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Industry Spotlight: Automotive

The auto industry serves as a perfect exemplar of three key eras of statistics and data science in service of industry: Total Quality Management (TQM) First in Japan, and later in the U.S., the auto industry became an enthusiastic adherent to the Total Quality Management philosophy.  Fundamentally, TQM is all about using data to improveContinue reading “Industry Spotlight: Automotive”

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”

Job Spotlight: Sports Statistician

The field of sports statistician is not exactly new; the American Statistical Association’s section on Sports Statistics was formed in 1992. Three of’s instructors have professional experience in sports statistics – Ben Baumer (SQL) served as statistician for the NY Mets, Stephanie Kovalchik (Meta Analysis in R) with Tennis Australia, and Joe Hilbe, whoContinue reading “Job Spotlight: Sports Statistician”

Industry Spotlight: Baseball – Opening Day & Statistics in Sports

The U.S. baseball season opens Thursday, March 28, and celebrates the 48th season of analytics in baseball, beginning with the founding of the Sabermetric Society in 1971 (the same year that Satchel Paige entered the Hall of Fame). Analytics has come a long way in sports, and now has its own conference, the MIT SportsContinue reading “Industry Spotlight: Baseball – Opening Day & Statistics in Sports”

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”

Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

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 theContinue reading “Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow”

The Statistics of Christmas Trees

A researcher shakes a sprig from a Christmas tree, and counts the number of needles that fall. He then repeats the process for countless other sprigs. The sprigs are from a variety of species, and the goal is to determine which species do the best job of retaining their needles. Falling needles are a definiteContinue reading “The Statistics of Christmas Trees”

Random Selection for Harvard Admission?

An ethical algorithm… Ethics in algorithms is a popular topic now. Usually the conversation centers around the possible unintentional bias or harm that a statistical or machine learning algorithm could do when it is used to select, score, rate, or rank people. For example – a credit scoring algorithm may include a predictor that isContinue reading “Random Selection for Harvard Admission?”

GE Regresses to the Mean

Thirty years ago, GE became the brightest star in the firmament of statistical ideas in business when it adopted Six Sigma methods of quality improvement. Those methods had been introduced by Motorola, but Jack Welch’s embrace of the same methods at GE, a diverse manufacturing powerhouse, helped bring stardom to industrial statisticians. Last week, GE’sContinue reading “GE Regresses to the Mean”

Examples of Bad Forecasting

In a couple of days, theWall Street Journalwill come out with its November survey of economists’ forecasts. It’s a particularly sensitive time, with elections in a few days and President Trump attacking the Federal Reserve for for raising interest rates. It’s a good time to recall major forecasting gaffes of the past. In 1987, best-sellingContinue reading “Examples of Bad Forecasting”