The Guardian

Statistical illiteracy isn't a niche problem. During a pandemic, it can be fatal | Carlo Rovelli

In recent months, we’ve all been bombarded with numbers. It’s vital that we learn how to interpret them Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage
A Covid sign in central London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

In the institute where I used to work a few years ago, a rare non-infectious illness hit five colleagues in quick succession. There was a sense of alarm, and a hunt for the cause of the problem. In the past the building had been used as a biology lab, so we thought that there might be some sort of chemical contamination, but nothing was found. The level of apprehension grew. Some looked for work elsewhere.

One evening, at a dinner party, I mentioned these events to a friend who is a mathematician, and he burst out laughing. “There are 400 tiles on the floor of this room; if

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