ProbaPerception: Introduction

September 21, 2012

(This article was first published on ProbaPerception, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Hello (New World!), 
My name is Edwin, I’m a 22 year-old French student in applied mathematics. In particular, I study probability, statistics and risk theory. We learn interesting things but there is still one question I feel stupid about: Is statistics, actually, useful? I mean not theoretically but in the real life. Many friends of mine asked me this, and I vainly struggle in answering with understandable and cogent examples. I can’t get rid of the stereotypes such as the over optimistic forecasts of GDP gross given by government neither of the very easy statistics which are about collecting data rather than proper data analyses.
Because, mathematics should never be like that… (source:
This question is the reason of this blog, I would like to explain by examples how statistics and probability could offer a useful perception of our environment. Indeed, according to the Oxford Dictionary, perception is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses, or in a second meaning, the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. This is how probability and statistics are useful. They give a perception of our environment, which might be wrong, as well as our sight can suffer from an optical illusion, but the perception may help us to understand and become aware of phenomena of our environment.
To answer “the” question I will try to use examples as easy as possible so that not only the conclusions but also the process are understandable. As you will certainly see, I like sport, finance and risk issues, and I will use many examples from these areas to answer the question. I will use the software R to illustrate the different topics. Although, I’m not a great programmer, feel free to use my programs if you think they could be useful.  They are certainly not as efficient as possible and, again, feel free to comment any of my programs if you have any ideas to improve the program or the method.
Finally, before blogging for the first time in my life, I’d like to thank all the people who settle in my mind the unfathomable question of the utility of statistics. In particular Claire, Justine, Arthur, Clement and Rudy (even though the three last ones certainly know better than I do how useful is statistics) for the countless, long and unfinished delicious discussions we had about statistics and probability. Claude for his unconditional but fair question: “You like mathematics, but what kind of work can you do with mathematics?” and many other people, who, I am sure will recognize they have left their print on this blog.


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