Revealing numbers  

Posted by Denis Haack in

Let’s begin where we should, by reminding ourselves that statistics must be used carefully, with a healthy bit of skepticism. Not that numbers necessarily lie, but they only tell part of the truth and the part they don’t tell might be the part that’s of primary significance. “Then there is the man,” W. I. E. Gates notes, “who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches.”

Funny, but I can’t find anything about a W. E. I. Gates. But being of German/Dutch heritage I do know that wie gehts in German is a common greeting meaning, “How’s it going?” so even that… Anyway, on to a few of the numbers I’ve found worth some reflection.

Number of U. S. prisoners freed between 1989-2007 through DNA evidence—201. The number of those prisoners that had been (mistakenly) identified by eyewitnesses—77%.

Amount of money estimated by researchers at the University of California (San Diego) earned by an email Viagra spammer—approximately $7000/day.

History of earthquakes in Japan.
1891. Nobi quake, magnitude 8.0, 142,000 houses collapsed, 7,273 killed.
1923. Kanto quake, magnitude 7.9, 694,000 houses collapsed, 143,000 killed.
1964. Niigata quake, magnitude 7.5, 26 killed.
1968. Tokachioki quake, magnitude 8.2, $131 million property damage, 47 killed.
1978. Miyagi-ken Oki quake, magnitude 7.7, 27 killed.
1993. Hokkaido & Okushiri quake, magnitude 7.7, 500+ homes collapsed, 239 killed.
1995. Kobe quake, magnitude 6.9, $100 billion property damage, 5,502 killed.
2011. Sendai quake, magnitude 9.0, property damage still being totaled, 18,000+ killed.

Sources: Gates online ( “Harper’s Index” in Harper’s Magazine (July 2007) p. 15. “Spam Profits” by Julie Rehmeyer in Wired (March 2011) p. 46. “Quake-Ready Japan” by Lisa Katayama in Wired (May 2011) p. 44-45.

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