How he reads a table of numbers

Peter Freed, feeling provoked, muses about how he reads a science paper (and in this passage, how he reads a table in a science paper):

Now listen: most non-scientists see a table like this and freak out. They take around 3 seconds to decide they can’t understand it, get scared of feeling stupid in the face of all those numbers, and so they calm down by skipping over it and back to the words.  Scientists have a huge advantage over their non-scientist friends on this front: they don’t expect to understand this table in three seconds. Or even three minutes.  They look at it the way a piano player might look at a Bach score, or an art lover might look at the Mona Lisa.  They look at it for a good long time, lingering with their eyes over the columns of numbers, and getting a visceral feel for it.  The table becomes a living thing for them, with a personality.  And only after they have a little bit of a vibe from the table do they start trying to understand all the column- and row-headings. Do the same.  Allow the numbers to form some vague impressions in your mind.  Do they have decimal endings?  Are they all even or odd?  Are they short or long?  Is there lots of variation between them?

(Thanks to @BoraZ for bringing this article to our attention.)

Improbable Research