Numbers are all around us, especially in the news: A new drug has a 72 percent success rate in treating a disease (but only in patients under 35), while the president enjoys a 48 percent approval rating, even though according to a 2010 poll, almost one in five of the estimated 314 million Americans believe he is Muslim.
We hear statistics all the time, and science studies are often based on them. While some cynics dismiss all statistics as easily manipulated (the famous "there are lies, damned lies and statistics" quote), the truth is that statistics are important and indeed essential to understanding the world around us.
Numbers can be wrong for many reasons, including mistakes, miscalculations, different studies using different definitions, bias in promoting political or social agendas, and, of course, outright fraud. Often, the statistics themselves are correct; it's how those numbers are interpreted. After all, a glass can be both half full and half empty, depending on how you look at it.
Here are 10 examples of spectacularly flawed statistics that are (or have been) influential and widely believed.