St. Patrick’s Day: The Statistics Legacy Behind Guinness
March 17, 2018
William Sealy Gosset worked at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland, in 1904 as an experimental brewer. His job was to experiment with the process to improve the taste while also increasing quantity and decreasing costs.
In his creative problem-solving to address these challenges, Gosset is responsible for inspiring a ground-breaking method for determining likely error of an estimate, depending on your sample size.
During his experiments, Gosset discovered that using small samples of hops did not allow him to distinguish the differences between batches of beer. After years of research, he developed Student’s t-test, a fundamental statistical method for testing hypothesis when the population standard deviation is unknown, which is widely used to this day.
Gosset’s legacy continues today, as his research is used to get a sense of how likely a certain result would be, compared to random chance. If the chance is low, the result is considered “significant.”
As you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, raise a glass in honor of William Sealy Gosset, who made an important contribution to statistical significance using beer.
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Irineo Cabreros is an AAAS Mass Media Fellow with the sponsorship of the American Statistical Association. He spent 10 weeks this summer training as a science journalist with Slate in its New York City offices. This summer I had the opportunity to write for the science desk at Slate magazine as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow sponsored…