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statistics





The branch of mathematics concerned with the manipulation of numerical information. Statistics has two branches: descriptive statistics, dealing with the classification and presentation of data, and inferential or analytical statistics, which studies ways of collecting data, its analysis and interpretation.

Sampling is fundamental to statistics. Since it is usually impractical to treat of every element in a population (the group under consideration), a representative (often random) sample is instead examined, its properties being ascribed to the whole group. The data is analyzed in a series of parameters such as the standard deviation and the mean of the data distribution. The distibution may be presented as a histogram, a frequency polygon, or a frequency curve. Ideally, a statistician aims to devise a mathematical model of the distribution, especially if it approximates to a normal distribution; many tests are available to determine whether or not a model "fits". Statistics is used throughout science, wherever there is an element of probability involved (e.g., statistical), and also in industry, politics, market analysis, and traffic control.

The word "statistics" comes from the Latin statis for "political state;" one of the main tasks of the subject remains analyzing facts and figures about governments, resources, and populations. Although a very powerful tool, statistics is open to abuse, both intentional and unintentional. Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) may have gone a little over the top when he said "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics," but Scottish author Andrew Lang (1844–1912) could have been describing many a politician when he remarked "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than illumination."


Related category

   • PROBABILITY AND STATISTICS