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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 # 68: Census revelations March 2003

Mavis the mathematician has complained that I have not updated my page recently. Well, I have a life - and there has been a dearth of good material coming my way.

The UK National Lottery Campaign starring comedian and erstwhile actor, Billy Connolly, was voted the most irritating ad of 2002 - quite an honour to be distinguished from so many other dire offerings.

Claims made by banks and credit card companies about the security of their computer systems have been left in tatters by three Indian mathematicians and a 13 line computer program. Encryption systems rely on prime numbers (as you know) thousands of digits long. It takes huge computer power to analyse these numbers to see if they are divisible. But mathematicians from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur have developed a new system. Surprisingly simple, it showed how any number could be checked in just a few minutes to see if it is divisible. Is this a market opportunity?

Old mathematicians never die. They simply count for less.

Since 1945, the United States has initiated more than 200 military incursions. Very odd for a peace loving nation. I noted that President Bush was introduced the other day to his audience as the Leader of the Free World. I can't say that I have ever seen his name on a voting paper outside the United States. If he is the Leader of the Free World, then he has taken it undemocratically and, by definition, he can't be Leader of a Free World which is not free. Americans are very much a minority - about 7% of the World's population. They really don't do themselves any favours with that attitude. President Bush is President of the United States of America but I do recall that more voters preferred Al Gore. It was just the electoral system and the pregnant chads that got him in. The Brits should never have let them have their independence, though the electoral system we invented for them maybe needs looking at.

Results of the 2001 Census in the UK have just been released. Leaving aside the controversy about the millions who, 'went missing', there have been a number of quite significant changes. Households containing a married couple (married to each other that is) are now in a minority - 45%. In 1991, it was 55% and in 1981, 64%. In much of Inner London, it is now less than 25%. One person households make up 30%. 10% of households comprise lone parents with kids. 22% of households with dependent children are lone-parent households. Nearly a quarter of households consist of pensioners only. There has been a 50% increase in the ethnic minority population in ten years. 20% of the people in Harrow are Hindu. 80% are some form of Christian. 15% have no religion. The Census figures have so far failed to reveal how many Jedi Knights there are. There was a rumour at the time of the Census that if more than 10% of people said they were Jedi Knights, it would have to be officially recognised as a religion. Complete nonsense of course, but great fun.

What surprises me is how far people's perceptions differ from reality (and I'm not referring here to those who are completely stoned). I see so many ads suggesting that this product or that service is 'great for all the family'. Just who are they talking about? Are they really aiming for a minority market made up of single percentage figures? Whatever you are doing, make sure you know what is actually happening out there in the market place, not what used to be happening when you were that age.

The results of sex surveys always seem popular with my readers (I can't understand why). The most recent one to come across my desk was conducted by ICM Research amongst 1,000 women aged between 18 and 54 (interesting they chose this cut off point).

So here are the highlights:

  1. 29% of women claim to have lost their virginity before the age of 16. (37% of women aged 18-24).

  2. On average, women have sex twice a week but single women have the least. Only 4% said more than six times a week.

  3. Almost half of women want to have sex more often. Oddly, 44% said they didn't know whether they wanted to have sex more or less often (if they don't know, how are men supposed to?).

  4. 19% of women claimed that they didn't drink alcohol every week while 19% said they had between 10 and 18 units (clearly there must be a link between alcohol and sex to have included such a question on a sex survey).

  5. 41% of women admitted to having had a one-night stand. Of those, a remarkable 64% said it was because they were drunk (ha, now we see the link!).

  6. 74% say the most common way for a man to ask you out is in person. 6% say via a text message.

  7. 29% of women say they expect to wait a few weeks before first having sex with someone. Only 3% believe you should wait until you're married.

All contributions to my page considered.

Check in again at my desk soon!

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