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Sat May 25, 2013, 11:43 PM

Being this mathematically ignorant should disqualify one from the Senate

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/23/tom-coburn-tornado-relief_n_3324948.html

The tornado that struck Moore, Okla., this week, killing at least 24, is estimated to have left more than $2 billion of damage in its path.

When asked if he thought the government should take steps to mandate tornado shelters in the aftermath of the storm, Coburn rejected the idea by using a classic statistical fallacy.

"If you're living in that area of Moore in Oklahoma, the likelihood of being hit by another tornado is about zero in terms of odds," he said.

MSNBC's Brian Shactman attempted to correct Coburn, but the senator dug in.

"The odds weren't the same, that's completely wrong," he said. "If you've had two tornadoes in 14 years, and then you're saying the odds of that is the same going forward, that's not right at all. You need to check your statistics class."

Senator Coburn makes a mistake that even a well educated 8th grader wouldn't make and then tells the interviewer to take a stats class. Again, this should be enough to get him thrown out of the Senate as any other person who showed they didn't have an 8th grader's knowledge of the world.

21 replies, 2826 views

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Being this mathematically ignorant should disqualify one from the Senate (Original post)
dsc May 2013 OP
calimary May 2013 #1
TheDebbieDee May 2013 #2
SharonAnn May 2013 #3
JBoy May 2013 #12
dimbear May 2013 #4
LostOne4Ever May 2013 #5
laundry_queen May 2013 #6
pansypoo53219 May 2013 #7
davekriss May 2013 #18
Jim Lane May 2013 #21
Jim__ May 2013 #8
kdmorris May 2013 #9
Donald Ian Rankin May 2013 #10
dsc May 2013 #13
Donald Ian Rankin May 2013 #14
dsc May 2013 #16
davekriss May 2013 #20
Warren DeMontague May 2013 #11
Apophis May 2013 #15
Logical May 2013 #17
MineralMan May 2013 #19

Response to dsc (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2013, 11:45 PM

1. And he's supposedly a doctor, too.

Dear God! His poor patients!!!

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Response to calimary (Reply #1)

Sat May 25, 2013, 11:49 PM

2. I'm sure that his election to the Senate has prevented the death

 

by overmedication of several of his patients............

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Response to calimary (Reply #1)

Sat May 25, 2013, 11:51 PM

3. And he doesn't understand statistics and probability? How'd he ever graduate?

That's a pretty important thing for a physician to understand.

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Response to calimary (Reply #1)

Sun May 26, 2013, 10:59 AM

12. Bad news: you've got a broken leg.

Good news: The chances of you breaking your leg again are now almost zero!

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2013, 11:53 PM

4. Pathetic ignorance, Senator! You think they call it Tornado Alley for nothing?

Does slow burn.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 12:51 AM

5. He needs to look up

He needs to look up the Gambler's fallacy.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 02:53 AM

6. unfortunately he's not the only one who has been spouting this nonsense.

Some Moore city officials were saying the same thing. While it's true that getting hit by an EF5 is rare, getting hit multiple times doesn't mean it won't happen anymore (Gambler's fallacy as has been mentioned). In fact, perhaps there is some poorly understood environmental variables at play here that CAUSE EF5 tornadoes to gravitate to that very spot...and Senator Coburn is no meteorologist so he wouldn't know - and I'm pretty disappointed to hear he's a doctor because I thought only smart people were doctors and any dumbass can see there MAY be other variables at play here. It probably would make me MORE likely to build a shelter, not less.

By the way, Moore has had 3 tornadoes in 14 years not 2. And people need to realize even small tornadoes can kill people who aren't sheltered properly, and those are MUCH more common than the EF5s. God, for someone who represents Oklahoma, he sure is an idiot regarding tornadoes.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 04:16 AM

7. odds for a town hit at least 4 times? 2 yrs in a row as well?

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Response to pansypoo53219 (Reply #7)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:28 AM

18. Mr Coburn, meet Mr Bernoulli

A Bernoulli trial concerns the probability of an event happening now and going forward. The past has no influence on future probability.

Say you have flipped a coin 10 times and each time it came up heads. Wow, what are the odds of that happening? Very low, of course (0.097% to be precise). So the odds of turning up heads on toss 11 must be very low, right? Wrong. The odds on the next toss remain 50%. The next time a coin is tossed, it has a 50% probability of turning up heads vs. tails.

So what are the odds of Moore getting hit again? The same as they were the day before the last tornado.

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Response to davekriss (Reply #18)

Mon May 27, 2013, 01:18 AM

21. You're being too kind to Coburn.

 

Your argument implicitly assumes a fair coin -- 50% probability on each flip. In the case Coburn's addressing, the analogous assumption is probably not valid.

Coins are generally fair, but loaded dice do exist (as cheating devices), so let's switch to that example. You and Mr. Bernoulli could say that if you roll two dice and get snake-eyes (a 1 and a 1), the odds on getting snake-eyes again on the second roll are the same: 1 in 36. True enough. BUT if you roll the dice 10 times and get snake-eyes every time (10 in a row), that's quite astounding -- probability, assuming the dice to be fair, of less than 1 in three quadrillion. At that point, I'd be convinced that it was far more likely that I'd gotten my hands on loaded dice. If I stop assuming fair dice, then the chance getting the eleventh snake-eyes is more than 1 in 36.

Now, cut to meteorology. Tornadoes aren't distributed at random across the globe. Coin flips and dice rolls have no memory, but tornadoes do, in the sense that the 2014 tornado season is not an independent event (in the mathematical sense) from the 2013 season. This tornado is evidence that Moore's location is one that makes it more likely to be hit by a tornado.

Put another way, suppose all you know about two towns in Oklahoma is that one was hit by a tornado this year and one wasn't. Coburn says that, for 2014, the one that was hit this year is less likely to be hit again. In fact, however, that one is more likely to be hit, because of the possibility that the tornado dice are loaded against it.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 05:30 AM

8. It's thinking like that that's put this country in the mess it's in.

Senator Coburn, we've had 6 fatal traffic accidents at that unprotected intersection. Do you think we should invest in a stop sign?

Nah. The odds of another fatal traffic accident at that intersection have to be close to zero.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 05:38 AM

9. Sure, because the weather is intelligent

and knows when a town has been hit "too many times". Sigh... what an idiot.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 05:57 AM

10. Depending what precise event he's discussing, he may well be right and his critics wrong.


If he's making the claim that that area has somehow "used up" all its being-hit-by-tornadoes luck and therefor is less likely to be hit than other places, then that is indeed a classic statistical fallacy.

But the odds of an area being hit by (the same number of tornadoes as hit you in the last 14 years) in the next 14 years are indeed immeasurably lower if that number is 2 than if it is 0. Your next result is less likely to be the same as your last result if you've just experienced a statistical fluke than if you've just had something usual happen to you.

And I suspect that the odds of any given place being hit by two tornadoes in the next 14 years are indeed essentially zero, even in the heart of tornado alley (although my meteorology isn't as strong as my statistics, so I'm not confident of that).



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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Reply #10)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:14 AM

13. that isn't what he said

he said the odds of having another tornado are essentially 0.

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Response to dsc (Reply #13)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:23 AM

14. Is he wrong? Even in their heartland, aren't most places not hit by tornadoes most of the time?

As I say, my meteorology is not as strong as my statistics.

Obviously, it depends what you mean by "essentially zero", but I wouldn't be surprised if there were several noughts at the start of the probability.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Reply #14)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:26 AM

16. the statement clearly implied that it was now less than it was before

since they had already had 2 tornadoes.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Reply #10)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:33 AM

20. (see post 18)

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 05:59 AM

11. How old does he think the Earth is?

he might not be the go-to guy for numbers.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:25 AM

15. How in the hell is this man a doctor???

 

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:28 AM

17. Many people are this stupid. It explains why Roulette makes so much money.....

 

and why the casinos show the last 20 rolls. People think the last 20 rolls means something. Even though they do not.

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Response to dsc (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2013, 11:32 AM

19. You'll need to tell that to the voters in his state.

The only qualifications for Senate have to do with citizenship and age.

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