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From Cosmos to ChaosThe Science of Unpredictability$
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Peter Coles

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567622.001.0001

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Summing Up

Summing Up

(p.199) 11 Summing Up
From Cosmos to Chaos

Peter Coles (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

After discussing such esoteric subjects as chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and the anthropic principle, this final chapter focuses on some broader aspects of the role of probability in everyday life. One particular area that this chapter explores is the role of probability in the courtroom. It looks at a specific example of forensic statistics which has been involved in some high-profile court cases and which demonstrates how careful probabilistic reasoning is needed to understand scientific evidence: DNA fingerprinting. The chapter also examines how a relatively simple statistical test can lead to total confusion. In this version, it is known as Simpson's paradox. The case of a mother who was convicted of murdering her two sons due to the testimony of a paediatrician summoned as an expert witness is also considered, along with the interplay between science, society, and statistics.

Keywords:   probability, DNA fingerprinting, court cases, expert witness, statistics, science, Simpson's paradox

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