Another Try For Slashdot

It’s addictive – like eating peanuts. I enjoy reading, and posting on,

Since the vast majority of what I submit is shot down, I thought I’d post it here as well.

As a diehard Phillies fan (my wife is watching them play Baltimore right now, via streaming video on her laptop) and a dedicated Yankee hater, I look for any possible edge to confirm my faith is not misplaced. Now, there’s an objective mathematical method to show you who is the best at mid-season, regardless of won/loss records. Some teams are playing over their heads while others have suffered from bad breaks. The theory says those anomalies will probably even out over time. From the NY Times: “Known as the Pythagorean standings – more on the name later – they rank teams not by the more traditional measure of victories and losses, but by their building blocks: runs scored and runs allowed, which cumulatively prove to be a better indicator of future team performance than just about anything else. The full story (free registration required) is enough to make a Phillie Phanatic smile, or give some glimmer of hope to downtrodden Red Sox fans. Unfortunately, the online version doesn’t have the chart, showing where everyone stands at the moment, which is included in the actual print version of the newspaper. Nice as I am, my site doesn’t have the bandwidth to host it. Maybe one of the posters here will.


Recently, I had an email conversation with my Statistical Climatology teaching assistant (quite an important person, as she controls my grades!). We talked about Innumeracy, the book by John Allen Paulos.

His, unfortunate, conclusion is that most people are mathematically challenged. Not knowing math leaves them less capable of dealing with the world around them.

Out of curiosity, I asked some folks at work to tell me the relationship between a million and a billion. Not many knew it was 1:1,000.

Since our government is now throwing billions and even trillions around (a trillion is 1,000 billion or a million million) it seems like this is something we should know.

Flash forward to this past weekend. My friend Bob called me on IM and sent a link to an article in Time Magazine about America’s problems with weight and obesity. On the first page was a chart which said Americans eat “600 Billion Big Macs a year.”

Wow. That’s a lot… something like 2,000 apiece per year. Obviously, we’ve got a problem here. That number’s wrong.

Dear Mr. Fox:

Thanks for writing to us about TIME’s Oct. 20 cover story and the figure of how many Big Macs are consumed by Americans each year. It appears in the online version as 600 billion, but that’s not accurate. The correct figure of 600 million appears in the print edition of the magazine.

We appreciated hearing from you. Sorry for any confusion.

TIME letters

Don’t be sorry to me. Feel sorry for all the people who looked at that stat, wrong as it was, and never realized what that number meant.