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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 # 84: NSS can be fatal… July 2005

Answer to the question on my last desktop: the correct term for hibernation in insects is ‘diapause’ and the summer equivalent of hibernation is called aestivation.

Printers have been blamed over the years for errors much as today, computers are. A number of people have adopted a new name because of this.

Charles Buddy Holley became Buddy Holly when he signed his first contract with Decca. Dionne Warrick became Dionne Warwick when her first record, ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ was released. Oprah Winfrey’s parents intended to name her Orpah after Ruth’s sister-in-law in the Old Testament. However, the name was recorded as Oprah on her birth certificate. Irving Berlin was Israel Baline until the sheet music for his first composition, ‘Marie From Sunny Italy’ was published. William Faulkener had the ‘u’ mistakenly inserted when his first book, ‘The Marble Faun’ was published. Ulysses S Grant (formerly known as Hiram Ulysses Grant), general and former US President, was embarrassed to enter the Military Acadamy with the initials ‘HUG’ so he reversed the order of his names. Careful readers will have noted that the ‘S’ is not explained. This was the error. He was enrolled as Ulysses Simpson Grant, Simpson being his mother’s maiden name.

I always wondered why famous composers never wrote a tenth symphony. I thought maybe they got bored and couldn’t be bothered, but no. It all started in 1827 when Beethoven died after writing nine symphonies. NSS (Ninth Symphony Syndrome) is well known to music scholars as an apparent cause of composers’ deaths. In 1828, Franz Schubert died after writing nine symphonies (his unfinished eighth is considered to be one of his greatest). Half a century later, NSS struck again this time claiming the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, who, despite numbering two symphonies ‘0’ and ‘00’, died while working on his ninth in 1896. Classical composers became paranoid; the Czech, Anton Dvorak, cannily tried to fool the Grim Reaper by calling his ninth symphony Number Five, but still expired in 1904 - before completing his tenth. Gustav Mahler craftily named his nine symphony Das Lied von Erde (Song of the Earth) then called his actual tenth symphony his ninth. In 1911 before finishing it, he too died. Britain’s Vaughn Williams left a nine-symphony legacy on his death in 1958. But the Finn, Jean Sibelius, stopped writing after his eighth in 1924 and lived until 1957. It is obvious very unlucky to be superstitious.

Thirty-two percent of Americans believe in ghosts, according to a Gallup poll, though most do not (48 percent). 19 percent are not sure about their belief in spooks. When it comes to haunted houses, 46 percent say no way, 37 percent are certain they do exist, and 16 percent are not sure. Interestingly, 42 percent of self-proclaimed liberals believe in ghosts, 35 percent of moderates, and 25 percent of conservatives.

A poll by Marketing Insight says 25 percent of Koreans are "cell phone addicts" in need of treatment. Almost 24 percent of those surveyed are "obsessive mobile phone users" who will not be without their cell phones. More than 68 percent said they felt "insecure" when the battery on their cell phone dies; almost 68 percent said they are "irritated" when they forget their cell phone at home; and more than 36 percent said they will not turn their phone off during a movie or play, even though they are instructed to do so.

Many of those addicted to their cell phones are young people: 26.7 percent of middle school students are "addicts" as well as 35 percent of high school students. Of the addicts surveyed, 26.2 percent are women and 21.8 percent are men. This was a problem they never had before mobile phones, so I wonder what their paranoia focussed on then.

Ofcom's second-annual Communications Market report shows the changes in technology in the United Kingdom. Broadband internet connections are, for the first time, more common than dial-up connections. Almost 30 percent of all homes and business in the UK now have broadband. By the year 2010, it is possible that more homes will view television over their broadband connection than through their traditional connection. The report also found that more than 60 percent of UK homes have digital television, and 36 percent of adults who have digital TV have listened to digital radio through their television sets. Between the years 2000 and 2004, the number of mobile telephone minutes almost doubled while land-line calls decreased by 6 percent. These days, mobile phone companies are making more money than their land-line counterparts.

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