Sunday, October 17, 2010

This conclusion was pulled straight out of this guy's ass...

I blame this people like this butthead for the fact that whenever I say that I am a statistician, people  ask if that means I can make the data say whatever I want. That's why I usually say that I am an astronaut-- fewer questions and way more street cred. Sure, you can make the data say whatever you want if you are (1) delusional like the author of this article or (2) dishonest.

A week or so ago, my friend, Sarah, sent me this article about a survey on sexual behavior in America with the advice to "read all the way through because their conclusion is somewhat amusing." Reproduced below is the best part:

Here's my guess. Look carefully at Table 4, Pages 355-6. Only 6 percent of women who had anal sex in their last encounter did so in isolation. Eighty-six percent also had vaginal sex. Seventy-two percent also received oral sex. Thirty-one percent also had partnered masturbation. And the more sex acts a woman engaged in during the encounter, the more likely she was to report orgasm. These other activities are what gave the women their orgasms. The anal sex just came along for the ride.

So why did the inclusion of anal sex bump the orgasm figure up to 94 percent? It didn't. The causality runs the other way. Women who were getting what they wanted were more likely to indulge their partners' wishes. It wasn't the anal sex that caused the orgasms. It was the orgasms that caused the anal sex.
It would probably be good to mention that the relevant stats about anal sex were based on 31 people, and further sub-grouping obviously results in even smaller groups.

So, in conclusion, this guy is a complete (anal) douche both for his conclusions regarding the direction of causation here and for providing another example of data being manipulated to say whatever you want.

p.s. Because I'm turning my homework in late, this post comes after some alternate explanations for the data were posted here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

If your first language is Klingon, you probably also speak English.

I've always heard that the best way to learn a new language is by total immersion, so I didn't bother learning too much Portuguese before I moved to Rio de Janeiro about 10 days ago. Aside from having a dissertation to write before I left  (which I figured deserved the bulk of my effort... and sadly stole some  all of my bloggy time from me) I figured that just showing up in Brazil with one Portuguese course under my belt ought to be enough to get me up to speed pretty quickly. I imagined myself arriving in an exotic paradise, armed with a three year old's level of knowledge of the native language (and wit and charm galore), and smoothly transitioning into a carioca without being bailed out by anyone speaking English. Ever. I would of course also have an adorably irresistible accent.

This is only one of many fantasies I had about my life in Brazil that has not come to fruition... one of the other notable ones involves the inverse relationship between my desire to see any given Brazilian guy in his tiny little man-bikini-bottom and the probability that he will actually wear said swimming apparatus. Whenever I try to actually forge ahead with the Portuguese on a task like asking directions, which I can totally handle without help, thank you, the person I'm asking smiles amusedly at me and answers in English. However, when it comes to navigating Brazil's soul-crushingly burdensome bureaucracy or trying to set up an account with the Internet company, no one can help me. (Seriously, can someone help me get Internet in my apartment?)

Anyway, when my mom was here, she was stunned by how few people speak English. She commented that it is not like Holland, where it seems like just about everyone speaks English.  Having spent more than the 24 hour act-like-a-mature-adult-limit with my mom, I of course regressed to 14 year old me. "Duh, mom, of course they don't. _sigh_ Tons of people speak Portuguese, and hardly anyone speaks Dutch. If the Dutch didn't learn English, the only people they would be able to communicate with would be... the Dutch... and what good is that?" She didn't buy it, so I was forced to make some plots.

My point, I guess, revolved around the fact that it is not very practical to only be able to communicate with a very small community. So, if the community of people with whom you can communicate is large already, you'd be less likely to learn another language. (Go with this for a second, and assume that the chosen language would be English.) If you share your first language with relatively few people, you'd be more likely to learn English.

So, I snagged some data from Wikipedia (<3 you, W!), and I compare the the proportion of people in each country who speak English to the total estimated number of people world-wide who speak each country's official language. For reasons of laziness and ignorance about which languages are most used in every country, if more than one language was listed, I took the first. I also removed the countries that had English listed as an official language. The result of forcing several by-country lists  into one table and keeping only those countries that had all of the necessary data available was a table of 23 countries.

So, to be fair, having seen this I actually want to back-peddle a little bit. While there does seem to be a trend*, it looks like a spatial model or just taking continents (or even the wealth of each country) into account might explain some of this-- notice that Europe is mostly above the line and, darn you, Latin America,  is mostly below the line.

Point being, if you want to go on vacation in a place where you won't have many communication barriers, go to Iceland.** :)

*Yes, statisticians friends,  I do realize that fitting a line to data that only goes between 0 and 1 is not the best thing anyone has ever done... I have a super budget version of a logistic  regression fit to this also if this offends your statistical sensibilities too much.

** Not one of the countries in the plot. I'm just guessing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Infinite loop Skypey screen shot

Me looking at JJ's screen... who's looking at my screen... while looking at his screen... while looking at my screen...