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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 # 5: Poor predictions 7 November 1997

On my last desktop, I asked you to name the ten ways you can be out at cricket. Genuine English people will know them all (especially Yorkshire folk for whom cricket is a religion. No, I should say, it is the religion). But for anyone not living in this Septre'd Isle, they are: caught, bowled, leg before wicket, stumped, run out, hit wicket, handling the ball, obstructing the field, hit the ball twice and timed out. God knows what non cricket players think the game is like, but I did say it was one of those cutesy poo English things.

And I'll put you out of your misery with the names of the the seven dwarfs. They were: Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Doc, Bashful, Dopey, Sleepy. Now, don't you feel a lot better!

A friend told me that women are like tornados. They come in wet and wild and when they go out they take half the house. But Zsa Zsa Gabor said that a man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished. My favourite quotes involve experts who end up with egg on their faces (note: this means that they have been proved to be very wrong, not that they are sloppy eaters).

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers" - Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM 1943.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular." David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" H M Warner, Warner Brothers 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in Gone With The Wind.

"We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out." Decca Record Company rejecting the Beatles 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society 1895.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, President, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment 1977.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for the 3-M 'Post-It' notepads.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy". Drillers who Edwin L Drake tried to enlist for his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University 1929.

The death of the World's oldest woman and Britains' oldest man in the same week (were they having an affair?) who between them notched up 231 years, prompts me to speculate on matters actuarial. In the UK, a man of 65 retiring today (or tomorrow, I guess), has got a life expectancy of 18.3 years. Ten years ago it was just 17.5. Today's 55 year old retiring in 2007, will, on average, live for 19.1 years; today's 45 year olds can expect a further 19.6 years after retirement. Annuity rates will fall which means it is likely that living like the insurance company ads suggest will not materialise and we'll all have to sweat at the coal face until we drop. Somehow, we have to find a way of reducing the life expectancy of others. Encourage your colleagues to smoke, take up mountaineering and engage is sudden violent exercise. It also appears that the bigger your pension fund on retirement, the longer you will live. A person with say £8,000 in their fund will have a 10% shorter life span than Mr. Average on £100,000, but Sir F. Cat with £500,000 smackers can expect to live 10% longer. Apparently this is true for men but not women. My theory is that having built up a big fund, there is every incentive to stay alive long enough to use it and spite the insuance companies.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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