Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The thrilling world of messy spectral data

I'm working in Nottingham this week taking photos at the conference of the Royal Statistical Society.

So there are presentations with thrilling titles such as:

'Asymptotic behaviour of blinking (stochastically switched) dynamical systems'

and

' A spatiotemporal auto-regressive moving average model for solar radiation'

But actually, I'm following much of what is being said in most of the sessions (I'm definitely no mathematician). I'm treating it like one of those Dostoyevsky novels with improbably long Russian names and just mentally bleeping over the bits I don't understand or can't pronounce. In most cases, what remains is actually quite interesting for an anorak such as myself. This morning there was a session on criminal law and forensic science with stuff about how dodgy DNA evidence can be. Later we had a session with examples including lottery numbers and football results showing what random really means. Apparently statisticians would expect the longest sequence of lottery draws with one number not being chosen to be around 73 draws. Sure enough, the record is 72 (number 17 for those who are interested).

And then there was the one about how journalists often misinterpret statistics by focusing on the headline number and statisticians are often too weak to correct them (that came from a non-stato and really went down well with the audience).

My favourite moment from the week so far came when someone nudged me and said 'That's Frank Duckworth', indicating a small bespectacled man. Who the heck? I replied. 'You know, the Frank Duckworth', said my companion. I still looked blank. 'As in the Duckworth Lewis method for rain shortened cricket matches' I was told. My companion was visibly in awe of the man. I got chatting to Mr Duckworth later and he's actually very nice. So if any reader has a question I'd be delighted to put it to him for you.

2 comments:

Peter Welch said...

"I'm treating it like one of those Dostoyevsky novels with improbably long Russian names and just mentally bleeping over the bits I don't understand or can't pronounce."

That was a Charlie Brown/PEanuts gag, wasn't it?

Chris K said...

Question:

"What is the Duckworth Lewis method for rain-shortened cricket matches, and how does it compare to the Meek form of Single Transferable Vote?"