SC 218: STATISTICS: Truth and Lies – Class presentation available

This class was presented in memory of OLLI Science Committee Member Paul Gray, Professor Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University, 1930–2012.

Presidential election time brings a flurry of statistical abuses as each candidate strives to sway voters to their positions.  Subjective statements relying on the use of “snapshot” statistics, which focus on partial analysis, are widely seen in politics as well as financial, sociological, and biomedical disciplines.  “Statistics” as distinct from “probability” will be discussed in a single-session class designed to portray these analytical tools in both good and bad light.  Examples of statistical shortcomings such as ignoring the baseline, sample selection bias, selective wording of polling questions, and the use of correlation to show cause and effect will be featured.  The course will conclude with a discussion of ethics and statistics, and some interesting statistical paradoxes, followed by a short panel discussion including questions from the audience.

Presenters: Vern Roohk, Ph.D. , Physiology and Biochemistry, University of California Davis.  Vern is an OLLI member who is still working as an independent biomedical consultant specializing in device evaluation. His postdoctoral research involved the mathematical modeling of biological systems. Various statistical applications have been an essential part of Vern’s biomedical career in original and applied research, and he has a current interest in statistical techniques usually associated with other scientific disciplines.

 N.T. Gladd, Ph.D., Computational/Theoretical Plasma Physics, University of Texas. Tom is an OLLI member who is also a “quant,” the term used for the mathematicians and scientists who flocked to Wall Street to build and apply mathematical models. He is retired from Citi Bank and is currently consulting with Morgan Stanley.

Class Presentation:  Statistics

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