How to Lie with Statistics

Being an engineer by training (and by genetic code), I regularly use statistics in my day job and am often amazed at how people can be misled by statistics.  The news media is particularly notorious for unintentionally (or intentionally?) misrepresenting data.  When I was in college, one of my statistics professors shared with me a very entertaining book regarding the misuse and misinterpretation of statistics.  The book, How to Lie with Statistics, was written by Darrell Huff in 1954.  Darrell was not a statistician by trade; rather, he was a journalist who had a keen eye for detail.  In the book, he illustrates some of the most common errors associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors lead to inaccurate conclusions…sometimes with humorous results.  Although the book was written over 50 years ago, the concepts and examples cited are still relevant for us today, and the book has become one of the best-selling statistics books in history.

How does this relate to pool?  Actually, it’s rather simple.  Over the last three months I’ve been able to improve my personal high run score in straight pool by an average factor of about 1.7.  At a rate of 1.7 per month, it’s a rather simple exercise to take my actual high run data and extrapolate it into the near future.  Based on this commonly used statistical technique, I predict that I will beat Willie Mosconi’s straight pool high run record of 526 balls within a few short months.  Don’t believe me?  Well, as they say, “Figures Don’t Lie.”  See the chart below. 

See, I told you so!  I figure after I break the record sometime in the middle of May, people will be standing in line just to get my autograph.  Don’t delay!  You don’t need to get stuck in long lines!  You can order my autograph today!  Just write your name and address on the back $100 bill and mail it to me.  My autograph for just $100!  What a great deal!  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  If you order today, I’ll throw in free shipping!  So that’s MY AUTOGRAPH plus FREE shipping!  WHAT A BARGAIN!  Don’t be the last person on your block to acquire this valuable piece of history.  ORDER YOURS TODAY!    😉

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3 responses to “How to Lie with Statistics

  1. there’s also the highly controversial book the bell curve that’s related to statistics.

  2. If that’s the case, I would love to see the curve for Willie Mosconi.

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