We read about statistics every day, be it the predicted winner of a football league, the association between the weather and mortality, or a newly discovered link between an inanimate object and cancer. Statistics are everywhere. And perhaps even more so this year, as 2013 has been hailed as the International Year of Statistics. Despite all this attention for numbers, we generally don't know a lot about the people hiding behind their computers churning them out. With media attention for people like Nate Silver and Hans Rosling, some are now able to name at least one statistician, but, stepping it up a level, could you name a female statistician?
Queen Victoria was on the throne, Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States of America and on this day 150 years ago the world's first underground railway transit system opened to the public in London. But neither Queen Victoria nor President Lincoln ever took a ride on it.
In 1863 the London Underground (55% of it is now actually above ground), or the Tube as it’s now commonly known, opened from Paddington in west London and stretched nearly four miles east to Farringdon in central London. That stretch of line is still in operation today, and the total stretch of track has been extended by a further 245 miles across London, mostly north of the River Thames where geology favours tunnel-building.
During one of their Brighton rendezvouses, after a round of oysters and a second bottle of champagne, Tom Haley asks Serena Frome the question every mathematician longs for her lover to utter: 'I want you to tell me something...something interesting, no, counterintuitive, paradoxical. You owe me a good maths story.'
Happy New Year. Especially (for a statistical site) because 2013 is, officially, the International Year of Statistics. More of that later in the week. For now we’ll do a bit of catching up of news that hit over the holidays.
The big story in the UK was Staffordshire Hospital and the Patient Survey. There were hundreds more deaths than expected at the hospital between 2005 and 2009. Some of those deaths were caused by some pretty dreadful failings at the hospital – see the box. To identify such failings earlier Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a Great Patient Survey.
I was listening with half an ear (as one does) to Melvyn Bragg’s academic-intellectual-historical-philosophical-scientific educate-us-all-in-things-that-every-civilised-person-ought-to-know-but-probably-doesn’t programme on Radio Four yesterday, (and I think it is wonderful by the way). It was on Voltaire (1694-1778 as Melvyn was careful to inform us); and one of the experts gave us a little throwaway remark. ‘Voltaire became rich early in life by teaming up with a statistician to win the French national lottery.’ That was it.