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Chance, Probability and Rankings: the Truth About League Tables

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  • UserProfessor David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, University of Cambridge
  • ClockWednesday 14 November 2007, 17:00-18:00
  • HouseMR2, Mathematical Sciences, Centre for.

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Sports teams, schools, hospitals, universities, films, online gamers: they all get ranked into league tables. But do these rankings mean anything? Does being top of the league really equate to being the best? This lecture considers how the play of chance can influence rankings, and how we can use the theory of probability (and some computing power) to see whether the cup-winning team was just lucky. In passing, we shall explain the curse of ‘Hello’ magazine, as well as why tall people tend to have shorter children. Using local data on MRSA rates in hospitals, SAT scores in primary schools, teenage pregnancy in local authorities and so on, we will see why league tables are often not to be trusted.

Audience: General public, ages 16+

About the speaker: David Spiegelhalter has made extensive contributions to theoretical and practical aspects of statistical methodology for complex problems, especially in the health sciences. In addition to the Winton Professorship, David is a Senior Scientist in the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit, located at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Public Health.

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This talk is part of the Millennium Mathematics Project series.

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