p>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
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
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
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.