It was the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who is reputed to have said "there are lies, damned lies and statistics" Statisticians, I believe, loath this little maxim, believing that it should state "there are lies, damned lies, and the misinterpretation of statistics" I have to confess that I have a good deal of sympathy for the statisticians point of view, especially after I have just listened to one of my favourite radio programmes "More Or Less". The programme is a kind of mathematical CSI which sets out to investigate the truth behind what is all too often the misinterpretation of statistics by the media, politicians, and the general public. It has just returned to BBC Radio 4 for a summer series and kicked off with an analysis of a YouTube video which is doing the rounds called "Muslim Demographics". This particularly nasty video is packed full of alarming claims such as most European countries will become Islamic states during the next few decades due to the falling birthrate of the indigenous population (by which they probably mean white Christians) and the astounding fertility of Muslim immigrants. What the radio programme does, with the type of dignified impartiality only the BBC can achieve, is cut through claim after alarmist claim showing that the thesis of the original video has the statistical significance of a spent mothball. Hopefully I will manage to embed the BBC YouTube video. If you want the original YouTube video you will have to find it yourself.
When not listening to the radio I have been trying to sort out the mess in my room. Whilst re-stacking some files on a shelf I came across one of my old banknote albums and, once again, was struck by the beauty of old banknotes. As we go down to the supermarket and hand over our bit of plastic we have lost for ever the joy of handling what, in many cases, were small works of art. The example below is from my collection and is a French 100 Franc note dating from 1938. Now imagine handing that beauty over when you were paying for you loaf of bread and packet of Jammy Dodgers.