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Statistics is a mathematical science pertaining to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data. It is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities, government and business.

Statistical methods are used to summarize and describe a collection of data; this is called descriptive statistics. In addition, patterns in the data may be modeled in a way that accounts for randomness and uncertainty in the observations, and then used to draw inferences about the process or population being studied; this is called inferential statistics.

Statistics arose no later than the 18th century from the need of states to collect data on their people and economies, in order to administer them. The meaning broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general.

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A likelihood function

Maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) is a popular statistical method used for fitting a mathematical model to data. The modeling of real world data using estimation by maximum likelihood offers a way of tuning the free parameters of the model to provide a good fit. The method was pioneered by Sir Ronald A. Fisher between 1912 and 1922. For a fixed set of data and underlying probability model, maximum likelihood picks the values of the model parameters that make the data "more likely" than any other values of the parameters would make them. Maximum likelihood estimation gives a unique and easy way to determine solution in the case of the normal distribution and many other problems.


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Pie chart
A pie chart from Playfair's 1801 "Statistical Breviary"

William Playfair (22 September 1759 – 11 February 1823) was a Scottish engineer and political economist, the founder of graphical methods of statistics. He invented four types of diagrams: in 1786 the line graph and bar chart of economic data, and in 1801 the pie chart and circle graph, used to show part-whole relations. Playfair had a variety of careers: he was in turn a millwright, engineer, draftsman, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, statistician, pamphleteer, translator, publicist, land speculator, convict, banker, ardent royalist, editor, blackmailer and journalist. He has been variously described as an "engineer, political economist and scoundrel" and an "ingenious mechanic and miscellaneous writer."


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Credit: Imagecreator

A correlation indicates the strength and direction of a linear relationship between two random variables. This figure shows several sets of data, with the correlation coefficient of x and y for each set. The correlation reflects the noisiness and direction of a linear relationship (top row), but not the slope of that relationship (middle), nor many aspects of nonlinear relationships (bottom). The figure in the center has a slope of 0 but in that case the correlation coefficient is undefined because the variance of Y is zero.


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