"Michael Blastland's books and columns are at the top of my list
for statistical literacy." Milo Schield.
About the author:
Michael Blastland was born in Glasgow. A journalist all his professional
life, he started on weekly newspapers before moving to the BBC where he
makes current affairs programmes for Radio 4, such as Analysis,
More or Less and the historical series Why Did We Do That? He
lives in Hertfordshire, often with his daughter Cait, less often and less
quietly with his son Joe, when he's at home. His latest book is The Norm
Chronicles, with David Spiegelhalter. See
profile at The Guardian. Tips for Working with Numbers in
the News: Michael's chapter in
The Data Journalism handbook (2012).
The Norm Chronicles: Stories and numbers about danger
by Michael Blastland and David
Spiegelhalter (2013) Check out
the website for this book!
Description: Meet Norm. He's 31, 5'9", just
over 13 stone, and works a 39 hour week. He likes a drink, doesn't do enough
exercise and occasionally treats himself to a bar of chocolate (milk). He's
a pretty average kind of guy. In fact, he is the average guy in this clever
and unusual take on statistical risk, chance, and how these two factors
affect our everyday choices. Watch as Norm (who, like all average specimens,
feels himself to be uniquely special), and his friends careful Prudence and
reckless Kelvin, turns to statistics to help him in life's endless series of
choices - should I fly or take the train? Have a baby? Another drink? Or
another sausage? Do a charity skydive or get a lift on a motorbike?
Because chance and risk aren't just about numbers - it's about what we
believe, who we trust and how we feel about the world around us. What we
do, or don't do, has as much do with gut instinct as hard facts, with
enjoyment as understanding. If you've ever wondered what the statistics in
tabloid scare stories really mean, how dangerous horse-riding is compared to
class-A drugs, or what governs coincidence, you will find it all here. From
a world expert in risk and the bestselling author of The Tiger That Isn't
(and creator of BBC Radio 4's More or Less), this is a common sense
(and wildly entertaining) guide to personal risk and decoding the statistics
that represent it.
The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics and
By Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot (2009,
Description (2010): The Strunk
and White of statistics team up to help the average person navigate the
numbers in the news Drawing on their hugely popular BBC Radio 4 show
More or Less, journalist Michael Blastland and internationally known
economist Andrew Dilnot delight, amuse, and convert American mathphobes by
showing how our everyday experiences make sense of numbers. The radical
premise of The Numbers Game is to show how much we already know and give
practical ways to use our knowledge to become cannier consumers of the
media. If you've ever wondered what "average" really means, whether the
scare stories about cancer risk should convince you to change your behavior,
or whether a story you read in the paper is biased (and how), you need this
book. Blastland and Dilnot show how to survive and thrive on the torrent of
numbers that pours through everyday life. Show More Show Less
From Publishers Weekly (2010): Americans
are assaulted by numbers, whether it's the latest political poll or most
recent clinical study on caffeine. But what do these numbers really mean and
are they communicating a categorical truth? Blastland and Dilnot, from the
BBC radio show More or Less, embark on a monumental task of interpreting
numerical data and showing how its misinterpretation often leads to
misinformation. It is one thing to measure, they write, quite another to
wrench the numbers to a false conclusion. The authors take a close look at
statistics that are accepted at face value—many stemming from scientific or
medical discoveries. They examine everything from the link between alcohol
and breast cancer risk to baseball batting averages to fascinating
assessments of the manipulation of data by politicians when they talk taxes
or the cautionary tale of a U.K. educational measurement program designed
much like No Child Left Behind. Blastland and Dilnot apply their famously
cheeky approach to the analysis of how people are duped, frightened or
falsely encouraged by data. (Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a
division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an
out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Review
About the Author Michael Blastland is producer
of More or Less and Analysis for BBC Radio 4. He is the author of
Only Boy in the World (Profile 2006). See
Andrew Dilnot is Principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford and former director
of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
The Tiger That
By Michael Blastland (2007)
Description: Numbers have become the
all-powerful language of public argument. Too often, that power is abused
and the numbers bamboozle. This book shows how to see straight through them
- and how to seize the power for yourself. Public spending, health risks,
environmental disasters, who is rich, who is poor, Aids or war deaths,
pensions, teenage offenders, the best and worst schools and hospitals,
immigration - life comes in numbers. The trick to seeing through them is
strikingly simple. It is to apply something everyone has - the lessons of
their own experience. Using vivid and everyday images and ideas, this book
shows how close to hand insight and understanding can be, and how we can all
use what is familiar to make sense of what is baffling. It is also a
revelation - of how little the principles are understood even by many who
claim to know better. This book is written by the team who created and
present the hugely popular BBC Radio 4 series, More or Less.
Editorial Reviews Review David Dimbleby - 'In
this witty and fascinating book he explains to us laymen how to make sense
of numbers and how we can avoid having the wool pulled over our eyes.
Invaluable.' Daily Telegraph - 'A very angry and very
funny book...this is one of those maths books that claims to be self-help,
and on the evidence presented here, we are in dire need of it...'Sunday
Telegraph - 'This delightful book should be compulsory reading for everyone
responsible for presenting data and for everyone who consumes it.'
About the Author Michael Blastland is producer
of More or Less and Analysis for BBC Radio 4. He is the author of JOE: The
Only Boy in the World (Profile 2006).
Seeing stats in a different way
Michael Blastland's columns for the BBC News: 2010-2012.
2 March 2012
Go figure: Why
nothing is really news at all Seen the news today? It's
all about what happens. In his final Go Figure column, Michael
Blastland wants to know about what didn't. "This is the last Go
Figure. It's about to become a regular non-event. Hearty thanks to
all who've followed us."
2 March 2012
Vote for me, I
know nothing In the public imagination, knowledge is
associated with wisdom. But in his regular column, Michael Blastland
asks if ignorance is the new clever. "Learning to be ignorant
has been one of the most important discoveries of statistics,
sometimes called the science of evidence and, contrary to its
reputation, a discipline obsessed with how what we think we know can
2 February 2012
Just how big a slice of pie is £6.5bn? The major parties
in the UK claim to have very different stances on tackling the
deficit but does the numbercrunching bear that out.
"it's funny how many big political words stand on relatively small
19 January 2012
Go Figure: Are
country roads more dangerous than city roads? Is city
driving more dangerous than country driving? It's a much harder
question than you think.
4 January 2012
Go Figure: The
great business confidence gap It's hard to explain why
business leaders can be so pessimistic about the economy while being
optimistic about their own company.
22 December 2011
Go Figure: Are
we related? Sales of wide-screen TVs have risen, so has
male life expectancy. Is there a connection? In his regular column,
Michael Blastland asks why we feel the need to join the dots.
8 December 2011
Go Figure: How
likely are you to lose your job? About 2.62 million people
are unemployed. What's the chance of you becoming one of them?
24 November 2011
Go Figure: Why
does every person need 200kg of steel a year? Is the raw
stuff we devour - plastic, steel, concrete, energy - going down even
as the economy grows?
11 November 2011
Would you believe a man with a beard or a suit? Who do you
believe, a Beard or a Suit? In his regular column, Michael Blastland
asks if it's facts or identity that decides who's right
8 November 2011
leadership myth of the great chief executive. Do we
overestimate the difference individual leaders can make in business?
27 October 2011
Go Figure: Why
do people inflate inflation? Prices only seem to be going
one way and that's upward. But contrary to popular belief some items
have become cheaper. Why do people's perceptions of inflation tend
to be higher than the official rate ...
13 October 2011
What bananas tell us about radiation. There's been concern
about radiation after damage to Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant in
March and now a hot spot has been detected in Tokyo. But how do we
think of radiation in ordinary terms ...
29 September 2011
Will we really keep getting fatter? Pick up a paper and
you'll read that people are destined to get fatter and fatter, but
is this right...
15 September 2011
Go Figure: Why
we think rituals can influence results. We all have lucky
rituals or charms but why do we see meaningful patterns or
connections in random or meaningless data ... ?
1 September 2011
Go Figure: The
doom and gloom calculator. We know we'll pay more for
pensions and healthcare in the future, but is there a silver
18 August 2011
Life expectancy and the risk of dying. We've been told
"death risk" can be cut by 15 minutes exercise a day, but just how
should we view life expectancy data?
4 August 2011
Tick box v check-list. What's the difference between a
tick box and a check-list? And why is one seen as better than the
20 July 2011
What can 72 tell us about life? Is 72 the answer to life,
the universe and everything? It's definitely the answer to a few
07 July 2011
Watching out for Wimbledon-washing machine links. What's
the link between tennis on TV and washing machines? If you suspect a
weird connection, ask a statistician, says Michael Blastland in his
Go Figure: Do we understand 'risk' of mobile phone use? …
phones cause cancer? It's all about how we deal with uncertainty,
says Michael Blastland in his regular
column. How risky is it if you don't know…
Go Figure: How good are UK universities?
Magazine How good are UK
universities? In his regular column, Michael
Blastland says comparison is irresistible. But watch out.
We're bad, they're good,…
Morning business round-up: IMF chief resigns
Business Our Business Daily
podcast today has a special programme on the history of economics.
Michael Blastland looks at the
mysteries of human behaviour,…
Go Figure: How can you explain cancer clusters?
Magazine Radiation in. After
decades of research, cancer clusters are still difficult to prove,
says Michael Blastland in his regular
column.. After 25…
Morning business round-up: Nissan enjoys strong sales
Business … click through to our
Business Daily podcast . The latest edition of the show looks at the
mechanics of the financial machine, with Michael
Go figure: How to succeed in business by doing nothing
Magazine How should you react to
the ups and downs of business life? Often, you shouldn't, says
Michael Blastland in this regular
column. You're a dynamic…
How do routefinders find their routes?
Magazine … satnav or online
routefinders for directions but how do these gizmos find their way,
asks Michael Blastland in his regular
column.. Many now rely…
How hard is it to count people?
Magazine Census forms are being filled in the length and
breadth of the UK but how hard can it be to count people, asks
Michael Blastland in his regular…
Top tips on data visualisation
School Report … cameras may or may not affect those numbers.
on this by BBC reporter Michael Blastland,
who also writes a regular feature on the BBC website…
Do economists have a moral compass? Michael
Blastland, presenter of The Story of
Economics argues that "Behind every dry economic calculus there's a
moralizer trying to get out".
What's the story with economics?
Magazine What's morality got to do with it? Economics =
numbers, doesn't it? In his regular column, Michael
Blastland looks for the real story of
Lesson: Turning statistics into stories
Teachers' resources School
Reporters at George Spencer School in Nottingham analyse their
Survey data Surveys can be a great way of producing news stories for
Go Figure: The bouncing league table
Magazine League tables that don't include uncertainty do
not make it easy to spot a good school, Michael
Blastland says in his regular column.
Go Figure: The youth unemployment mystery
Magazine Beware looking at the
youth unemployment rate and bemoaning a unique lost generation,
Michael Blastland says in his regular
column. How bad is…
School Report Survey: Introductory Lesson
Teachers' resources … devoted to
the world of numbers and their use in the media and politics. A
video by Michael Blastland, former
producer of BBC Radio 4's More…
Go Figure: How do you make statistics relevant to individuals?
Magazine It's difficult to get
personal with information about the whole of society but it is
possible, Michael Blastland says in
his regular column. Can…
Why does pay go up in a pay freeze?
Magazine As many public sector workers, and plenty of
people elsewhere, experience a "freeze" on pay, Michael
Blastland explains in his regular
Can you count the packets of crisps?
Magazine Terrified of numbers? In his regular Go Figure
column, Michael Blastland explains
how a bit of creative thinking can help. Have you got the brain…
A brief history of gadgets
22 Dec 2010 …
debt. At a time of year when tech takes centre stage, take a trip
down memory chip lane, with Michael Blastland in his regular
column.. Not so http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12058944
do Google, Ask and Bing search results mean?
14 Dec 2010
It's easy to think search engine queries could provide a gold mine
of data, but it's not easy to know how to exploit, says Michael
exactly is our winter of discontent?
26 Nov 2010 … it's just life. That's one theory at
least. But it presents all sorts of problems, says Michael
Blastland in his regular column. Imagine a land…
it's hard to measure happiness
16 Nov 2010 The government wants to measure our
happiness. It won't be easy, explains Michael Blastland in
his regular Go Figure column. Did you wake up fretting…
riddle of the NHS budget
08 Nov 2010 Is health spending heading for the biggest
shock of all? In his regular column, Michael Blastland does
the numbers, in seven easy clicks. Health…
the pips squeaking yet?
13 Oct 2010 … parents in long-term care, not to mention
helping the children pay for university. Is this the end of being
comfortably off, asks Michael Blastland…
welfare spending ever under control?
01 Oct 2010 … spending in the past 10 years,
says the government. In his regular Go Figure column, Michael
Blastland reveals it's rarely been under control…
shape is a recession?
16 Sep 2010 In his regular Go Figure column, Michael
Blastland looks at how you map out a recession to get a fuller
picture of how bad it is. How bad was… 7-Sep-10
the 'don't know' brigade
07 Sep 2010 In his regular Go Figure column, Michael
Blastland looks at why the people ignored by surveys could be
those with the strongest opinions of all.
v Avatar v Titanic
19 Aug 2010 UK, but what happens when you adjust the
box-office rankings to allow for inflation, population and changing
habits, asks Michael Blastland in…
up the benefits system
05 Aug 2010 How do you solve the welfare trap? In
his regular column, Michael Blastland invites you to rip up
the benefits system and start again. OK, bit…
chance make you a killer?
23 Jul 2010 Can chance make you a killer? In his regular
column, Michael Blastland invites you to try the deadly Go
Figure Chance Calculator. Imagine you…
spending cuts have to assault middle-class voters?
13 Jul 2010 … of the 1980s. Short-term containment
is as much as anyone ever achieved, former. Michael Blastland
asks whether the public spending cuts will…
big is big?
07 Jul 2010 How big is big? In his regular
column, Michael Blastland looks at the latest news on the
financial crisis and says it all depends on you. Seen…
How do you measure niceness?
04 Jun 2010 Counting is as easy as 1,2,3 - unless you're
trying to count things like endangered species, wasted money and
niceness, says Michael Blastland…
the British banger dangerous?
21 May 2010 Is eating a pork sausage a day bad for you?
In his regular column, Michael Blastland puts claims this
week that it causes heart disease and diabetes…
best graph of the election
07 May 2010 The voters have spoken. Now it seems the
parties must talk. In his weekly column Michael Blastland
asks if the stats suggest this might be easier…
Tesco - a new unit of measurement
23 Apr 2010 Tesco is minting it, suggest company results
this week. In his regular column, Michael Blastland reveals a
new measurement for an age of mega…
Insurance: How to get the rise in proportion
Election 2010 /
08 Apr 2010 National Insurance by 1%. In fact, the
figures show what is at stake here is a relatively trifling amount
of money, says Michael Blastland in…
opinion polls are like soup
26 Mar 2010 … parties are doing in the polls. But
how accurate are they at guessing the outcome, asks Michael
Blastland in his regular column. . With an election…
- a tale of education spending
11 Mar 2010 … asks Michael Blastland in his
regular column. . Public spending. It goes up. It goes down. Yet
figures obtained by the Magazine's Michael Blastland…
one humble worker cause boom or bust?
26 Feb 2010 With Britain's economic fortunes in the
balance, decision makers are looking at all the economic surveys.
But, as Michael Blastland
Other comparable books: The Drunkard's Walk, Innumeracy,
Damned Lies and Statistics, 200% of Nothing, Predictably Irrational,