[Edu-sig] Talking Stat Blues

Jason Cunliffe jason.cunliffe at verizon.net
Mon Apr 26 21:24:52 EDT 2004

I can't take it any more. I really need your help please..

In these painfully contorted times, media are forever saturating news reports with the latest polls just in.

53% think yes leader x is lying scum
46% said no he's not, he's got Dog on his side
1% undecided

If you are very lucky they specify the size of the sample. 1000 people perhaps.
But they never speak it. Instead we get all this nonsense 

"Most Martians said ....."
"The majority ...."

I need your help to find a [new] more honest, preferably Pythonic and revealing way to speak about these numbers.

Let's assume a population of 300,000,000
And a sample of 1000
53% yay
46 % nay
1% dohnuts

My teacher vigorously taught us whenever we saw any % signs to **always**  ask out loud "Percentage of What ?"

So when I see/hear any polls or statistics, I get pretty crazy because I immediately look for the size of the sample and then ask: 
"How on this earth can they presume to multiply that tiny sampling from 1000 to 300,000,000 ?" 
And then I wonder " Why on this earth do other people go along with this madness?"

It must be something to do with how they were taught to read and speak basic math.
And since we are all here praying for the days when programming is an integral part of our basic literacy, I want to hear your best suggestions about how we can prevent such nonsense in the future.

Spoken dialogue with Python examples please.

thank you very much
-- Jason

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