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Dec. 19th, 2010 @ 10:47 am Damn statistics getting in the way of a good story!
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We all know the saying: "There are lies, there are damned lies, and there are statistics!" Somehow implying that statistics can be used to obfuscate the truth under heaps of numbers. But when applied correctly (I'd almost say 'honestly'), it is a valuable tool to discover the non-apparent relations around us.
However, what those numbers mean is often ill-understood. The worst is confusing correlation (two things occur together) with causation (one thing causes the other). This article explains it nicely, using the fact that the correlation between number of mobile phone masts and a significantly higher birth rate.

I wish more people understood this stuff. It's important.
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From:nathreee
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:03 am (UTC)
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It gets on my nerves too when small articles on nu.nl say that "People with X are more likely to get Y" and I just think: No, no, no! Y is not caused by X. There are just more people who have X and then get Y than there are people without X who get Y. But that doesn't mean X and Y are related!"
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From:ankie
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Nu.nl is a straight dump from the ANP, who rely on papers and 'real' journalists to fact-check everything first. A lot of stuff that is placed on Nu.nl is also a direct copy paste from press statements. I see very biased and unchecked things there every day.
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From:alles_en_niets
Date:December 20th, 2010 07:35 am (UTC)
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Exactly! On the other hand, i have little faith in journalists interpretations and/or fact-finding, so maybe reading the ANP Message and forming your own story might not be so bad :)
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From:ankie
Date:December 20th, 2010 08:52 am (UTC)
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Well, "real" papers don't only accept journalists among their ranks, but also people that can write from other fields, like economists.
If you want the real story, buy 2 papers ;)
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From:loputon
Date:December 19th, 2010 11:12 am (UTC)
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Yep, pretty important indeed
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From:merle_
Date:December 19th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
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But conflating correlation with causation makes for much more sensational news stories!
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