Evil Queen of Numbers

Would there be any demand for a statistics class taught by M from the James Bond films?

M: You don’t like me, Bond. You don’t like my methods. You think I’m an accountant, a bean counter, more interested in my numbers than your instincts.
JB: The thought had occurred to me.
M: I’ve no compunction about sending you to your death, but I won’t do it on a whim.

And via Wikipedia (wish I could find the clip):

Tanner, her Chief of Staff, refers to her during the film as “the Evil Queen of Numbers”, given her reputation at that stage for relying on statistics and analysis rather than impulse and initiative.

Yes, Bond’s instincts are great, but there’s something to be said for developing number-crunching skills too:

  1. Not everyone’s instincts are naturally as great as Bond’s. The rest of us benefit from structured ways to decide which apparent patterns are real and what’s just spurious noise.
  2. One man can’t do it all. He operates within the context of a much bigger intelligence agency, whose several analysts help him see the big picture. This makes it possible to send Bond on targeted missions, instead of needing a million Bonds to scope out each and every possible lead individually.

I imagine M’s course would be intense but rewarding. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

  • You must be careful about who you interrogate and how, if you want to trust your results: survey design, design of experiments
  • Once you’ve gathered the intelligence, you must look for meaning: EDA, means, regressions, etc.
  • But be distrustful of apparent patterns and don’t act on a whim: hypothesis testing
  • The boys in the lab have come up with a curious measuring device. Instead of recording length or temperature or what have you, it measures the reliability and precision of your information: CIs / MOEs

And so on. You could start off with some visualizations, such as The Economist’s chart of James Bond’s kills, romances, and martinis per film broken out by actor:


I admit I’m not too well-versed in James Bond culture, but it seems like a fun idea. Anybody know of a statistics 101 class taught with a tongue-in-cheek backstory like this?

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