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Lies & Damn Lies: Probability in the News

Lies? Misleading numbers? Just plain old incompetence?

Journalists are a constant source of confusion and misleading 'information' when it comes to numbers: particularly probabilities. Here, I'll break down some of what's being said in the news so we can understand what's real, what's not, and what's just not yet fully understood.


  • Covid testing: What the 'detection' numbers hide

  • Did the same diagnostic test result mean the same thing at different times during the pandemic?

  • Vaccine efficacy and the true risk of 'breakthrough' infection

  • Masks: when are they useful?

  • Death vs. case rates and perceived danger

  • The effect of uncertainty on public policy

  • Future pandemics: what is the optimal response?

  • Vaccine hesitancy: government vs. individual goals

  • The effect of trust vs. distrust in news media

  • Do 'unbiased' networks display a reliable bias?

  • Policing and race: what do the numbers tell us about police-involved shootings?

  • The causal arrow: policing, incarceration, and high-crime neighborhoods

  • 50 years of affirmative action: What are the results?

Science in public policy

Bias in the news

Uncomfortable conversations

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