Statistical Quotes and Humor


"Statistics is not a discipline like physics, chemistry or biology where we study a subject to solve problems in the same subject. We study statistics with the main aim of solving problems in other disciplines."
        C.R. Rao
Luck is probability taken personally.
It is the excitement of bad math.
        Penn & Teller
"The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself"
        Winston Churchill


Fletcher Knebel: "Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics."

Hi all,
The last few times I've discussed the 'Bootstrap' in my Engineering Statistics class, I've challenged my students to find a precise reference to the Baron Munchausen lifting himself up by his bootstraps (from Efron and Tibshirani's (1993), Introduction to the Bootstrap, Chapman & Hall, we read "The use of the bootstrap derives from the phrase to pull oneself up by one's bootstrap, widely thought to be based on one of the eighteenth century Adventures of Baron Munchausen, by Rudolph Erich Raspe", p. 5).

A student of mine (Joshua Precht) this term sent me the following:

Here is the Munchausen quote. It is from page 22 of the edition edited by J. Carswell in 1948. "I was still a couple of miles above the clouds when it broke, and with such violence I fell to the ground that I found myself stunned, and in a hole nine fathoms under the grass, when I recovered, hardly knowing how to get out again. Looking down, I observed that I had on a pair of boots with exceptionally sturdy straps. Grasping them firmly, I pulled with all my might. Soon I had hoist myself to the top and stepped out on terra firma without further ado." --With acknowledgement to R. E. Raspe, Singular Travels, Campaigns and Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1786.

Others have uncovered this quote (e.g. Marc Nerlove's page at but I pass such along as I believe it is not well-known.


Roger Johnson
Department of Mathematics & Computer Science
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
501 East St. Joseph Street
Rapid City, SD  57701

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Created 2005: May 5     latest update 2009: Jan 23