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Posted on Feb 15, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
Cliff T. Ragsdale teaches several courses for the Institute in the area of operations research, based on his best selling text “Spreadsheet Modeling and Decision Analysis.”  One of Cliff’s special talents is making his subject, which can be quite challenging technically, widely accessible. His courses do not have flashy bells and whistles, but are consistently rated among the best at Statistics.com. Said one student:     “This course was flat-out excellent. Dr. Ragsdale sets the gol...
Posted on Feb 15, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
In 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded several minutes after launch.  A later investigation found that the cause of the disaster was O-ring failure, due to cold temperatures.  The temperature at launch was 39 degrees, colder than any prior launch. The cold caused the O-rings to become stiff and brittle, losing the flexibility that allowed them to make a tight seal.  This issue had actually been examined prior to launch, and decision-makers decided, in the end, to go ahead with th...
Posted on Feb 15, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
People in Alaska are extraordinarily generous - that’s what a predictive model showed, when applied to a charitable organization’s donor list.  A closer examination revealed a flaw - while the original data was for all 50 states, the model’s training data for Alaska included donors, but excluded non-donors. The reason? The data was 99% non-donors, and predictive models like to work with more balanced data. (This example is from the excellent blogs at Elder Research.)   So the analys...
Posted on Feb 07, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
Abraham Wald, a persecuted Jewish mathematician who fled Austria just before World War II, led an analysis of allied bombers returning from missions.  Hitherto, the Air Force had focused on reinforcing areas that showed the most damage on return. Wald convinced them instead to focus on the areas that consistently showed no damage.  He reasoned that damage in those areas proved fatal, so the only bombers returning were those undamaged in those areas. Wald was instrumental in a general flowering...
Posted on Feb 07, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
With the news full of so many successes in the fields of analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, it is easy to lose sight of the high failure rate of analytics projects.  McKinsey just came out with a report that only 8% of big companies (revenue > $ 1 billion) have successfully scaled and integrated analytics throughout the organization. In some ways, the very notable successes of analytics and data science contribute to the high failure rate, as ill-prepared organizations ...
Posted on Jan 30, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
  The statistics of targeting individual voters with specific messages, as opposed to messaging that went to whole groups, began in the U.S over a decade ago with the Democrats.  Political targeting is now an established business, or at least a discipline within the broader realm of political consulting. By 2016, the Republicans had surged well ahead, by stealth.  The Trump campaign worked together with a special team* of Facebook analysts (Trump supporters) to implement a sophisticated camp...
Posted on Jan 30, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
“The Art of Persuasion” is the title of more than one book in the self-help genre, books that have spawned blogs, podcasts, speaking gigs and more.  But the science of persuasion is actually of more interest, because it produces useful rules that can be studied and deployed. Marketers and politicians have long been enthusiastic users of the fruits of behavioral research, some of which I noted in last week’s review of Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow.  Illustrating the ...
Posted on Jan 25, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
25 years ago the International Society of Quality of Life Research was founded with a mission to “advance the science of quality of life and related patient-centered outcomes in health research, care and policy.” While focusing on quality of life (QOL) in healthcare may seem like a no-brainer, measuring it is not as easy as conducting a blood test to detect disease.  Medical professionals have used surveys and questionnaires for many years, and they are vital elements in health care assessm...
Posted on Jan 25, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in behavioral economics, much of it with his colleague Amos Tversky, who died in 2006.  Kahneman’s 2011 classic, Thinking Fast and Slow, is a superbly-written non-technical summary of their fascinating research and its often counter-intuitive findings. The best feature of the book is the appearance, every few pages, of a puzzle-like choice for the reader.  For example, in a discussion of utility theory, the following choices are ...
Posted on Jan 24, 2019 By: Peter Bruce
Preparing for the Superbowl… Your team is at midfield, you have the ball, it’s 4th down with 2 yards to go.  Should you go for it? (Apologies in advance to our many readers, especially those outside the U.S., who are not aficionados of American football, but it’s Superbowl week in the U.S.   A quick guide to the game is here.) Years ago, the answer would have been “no” - punting (kicking) the ball away to the opponent was the usual, risk averse practice.  Now analytics has ta...
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