Playing The Percentages: One Year Later

Probability in Climate –

Misinterpretation:  I’ve asked many folks, usually friends or family, “What does a 40% chance of rain mean?”  The answer is usually “It’s going to rain in 40% of the area.”  The other answer is usually, “It’s going to rain 40% of the day.”  Neither of those are the right interpretations.  The correct interpretation is, “There’s a 40% chance that any one spot within the forecast area receives a measurable amount of rain.”  (That measurable amount of rain, by the way, is 0.01 inches of rain.)

Chris Michaels,, May 20, 2015

More Than Their Mothers, Young Women Plan Career Pauses

Probability in Economics, Psychology, Relationships –

The youngest generation of women in the work force — the millennials, age 18 to early 30s — is defining career success differently and less linearly than previous generations of women. A variety of survey data shows that educated, working young women are more likely than those before them to expect their career and family priorities to shift over time.

Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, July 22, 2015

How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts

Probability in Economics –

Five years since the end of the Great Recession, the economy has finally regained the nine million jobs it lost. But not all industries recovered equally. Each line below shows how the number of jobs has changed for a particular industry over the past 10 years. Scroll down to see how the recession reshaped the nation’s job market, industry by industry.

Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Parlapiano, New York Times, June 6, 2015

Five words you should stop using when you talk about food

Probability in Health –

The bottom line is that what you say and how you say it shapes what you do. As a nutritionist, I am especially keyed in to the words we use around food and nutrition, and I see many popularly hashtagged terms hurting more than they help when it comes to our health and well-being. Here are five words I’d like to see banished from the food conversation.

Detox, Cleanse, Skinny, Never, Perfect, 

Ellie Krieger, Washington Post, July 12, 2015

The First G.O.P. Debate: Who’s In, Who’s Out and the Role of Chance

Probability in Politics, Survey Research and Polling –

Only 10 of the 16 Republican presidential candidates will be allowed into the first debate, on Aug. 6. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, will winnow the list using an average of the five most recent major national polls.

As a thought experiment, let’s pretend the polling averages shown above are exactly correct and capture the true preferences of Republicans. Then let’s conduct simulations of five new polls, with typical sampling errors: 

Kevin Quealy and Amanda Cox, New York Times, July 21, 2015



Personal Health Rethinking Exercise as a Source of Immediate Rewards

Probability in Health and Medicine, Psychology –

Three years ago, I wrote about research by Dr. Segar and others showing that promoting physical activity to prevent or control disease, lose weight or sculpt one’s body, and prescribing doses as if exercise were medicine, wouldn’t get most people to do it and keep doing it.

Rather, immediate rewards that enhance daily life — more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family — offer far more motivation, Dr. Segar and others have found.

Jane E. Brody, New York Times, July 20, 2015

Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations

Probability in Psychology, Relationships, Survey Research –

Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

Kevin Sack and Megan Thee-Brenan, July 23, 2015

Struck By Lighting As A Kid, A Lottery Winner As An Adult

Probability Problems –

Lady Luck has a sense of humor. The odds of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery are very slim.

The likelihood that both will happen to the same person are about one in 2.6 trillion. Peter McCathie is that one.

The Canadian man survived a lightning strike when he was a kid.

And now, after buying lottery tickets for about a year, McCathie has struck it big. He won a million dollars.

He’s not gambling with the winnings. He’s taking his wife on a second honeymoon.

NPR, July 23, 2105

How Happy Do Weekends Actually Make Us? A new study finds that people who like their jobs aren’t any happier on the weekends

Probability in Psychology –

Working for the weekend? Only if you hate your job.

A study (PDF) from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that people who like their bosses and their work environments get as much pleasure from weekdays as they do from weekends.

Using Gallup surveys taken over four years, the study looked at how seven emotions of both full-time and part-time workers fluctuate through the week. As expected, most people feel less stress and more enjoyment on Saturdays and Sundays, a phenomenon that the researchers dub “the Weekend Effect.”

But a certain class of people—”workers reporting favorable workplace environment”—don’t see any Weekend Effect. Those with a trusting workplace and an immediate supervisor who is more like a partner than a boss are just as happy on weekdays as on weekends, especially if they maintain healthy social lives throughout the week. This demographic also reported experiencing the same amount of enjoyment and less laughter on the weekends.

Rebecca Greenfield, BloombergBusiness, July 21, 2015

Forecasters Expect a Strong Economy for the 2016 Presidential Election

Probability in Politics, Economics –

The election is 16 months away, but knowing what we know now, what should we expect the economic backdrop to be when Americans choose their next president?

To answer that question, The Times asked leading forecasters from economic consultancies, financial firms and universities for their predictions on where key economic variables will stand on Nov. 8, 2016 — Election Day. The 17 who participated replied with a relatively strong consensus.

Neil Irwin, New York Times, July 18, 2015

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