William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Book coming…

I’ve been taking the past few days and building an Index for the my “101” book. It is painstaking, meticulous…well, excruciatingly dull work. But it’s nearly done.

This is slowing me down from posting new entries here.

One that I especially want to get to was suggested by reader Mike D and a May issue of the Economist. Can all risks be quantified? Can all probabilities be quantified?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no. It’s surprising if you hang out in statistics and economics departments. Places with far too much math and far too little philosophy.

Anyway, book should be done “soon.” End of the month?

Stay tuned so you can be the first one on your block to own a copy.

5 Comments

  1. Briggs:
    I would be grateful if you could answer a question for me:
    Can uncertainty be quantified?
    Of course I can see how simple probability of a fair coin toss can be quantified, but I am really referring to real world, usually organic, or natural processes that have too many unknowns to begin to attempt such a thing mathematically.
    If I use the example of a patient who might have symptoms that may fit several potential causes, I make a decision without numbers, I cannot say with honesty that I am 100% certain of any diagnosis but decide on the most likely and am confident in my decision. If I were to have to quantify my uncertainty in a given diagnosis I would be guessing. Furthermore if someone told me that they had quantified their uncertainty in a given diagnosis I would know they were guessing.
    Same goes for prognosis.

    In a more complex system there must be unknowns such as “What” as well as simple magnitude of known factors to calculate in climate, stock markets, pensions etc.)
    How can one calculate risk within a system unless one understands all of the processes?
    If one doesn’t know what it is, how can one say anything about it?
    It’s a rambler but I would be interested in any answer.

  2. First and only on my block. But there are some great farmers here. Takes all kinds.

  3. Hi Briggs,

    Just a note from one of the many of us out here that read and learn from your blog. Please keep up the good work, and we look forward to the book.

    Thanks,
    George

  4. Briggs

    September 22, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    George,

    You’re a sweetheart to say so. Shouldn’t be too much longer.

  5. Definitely going to buy it!

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