# Statistics/Introduction/Why

Imagine reading a book for the first few chapters and then becoming able to get a sense of what the ending will be like - this is one of the great reasons to learn statistics. With the appropriate tools and solid grounding in statistics, one can use a limited sample (e.g. read the first five chapters of Pride & Prejudice) to make intelligent and accurate statements about the population (e.g. predict the ending of Pride & Prejudice). This is what knowing statistics and statistical tools can do for you.

In today's information-overloaded age, statistics is one of the most useful subjects anyone can learn. Newspapers are filled with statistical data, and anyone who is ignorant of statistics is at risk of being seriously misled about important real-life decisions such as what to eat, who is leading the polls, how dangerous smoking is, etc. Knowing a little about statistics will help one to make more informed decisions about these and other important questions. Furthermore, statistics are often used by politicians, advertisers, and others to twist the truth for their own gain. For example, a company selling the cat food brand "Cato" (a fictitious name here), may claim quite truthfully in their advertisements that eight out of ten cat owners said that their cats preferred Cato brand cat food to "the other leading brand" cat food. What they may not mention is that the cat owners questioned were those they found in a supermarket buying Cato.

“The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone else’s backyard.” John Tukey, Princeton University

More seriously, those proceeding to higher education will learn that statistics is the most powerful tool available for assessing the significance of experimental data, and for drawing the right conclusions from the vast amounts of data faced by engineers, scientists, sociologists, and other professionals in most spheres of learning. There is no study with scientific, clinical, social, health, environmental or political goals that does not rely on statistical methodologies. The basic reason for that is that variation is ubiquitous in nature and probability and statistics are the fields that allow us to study, understand, model, embrace and interpret variation.

**See Also** UCLA Brochure on **Why Study Probability & Statistics**