“The Joy of Stats”

Happy New Year everyone!

The first blog entry of 2011 is about an 1-hour BBC documentary on the “Joy of Stats” (video on YouTube) with Hans Rosling as the presenter.

Hans Rosling is a great inspiration to me. He always talks about the power of data and its analysis, a subject about which I care a great deal. Most importantly, however, it’s the way he delivers his message, in talks and videos. He’s absolutely great!

In this particular documentary, Rosling advocates the power of statistics, visits some of its history, gives examples, mentions the data deluge, talks about data-intensive Science (Stephen Emmott talks about the transition from hypothesis-oriented to data-oriented science, which is of course Jim Gray‘s fourth paradigm for science), and so on.

Ah… I think this documentary made me realize again how much I miss working with researchers around big data problems. Rosling talks about the SLOAN digital sky survey. I had the pleasure, after Jim Gray’s suggestion, of working with a small subset of the data when I was in Newcastle and met wonderful people in the process… Jim Gray, Alex Szalay, and my good friend Maria Nieto-Santisteban (Happy New Year Maria!!!), and many others involved in the project. As you can hear in “joy of stats”, it took SLOAN 8 years to complete a survey of 1/4 of our sky. It’ll take its replacement 3 days to complete a survey of the entire sky. Amazing progress! And there is going to be a LOT of data available for processing!

I also loved the fact that Rosling closed with a mention of the work behind the “We Feel Fine” web site. I very much love the philosophy behind the site and the premise it represents, as those who are close to me know very well given my recent endeavors and long nights :-)

As Rosling said in the documentary, “pretty neat, eh?” :-)

BTW… I had twitted about a small clip from this documentary a month ago. This blog post is about the entire one-hour documentary “Joy of stats” which I definitely think is worth your time!