|Author||J. V. Wall|
Wall and Jenkins have produced an excellent introduction to astrostatistics, the
discipline that is foremost interested in the statistical analysis of astronomical data.
The book is clearly written for astronomers and for students in astronomy. However, it
is also of good value to statisticians who already understand the statistics, but not
necessarily the appropriate application of various statistical analyses to astronomical
and cosmological data. I found the book most useful to myself in that respect.
The text initially developed into a book from course notes used by the lead author for
teaching statistical methods to astronomy undergraduates and graduates at the University
of British Columbia beginning in 1977. The first edition of the text was published in 2003,
following some quarter of a century of maturation. Now, some nine years later, the second
edition of the book hs been published. The text has improved as a result of feedback from
students, profs who adopted the text, and others who read the book, as well as from the
authors own evaluation. New developments have also taken place in astronomy, which are
also reflected in the text.
The primary enhancement for the second edition is the focus on Bayesian methods and the
use of MCMC and Metroplis-Hastings/Gibbs sampling. Bayes inference is introduced in the
second chapter, and runs throughout the text. On the other hand, the authors have maintained,
and improved, the discussion of frequency-based statistics that is commnon to introductory
statistics courses. The text goes well beyond standard intro courses though in that survival
methods, spatial modeling, sequential analysis, signal detection, and other analytic techniques
important to astronomy are also addressed. I particularly enjoyed the final chapters which
deal with large scale structures including galaxy distribution statistics, galaxy formation,
weak lensing statistics, and nine pages devoted to the statistics of the cosmic microwave
background (CMB) universe.
Fourteen separate tables are provided in the Appendix for statistical testing. A host
of web sites for additional information are given throughout the text, which substantially
adds to the scope of the book. The data used in the text for examples are available on
the publishers web site for the book, as are the answers for the end-chapter exercise
questions. The answers given to these questions are not quick responses, but rather are
given as answers together with thoughful and thorough explanations.
I highly recommend this text for anyone with a background or interest in astronomy who
is also interested in the statistical analysis of cosmic data. I might add that the text
is very well written and engaging -- a difficult thing to do for such a subject area.