Famous Errors in Statistics

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” said Alexander Pope in 1711; he could have been speaking of the use of statistics by experts in all fields. In this article, we look at three consequential mistakes in the field of statistics. Two of them are famous, the third required a deep dive into the corporate annual reports of

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Puzzle: Surgery or Radiation

Several decades ago, the dominant therapies for lung cancer were radiation, which offered better short-term survival rates, and surgery, which offered better long-term rates. A thought experiment was conducted in which surgeons were randomly assigned to one of two groups and asked whether they would choose surgery. Group 1 was told: The one-month survival rate is 90%. Group 2 was told: There is 10% mortality in the first month. Yes, the two statements say the same thing. What did the two physician groups choose?

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