Article Summary: "You've heard that today we live in the Information Age where
we understand a great deal about the world around us. Much of this information
was determined mathematically by using statistics. When used correctly,
statistics tell us any trends in what happened in the past and can be useful
in predicting what may happen in the future."
Statistics are sets of mathematical equations that are used to analyze what is happening in the world around us. You've heard that today we live in the Information Age where we understand a great deal about the world around us. Much of this information was determined mathematically by using statistics. When used correctly, statistics tell us any trends in what happened in the past and can be useful in predicting what may happen in the future.
Let's look at some examples of how statistics shape your life when you don't even know it.
1. Weather Forecasts
Do you watch the weather forecast sometime during the day? How do you use that information? Have you ever heard the forecaster talk about weather models? These computer models are built using statistics that compare prior weather conditions with current weather to predict future weather.
2. Emergency Preparedness
What happens if the forecast indicates that a hurricane is imminent or that tornadoes are likely to occur? Emergency management agencies move into high gear to be ready to rescue people. Emergency teams rely on statistics to tell them when danger may occur.
3. Predicting Disease
Lots of times on the news reports, statistics about a disease are reported. If the reporter simply reports the number of people who either have the disease or who have died from it, it's an interesting fact but it might not mean much to your life. But when statistics become involved, you have a better idea of how that disease may affect you.
For example, studies have shown that 85 to 95 percent of lung cancers are smoking related. The statistic should tell you that almost all lung cancers are related to smoking and that if you want to have a good chance of avoiding lung cancer, you shouldn't smoke.
4. Medical Studies
Scientists must show a statistically valid rate of effectiveness before any drug can be prescribed. Statistics are behind every medical study you hear about.
Many people are afflicted with diseases that come from their genetic make-up and these diseases can potentially be passed on to their children. Statistics are critical in determining the chances of a new baby being affected by the disease.
6. Political Campaigns
Whenever there's an election, the news organizations consult their models when they try to predict who the winner is. Candidates consult voter polls to determine where and how they campaign. Statistics play a part in who your elected government officials will be
You know that in order to drive your car you are required by law to have car insurance. If you have a mortgage on your house, you must have it insured as well. The rate that an insurance company charges you is based upon statistics from all drivers or homeowners in your area.
8. Consumer Goods
Wal-Mart, a worldwide leading retailer, keeps track of everything they sell and use statistics to calculate what to ship to each store and when. From analyzing their vast store of information, for example, Wal-Mart decided that people buy strawberry Pop Tarts when a hurricane is predicted in Florida! So they ship this product to Florida stores based upon the weather forecast.
9. Quality Testing
Companies make thousands of products every day and each company must make sure that a good quality item is sold. But a company can't test each and every item that they ship to you, the consumer. So the company uses statistics to test just a few, called a sample, of what they make. If the sample passes quality tests, then the company assumes that all the items made in the group, called a batch, are good.
10. Stock Market
Another topic that you hear a lot about in the news is the stock market. Stock analysts also use statistical computer models to forecast what is happening in the economy.