Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

Astro-statistics in the real world: from counting deer to counting war crimes

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Imperial is the proud home of the Imperial Centre for Inference and Cosmology so we get to hear a lot about ‘astrostatistics’, some of which is the advanced inferential methods that applies Bayesian statistics to complex problems and a multitude of data, but some of it is the simple old completeness and reliability type stuff that is bread and butter for survey astronomers like myself.

I was thus rather amused to hear, just before my interview on The Material World in March, that a similar completeness and reliability approach was being used to do a census of deer in part of the UK (though the headline of that story is actually rather misleading given the research, which was just in a limited area – listen to the show for more details).

Rather more sobering is that statistical techniques not far from these are being used to asses the true scale of civilian killings in conflicts where war crimes are rife, from the dreadful things happening in Syria right now, to the older, and possibly less recorded, atrocities in Peru over the last 30 years. Some more details about the statistics being used in this work can be found here and through links on that page.


Author: davecl

Astronomy, science, science fiction

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