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  • Writer's pictureCANA

Harry Potter and the Fields of Data

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Hey dad are there real Wizards?

My daughter is quite into Harry Potter. She's read all the books, has all the T-shirts, knows many of the spells by heart. I am not so much into Harry Potter; my preferred fantasy realm is the Lord of the Rings. I enjoy her enjoyment of it, however, and have been watching the movies with her when she invites me to.

A few days ago, she asked me what it would be like if there were real wizards - that studied and learned the magic words and using only their wits and maybe a stick, were able to do magic and tame monsters.

Without missing a beat, I replied - There really are wizards like that - they are called statisticians!

She didn't *quite* believe me at first, and that's ok. I pointed out to her that in our work we:

1. Spend hours learning new 'spells', which are short and very powerful. Harry Potter and company have 'expelliarmus' as their 'go to' incantation. My current 'go-to' incantation is dplyr::group_by()

2. Use these spells to fight ever larger and more exotic 'monsters'. In Harry Potter's world, each episode brings on ever more terrifying beasts - from Basilisks to Dementors. In the practice of statistics, we use our spells to tame ever more dangerous monsters, like text, unstructured data, and 'big' data.

3. No matter how many spells they learn at Hogwarts, Harry Potter himself - and his imagination - are the key, irreplaceable elements in his magic. In the practice of Statistics, this has never been more true!

Coda: The other night, I had cast one of my 'magical spells' and was waiting for the result. As my script was running, I began unconsciously repeating my own incantation: DontCrashDontCrashDontCrashDontCrash - Didn't Crash!

From around the corner, I heard my daughter, without missing a beat reply "Good Job, Daddy!" :-)

HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. J.K. ROWLING'S WIZARDING WORLD ™ J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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