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Historical Spotlight: Statistical Analysis and Human Rights

Artificial intelligence and analytics have gotten some bad press recently, from the role that social media has played in fracturing and heightening divisions in democratic society to the “big brother” role that data mining and image recognition have played in China’s suppression of minorities.  But statistical analysis has also long played a role in documenting,Continue reading “Historical Spotlight: Statistical Analysis and Human Rights”

Historical Spotlight: Bell Labs and Statistics

95 years ago, Bell Labs was founded as a joint project of AT&T and Western Electric.  Its primary mission was R&D for its parents’ fast-growing telecommunications businesses.  Since that time, Bell Labs became a fabled American research institution, but also suffered the vicissitudes of trying to reconcile its orientation to basic research with the needsContinue reading “Historical Spotlight: Bell Labs and Statistics”

Historical Spotlight: Jacob Wolfowitz

World War II was a crucible of technological innovation, including advances in statistics. Jacob Wolfowitz, born a century ago (1920), looked at the problem of noisy radio transmissions. Coded radio transmissions were critical elements of military command and control, and they were plagued by the problem of atmospheric or other interference – “noise”. The weakerContinue reading “Historical Spotlight: Jacob Wolfowitz”

Historical Spotlight: Alan Turing

80 years ago, in 1939, Alan Turing began work on the code-breaking system that would eventually prove key in helping Britain survive the German submarine threat in the Atlantic. Last month, the Turing Award in computer science prize (sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing”) was given to three researchers, Yann LeCunn, GeoffreyContinue reading “Historical Spotlight: Alan Turing”

Darwin’s Legacy in Statistics

Charles Darwin, the most famous grandson of the Enlightenment thinker Erasmus Darwin, published his ground-breaking theory of evolution, “The Origin of Species,”160 years ago. Another grandson of Erasmus, Francis Galton, became one of the founding fathers of statistics (correlation, the “wisdom of the crowd,” regression and regression to the mean are all Galton’s ideas). HeavilyContinue reading “Darwin’s Legacy in Statistics”

Good to Great

In 1994, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, former and current Stanford professors, published the best-seller Built to Last that described how “long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise.”  It sold over a million copies. Buoyed by that success, Collins and a research team set out to find the characteristics of companiesContinue reading “Good to Great”

Space Shuttle Explosion

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 thatContinue reading “Space Shuttle Explosion”

Eli Whitney and Google

This weekend (12/8/2018) marked the 253rd anniversary of the birth of Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. And 20 years ago, Google received its first big infusions of capital from, among others, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Both Eli Whitney and the Google founders instigated economic revolutions, but also illustrate polar opposite approachesContinue reading “Eli Whitney and Google”

Deming’s Funnel Problem

W. Edwards Deming’s funnel problem is one of statistics’ greatest hits. Deming was a noted statistician who took the statistical process control methods of Shewhart and expanded them into a holistic approach to manufacturing quality. Initially, his ideas were cooly received in the US and he ended up implementing them first in Japan. The successContinue reading “Deming’s Funnel Problem”

Historical Spotlight: Risk Simulation – Since 1946

Simulation – a Venerable History One of the most consequential and valuable analytical tools in business is simulation, which helps us make decisions in the face of uncertainty, such as these: An airline knows on average, what proportion of ticketed passengers show up for a flight, but the number for any given flight is uncertain. Continue reading “Historical Spotlight: Risk Simulation – Since 1946”