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Learning about statistics is a lot like learning about science: the learning is more meaningful if you can actively explore. This second installment of Explorations in Statistics delves into test statistics and P values, two concepts fundamental to the test of a scientific null hypothesis. The essence of a test statistic is that it compares what we observe in the experiment to what we expect to see if the null hypothesis is true. The P value associated with the magnitude of that test statistic answers this question: if the null hypothesis is true, what proportion of possible values of the test statistic are at least as extreme as the one I got? Although statisticians continue to stress the limitations of hypothesis tests, there are two realities we must acknowledge: hypothesis tests are ingrained within science, and the simple test of a null hypothesis can be useful. As a result, it behooves us to explore the notions of hypothesis tests, test statistics, and P values.
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