Kaiser Fung

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





Kaiser Fung is a professional statistician with over a decade of experience applying statistical methods to marketing and advertising businesses. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, in addition to degrees from Princeton and Cambridge Universities. He is Vice President of Business Intelligence and Analytics at Vimeo, a high-quality video hosting platform for creative people. He previously worked at Sirius XM Radio, American Express, [X+1], Exodus Communications, and Sonus Networks. His acclaimed blog, Junk Charts (http://junkcharts.typepad.com), pioneered the critical examination of data and graphics in the mass media. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University teaching practical statistics. Biography 2013:

Kaiser Fung blogs at Junk Charts (JunkCharts.Typepad.com) where he "critiques and reconstitutes graphics from the mainstream press." while "recycling chart junk as junk art."

   Pop-stats books and Statistical Education - Kaiser Fung, New York Univ. 2011 ASA JSM 1up.

NUMBERSENSE: How to Use Big Data to Your Advantage

by Kaiser Fung  Amazon  Jun 20, 2013

Everyday Statistics is the book that makes introductory probability and statistics simple, accessible and engaging for high school and college students of all ages. Its clear, visual presentation brings usually confusing statistical topics alive for students; engaging examples, cute stories, and relatable subject matter make key statistical topics more fun and more memorable; detailed, step-by-step explorations of often-confusing calculations help even struggling students to feel completely comfortable.

Table of Contents


    1.   Why do Law School Deans Send Each other junk Mail?

    2.   Can a New Statistic Make Us Less Fat?


    3.   How Can Sellouts Ruin a Business

    4.   Will Personalizing Deals Save Groupon?

    5.   Why Do Marketers Send You Mixed Messages?


    6.   Are They New Jobs If No One Can Apply?

    7.   How Much Did You Pay for the Eggs?


    8.   Are You a Better Coach or Manager?



 "we live in a world of Big Data, where there is no escape from people hustling numbers.  With more data, the number of possible analyses explodes exponentially.  More analyses produce more smoke.  The need to keep our heads clear has never been more urgent.  P. 4

"My idea of big data is more expansive than the industry standard [terabytes].  The reason why we should care is is not more data, but more data analyses."  P. 4.

"People in industry who wax on about Big Data take it for granted that more data begets more good.  Does one have to follow the other?  When more people are performing more analyses more quickly , there are more theories, more points of view, more complexity, more conflicts and more confusions.  There is less clarity, less consensus and less confidence."  P. 11

Numbersense is difficult to teach in a traditional classroom setting.  There are general principles but no cookbook.  It cannot be automated.  Textbook examples do not transfer to the real world.  Lecture materials elevate general concepts by cutting out precisely those elements that would have burned a practioner's analysis time. The best way to nurture Numbersense is by direct practice or by learning from others."  P. 14-15

Welcome to the era of Big data, and look out!"   P. 15

No subjective metric can escape strategic gaming.  ...  The possibility of mischief is bottomless.  Fighting ratings is fruitless, as they satisfy a very human need.  If one scheme is beaten down, another will take its place and wear its flaws.  Big Data just deepens the danger.  The more complex the rating formulas, the more numerous the opportunities there are to dress up the numbers.  The larger the data sets, the hard it is to audit them.  Having NUMBERSENSE means:  * Not taking published data at face value.  * Knowing what questions to ask.  * Having a nose for doctored statistics. * P. 40

Publisher Description:

How to make simple sense of complex statistics--from the author of Numbers Rule Your World.

We live in a world of Big Data--and it's getting bigger every day. Virtually every choice we make hinges on how someone generates data . . . and how someone else interprets it--whether we realize it or not.

Where do you send your child for the best education? Big Data. Which airline should you choose to ensure a timely arrival? Big Data. Who will you vote for in the next election? Big Data.

The problem is, the more data we have, the more difficult it is to interpret it. From world leaders to average citizens, everyone is prone to making critical decisions based on poor data interpretations.

In Numbersense, expert statistician Kaiser Fung explains when you should accept the conclusions of the Big Data "experts"--and when you should say, "Wait . . . what?" He delves deeply into a wide range of topics, offering the answers to important questions, such as:

How does the college ranking system really work? Can an obesity measure solve America's biggest healthcare crisis? Should you trust current unemployment data issued by the government? How do you improve your fantasy sports team? Should you worry about businesses that track your data?

Don't take for granted statements made in the media, by our leaders, or even by your best friend. We're on information overload today, and there's a lot of bad information out there.

Numbersense gives you the insight into how Big Data interpretation works--and how it too often doesn't work. You won't come away with the skills of a professional statistician. But you will have a keen understanding of the data traps even the best statisticians can fall into, and you'll trust the mental alarm that goes off in your head when something just doesn't seem to add up.

Praise for Numbersense

"Numbersense correctly puts the emphasis not on the size of big data, but on the analysis of it. Lots of fun stories, plenty of lessons learned—in short, a great way to acquire your own sense of numbers!" Thomas H. Davenport, coauthor of Competing on Analytics and President’s Distinguished Professor of IT and Management, Babson College

"Kaiser’s accessible business book will blow your mind like no other. You’ll be smarter, and you won’t even realize it. Buy. It. Now." Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist, Google, and author, Web Analytics 2.0.

"Each story in Numbersense goes deep into what you have to think about before you trust the numbers. Kaiser Fung ably demonstrates that it takes skill and resourcefulness to make the numbers confess their meaning." John Sall, Executive Vice President, SAS Institute

"Kaiser Fung breaks the bad news—a ton more data is no panacea—but then has got your back, revealing the pitfalls of analysis with stimulating stories from the front lines of business, politics, health care, government, and education. The remedy isn’t an advanced degree, nor is it common sense. You need Numbersense." Eric Siegel, founder, Predictive Analytics World, and author, Predictive Analytics.

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do  by Kaiser Fung.  Amazon  January 25, 2010

Table of Contents:

  1. Fast Passes / Slow Merges: The Discontent of Being Averaged. 

  2. Bagged Spinach / Bad Score:  The Virtue of Being Wrong.

  3. Item Bank / Risk Pool:  The Dilemma of Being Together.

  4. Timid Testers / Magic Lassos: The Sway of Being Asymmetric.

  5. Jet Crashes / Jackpots: The Power of Being Impossible.


  1. The Discontent of Being Averaged.  Always ask about variability. 
      Averages are like sleeping pills: they put you in a state of stupor and if you overdose, they may kill you.
      Statistical thinking begins with noticing and understanding variability. 

      Variability leads to uncertainty which creates anxiety.

  2. The Virtue of Being Wrong. Pick useful over true

  3. The Dilemma of Being Together. Compare like with like

  4. The Sway of Being Asymmetric. Heed the give-and-take of two errors

  5. Power of Being Impossible.   Don't believe what is too rare to be true


"The present obsession with data warehouses and data-mining systems in the service of national security will surely face, as the statistical science of predicting rare events cannot provide sufficient precision to cope with the heavy costs of both false-positive and false-negative mistakes.  'Better than chance' is surely not sufficient."  P. 197.

"Simpson's Paradox: the simultaneous and seemingly contradictory finding that no difference exists between high-ability blacks and high-ability whites; no difference exists between low-ability whites and low-ability blacks; and when both groups are combined, blacks fare significantly worse than whites.  To our amazement, the act of aggregation manufactures an apparent racial gap."  P. 169

"While reading this book, it may dawn on you that numbers of all kinds rule your world.  When you drive on the highway, engineers are measuring your speed at the one-and off-ramps.  If your family goes to Walt Disney World, you may notice that cameras pick up your movement between rides, or you may bump into Len Testa or his crew counting heads.  You now know that credit scores don't have to make sense in order to work in your favor.  But when the FDA recalls this food or that, you would want to know if the agency has located those lot codes.  If you or your children have taken a standardized test, you should know how the test developers choose questions that are fair to everyone.  Those living in hazard-prone areas can now see why private insurers are staying away.  The next time you hear a busted athlete complain about a witch hunt by steroid testers, you may wonder about those negative samples lying around in the labs. When the next lie detection program arrives to screen out potential terrorists, you may wonder about those innocent people put behind bars by mistake.  After you board a plane, you will relax, knowing that you have nowhere to run. And when you decide to lay the lottery, you will look closely at the person selling you the ticket.   P. 181-182.

If you react in these ways, as I hope you do, you will be thinking like a statistician."  p. 182.

Publisher Materials


  How long will your kids wait in line at Disney World?

  Who decides that “standardized tests” are fair?

  Why do highway engineers build slow-moving ramps?

  What does it mean, statistically, to be an “Average Joe”?


In the popular tradition of eye-opening bestsellers like Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, and Super Crunchers, this fascinating book from renowned statistician and blogger Kaiser Fung takes you inside the hidden world of facts and figures that affect you every day, in every way.

These are the statistics that rule your life, your job, your commute, your vacation, your food, your health, your money, and your success. This is how engineers calculate your quality of living, how corporations determine your needs, and how politicians estimate your opinions. These are the numbers you never think about-even though they play a crucial role in every single aspect of your life.

What you learn may surprise you, amuse you, or even enrage you. But there's one thing you won't be able to deny: Numbers Rule Your World…


"An easy read with a big benefit."
—Fareed Zakaria, CNN

"For those who have anxiety about how organization data-mining is impacting their world, Kaiser Fung pulls back the curtain to reveal the good and the bad of predictive analytics."
—Ian Ayres,Yale professor and author of Super Crunchers: Why Thinking By Numbers is the New Way to Be Smart

"A book that engages us with stories that a journalist would write, the compelling stories behind the stories as illuminated by the numbers, and the dynamics that the numbers reveal."
—John Sall, Executive Vice President, SAS Institute

"Little did I suspect, when I picked up Kaiser Fung's book, that I would become so entranced by it - an illuminating and accessible exploration of the power of statistical analysis for those of us who have no prior training in a field that he explores so ably."
—Peter Clarke, author of
Keynes: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century's Most Influential Economist

"A tremendous book. . . . If you want to understand how to use statistics, how to think with numbers and yet to do this without getting lost in equations, if you've been looking for the book to unlock the door to logical thinking about problems, well, you will be pleased to know that you are holding that book in your hands."
—Daniel Finkelstein, Executive Editor, The Times of London

"I thoroughly enjoyed this accessible book and enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking to understand and appreciate the role of statistics and data analysis in solving problems and in creating a better world."
—Michael Sherman, Texas A&M University,
American Statistician

Biography 2010: Kaiser Fung is a statistician with more than a decade of experience in applying statistical methods to unlocking the relationship between advertising and customer behaviors. His blog, "Junk Charts," pioneered the genre of critically examining data and graphics in the mass media. Since 2005, "Junk Charts" has received rave reviews from Science magazine, the Guardian, Yahoo!, and Stanford University Libraries. He is an adjunct professor at New York University where he teaches practical statistics to professionals, and holds statistics, business, and engineering degrees from Cambridge, Harvard, and Princeton Universities. Fung is also a fellow of the Royal Statistics Society."


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