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Errol Bremner                                                           Mat 1372: Statistics with Probability Professor Ezra Halleck                                             Spring 2013


 How statistics is used in today’s world.

This response is to two David Brooks’ columns from the New York Times, entitled “The Philosophy of Data[1] and “What Data Can’t Do[2] from February 4th and 18th, respectively. 

       In His article “The philosophy of Data”, David Brooks states everything is measurable or quantifiable and that data is transparent and reliable so much so that it allows emotionalism and ideology to be filtered out. He asked what kind of events are we able to analyze using statistical analysis and what sorts we cannot. He wondered when we should rely on intuition and when we should use data.

Hot streak or cold streak anyone?

       According to Brooks, there are no hot streaks or cold streaks only cold hard data. He cited; Thomas Gilovich, Amos Tversky and Robert Vallone’s research. They found “that a player who has made six consecutive foul shots has the same chance of making his seventh as if he had missed the previous six foul shots.”Mr. Brooks further backed up his notion with the idea that “more campaign money does not guarantee political victory”. He said that, similarly, nearly every person who runs for political office has an intuitive sense that they can powerfully influence their odds of winning the election if they can just raise and spend more money. But this, too, is largely wrong.

What!  My Intuition is wrong?       

         David Brooks said in his NYT article;The Philosophy of Data” from February 4th 2013 that teachers imagine they will improve outcomes if they tailor their presentations to each student learning style. But, there was no evidence to support this either.

Data can illuminate unnoticed behavioral Patterns!

          Brooks’ thought that people who frequently use personal pronouns were likely to be more egotistical than people who don’t. But Professor James Pennebaker of the University of Texas proved Brooks wrong. According to Pennebaker’s book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” when people are feeling confident, they are focused on the task at hand, not on themselves. High status, confident people use fewer “I” words, not more.

Brooks on Pennebaker.

          Brooks cited another observation on Pennebaker’s work.  He said that our brains often don’t notice subtle verbal patterns, but Pennebaker’s computers can. Brooks further said that, younger writers use more downbeat and past-tense words than older writers who use more positive and future-tense words.

The limitation of data analysis.

David Brooks in his article “What Data Can’t Do” from February 18th  2013, told an interesting story of an Italian banker after gathering all the data still  chose to stay in Italy even though the economy was weak and there was the  prospect of a future euro crisis.




Bremner on Brooks.

Mr. Brooks literally kicked the apple cart over for me where data analysis is concerned. And there I was thinking that those six golds  that   I scored in high soccer final was a hot streak. Ha!Ha!

Seriously though, after reading David Brooks’ article “What Data Can’t Do” from February 18th  2013,

Specifically,  Data favors memes over masterpieces.

 Brooks’ said that Data analysis can detect when large numbers of people take an instant liking to some cultural product. But many important (and profitable) products are hated initially because they are unfamiliar.

I decided that I would like to check why Beta max lost to VHS video tape. I keep hearing that Betamax was a better product. Also, I want to do some research on the correlation between learning styles and mode of teaching or the way the data is presented.  

*A personal note : Pennebaker said that;  younger writers use more downbeat and past-tense words than older writers who use more positive and future-tense words. I agree with Mr. Pennebaker, as a writer I have always felt comfortable writing in the past tense. I have never known why until now. I always thought that because I came from a foreign country was the reason. Now, I know!

Betamax versus VHS.

In his 2008 article, “ The Betamax vs. VHS Format War[3] Dave Owen from Media college.com stated that  Sony’s Betamax video standard was introduced in 1975, followed a year later by JVC’s VHS. For around a decade the two standards battled for dominance, with VHS eventually emerging as the winner.

Owen said that VHS did not win because it was a superior product but was influence by several factors. Clever marketing, licensing problem for Sony and recording length of the tapes were cited as a few.

In any case, the Manufacturers combatants were divided into two camps:

1. On the Betamax side were Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo, NEC, Aiwa,   and Pioneer.

2. On the VHS side were JVC, Matsushita (Panasonic), Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sharp, and Akai.

From the consumer point of view, the difference between the two formats was the recording length. Standard Betamax tapes lasted 60 minutes [not long enough to record a movie] . While in contrast, the VHS tapes [3 hours] were perfect for recording television programs and movies. Sony in time did offer and adapt a variety of solutions for longer recording to no avail because it was too late. This issue is often cited as the most defining factor in the war.

Some commentators claims that pornography might have been a deciding; in that Sony would not allow it to be recorded on Betamax while the VHS group allowed it on their product. Mr. Owen stated that in researching this article I was unable to find any substantiated evidence that pornography sales significantly influenced the outcome of the war.

By the end of the 1980s the dust settled and VHS had won.

The {late} last Betamax machine in the world was produced in Japan in 2002.






Work cited:

 [1]. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/opinion/brooks-the-philosophy-of-data.html

 [2].  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/opinion/brooks-what-data-cant-do.html

 [3].   http://www.mediacollege.com/video/format/compare/betamax-vhs.html





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