Oliver Johnson

Oliver Johnson is a professor of information theory and the director of the Institute for Statistical Science at the University of Bristol. He is the author of Numbercrunch: A Mathematician's Toolkit for Making Sense of Your World and the Logging the World Substack.

The Covid inquiry is Brexit redux

Yesterday saw the latest performance of one of the longest-running dramas in town. In many ways, the Covid inquiry felt very much like a slightly unnecessary reboot (Matrix Resurrections style) of Cummings’s appearance at the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee back in May 2021. We didn’t learn a lot yesterday that we didn’t know then, for all that

Has South Wales reached herd immunity?

Few topics during the Covid pandemic have caused more controversy than the Herd Immunity Threshold, the level of immunity at which the virus can no longer spread through a population even once social distancing is relaxed. Confident past predictions that Sweden or India had reached this have been swept away by sizeable second waves, and

Covid’s endgame

The Pfizer vaccine’s approval by UK regulators marked what many hope is the beginning of the end of the coronavirus crisis. That was certainly the impression Boris Johnson was keen to convey during his Downing Street press conference on Wednesday. The Prime Minister, however, warned the British people to avoid being overly optimistic. Deputy chief

Why the north-west Covid spike is alarming

It can be hard to keep track of the progress of the epidemic as the daily cases, hospitalisations and deaths often seem to tell a contradictory story. Each suffers from random noise, delays and incompleteness in reporting, and arguments about how exactly they should be compiled. However, the total number of Covid-19 patients in hospital

Are we really seeing a second European spike?

You’ve probably seen the graphs, cases are way up in France, even higher than the first wave, and yet deaths hardly seem to be up at all. Yet if you compare the latest number of deaths recorded, 130 for the week ending 3 September, they’re slightly higher than the 123 deaths in the week in

How worried should we be about a second wave?

Now that we are two months past the peak of the UK coronavirus epidemic, many fear the emergence of a second wave of the disease and remain anxious about any evidence that reopening the country has gone too far. For this reason media headlines like ‘Germany’s R number rockets again – from 1.79 to 2.88’

Is it really necessary for schools to be closed?

With Primark open, parents can once again buy cut-price school uniforms for their children. Whether those children will get to wear them before they grow out of them is an open question. The government has abandoned plans to get all primary school children back into the classroom before the end of term, and Matt Hancock

How to read coronavirus graphs

Dominic Cummings placed a job advert back in January calling for data scientists, statisticians and modellers. Since then, the coronavirus epidemic has made all of us ‘weirdos and misfits’ in our growing obsession with data. Everyone now has opinions on the latest coronavirus statistics, whether it’s South Korean test numbers, German fatality rates or Italian regional