INFSCI 1000: Statistical Analysis of Data

Instructor: Marek J. Druzdzel


"The theory of probabilities is at bottom only common sense reduced to computation." --- Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace
"Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write." --- H.G. Wells
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." --- Benjamin Disraeli

Statistics and the underlying theory of probabilities belong to very widely used branches of mathematics. Statistics is applied as a means of using data to gain insight into real world systems. It does not take much to realize that statistics works amazingly well. Consider, for example, the amazing precision of election polls or the premium calculations by insurance companies. On the other hand, statistics is often misunderstood and misapplied. Certain resent towards statistics, expressed for example by the widely known quote by Disraeli, is not uncommon.

This course provides an introductory treatment of statistics, along with elements of probability theory. It is very practically oriented and is not designed to teach you the formal details of statistical procedures or to make you an expert practitioner of the specific statistics tools. That you can and should get in other specialized courses. In this class, you will develop broad critical abilities and understand basic use and meaning of statistics. The course should improve your ability to think about data and use statistical methods with understanding. One of my main goals is to convince you that probability and statistics are indeed, as Laplace once wrote, common sense reduced to computation. The approach taken in this course is somewhat unorthodox compared to most existing statistics textbooks that I am aware of. We will talk explicitly about the concept of causality and causal graphs and how they are related to statistics. You will learn to reason about relevance and dependence. We will talk about observation, experimentation, and statistical decision making. Knowledge of statistics will prove useful in both your professional career and in your personal life, as it will improve the soundness of your thinking.

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