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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 # 98: Glass is half empty for long-lived drinkers March 2013

< A 40 year Dutch study of 1,373 men has found that those who drank half a glass of red wine a day lived five years longer than those who drank no alcohol. I have two problems with this research. Firstly, how do you persuade 1,373 men to drink just half a glass of red wine a day for 40 years? What an awful thing to ask anyone. How did they check anyway? And who on earth would drink only half a glass? What would be the point unless to prove that red wine is good for you. So, maybe if men drank three glasses a day (half a standard bottle), they would live for an extra 30 years. Whoever designed the research should have started with the objective of discovering if say a couple of glasses a day of red wine was good for men because no one will be keen to drink just half a glass a day no matter what. And how big were those glasses out of which they drunk half?

My second issue with this research is that these extra five years are tacked on at the end of your life. Sadly, you don’t live from, say, 20-24 twice and those extra five years are not very pretty in many cases.

Another piece of research shows that British women wash their bras just six times a year, keep 16 bras (and buy four new ones each year) and spend £2,700 each on undergarments in a lifetime. Each item gets an average of seven outings before it gets washed. Hopefully, they mean each bra.... The most common stains (on bras I think) are perfume, body lotion, fake tan and sweat. I was always told that horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow. How times have changed.

Grabel's Law : 2 is not equal to 3 - not even for very large values of 2.

A polar bear is a rectangular bear after a coordinate transform.

"... one of the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire was that, lacking zero, they had no way to indicate successful termination of their C programs." - Robert Firth

Most of us lead predictable lives - at least as far as our travel arrangements are concerned. Researchers studying data from mobile phones have found that it is possible to predict the average person’s movements or location 93% of the time. Scientists from North Western University in Boston also found that people rarely strayed from a six mile radius, and that people could be found in their most visited location for any given hour 70% of the time. It’s hoped that the research will shed light on the spread of contagious diseases. “We are all in one way or another boring” said Albert-Laszlo Barabasi who co-wrote the study.

So, it’s true that we are all chained to our workplaces and homes. I wonder how, though, locations are defined. Can they really tell how long I spent in the bathroom? I will no longer take my mobile phone in there just in case. This reminds me of the child in class who was asked where God lives. “In our bathroom, miss”, replied the infant. “And why do you say that?”, asked the teacher. “Because every morning, my Dad bangs on the door and shouts, ‘God, are you still in there?’”.

How big is infinity? Pretty big I hear you say. Well, it appears that the number can vary depending on which infinity you are talking about - before or after the decimal point for example.

What is the biggest number? Infinity to the power of infinity an infinite number of times perhaps, but then some five year old will come along and add one to it. To make it practical, the number must have a use. Graham’s number is quite big. Even a power tower can’t express it. If you were to write it down with the digits the size of atoms, there would not be room in the known universe for it. Graham, a former trampolinist in a circus, came up with it whilst considering hypercuboids which sounds more like something he got whilst trampolining. It ends with a 7 but no one knows what it starts with. Since then, two other larger numbers have been discovered which must have caused Graham to be really naffed off. I wonder how you discover a new large number. Where do they hide?

 

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