Thursday, April 29, 2010

Statistical thinking in the blogosphere

Atrios, referencing the off-shore drilling platform disaster in the Gulf:
While specific events aren't predictable, what is knowable is that these types of things are inevitably going to happen.
This is one of the very few examples of "statistical thinking" to be found in the blogosphere: the specific cannot be predicted, but the long-term rate - the inevitability - is knowable.

Full disclosure: One of my favorite pictures of my dad is of him with 2 other guys on the back of a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, with a diving bell hanging off the stern. They were prospecting for oil for a big oil company.
One of my first jobs - a summer internship - was coding FORTRAN to model 100-year storms... to help that same big oil company design off-shore drilling rigs to withstand these freaks of nature.
I've nothing against Big Oil - it fed me, clothed me, sent me to school.
BUT: there are risks inherent in oil production, ... and the supply of petroleum is finite.


  1. "Drill, baby, drill" has become "Spill, baby, spill."

  2. Sadly, the vivid, the concrete is far more influential than the drab analytical.
    Yes - "Spill, baby spill" is likely to have untowards impact on policy.
    See Psychology of Intelligence Analysis... particularly chapter 10.

  3. I've been reading too many liberal blogs about too many paranoid conservatives; somewhere in there, despite the remove, the paranoia must still rub off on me, because the oil rig explosion, juxtaposed against the POTUS's drilling iniative, is just too durn convenient. And how would anything ever be proved? Help, the paranoids are after me!

  4. As if Louisiana needed another mess to clean up.