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Author Topic: How the HELL are statistics counted?  (Read 2872 times)

Offline ConfusedHermit

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How the HELL are statistics counted?
« on: 01/09/2012 08:45:38 »
I've heard intelligence and cynicism go hand in hand, and I agree with that. Science is wonderful, but the moment you learn about how unscientific your country or the world is, you instantly feel alone and as if science isn't important to the majority.

And you SEE it, too! A site like this one (while I think it's great how populated it is) could be WAY bigger if people were more interested in science.

But what if most people actually are, but were like me a few months ago and didn't know sites like this existed?

I'm as cynical as a semi-suicidal holding on to life because maybe I'm wrong about my country and this world being doomed to every degree. I saw that recent video of Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) commenting on my country (the US) being very anti-science, and I've known this for a while now. It's depressed me to no end, as I'm sure it would anyone on this site.

But recently I've had this question in my head that will not go away: 'All those statistics that say the majority of this state/country/world don't value science-- Where the HELL do they come from?'

I have NEVER been 'counted' for any statistic. How many people can say the same thing? Or if most of it is voluntary, how many people just don't contribute to statistics? And the statistics that you see--How many of those have been bought and paid for to not be accurate?

I could be depressed about nearly every person in my country (especially in the south) being a reality-ignorant bigot with no interest in improving the world-- When the real numbers would actually make me feel a little bit HOPEFUL for a change!

And even more important, the young people who HEAR that the majority thinks science isn't important won't have to grow up believing it when the real stats say most people think every day is going to be our greatest adventure for science pretty soon.

I was tempted to post this somewhere with a political theme, but I think statistics have more to do with math than politics. That and I think there be less trolls in these waters.

Help me out, here. Main questions:
- How is most statistic information about ANY detail about a population obtained?

- Is there a statistic for people like me--the people who AREN'T counted? So if a statistic says 'x of all Americans are religious,' remove 30% of that because there are a LOT of uncounted atheists?


 

Offline schneebfloob

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #1 on: 01/09/2012 09:21:49 »
I've always found this quite interesting. Like when people on the news or something come out with tv viewing figures: such and such was watched by 8million people last night. It does make you wonder if they have people on the street asking people about whether they watched it. "hello madam, im not a creep or anything, but what were you watching on tv between 8 and 10 last night?"

In the UK, it's carried out by the BARB and they attach special boxes to the tvs of about 5100 homes. These homes are spread across all sectors of the population like rich/poor, across different areas and things like that. The boxes record their viewing activity and it's used to estimate the viewing habits of the whole population.

It'll be similar with the polls you're interested in. Even though you're not specifically asked, the estimate could well be fairly accurate. People representing all parts of the American population will be asked various questions about their beliefs, and this data can be extrapolated to the population as a whole. They have to do it this way, because it's simply unfeasible to ask everybody. They key thing in any statistical analysis is that the sample is representative of the population you're interested in.

To anyone interested: http://www.barb.co.uk/index/index [nofollow]



« Last Edit: 01/09/2012 09:39:18 by schneebfloob »
 

Offline ConfusedHermit

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #2 on: 02/09/2012 10:03:35 »
Delving into psychology for a moment (since this is the Ďgeneral scienceí forum), should people feel detached and hopeless after seeing ANY statistic? Or happy?

With myself as an example (and Iím the type to actually seek out stats to contribute to) there are simply too many flaws in most statistic recording systems to ever be completely sure about accuracy. Again, even if it was mostly accurate, those results could easily be tampered with. Trust me, we Americans are run by the kind of corruption that would censor any inconvenient truth if it kept the masses conveniently uninformed.

Itís just thatÖ I need some HOPE, dammit! Genuine hope; not another distraction to keep me from reality. I have little energy, little appetite, little interest in the things I enjoy, and things like food and music donít Ďdoí it for me anymore. And itís largely because I think weíre f*cked, to be blunt.

But if thereís hope I donít get to see, I want to see it. Because maybe then Iíll have the pep to wholeheartedly join the optimistic mindset for movement to a better world, which I think (or have been MADE to think) that most think is naÔve at this point.

SERIOUSLY, watch a TED talk video and then some stupid video about Fox News and try to stay optimistic. Try to still believe the TED talkers' ideas can succeed.

It's just science. I'm sickened by all sorts of statistics, but I at least want to know if there are more people who value science than I am told there are. If the majority values science, then I feel MUCH better about all the other statistics, because a person who values science typically values the equality and fairness of society. I can call some of those other statistics inaccurate and nothing to get depressed about.
« Last Edit: 02/09/2012 10:05:35 by ConfusedHermit »
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #3 on: 03/09/2012 18:44:16 »
There's statistics generated from an entire population, such as the 2010 Census.

Then there's "statistical sampling" that's used when the time, effort and finances simply don't allow the seeker of information to obtain data from every individual in the population.

We do it all the time on a personal basis. You're thinking of buying a particular kind of car, or dating a particular woman, etc. So you "ask around". Hey what have you heard about this kind of car? Hey what do you think of so-and-so? Do you ask everyone who drives cars? Do you ask everyone you know who knows her? Of course not. So you take a statistical sampling.

However, educational and career statistics can be obtained for the entire population with some effort. How many Americans and how many foreigners are enrolling for science/math degrees? How many graduate? How many science/math job openings are there? Who's filling them?

Specifically of what you're complaining about, there's the PISA (the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment).
 

Offline ConfusedHermit

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #4 on: 04/09/2012 00:15:57 »
So the reality is simply it's still too difficult to get super-accurate statistics? I'd say I'm surprised that we aren't using all of our social networking outlets to gather statistics in specific and global levels, but I'm not.

For two reasons:
1.) We're probably already doing that, only not in a pretty way. All the outlets people use on a daily basis are basically windows into their personal lives. There's probably a file for each one of us somewhere that details everything there is to know about us.

2.) Of course, why would any government push for accuracy in how smart its citizens are? Even if the results are accurate in that the majority of a population doesn't care about science, why would they reveal most people care about it anyway? No-one is shamed for being ignorant in my country. Frankly, stupidity is like a virtue here. The average person would look down at you for actually questioning and seeking answers--be it about nature or what the hell our own government is doing without telling us. No king wants an informed peasant.


But again, I don't know. Maybe the biggest truth is that we'll never know. So maybe I should just stop thinking like everyone is anti-science and take solace in the fact that there are kids today being born into a technological revolution. Whether our education values continue to suck or not, I'd imagine the kids are going to educate themselves and overcome whatever ignorance the previous generations raised them on.

Because hey, I turned out okay. The people on this site turned out okay. The internet can only get bigger. Information can only become more available (unless we elect an extremist, which I'm sure if anyone touches our internet THEN we'll be angry enough to rally up a mob). People are smarter today than they've ever been in history. Sooo... Calm down, Hermit. Calllmmm down :{D~

Sorry for any drama, folks. I needed to get that out of me. Better here than a troll haven.
 

Offline William McCormick

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #5 on: 04/09/2012 03:25:06 »
I've heard intelligence and cynicism go hand in hand, and I agree with that. Science is wonderful, but the moment you learn about how unscientific your country or the world is, you instantly feel alone and as if science isn't important to the majority.

And you SEE it, too! A site like this one (while I think it's great how populated it is) could be WAY bigger if people were more interested in science.

But what if most people actually are, but were like me a few months ago and didn't know sites like this existed?

I'm as cynical as a semi-suicidal holding on to life because maybe I'm wrong about my country and this world being doomed to every degree. I saw that recent video of Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) commenting on my country (the US) being very anti-science, and I've known this for a while now. It's depressed me to no end, as I'm sure it would anyone on this site.

But recently I've had this question in my head that will not go away: 'All those statistics that say the majority of this state/country/world don't value science-- Where the HELL do they come from?'

I have NEVER been 'counted' for any statistic. How many people can say the same thing? Or if most of it is voluntary, how many people just don't contribute to statistics? And the statistics that you see--How many of those have been bought and paid for to not be accurate?

I could be depressed about nearly every person in my country (especially in the south) being a reality-ignorant bigot with no interest in improving the world-- When the real numbers would actually make me feel a little bit HOPEFUL for a change!

And even more important, the young people who HEAR that the majority thinks science isn't important won't have to grow up believing it when the real stats say most people think every day is going to be our greatest adventure for science pretty soon.

I was tempted to post this somewhere with a political theme, but I think statistics have more to do with math than politics. That and I think there be less trolls in these waters.

Help me out, here. Main questions:
- How is most statistic information about ANY detail about a population obtained?

- Is there a statistic for people like me--the people who AREN'T counted? So if a statistic says 'x of all Americans are religious,' remove 30% of that because there are a LOT of uncounted atheists?


How important is science to you? I mean if you ask a young kid how important a new car is for high school, he will say very important. When you look back, if you got a girl pregnant in it and had to marry her, it was not that important. If you lost your license speeding in it, it was probably not that important. If you got drunk and killed someone with it, looking back it certainly was not that important.

I personally don't think many truly care about themselves, much less science today. Most people here seem to think science is theirs or the way they wish to think about it. Like you vote on what science is, and then it is that. That is not science, that is a cult. Science is a subject that turns the best red on a daily basis. The more you know the less you know, or the more you have to know. We are no where near science. Science at this stage of the game, in its twisted state is going to suck as we repair it. But then it will be something amazing again.

You mentioned hope, a hope that required more people to be in line with your way of thinking. Science is not about the vote or how many people feel good about science. Science is about right and wrong. If you can stand with the truth alone, you will not need others to come around to real science. I don't expect anyone here to come around to real science. I just offer them a glimpse of it, they can take it or leave it, live or die with or without out it. It is not up to me, I am not God. I do it for someone like me, that might be out there. 

Science is very much like God, you cannot break the laws of God or science. God has created the only laws in this universe that you cannot break. You can break any one of mans laws, and even get away with it. You will never break one of Gods laws.

Yet most people here are memorizing mans laws about what they call science.
 

                      Sincerely,

                            William McCormick

 
 

Offline grizelda

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #6 on: 04/09/2012 03:26:55 »
Statistics get a good rap because they are used by scientists to extract the true data from the noise. They get a bad rap because they are used by politically biased groups to extract the results they want by not allowing for the biased noise (propaganda, religious and political psychological manipulation of the populace, censorship).
 

Offline William McCormick

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #7 on: 04/09/2012 03:43:52 »
Statistics get a good rap because they are used by scientists to extract the true data from the noise. They get a bad rap because they are used by politically biased groups to extract the results they want by not allowing for the biased noise (propaganda, religious and political psychological manipulation of the populace, censorship).

When the government took over science and schools, they ordered the statistics they wanted from schools. It was reported many years ago, that some colleges had done statistics on the performance of people that apprenticed on the job, and people that went to college to learn the job. The people who apprenticed were full well rounded individuals that were capable of doing their job. The college folk, were disoriented and often moved to other jobs at the plant.

The colleges that stood by these statistics and condemned their own existence were cut off from Federal funding, and or tax breaks. This was a big issue that got swept away by the Vietnam War. 

Before this time, to become an engineer, you apprenticed with engineers. There was no college degree needed. Suddenly over night real engineers were made into janitors, and college people were turned into engineers.

This is all a very important part of history, young people do not know about. Young individuals are just told you have to go to college to learn. They do not know how it was.

                      Sincerely,

                            William McCormick
 

Offline bizerl

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #8 on: 04/09/2012 04:18:27 »
I guess being a member of this site, I am biased, but I don't see that attitudes of science has reached the level of apathy that confusedhermit is concerned about. Of course I have no statistics to back me up :)

I think science has definitely changed and we live in a society where incredible breakthroughs in thinking by individuals such as Newton, Einstein etc. are not the way science moves forward. I think that because science is so integrated in everything we do and so many more people are working in research, the "breakthroughs" have fizzled down to very specific applications, and therefore the media doesn't really care as much.

I think science is taken for granted rather than shunned.

I'm concerned about William McCormick's attitude to what science is. To me, the wonderful thing about science is that it is completely open minded. The only limitation that a (true) scientific mind should apply to the world is based on what is observed. Science loves proving itself wrong, because you can never really prove a theory correct, you can only fail to disprove it. And if the observations don't match up with current theories, then BAM! Current theories are thrown out the door and new theories are proposed in their place.

I also like the whole concept of peer review which allows an individual's research to be cross-examined by the scientific community to ensure that it is robust enough to stand up.

So anyway William McCormack, ironically perhaps I think you're wrong. I think that science is not about what is right and what is wrong, but about finding the most accurate match to the observations. You need to keep an open mind to the fact that you may be wrong, and with enough evidence, be willing to change your mind.

Ahhh Science!
 

Offline schneebfloob

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #9 on: 05/09/2012 22:03:35 »
I thought I'd share this little gem: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA [nofollow]

It's taken from an old BBC show called Yes, Prime Minister. It's very funny, but it actually highlights just how powerful wording and the way in which questions are asked can affect statistics.

Enjoy
 

Offline William McCormick

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
« Reply #10 on: 07/09/2012 03:08:49 »
I guess being a member of this site, I am biased, but I don't see that attitudes of science has reached the level of apathy that confusedhermit is concerned about. Of course I have no statistics to back me up :)

I think science has definitely changed and we live in a society where incredible breakthroughs in thinking by individuals such as Newton, Einstein etc. are not the way science moves forward. I think that because science is so integrated in everything we do and so many more people are working in research, the "breakthroughs" have fizzled down to very specific applications, and therefore the media doesn't really care as much.

I think science is taken for granted rather than shunned.

I'm concerned about William McCormick's attitude to what science is. To me, the wonderful thing about science is that it is completely open minded. The only limitation that a (true) scientific mind should apply to the world is based on what is observed. Science loves proving itself wrong, because you can never really prove a theory correct, you can only fail to disprove it. And if the observations don't match up with current theories, then BAM! Current theories are thrown out the door and new theories are proposed in their place.

I also like the whole concept of peer review which allows an individual's research to be cross-examined by the scientific community to ensure that it is robust enough to stand up.

So anyway William McCormack, ironically perhaps I think you're wrong. I think that science is not about what is right and what is wrong, but about finding the most accurate match to the observations. You need to keep an open mind to the fact that you may be wrong, and with enough evidence, be willing to change your mind.

Ahhh Science!

Science is only about being 99.99 percent accurate. Just like 2 + 2 has to equal 4 yesterday, today and tomorrow, science has to be exactly accurate, yesterday, today and tomorrow, or it was not, is not, and will not be science.

Science is not theories, or pondering. You have to be able to demonstrate science. You cannot just make some new theories, and explain old inventions as if the new theories created the old inventions. Theories can be, about throwing the car into reverse on the parkway at 60 miles an hour, and guessing if the car will flip, stop, fall apart or crash. Can you develop a science from watching people do things like that sure. But again the science, would not be the theory, and most good scientists could extrapolate the probable outcome of putting the car into reverse from observing past errors, along with their understanding of the universe.

Science was already done when Einstein started messing with it. He was not really a bad fellow. Real science was on hold while secret agents plotted evil for their neighbors. And soldiers killed each other and civilians. As if we needed to plan more evil for our neighbors.

Einstein was just frustrated with the lack of forward progress. Many people that I know, that loved Einstein, say that most of what you learn about him, is not his doing. In other words they took his most comical antidotes and his most clever comedy and turned it into our current theories about how the universe works.

Every time someone says that science cannot explain something like gravity, run for your life. The body snatchers have already been there. And theories are all you will get from them.



                      Sincerely,

                            William McCormick 








 
 

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Re: How the HELL are statistics counted?
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