Archive for December, 2017

2017—A prime year for statistics

To cap off the year, I present half a dozen wacky new statistics:

  • 2017 was a “sexy” prime, that is, 6 years beyond the last one in 2011 (six in latin is “sex”).
  • By 2050 the plastic trash floating in the oceans will outweigh the fish. (Source: Robert Samuelson, “The Top 10 Stats of 2017”, Washington Post, 12/27/17.)
  • University of Warwick statistician Nathan Cunningham debunked the “i-before-e except after c” rule based on evaluating 350,000 English words: The ratio of “ie” to “ei” is exactly the same for the after-c words as it is for all words in general. Weird science!
  • After digging into data compiled by the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), Sam Monfort, a doctoral student in Human Factors and Applied Cognition at George Mason University, concluded that UFOs are visiting at all-time highs. Americans sight UFOs at a rate that exceeds the worldwide median by 300 times. Far out!
  • In May, an Australian cat named Omar was confirmed by the BBC as the world’s biggest at nearly 4 feet long and over 30 pounds. My oh meow!
  • Nearly a thousand people dressed up like penguins at Youngstown, Ohio this October to break the world’s record. Coincidentally, National Geographic reported on December 13 that the fossilized remains of a giant, man-sized penguin, were found in New Zealand. Eerie!

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No reason to worry yourself to death over downturn in USA life expectancy

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) researchers announced this week that life expectancy for a baby born in 2016 fell 0.1 percent to 78.6 years.  First off, this reduction is so miniscule that it cannot be significant.  It definitely is of no importance per se.  I do, however, concur with those who cite this statistic as a call for alarm by it being driven down by the epidemic of opioid deaths.

The trick to interpreting statistics on life expectancy is to keep in mind it has a mathematical value that changes as an individual gets older.  For example, men like me at age 65 can expect to live to age 84, primarily because we made it through high-mortality childhood and the perils of being a young adult.  Look up your expectancy at this Life Table from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of the Chief Actuary and give yourself a year or two extra by it being a bit dated (me being optimistic in the continuing advancement of medical care).

If you want to be more precise than the SSA tables, check out the calculators posted here.  One to avoid is the “How Long Have You Got?” calculator, which comes with the caveat that “each time we’ve tested this calculator we are expected to pass away on the same day”.  On the other hand, I think you will like the results from the Easy Surf life-expectancy calculator*.

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

– Marcus Aurelius

* Evidently by the domain “.cc” this comes from someone living in Australia’s Cocos Keeling Islands—a paradise on earth where one might live long and happy as you can see here .

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Weapons of mass destruction scaled down for classroom warfare

During our freshman year in my Christian Brothers military high school, my buddy Bob sat behind me in first-hour home-room in prime position to snipe spit balls at me.  When I reacted to the sting by backlashing at him, the teacher—Brother Thomas—would admonish me for disrupting the class.  Devious!  Nevertheless, I had to hand it to Bob for his ingenuity for classroom warfare—my superior by far.

I shudder to think what Bob could have done with the technology revealed by John Austin in his trilogy on Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction , which begins with spitball warfare and culminates in siege weapons of the dark ages.  For example, check out this video of a classroom firearm sent to me by a PhD student from the Institute of Technology of Buenos Aires.

Inspired by Austin’s books, this Argentinian and conspirators set up a designed experiment that varied three factors:

  1. The length of the arrow (short 20 cm – long 25 cm)
  2. The width of the “barrel” (narrow 11 mm – wide 17 mm)
  3. The initial position of the arrow (p0 the firing pin will slightly hit the arrow – p1 the firing pin will push the arrow along the last 5 cm)

Bob’s spitballs did little harm in comparison to this weapon.  At this rate, turtle-necks will come back into fashion, only now being made from Kevlar.  Anyone who makes it through school at this rate will certainly be the fittest for surviving and ready for the dog-eat-dog corporate world.

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