Mind Bender

The nuts and bolts behind Bayes theorem

During ASQ leadership’s year-end business review meeting recently held here in Milwaukee, someone decided we should break up the day with a little contest. We formed small teams and were given a sheet of paper with eight brain-teaser puzzles and a time limit in which to finish as many as we could. Here’s one:

What are the next three letters in the following sequence: J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, _, _, _

Did you get it? Click here for answer.

For this particular challenge, each team had to work together to look at the problems and think about things in a different way.

In this month’s cover story, "Probing Probabilities," author William Hooper delves into the statistical theorem attributed to Rev. Thomas Bayes that has in some cases turned previous thinking on its head. The theorem has been applied and used as evidence to decide murder cases, to break codes and to predict disasters.

"The formula challenges the status quo," writes Hooper. "It tells you that before you convict, look at the probability of the alternative hypothesis and the accuracy of the instrumentation."

This review of the power of Bayesian statistics will get your statistical gears turning.

A second article on Bayes’ theorem appears in the Statistics Roundtable column. Author Christine Anderson-Cook applies the statistics to two situations: an unfavorable mammogram result and a method for finding defects in a manufacturing process.

A few examples used in articles this month deal with life-or-death situations. In fact, one of this month’s authors did face death in the form of a brain tumor. Brian Csikos writes about his experience in "Will to Live." He details his journey from diagnosis to cure and  how he applied all he’d learned in his years in quality along the way to choose the best treatment and care. His story is impressive and inspiring.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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