Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 1st, 2021

Spiderworts were a star of the show

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At Enchanted Rock on April 12th spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) were the most prominent wildflowers. You caught a glimpse of some in the recent post about vernal pools, and now you’re getting a few closer looks. In the top photo, spiderworts towered over dried ferns and some struggling prickly pears. The middle picture shows you a happy group flowering away in a vernal pool.

And below is an even closer view from an area that had granite in the background.

Back in September I ran an “editorial” in response to the widespread and intentional slanting of “news” stories. The jihad against fairness, factuality, objectivity, and due process in the United States has noticeably increased since September, so I feel I need to repeat what I wrote then.

Suppose you’re trying to determine how prevalent a certain thing is in a given population. The science of statistics requires that you get a sample that’s random and also large enough to greatly reduce the likelihood of being unrepresentative (which occasionally happens just by chance, like being dealt a straight flush in poker). Unfortunately, many in the news media violate those principles by choosing to present only occurrences that support a certain ideology, while purposely not reporting occurrences, often much greater in number, that contradict that ideology.

Let’s concoct an example. Suppose I’m a member of the Green Eyes Party, and I claim that adults with green eyes are rich. I go out searching until I eventually find four wealthy people who happen to have green eyes, and I produce a lavish documentary about them. At the end I say: “See, it’s clear that adults with green eyes are wealthy.” In so doing, I violated the axioms of statistics—and fairness!—because I included only green-eyed adults who are rich; I didn’t include many of them; and I didn’t take into account the much larger number of green-eyed adults who aren’t rich.

So when you hear on the news or elsewhere that X is a common occurrence, or that there’s an “epidemic” of X, do your best to find out whether large-scale, properly gathered statistics show that X really is common. In unfortunately many cases you’ll discover that X is actually rare but seems common only because certain interests are heavily promoting it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2021 at 4:41 AM

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