To build the future, we must escape the present, or, "The bullet hole misconception"

Air force pilots in WWII got shot like crazy and suffered farcical levels of fatalities; in an effort to save airmen, the Allies used statistical analysis to determine where the planes that limped home had taken flak and armored up those sections -- which totally failed to work. That's because the planes that made it home had suffered non-critical damage, so shoring up the sections where they'd been hit had virtually no effect on the rate at which flak to critical sections of the aircraft caused it to be shot out of the sky. In other words, by looking at survivors rather than the dead, they were protecting the least important parts of the planes. Read the rest

Explainer: how anecdotal evidence about alternative medicine can lead you astray

Jonathan Jarry's short video on the problems with anaecdotal evidence for "alternative medicine" is a powerful, easy-to-digest primer on the ways that confounding variables, survivor bias and regression to the mean can make stuff like reiki seem like it works, and how double-blind tests can uncover these problems and help us figure out what works and what doesn't -- especially important is the idea that "dead men tell no tales"; that is, no one who died because alternative medicine failed to help them will ever tell you how great it worked. (via Motherboard) Read the rest