[The ~feel~ of statistics majors at Elsewhere U has changed somewhat since I sent you that ask (dangerous was perhaps the wrong word), but here’s an extended piece about them that is totally not also a love letter to my chosen subject]
Science majors are always treated more warily by the gentry. This is both a blessing and a curse; we’re less likely to be fucked with, except perhaps out of spite, but it also leaves the greatest mystery we’ve ever seen out of our reach.
It’s tough, being a truth-seeker.
Every department has its own inclinations when it comes to attempts to study Them. Brave physics majors strap bodged-together chronal stabilisers to their arms and go spelunking in those places that time bends unnaturally, reeling back out days or weeks or months later sobbing unintelligibly about relativity. The smart chemistry majors favour esoteric methods of detecting Them, importing enough hazardous substances that it’s surprising none of them are on terrorist watch lists; we try and avoid the choking fumes of their labs and darkrooms if possible. Biologists tend to keep to themselves and be blacklisted in turn; nobody’s attempted to gather samples from Them since the chrysanthemum incident, and the tensions are manageable. Maths is essentially arcane to Them, too logical to make any sense, and more than one student has traded their way out of a tight spot with a neatly penned proof of Euler’s formula.
As at every other university, statistics majors get overlooked. It’s hardly a surprise; it’s the kinds of subject that you either do for a lack of a better idea (and the alleged “amazing job security”) or because you really love statistics. Students in the department because of the former are usually fine, having no particular drive to hunt out knowledge beyond the mundanities of coursework. That cadre of us, though, who take what the lecturers give us and turn it on our environment? Well, I’d call us the most successful informal research group in the university.
Don’t look so surprised! Statistics is the science of observation and patterning. Not only to we know how to analyse for a trend, we know how to tell whether there’s a kernel of truth in it or if it’s just noise; the deceptions of a regression with p = 0.07 are not too different to some of the misdirections of the gentry. Provided you’re smart about data collection (RIP Tumblr user no-this-is-a-knife), there’s not a lot They can do to screw with you as long as you keep everything digital and speak softly. Walking the line between observing Them and alerting Them to your intentions is very possible as long as you’re canny about it. Interestingly, the proportion of Slytherin students in the department is greater than you would expect from a subject so knowledge-oriented.
There are some great projects being run in our downtime. Demography of the gentry would be both a fool’s errand and a slow death, but there’s plenty you can do by surveying the human population or simply watching common areas. That’s what I’m working on, actually; we’re using some of the chem students’ detection techniques to investigate the distribution of the gentry around the campus. Early results are confirming the rumours that arts students are most likely to run into Them. There’s other projects as well, of course, like the two students who’ve cracked the university’s database of missing persons reports and are analysing it against the year to look for the most dangerous times.
To be clear: we mean no harm by what we do. It’s easy to think of us as a coiled snake in the grass, but I would never dream of using my research against anyone (human or gentry or otherwise). Anyone seeking to fight the gentry is probably better off burying themselves in the mythology stacks anyway; research that could conclusively prove cause and effect is well outside our capabilities. All we’re really about is helping people do what they were already doing, like find somewhere weirdness-free to study for finals.
The official Elsewhere U message boards keep deleting our threads - I’m almost sure it’s foul play at this point, one of the staff They have in Their metaphorical pocket - so we’ve been pushed into informal channels. r/ElsewhereStatistics is a good one-stop-shop for passing students, and our Tumblr network is pretty extensive. It’s important to be able to coordinate, to ask questions; this research methodology isn’t exactly something you can run by the lecturers.
While it’s disheartening to know that this work will never leave the university (statistics journals reject so many regular papers, and there’s no scientific field pertaining to Them that we could publish under like applied statistics groups usually would), it’s worth all the toil and more. On a practical level, we’re helping people; just the other day a sobbing fine arts major grabbed me after class and gave me a thank-you hug for publishing those preliminary maps of gentry activity on campus. She can paint in peace now! How wild is that? Most of us would still do it regardless of the thanks, though. After all, the most praise in the world can’t top the simple euphoria of discovery; there’s nothing like that ephemeral moment after the results come back when you can truly say that you know something no-one else knows.
Well, I’d better be getting back to it; these numbers aren’t gonna crunch themselves. Come visit us down in the computer labs sometime (bring coffee!). And remember: following our will and wind, we may just go where no one’s been.