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Subject: Numbers that make no sense rss

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Lying with statistics is easy and profitable. But there's plenty of numbers thrown about that simply don't make sense on any level.

For example:

1) An advert I saw on TV said that the sale had deals that were "up to more than 50% off.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
This means in the deal, for example, a $10 item would go for what? Somewhere between $0 and $10? Or -infinity and +infinity dollars I suppose.

There is no information in that sentence whatsoever.


2) Men think about sex every X seconds/minutes. While I'm sure men think about sex a lot, and no one really takes this factoid as literally true, this phrase still makes no sense.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Thinking about sex isn't an instantaneous occurrence, so how can it happen every 10 seconds? In a man's mind, does 10 seconds happen, then a sexual image flashes up for a microsecond, then everything goes back to normal until it happens again?

Compare with the following:

a) Men think about sex 10 minutes out of every hour.

b) Men sneeze once every 10 seconds.

These may or may not be true (the second is probably not ), but they make sense as statements. The thinking about sex one does not.


Anyone have any other examples?
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Just the other night I was watching a National Geographic show with Hellhammer about tornado chasers, and the narrator said, "Last year this region had 500 tornadoes. This year it's had only 100, a 400% reduction." I had to stop the show so that we could talk about why that didn't make any sense.
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Steve B
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Stretching a bit, but since we're on the topic of "doesn't make sense", how's this sentence:

Earth: The World's Most Dangerous Planet
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kuhrusty wrote:
Just the other night I was watching a National Geographic show with Hellhammer about tornado chasers, and the narrator said, "Last year this region had 500 tornadoes. This year it's had only 100, a 400% reduction." I had to stop the show so that we could talk about why that didn't make any sense.


-1500 tornadoes, what wrong with that?

Negative tornadoes are just like normal tornadoes but upside down and underground.
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
Lying with statistics is easy and profitable. But there's plenty of numbers thrown about that simply don't make sense on any level.

For example:

1) An advert I saw on TV said that the sale had deals that were "up to more than 50% off."

IMO that one does contain information. There is a variety of deals on offer, and the maximum reduction deal exceeds 50%. So yes, a specific shirt on sale which was originally priced $10 might now be priced anywhere from $0.01 to $9.99. You can't tell from that sentence what the reduction is on any specific item. But you can rest assured there is more than one reduction, and the maximum reduction exceeds 50%. Not very informative, but not nonsensical.
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Dolphinandrew wrote:
-1500 tornadoes, what wrong with that?

Negative tornadoes are just like normal tornadoes but upside down and underground.

"We could hear the roar of debris slamming into the door of the shelter... when we finally decided it was safe to come out, we couldn't believe our eyes--all around us was a new house."
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kuhrusty wrote:
Just the other night I was watching a National Geographic show with Hellhammer about tornado chasers, and the narrator said, "Last year this region had 500 tornadoes. This year it's had only 100, a 400% reduction." I had to stop the show so that we could talk about why that didn't make any sense.


Yeah, this gets my goat too - people look at me blankly when I say that the number of some real thing cannot be reduced by more than 100%.

Innumeracy is endemic.
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I've posted about this incident here before, but it's been over two years, so here it is again:

I once read through a report that my boss (who was clueless in a lot of ways) had already given to her administration. She had said something about our numbers going up from, say, 66 to 99, noting that we had had a 33% increase in that statistic.
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I once lost a copier deal. The buyer told me the competitor was 300% less expensive.

As a former retailer I can attest that any ad touting x% off is smoke. It's usually X% off a hugely inflated retail price. What you'll never know is the % added on.

I used to be in mens clothing and my Dad was in womens. In the mens business, our top of the line suits had a keystone mark up. If it cost us $200 we marked it $400. However, our low end suits cost us $65-$70 we marked them $250.00. Typically we'd run those on sale for $199 from the day they arrived. Hey, that's 20% off.

Parachute pants, on the other hand, were a flash in the pan. We paid $15 to 17 a pair and marked them $29.99 to $34.99 - keystone. The last 30 pair I had in stock I sold for $1 a pair to a guy who was gonna ship them to his family in India. Young mens fashion was as volatile as womenswear.

Markups in womens clothing were higher. you had to make your money while it was IN because once it was OUT of style you practically had to give it away.
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Douglas Hofstadter, in his Scientific American column, once talked about the number p, which is the number of minutes each day you spend thinking about the number p.
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scribidinus wrote:
I used to be in mens clothing and my Dad was in womens.


So what kind of clothes do you wear now?
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Quote:
2) Men think about sex every X seconds/minutes


When I have sex, I think about seconds.
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Blorb Plorbst
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scribidinus wrote:
Quote:
2) Men think about sex every X seconds/minutes


When I have sex, I think about seconds.


I'm usually happy just to get firsts.

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CrankyPants wrote:
scribidinus wrote:
Quote:
2) Men think about sex every X seconds/minutes


When I have sex, I think about seconds.


I'm usually happy just to get firsts.



Whew. Didn't see that r initially...
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I get a kick out of products that have a strip at the top of the container, usually in some bright color, with emboldened text stating something to the effect of "Now with 10% MORE!!!!111!1"

10% more what and relative to what?!

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Studies have shown that 60% of the time it works every time
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How about statements like:

Values (e.g. grades) averaged between X and Y (e.g. 85-90).

How does the average represent a range?

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My pet peeve is the jewelry stores, around Christmas or Valentine's Day.

Come in now! Diamond rings starting at just $299!

Then they show this:



I imagine some clueless fellow going into the store and wondering why the diamond above is $25,000 when they showed it on the ad and said $299.

Starting at $299? Here's your starter, in this display case:

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Blorb Plorbst
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MABBY wrote:
My pet peeve is the jewelry stores, around Christmas or Valentine's Day.


Come in now! Diamond rings starting at just $299!


Don't get me started on the insane price manipulation inherent in the diamond industry.
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The one that irritates me is when people don't specify percentage points vs. percentage.

Gross margin is up 5% this year - does that mean your gross margin went from 10% to 10.5% (a 5% increase), or 10% to 15% (a 5% point increase). I've seen this one said wrong both ways, many times.
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robigo wrote:
Douglas Hofstadter, in his Scientific American column, once talked about the number p, which is the number of minutes each day you spend thinking about the number p.


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John Holder
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From an XKCD t-shirt:
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matthew.marquand wrote:
I get a kick out of products that have a strip at the top of the container, usually in some bright color, with emboldened text stating something to the effect of "Now with 10% MORE!!!!111!1"

10% more what and relative to what?!



Now it goes to 11!
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