The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data

David Spiegelhalter. Basic, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1851-0
Spiegelhalter (Sex by Numbers), a University of Cambridge statistician, demonstrates in his intriguing, nontechnical primer how to reliably evaluate even the most extravagant claim. Spiegelhalter’s goal is to show readers that statistics is about more than just counting numbers. A question about what happened to children having heart surgery at a particular hospital becomes a lesson in the psychological effects of “framing” results: reporting the “mortality rate” might cause alarm, but providing a “survival rate” sounds more reassuring. From issues with pie charts and the “wisdom of crowds,” to using data distributions, modelling relationships, and the correlation/causation quandary, Spiegelhalter offers clear and surprisingly enlightening examples. Concepts including margins of error and statistical significance, he demonstrates, become vital when assessing a statistics-backed claim, such as one made by a mischievous journalist who published a paper “proving” chocolate consumption caused weight loss—the data was real, but any trained statistician could see it was statistically insignificant. Spiegelhalter’s book is both fully comprehensible and valuable in a digitally driven world in which data literacy has become newly important. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/08/2019
Release date: 09/03/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 448 pages - 978-0-241-39863-0
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