Quantifying Uncertainty is Never Easy

(by Michael Lavine)

The 9.0 earthquake in Japan provides a reminder of the frailty of statistical predictions. According to Kenneth Chang writing in the New York Times, the area where the quake struck was considered lower-risk than other areas of Japan and predictions were for a 7.5 magnitude quake with only small probability of one as large as 8.0. This was a system for which there was a well-understood physical theory of tectonic plates and 300 years of data.


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The Statistics Forum, brought to you by the American Statistical Association and CHANCE magazine, provides everyone the opportunity to participate in discussions about probability and statistics and their role in important and interesting topics.

The views expressed here are those of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the ASA, its officers, or its staff. The Statistics Forum is edited by Andrew Gelman.

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