Michael Blastland

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Joel Best Howard Wainer Gerd Gigerenzer Jane Miller Michael Blastland Uri Bram Kaiser Fung Gerald Bracey John Paulos





"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 Michael's 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 Amazon-UK.

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 Numbers Game:
The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics and in Life

By Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot (2009, 2010)    Amazon-UK

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 JOE: The Only Boy in the World (Profile 2006).  See Amazon-UK.
Andrew Dilnot is Principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford and former director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The Tiger That Isn't
By Michael Blastland (2007)   Amazon-UK

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).

Go Figure: 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 be wrong."

  • 2 February 2012  Go Figure: 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 numbers."

  • 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.



  • A brief history of gadgets   Magazine / 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

  •  What do Google, Ask and Bing search results mean?  Magazine / 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 Blastland in…    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11985896

  •  When exactly is our winter of discontent?   Magazine / 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…    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11838544

  •  Why it's hard to measure happiness   Magazine / 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…   8-Nov-10

  •  The riddle of the NHS budget   Magazine / 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…    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11765401

  •  Are the pips squeaking yet?   Magazine / 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…   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11523644

  •  Is welfare spending ever under control?   Magazine / 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…    16-Sep-10

  •  What shape is a recession?   Magazine / 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

  •  Beware the 'don't know' brigade    Magazine / 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.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11206057

  •  E.T. v Avatar v Titanic    Magazine / 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…   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11011520

  •  Rip up the benefits system   Magazine / 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…   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10878465

  •  Can chance make you a killer?   Magazine / 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…    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10729380

  •  Will spending cuts have to assault middle-class voters?   Politics / 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…   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10617218

  •  How big is big?   Magazine / 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…    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10540157

  • How do you measure niceness?    Magazine / 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…    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8722453.stm

  •  Is the British banger dangerous?   Magazine / 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…   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8697122.stm

  •  The best graph of the election   Magazine / 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…    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8667929.stm

  •  The Tesco - a new unit of measurement   Magazine / 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…   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8638714.stm

  •  National 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…    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8608112.stm

  •  Why opinion polls are like soup   Magazine / 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…    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8588747.stm

  •  Up - a tale of education spending    Magazine / 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…    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8562405.stm

  •  Can one humble worker cause boom or bust?   Magazine / 26 Feb 2010   With Britain's economic fortunes in the balance, decision makers are looking at all the economic surveys. But, as Michael Blastland    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8538751.stm


Other comparable books: The Drunkard's Walk, Innumeracy, Damned Lies and Statistics, 200% of Nothing, Predictably Irrational, Chances Are

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This site was last updated 06/18/16