At least three planes have been forced to land in recent weeks because passengers have got into fights over a question of cosmic importance: is it acceptable to lean back a plane seat? One might question the rationality of forcing a plane to land because you feel so passionately about this issue - luckily, like all problems stemming from human irrationality, this can be cured with statistics. (That’s a joke, calm down.)
Statistics plays a role in all walks of life - including literature. So, for our end-of-year issue, we want to celebrate 2014’s best books about (or involving) statistics. We’re looking for Significance readers to nominate their favourites and to explain - in 100 words or less - why they’d recommend the book.
Prior to his epic collapse in the semis, I went to the US Open to see Roger Federer put on a clinic against the world's number 17, Roberto Bautista Agut. In between sets, they showed a graphic on the jumbotron of each player's stats: first serve percentage, nets points won, unforced errors, etc...
Not long after joining Significance, having taken up residence in the Royal Statistical Society's (RSS) headquarters, I discovered that I shared my birthday with another member of staff. 'What are the chances?', I was tempted to ask. But, of course, I knew better. While doing my background reading for the new job, I stumbled across the 'birthday problem' several times.