Suppose you’re sitting there watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and you realize all at once, “Hey, I bet I can estimate an important missing parameter in old tree data sets using probability theory, and then use it to evaluate, and make, tree density estimates“. Of course that issue is plastered all over the internet–everybody’s sick of it frankly–and there are only about 2.36 million NHL playoff games, so you might not act on your idea at all. But you also might jump up and rush to the computer, startling the dog in the process, open up R and start whacking away at the keyboard, and be swearing furiously and grabbing your head in no time at all. There’s big, big money to be made on this after all.
Now the question soon arises, “Just how the hell am I supposed to go about this anyway?”. Well the answer to that is “Carefully, with patience, gobs of it”. Because you’ll learn a lot about some important science concepts if you do. And of course, there’s the money, gobs of it, that should motivate a fair bit.
Some background here. One can estimate the density (or “intensity” in statistical parlance) of objects if you measure the distance from random points to a sample of those objects. The accuracy and precision of the estimate will depend on the sample size, the objects’ spatial pattern, and the rank order of the distances of the objects you measure to. All very exciting stuff, but old hat.
Now, suppose some abject clowns went out and purposely didn’t record those rank distances on like a whole bunch of trees over a biggish area, like, say, two-thirds of the United States, simply because they were distracted by avoiding arrows from the Native Americans, or felt the malaria and blood loss from the mosquitoes over the 50 miles of swamp crossed, or some other lame excuse like that. Well, now if that isn’t frustrating for keyboard stats jockeys! The complete lack of concern for our needs 150 years later trying to get publications! Wankers!
Should time allow, we shall investigate this question in coma-inducing detail in future posts. We shall however take periodic breaks to watch the Red Wings dispose of the Beantown “Bruins” in short order, and of course for beer runs. Might want to replace the batteries in the remote control if you get a chance.