Stats and probability theory are also used to assess the risk from things like tobacco and alcohol, and to see how a certain gene affects people. How likely is it that a person with that gene develops a certain illness or characteristic?
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Statistics can provide an answer to this. Medical research cannot do without statistics.
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On the face of it, sciences like psychology, sociology or biology do not seem to have much to do with maths or stats. But all of these have one thing in common: the scientist makes experiments and observations, for example:. These observations are then interpreted. The scientist may deduce that children with overpowering parents are particularly shy, that poverty is linked to drug abuse, or that a parasite is always deadly for a tree.
But to make the observations in the first place, the scientist needs descriptive statistics. He or she has to make sure that the experiment is set up correctly, and know how to collect the data and represent them in a meaningful way. To interpret the data, the scientist needs inference statistics.
Anything that involves observing or describing the world around us uses statistics. A very important thing in the financial world is risk assessment: what is the probability, or risk, of a company going bankrupt, or the interest rates going up? What is the risk of investing in a company, or of taking on a mortgage?
The insurance industry is based on the idea of risk: the chance of your house burning down is quite small, but if it does happen, you lose everything. The insurance company exactly balances the risk of fire with the cost of a fire. They decide what premium to charge you, so that they still make a profit even though they sometimes pay out huge amounts.
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Risk assessment is very complicated, not least because risk is something very subjective. A good understanding of risk, and how it can be described using statistics and probability is essential for anyone working in the financial world. Finance is all about uncertainty and risk, and how to reduce them. This is why the financial world is becoming more and more mathematical. Employers in this area often prefer mathematicians and statisticians to people with an economics background. Politics is very much about strategy. How should an election campaign be fought?
How should a government deal with other powers? How much money should the health service receive?
To find a good strategy, politicians need to understand public opinion, know about the structure of society and assess risks. The government employs many statisticians to help them with this. They can conduct and evaluate a census, and work out the risk of there being an epidemic, or of the world economy plunging.
During the cold war, game theory , which is closely related to probability theory, was used to decide whether the US strategy of arming itself to the teeth to deter an attack from the USSR was effective. When you produce a product, be it a car or a light bulb, you want to know how reliable it is. To find out, you take a sample of your light bulbs or cars and test them.
Mathematical Statistics - Essays on History and Methodology | Johann Pfanzagl | Springer
Just as in an opinion poll, you can use statistical methods to gain information about the quality of your product from this sample. Reliability theory has become a very important branch within statistics. Statistics is often used in law. Suppose that someone working for a company has been accused of falsifying their expense account. Statistical tests can show whether the numbers in the expense account are likely to have been made up. But there is also a lot of controversy around statistics and probability in law, because it can get misused.
A few years ago, a woman called Sally Clark was jailed for the murder of her two children. But this reasoning is flawed. Finally, we all need a basic understanding of statistics. The newspapers and TV news are full of statistics that we need to understand.
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