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Statistics is a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data. It is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities, government and business.

Statistical methods are used to summarize and describe a collection of data; this is called descriptive statistics. In addition, patterns in the data may be modeled in a way that accounts for randomness and uncertainty in the observations, and then used to draw inferences about the process or population being studied; this is called inferential statistics.

Statistics arose no later than the 18th century from the need of states to collect data on their people and economies, in order to administer them. The meaning broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general.

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Would you switch?
The Monty Hall game

The Monty Hall problem is a probability puzzle based on the American television game show Let's Make a Deal. The name comes from the show host, Monty Hall. The problem is also called the Monty Hall paradox, as it is a veridical paradox in that the result appears absurd but is demonstrated to be true.

A well-known statement of the problem was published in Parade magazine: "Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?"

Because there is no way for the player to know which of the two remaining unopened doors is the winning door, most people assume that each of these doors has an equal probability and conclude that switching does not matter. In fact, the player should switch - doing so doubles the probability of winning the car from 1/3 to 2/3.

When the problem and the solution appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers wrote to the magazine claiming the published solution was wrong.


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Karl Pearson 2.jpg
Karl Pearson

Karl Pearson FRS (1857–1936) established the discipline of mathematical statistics. In 1911 he founded the world's first university statistics department at University College London. Pearson's work was all-embracing in the wide application and development of mathematical statistics, and encompassed the fields of biology, epidemiology, anthropometry, medicine and social history. Pearson's thinking underpins many of the 'classical' statistical methods which are still in common use today, including linear regression, correlation and the classification of probability distributions. He gave his name to Pearson's correlation coefficient and Pearson's chi-square test.


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A correlation indicates the strength and direction of a linear relationship between two random variables. This figure shows several sets of data, with the correlation coefficient of x and y for each set. The correlation reflects the noisiness and direction of a linear relationship (top row), but not the slope of that relationship (middle), nor many aspects of nonlinear relationships (bottom). The figure in the center has a slope of 0 but in that case the correlation coefficient is undefined because the variance of Y is zero.


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