Statistics can be really interesting, and most of it isn’t that difficult, according to Charles Wheelan in his book Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data. Statistics can be used to explain everything from DNA testing to the idiocy of playing the lottery; statistics can help us identify the factors associated with diseases like cancer and heart disease; it can even help us spot cheating on standardised tests.
The book goes on to discuss a range of basic statistical concepts including correlation, basic probability, standard deviation, the central limit theorem, sampling errors, and regression analysis. Each concept is introduced and explained with interesting and amusing stories having very little technical mathematical content, and several chapters have appendices containing slightly more difficult explanations.
If made-up examples reflect the maker’s mind patterns and prejudices, perhaps the author has something to answer for. Busloads of International Festival of Sausage participants and international marathon runners seem frequently to be involved in crashes, and all of them are either concussed or unable to speak English, so that we have to use mean weights and standard deviations to determine whether a busload contains sausage-eaters or runners.
The is a witty and enjoyable introduction to basic statistics. Most readers will already have at least some knowledge of probability and statistics, but the author’s entertaining style keeps the reader engaged while the really simple stuff is explained. Those who were hoping for a text book with plenty of Greek symbols will be largely disappointed; this book is firmly aimed at non-mathematicians with almost no previous knowledge of statistics.