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Statistics in The News

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  • Folks,

    An effective process engineer will be good at statistically thinking. This skill will help her to quickly recognize and address changes in the manufacturing processes she is responsible for. One of the techniques I use to keep my statistical thinking tools sharp, is to look at what I would call "Statistics in the News" and see if they make sense. Recently such an article attracted my attention. It was in posted on the Boston Globe website. The article is about the concern for the high number of accidental deaths in the US military in Iraq. These and other deaths, by natural causes, are now greater than the number of combat deaths.

    I would encourage you to read the entire article, however the essence is that there are 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq and from September 2008 to April 2009, 72 soldiers have died from non-combat related causes. This perceived high rate death rate has caused the military to hire consultants to study ways to make the military safer. A question that is not asked in the article is: "What is the comparable death rate in the US." A little searching on the web at the CEDC or Social Security will result in finding graphs such as the one above. If we assume a typical soldier is about 25 years old, from this graph, one would expect about 130/100,000 to die per year. Since there are 130,000 soldiers and the time period in which the 72 died is 8 months, we would expect about 115 to die in a group 130,000. Hence, save for combat, it is safer in Iraq than in the US!
    It is hard to discourage efforts to improve safety, but unfortunately the act of living has its own risks.
    Cheers,
    Dr. Ron