Our top ten 'most read' of 2014

The Significance team is about the head home for the Christmas holidays - but we couldn't leave without saying thank you to all the readers and contributors who made 2014 our busiest and best year yet. And because everyone on the internet loves lists, here's a rundown of our most popular articles of the past 12 months.

The timeline of statistics
By Julian Champkin
Significance magazine has been going for ten years. To mark its birthday we have published a timeline of more or less everything that is important in the history of statistics.
 

Tim Harford, and the perils of big data
By Brian Tarran
Welcome to the big data future. Correlation is in, causation is out. Old statistical sampling techniques are obsolete, now that n=all; and statistical models aren’t needed because, with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves. But that's not the case, warned economist and author Tim Harford.

Statistics through the medium of dance
By Lucy Irving
I’ve been teaching research methods in psychology for nearly 10 years now and it can be challenging. My students often say that ‘the stats’ are the scariest part of their degree, that they don’t like ‘maths’, and that they don’t understand why they’re so important. Like many others, I try to make lectures and sessions fun and engaging, and I often find myself rhyming and generally moving around a lot – I’m one of those lecturers who moves around a lot.

How the job market is changing across twelve major US cities
By Salil Mehta
Usually when the latest US labor data is released, it gets hastily boiled down to one figure for handy consumption in the news cycle. However, there is a lot more going on in this data that can be revealed by statistical analysis.

The World Cup forecast: group winners and the tight games to watch out for
By Gianluca Baio & Marta Blangiardo
The idea is to use a collection of data to estimate a measure of 'propensity' of a team t to score when they play an opponent s. The estimation is done by considering a set of data on several types of games: in particular, we use the data on the last 6 World Cups and the last 4 years (including friendlies, qualifiers, continental finals and last year's Confederations Cup). We can use this 'propensity' to predict the number of goals scored by any two teams in the next game they play against each other.

Never miss another sunset with R
By Hilary Parker
I live (and work!) near one of the most beautiful vantage points for sunsets in possibly the entire US. However almost every beautiful sunset I have seen from there has come from either (1) me walking out of work and noticing that the sky is bright pink, or (2) seeing someone post a sunset photo on Twitter (I know). Either way it ends with me practically sprinting to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the tail end of the sunset.

Does Christmas really come earlier every year?
By Nathan Cunningham
Given the prolonged belief in the Christmas period’s persistent prematurity you would expect that by now we would be erecting our Christmas trees in June. Obviously this isn’t the case. Although as is often said, there’s no smoke without fire, so maybe there is some truth to the claim. Luckily, statistical analysis is on hand to put the question to bed.

A more intuitive way to post figure skating scores (and why Sotnikova deserved to win)
By Ray Stefani
At Sochi, American NBC TV sports analyst Mary Carillo was asked what she would most remember about the Games. Her answer was the confusing figure skating scoring system. She is not alone in that view.

Where's a teenager when you need one?
By Andrew McCulloch
Over the last 10 years or so, universities in England have been working in a relatively favourable environment. The rise in tuition fees to £3,000 in 2006/2007 and then, for most universities, to £9,000 in 2012/2013 helped increase incomes with little effect on student numbers. There are several reasons why.

Predicting the World Cup winner: what the bookies are saying and my two cents
By Dominic Cortis
This article is a follow-up to my previous one where I used the betting markets as a key determinant to predict the results of group stage matches. In this article I use my judgment (and my seven year old nephew’s) to predict the second stage winners.