Yihui Xie

Statistical Inference and Common Sense

谢益辉 / 2007-06-18


“It is proven that the celebration of birthdays is healthy. Statistics show that those people who celebrate the most birthdays become the oldest.”

— From GARY C. RAMSEYER’S FIRST INTERNET GALLERY OF STATISTICS JOKES

Some people may be astonished by such foolish inferences, but this is just what we do sometimes. And here’s another less humorous joke:

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF STATISTICS:

Albert Einstein died, and found himself on the train to heaven. In his car, there were four men sitting on separate benches. He walked up to the first who said, “Hello! My name is Bob, and I have an IQ of 186.” Einstein smiled brilliantly, and said “Ah-hah! We shall discuss quantum physics together!”

The second man greeted him with “Hello, sir. My name is Edward, and my IQ is 150.” Einstein smiled, replying “Excellent! We shall discuss mathematics together.”

Moving on, Einstein shook hands with the third man, who said, “Hello; my name is William, and my IQ is 119.” Smiling again, Einstein replied “Very good! We shall talk together about European history.”

The last man looked up glumly as Einstein approached, and said “Hi, my name’s Chuck, and my IQ’s only 87.” Einstein replied sadly “I see – we shall have to discuss statistics.”

Today I happened to encounter a rule for classifying statisticians:

Did you know that there are three kinds of statisticians – those that can count and those that can’t.