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How to Read Numbers: A Guide to Statistics in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them)

Tom Chivers, David Chivers

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Probability & statistics

A short, practical and extremely timely guide to the tools you need to understand the numbers we read in the news everyday - and how we often get them wrong

Statistics rule our world. Every day, most of us will read or watch something in the news that is based on a statistic in some way. Sometimes it'll be obvious - 'X people develop cancer every year' - and sometimes less obvious - 'red wine protects against cancer'.

The trouble is, statistics, when used carelessly, are dangerous. They are an immensely powerful tool for understanding the world; the best tool we have. But in the hands of unscrupulous, careless, or simply clueless people, they can easily be used to tell stories that are misleading or even flat-out false. This book is a guide to how and when to trust them - and perhaps more importantly, when not to.

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Tom Chivers

TOM CHIVERS is a science writer and author. He was awarded the Royal Statistical Society 'statistical excellence in journalism' award in 2018, and was highly commended for the same prize in 2017; he has also been shortlisted for the Association of British Science Writers award and a British Journalism Award in science writing, and won the American Psychological Society media award, all in 2017. His first book, THE AI DOES NOT HATE YOU, was declared one of the Times's science books of 2019. He worked for seven years at the Telegraph and three years at BuzzFeed before going freelance in 2018, and was once described by Sir Terry Pratchett as 'far too nice to be a journalist'.

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