Physics 257
Lecture 0:
Basic Statistics &
Introduction to Matlab
Prof. Matt Dobbs
Physics Department, McGill U.
Prof. M. Dobbs,
Physics 257
Lecture 0 Stats
2
Outline
Orientation session was yesterday, Sept 6. If you missed it,
download the information from WebCT. We covered:
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Syllabus, lab rules & expectation
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Brief intro to the interplay between theory & experiment + the
scientific method
TODAY
Average behavior of data:
Mean, median, mode
Measures of spread:
Variance, standard deviation
Correlations: covariance, corr coefficient
Significant Figures
Matlab Introduction
Basic Statistics
Statistics is the mathematical treatment and analysis
of large quantities of data.
It provides us with a means of characterizing a
distribution of data with a few parameters such as the
average and standard deviation.
Prof. M. Dobbs,
Physics 257
Lecture 0 Stats
4
Why Statistics
A couple centuries ago:
“If your
experiment needs statistics, you ought to
have done a better experiment”
(B. Russell)
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First statistics conference was held in 1853.
Today: To be a statistician is great ! You
never have to be “absolutely sure” of
something ... Being “reasonably certain” is
enough!
(from Frank Lehner lecture)
Our goal: learn to use statistics as a
quantitative tool to report scientific
results. Learn to understand what other
people’s statistics mean – and when to
trust them.

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