Interpretation of Data – An Interesting story from Word War II


This is supposedly a true story that illustrates how #data may be interpreted beyond the first impressions.

The Story

The Data

During World War II, fighter planes would come back from battle with bullet holes.
The Allies found the some areas of the planes were most commonly hit by enemy fire.

The obvious solution?

They thought the obvious solution was to strengthen the most commonly damaged areas of the planes,
to reduce the number of planes that was shot down.

The final Interpretation

A mathematician, Abraham Wald, pointed out that perhaps there was another way to interpret the data.
He conjectured, what about the many aircraft that could not return home?

Perhaps the reason certain areas of the planes weren’t covered in bullet holes,
was that the planes that were shot in those areas went down and couldn’t return.

This insight led to the armor being re-enforced on the parts of the plane where there were no bullet holes.

Moral of the Story

The story behind the data is arguably more important than the data itself.

The serious interpretation of data is often more insightful that the first obvious appearance or analysis.

Also, the reason behind why we are missing certain pieces of data,
may be more meaningful than the data that we have.


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