# A Basic Introduction to Statistics

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So how can we define “statistics”?  If you search around the internet you’ll find lots of examples, but it’s a useful exercise to try and  use your own words.   How about this one –  statistics the “science” of obtaining information from numerical data –

• This information is used to
• gain insights (Who will be the next president?)
• understand relationships (Does watching T.V. affect a student’s grades?)
• draw conclusions (Does smoking cause cancer?)
• make decisions (Should the space shuttle Challenger be launched?)

Challenger was launched in 1985, even though there were concerns that the temperature was too cold.
The space shuttle exploded a few minutes after take-off.
Three Main Components of Statistics

• Data collection
• Data analysis
• Drawing conclusions from the data

What is a part of components? Statistics is driven by data, therefore …
“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”
Robert Hayden, Plymouth State College

Statistics is more of an art than a science.

We can never determine if an event will definitely occur: we can only determine the probability that an
event will occur.

“Statistics means never having to say you are certain”

This seems to be a major shortcoming, but it is actually the greatest strength of statistics!

“An approximate answer to the right question is worth a good deal more than the exact

John Tukey

In mathematics we frequently find exact answers to fictitious problems. Statistics gives approximate
answers to real problems. The difficulty is asking the right questions and collecting the correct data!

A mathematician and a statistician apply for the same job. At the interview, they are
asked the question, “What is 1 + I?” The mathematician says “2” without hesitating.
The statistician pauses for a few minutes and asks “What do you want it to be?”

In statistics, different conclusions are possible depending on which questions are asked and which data
are collected.  For example if you’re studying the relative benefits of how to buy and resell sneakers online it’s important to gather the correct benefits too.  This is essential to study profits and whether your efforts are worth it.  Many entrepreneurs are faced with the issue of trying to balance the costs of buying – e.g marketing against the potential sales they might achieve.  There are other costs for smaller businesses, things like software and even specialised servers known as ‘sneaker proxies’ – read about it here.

Individuals are often accused of using statistics to distort the truth.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Benjamin Disraeli
A Lie is bad, a damn lie is worse, but a lie based on statistics is the worst lie! Why is a fie based on statistics
the worst type of lie? People believe it ;s true!
“A statistician is a person who comes to the rescue of figures that cannot lie for
themselves. ”

Statistics can be used to spin data. Forexample, a textbook publisher claims that a new math textbook
will increase pass rates on Regents exams. Data are collected which show that 2 of 30 students passed
the Regents exam using the old book while 3 of 30 students passed using the new book. Theclaim? The
new book increased the pass rates by 50%!
But do not despair!
“It is easy to lie with statistics, but it is easier to lie without them.”
Frederick Mosteller
However, always remember that 39% of data is made up. (Thinkabout it!)