Sunday, April 15, 2012

Statistics -- a lament

     Helping me to continue to connect National Poetry Month with Mathematics Awareness Month (with its theme of "Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge") is the following poem by Halifax mathematician Robert J. MacG. Dawson, and found in the September 2011 issue of The Mathematical Intelligencer
     Dawson's poem "Statistical Lament" will be recognizable to many as a parody of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."  (Still more math songs and parodies may be found in earlier blog postings -- on 5 June 2011, 14 February 2011, 4 January 2011, and 23 April 2010.)

   Statistical Lament (after Joni Mitchell)
                                                by Robert J. MacG. Dawson

   Rows and flows of lines and spots,
   Histograms and digidots,
   Box-and-whiskers, quantile plots:
   I’ve looked at stats that way.
   But is it just a picture show?
   If something’s there how will you know?
   And if they say it isn’t so
   What is there left to say?
   I’ve looked at plots from both sides now,
   Transformed and spun them: still, somehow,
   It’s plots’ illusions I recall,
   I really can’t trust plots at all.

   Dainty ladies tasting teas
   Rejecting null hypotheses
   At standard probabilities:
   I’ve looked at stats that way.
   But is it just a lottery?
   At four percent they all agree;
   At six percent the referee
   Says ‘‘take this junk away.’’
   I’ve looked at tests from both sides now:
   Retain, reject – and still somehow
   I look at tests and I recall
   I really can’t accept at all.

   Ways of Bayes and likelihood,
   We’ll teach the things we know we should,
   The True, the Beautiful, the Good
   And blow the clouds away.
   But now my class are acting strange,
   They tell the Dean that I’m deranged
   And that they need (till customs change)
   Their tests and EDA.
   From both sides now I’ve looked Bayes o’er,
   Both prior and posterior:
   It’s mass confusion I recall,
   I really can’t teach Bayes, at all.

A posting of Mathematics Awareness Month activities may be found here.  And check out other poetry conversations happening this National Poetry Month at Couplets where poet and blogger Joanne Merriam is featuring a guided tour of a variety of poetry blogs.

1 comment:

  1. Mathematics is also a branch of science. It is used to calculate values with different methods. In the past, the calculation of the values ??with different things. In the above calculation method is too difficult, but due to the progress of science we can now calculate too large valleys with in a second.