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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 22: Millenium babies, sexual apathy, bare breasts and buttocks 4 May 1999

It is reported that there was a rush of couples trying to create babies which will be born on 1 January 2000. Motives differed. Some were driven by New Age yearnings to create new life in a new Millennium; others thought it would be fashionable, lucky or would win them prizes on TV shows. I think it's just an excuse for bonking. The odds against success are daunting though; fewer than 4% of births take place on the expected day. Will 2 January kids have it held against them? Or, worse, 31 December babes.

On the subject of demographics, it has been calculated that in earlier times, there was one centenarian at most in the world in any one century. A estimated 150,000 centenarians will see in the year 2000 and by 2050, there will be over two million.

On a recent desktop, I erroneously claimed that it was Mark Twain who said that the only two certain things in life were death and taxes. It was, of course, Benjamin Franklin in his letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy dated 13 November 1789. However, how was I supposed to know that as his letter was not addressed to me and I don't read other people's mail. Anyway, if you are not sure who said something, it's always a good bet to say it was either Mark Twain or Winston Churchill. They were so verbose that it is rare for someone to be bold enough to correct you.

This also proves that I have at least one reader. In this case, the eagle eyes belong to a reader who has a brain as well as a body. Very worrying.

A county in Florida has passed a law banning women from exposing more than 75% of their breasts. The law also prohibits the showing of more than two-thirds of a person's buttocks. Note the second is measured as a vulgar fraction. Police in Manatee County now face the problem of enforcing the law. "I don't think we'll be tape measuring", said a spokesman for the sheriff's office. Of course in order to decide if 75% of the mammaries are exposed, it would be necessary to assess the size of 100%. This would involve police officers (in the course of their duty of course) in ogling topless women. But even then, does the 75% refer to surface area measurements, length and breadth or weight? If the suspect was wearing a bikini with circular patches strategically placed, higher mathematics would be involved. Where does a breast start and finish? Could fat be confused with breast? Clearly, a training course is called for. The police then still have to get to the bottom of the other problem.

The National Enjoyment Report commissioned by SEAT and conducted by Reading University reveals that British people would generally prefer to watch TV than have sex or go out with friends. Only 25% said that they got enjoyment from keeping fit or going to the gym. In fact 62% of men would rather eat, drink or watch TV than have sex. 52% of people in the South West said that they spent most of their time enjoying themselves; the South East were the most miserable with only 10% having a good time. It should be remembered that the British are not supposed to enjoy themselves so there could have been a little fibbing. For example, I can't imagine 25% of the population really enjoying exercise.

A tricky question from the Manchester Evening News quiz: who was John Dalton Street named after? Now there's a paper that really knows its readers.

A television detector van claims to have spotted an unlicenced TV set at the Roman bath house in Lancaster (England), reports the Lancaster Guardian. The bath house, now in ruins, was last inhabited in AD340. Yes in Quaint Olde England, we need a licence to watch television. However, unlike other licences, no-one is ever refused one. I think that it should be mandatory to prove that you can handle all the drivel without your brain turning to mush before a licence is granted. But the Government would lose revenue and it's really just another form of taxation.

Mathematicians who play darts on a standard board (not on a log-end or Manchester board or on the Star Trek flashing lights version), will know not to try to emulate the professionals by aiming for treble 20 because there is a likelihood of falling either side into the sections which score only one or five. It's much better to aim for the bull which scores 50 because if you miss it, you could score 25 (outer bull) or fall in any of the sections from 1 to 20. Using this technique, scores improved by 5%. I have to thank David Percy of Salford University (England) for this gem. However, there was no mention of the location of his research. Was it conducted in his laboratory? This would seem to be a rather sterile environment. In the real world, it is compulsory to consume large quantities of alcohol when playing darts (well, perhaps shortly before and after throwing). This could affect the maths. Indeed hitting the board at all is quite an achievement by closing time. Then comes another kind of throwing.....

Check in again at my desk soon!
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