, you may as well do it right.”

Lest this give the impression that Box was mean-spirited see this well-reasoned white paper that provides a fair balance of praise and criticism of Taguchi, who created a huge push forward for the cause of planned experimentation for quality improvement.

The body of work by George Box in his field is monumental.  It provides the foundation for all that we do at Stat-Ease.  Thank you George, may you rest in peace!

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Statisticians break down March Madness brackets (and rule things in general)

Before the first round of NCAA basketball playoffs a number of pundits favored my Minnesota team to upset UCLA—one of the commentators before the broadcast last night went so far as to say they were a “lock”.  Now I believe it.  (They won.)  However, I am doubtful they can beat Florida Sunday—gophers just do not stand a chance against gators.  For a more reasoned breakdown on the odds for Sunday and beyond, see this bracket filled out superstar statistician Nate Silver for the New York Times.

People who can crunch data like Silver are in big demand these days according to Wall Street Journal Numbers Guy Carl Bialik in his column on March 2.  The jobs site icrunchdata (very descriptive!) posted 28,305 openings for jobs in statistics and the like last month—up from 16,500 openings three years ago (I love data like this!).

It seems that number-herding nerds now rule, but there is a catch according to Dan Thorpe, senior director for analytics at Wal-Mart.  He says that “the bulk of the people coming out [with statistics degrees] are technically competent but they’re missing the consultative and the soft skills, everything else they need to be successful.”  So, which to do you prefer—good math skills (and lots of money) or an attractive personality (and many friends)?  My advice is to aim for some of both.

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Minnesota the “1st Fastest Warming State” — Whoo hoo!

Check out this graphic by Climate Central. It shows Minnesota being the leader for winter warming from 1970 to 2012! Unfortunately, as usual, we do not do well when at the top and so a great deal of snow fell this winter and more is forecast for next week.

Given the equinox does not come until March 20 at 11:02 GMT, I remain hopeful for Spring. I am invested in warmer weather having bought tickets to opening day for the Minnesota Twins on April 1. Perhaps that was a bit foolish, but at least I will fit in with the theme for this day.  Also, I predict that our baseball team will make it to the playoffs.   Mark my words.

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