October 19th, 2006

breaking bad

Lancet study and statistical confidence

I have been reading a lot of comments on the Lancet study which (within huge confidence intervals) attributed about 600,000 excess deaths to the Iraq war. I have read many comments that the sample was too small. I actually know a little bit about this kind of survey, because I have been a quantitative researcher.

Here's a counter-intuitive fact about statistical sampling. Confidence is not dependent on the relationship between the size of the sample and the size of the population. It depends on the size of the sample and the use of a fully random sampling method. Collapse )

Misgivings about sample vs population I would say are understandable, made by intelligent people (though I think they are wrong). Misgivings about clustering methods are legitimate. On the other hand I have read lots of completely idiotic objections to the study, by people who just don't like its implications.

The debate around the Lancet findings also raises a subject which is more interesting to me than the maths - the status and use of intuition and gut feeling. I believe in intuition, but I dislike it when people say their intuition tells them that '600,000 is unbelievable'. But that's another issue.
breaking bad

Clicky thing

I usually control the TV remote in our house. I don't think it's because H is hen-pecked, but I'm more interested in culture and media and stuff. He trusts me to do the picking. I choose the film when we go to the cinema together, too. I use my powers for good, though, I try to pick a film we'll both like. I did go spectacularly wrong on one occasion - dragging H along to see 'Johnny Mnemonic' ooh boy, he was not pleased. He didn't like 'Sin City' either, but we agreed on that. I don't know if my opinion was influenced by his utter disgust with it.

So, who does it in your house?
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Have you had any Johnny Mnemonic-style disasters? (We had a row in an Italian Restaurant in Sheffield over that one)