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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 # 96: Scents and Insensibility March 2010

< Regular readers will recall that I occasionally feature the Darwin awards where people remove themselves from the gene pool by dying in bizarre ways. I am indebted to Mark Roper who has provided me with the odds of dying in a variety of unusual ways. This raises the philosophical question as to whether it is better to be remembered for dying in an unusual way or to die in a more traditional way and be forgotten.

Walking into a lamp post - 260 million to one. Women are mostly to blame for the 18,000 injuries every year - with three quarters of the casualties men.

Vending machine - 380 million to one. In 1998, a Canadian student was crushed by a 924lb Coke dispenser at his Ontario hall of residence. He'd been rocking it backwards and forwards to get a free can.

Not going to the toilet - Tycho Brahe, the famous Danish astrologer, is reputed to have died from a burst bladder during a 1601 dinner party because it would have been the height of bad manners to ask to be excused. I would have thought that it would have been more bad mannered to explode at the dinner table. Actually, it is more likely that he died of mercury poisoning as a large amount of it was found in his body when it was exhumed. He did have two craters named after him though - one on the Moon and one on Mars perhaps because he lost the bridge of his nose in a drunken duel at university.

Bridge collapse - 2.3 million to one. There are over a million bridges in China and around 500 collapse every year killing as many as 1,000 people.

Laughter - 15 billion to one. There have been at least two recorded instances of people laughing thmselves to death. In 1975, bricklayer Alex Mitchell from King's Lynn found an episode of the Goodies so hilarious he guffawed continuously for 25 minutes before slumping dead on the sofa. His wife sent the cast a letter thanking them for making his last moments so pleasant.

For those who read my last posting, which I understand is now called a blog, at five minutes and six seconds after 4 AM on the 8th of July last year, the time and date was 04:05:06 07/08/09. This will not happen again for a thousand years. Can anyone tell me precisely when?

No one wants to smell like a Chinese wrestler's jock strap (except perhaps Chinese wrestlers) and so the perfume industry booms with about 700 new fragrances each year to make you feel overwhelmed. Here are a few more numbers to make you feel overwhelmed.

A perfumer or ˜nose' must commit around 3,000 scent ingredients to memory. 50% of women receive fragrance as a gift, probably from men who make their purchases on Christmas Eve at the filling station - and it is likely to be the wrong one which will be taken back on Boxing Day.

Jennifer Lopez has allegedly made £25 million from her fragrance, Glow, since its launch in 2003. Elizabeth Taylor was the first to celebrity to launch a perfume with her White Diamonds in 1991.

33% of male fragrances are worn by women. They take our jobs, our clothes and now our smells. Why can't men do the same? Jobs maybe, but girlie fragrances are not very appealing to blokes and wearing the wife's stuff? I don't think so! Doubt if I'd squeeze in it. Not fair though.

Apparently, men born in 1955 are the most likely to give perfume as a gift. 200,000 people in the UK suffer from anosmia, which is a permanent loss of smell. About half these cases are due to head injury (maybe caused by walking into lampposts) which can also cause dysomia - hallucinating a vile odour.

The oldest perfume is Jicky which was created in 1889. Back then, it was considered to be shocking and no woman or even a man in 'polite society' would wear it because it was overtly sexy.

The average woman (whom I have yet to meet) will spend £2,835 on perfume in a lifetime. I guess that's in addition to all the bottles bought by their partners.

Chanel No 5 was named after Coco Chanel and probably the fifth attempt at a formulation. Coco's final perfume, 19, was named after the date it was launched - 19 August - to celebrate Coco's 87th birthday.

The largest piece of ambergris (the most expensive ingredient in perfume) weighed in at 300 pounds. It is created when a sperm whale swallows spiky cuttlefish and secretes a waxy paste around it. When this lump becomes too big, the whale coughs it up like a cat's furball (only a much bigger cough and a much bigger furball). The distinctive odour is derived from the salt and the sun that it soaks up as it floats along the ocean's surface - the longer the better. It is extremely rare so only vintage perfumes now contain it. Modern perfumes use a synthetic substitute. So, women may have been dabbing on whale's innards for many years without realising or perhaps without caring. At least no whales are hurt in the gathering of the stuff.

Finally, the world's most expensive perfume is No 1 Pure Perfume by Clive Christian which comes in a 30ml handmade lead-crystal bottle with a diamond in its gold collar. Katie Holmes wore it at her wedding to Tom Cruise. If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.


Check in again at my desk soon!

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