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What Are the Odds?

On this Moment of Science, learn how statisticians figure the odds.

On this Moment of Science, we discuss interpreting the odds.

According to the odds calculated by the Florida Museum of Natural History, the only institution in the United States that tracks shark attacks, you are about four times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be attacked by a shark. Surprised? Well, this data only compares the number of lightening strikes with the number of shark attacks in coastal states.

Obviously, this makes more sense. That’s the thing with statistics. It’s really important to know how statisticians and scientists are figuring out all those odds we constantly hear about. Otherwise, the numbers become meaningless.

For example, you could argue that even the Florida Museum of Natural History’s approach to figuring out the odds of a shark attack are flawed. What if the people attacked by sharks happened to be tourists from out of state? And what about the fact that we spend a lot more time on land than we do in the water? And what about the fact that there are more incidents of lightning in places like the Midwest than there are on the coasts?

Anyway, that’s why reputable sources always explain the basis of their statistical data.

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