Perhaps the toughest time in anyone's life is when you have to put away a loved one because they've been possessed by the devil. Other than that, though, I've had a good week*. And my week turns even better today, as we all join hands to celebrate World Statistics Day.
You may ask yourself, why now, why WSD 2010? Apparently, since there are no wars or natural disasters, or any other public health crises or economic strife to deal with at the moment, the United Nations found the time to honor those women and men who know a thing or two about standard deviations and heteroscedasticity (not that there is anything wrong with it). Per the UN's WSD 2010 website:
The celebration of the World Statistics Day will acknowledge the service provided by the global statistical system at national and international level, and hope to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics. It serves as an advocacy tool to further support the work of statisticians across different settings, cultures, and domains.
Also, you may ask yourself: So what does WSD 2010 prove other than that being a math nerd knows no national, religious, or ethnic boundaries? What should I expect? Again, per the UN's website:
On World Statistics Day, activities at national level will highlight the role of official statistics and the many achievements of the national statistical system. International, regional and sub-regional organizations will complement national activities with additional events.
Further, you may ask yourself: What specific activities can I look forward to? Well, since WSD 2010 is today, you don't have to look too far forward, because these are happening right now, across the globe. For example, in Afghanistan, the Taliban are burning effigies of Pascal, Fermat, Gauss, and William Feller. And here in the US at SAS (known somewhat for our interest in all things statistical), we are holding a bonfire of the vanities – a marshmallow and wiener roast over the flaming embers of old restroom cabinets from a recent remodeling – while chanting out proofs of the Law of Large Numbers and Central Limit Theorem.
Finally, you may ask yourself: What has statistics done for me lately. Good answers can be found in SAS founder Jim Goodnight’s Raleigh News & Observer editorial on WSD, “It's Good That We're Statistics.” For example,
- Catalina Marketing mines 250 million customer transactions weekly to predict customer interests, and issue customized coupon offers to the grocery shopper during checkout.
- Maine Medical Center has created data dashboards measuring things like hand washing compliance – helping them dramatically drop the rate of hospital-acquired infections.
Goodnight and Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian agree that statistician is the sexy job of the future. You can indicate your liking this concept on the SAS Analytics Facebook page.
So please, go out and celebrate WSD – but do so responsibly (remembering to wash your hands both before and after). And absorb the lesson to be learned from all this: If you want to get lucky – or at least know your odds – then study your math.
Same as it ever was...