Monday, August 13, 2007

Math in the news

At long last, the New York Times heard about the handshaking lemma. I feel avenged for the countless times I tried to explain this to people.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Note the subtle difference between mean and median...

In more detail:
http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2007/08/they-cant-mean-.html

- grad student, addled from grading, whose non-mathy friends pointed this out to him

seth said...

Gale & Graham's comments are correct but they don't contradict the claims of the study. There's a big difference between median and average. (I do think people are lying though.)

MiP said...

Sure, it's always easy to play the purist-formalist and jump at the neck of the NY Times editors. But in our imperfect world, seldom does a non-constructive purist or formalist opinion move things forward...

What should we choose -- science articles which are not formally conclusive but at least make people think, or let people form an stupid opinion and feeling good about it?

BTW, since we're wondering about tails, here's another excerpt from the study's conclusion: 29 percent of American men report having 15 or more female sexual partners in a lifetime, while only 9 percent of women report having sex with 15 or more men.

Anonymous said...

The british study, in which men reported an average of 12.7 partners, and women 6.5, presumably -was- dealing in means, not medians, and so the article makes a valid point, although perhaps should not have mentioned the median statistic from the american study.