Interpretation of a Statistician


How else do you say it without laughing?

He lived a simple life, performing the meticulous everyday tasks that statisticians are likely to do. He wore clothes typical of the generalized population of statisticians: single color ironed dress shirts tucked into ironed and neatly creased tan slacks. On occasion, he liked to wear a grid-patterned shirt because, “Every statistician should own at least one graphical shirt.”

Every morning he made sure to check the weather channel for the percentages of snow, rain, or sun that were neither personal nor relative frequency probabilities, nor were they variables that inflated or deflated the chance that he would alter his daily attire.

He never bought lottery tickets. Though he knew that anything was possible given a simple random sample, he knew that likelihood always outweighed possibilities. He corrected even his closest family members whenever they confused the definitions of “odds” and “probabilities” in everyday speech. There is, in fact, a significant difference.

In his free time, he spent hours numbering pennies and dropping them back into a plastic container that would later determine, when he blindly selected ten of them, which of his students would receive a pop quiz, just to demonstrate “what randomness feels like”.

I think I already know.

I often thought of asking him if he would be able to calculate the odds of all the strange occurrences I experience from day to day, such as seeing and hearing the word “California” ten times a day for nearly a year, or running into the same people in large cities repeatedly within a short timespan.

I think he would consider these cases outliers falling under the margin of error in the experimental reality of life. The problem with statistics is that they provide no explanation– only numbers that don’t rank highly in a confidence interval.


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