Sunday, August 01, 2010

Going Quantitative

I'm going to go by the numbers for the next week or so. Back in the 90s, when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation, I was working with qualitative research. To be very simplistic, qualitative methods do not include counting or measuring. No math as I like to joke. But over the past couple of months I have collected some interesting numbers, so it is time for a quantitative dump that I hope will entertain or enlighten you.

#1: Recently I heard a NPR show about the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Apparently a spokesperson for Exxon gave an early estimate at a news briefing of 10.8 million gallons of oil, which was the low end prediction for the spill. Media picked up that number and somehow never verified, updated or corrected it. Later, checks of the tanks on the Valdez, which held 55 million gallons showed that the true number was closer to 35 million gallons not 11 million, but that original low estimate is the number still connected with the Exxon Valdez disaster. 

#2: Be careful when you do comparisons between the Valdez spill and the current Deepwater Horizon numbers from the Gulf of Mexico. At times BP was making estimates in barrels per day not gallons, a barrel of oil equals 42 gallons. As of August 1st, here are the numbers for the Gulf of Mexico:

Department of Energy estimate:    92 million gallons
BP Worst Case estimate:              183 million
Experts' Worst Case estimate:     318 million
(Exxon Valdez)                          11 to 35 million
8/2 New Federal Scientists est.    210 million

#3: Between 1510 and 1888 slavers took 11 million Africans to the Western Hemisphere. During that same period 2.6 million Europeans came to colonies of the New World.

#4: OK, I didn't watch it all, but the disaster movie 2012 was on the other day. I heard the Mayans mentioned once, so I asked the kids who did watch the whole movie about the connection to the Mayan "End of Days" calendar and the year 2012. They told me about the cool special effects, particularly airplanes taking off, but none of them could remember anything about a references to Mayan historical predictions.

#5: Finally for today on the number front, I understand sitting cross-legged on the floor but I never quite got 25 or 6 to 4.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... a quick google seems to indicate that "25 or 6 to 4" references the time of day- early morning in this case, according to the songwriter. In this ~theory the 6 actually represents 26 - so it's 25 or 26 minutes before 4(am). The song starts "Waiting for the break of day...", which 3:34/3:35 would be close to.

-I'd always assumed 25 items (pills, joints,?) could be divided 6 each to 4 people, but I'm buying the time reference.


mira amiras said...

Re: the Mayan Calendar — the film used it more as an advertisement than a cosmological framework.

Thing about the calendar (any calendar) is, that when you run to the end of the numeric sequence ... all you do is start a new calendar. In print, or in stone, it does not signify the end of days, but the only end of a cycle (if anybody's still counting).

The Shrink said...

Yes but many calendars come with a "wipe the slate clean" cosmology before the big turning of the page. Remember Y2K when the planes fell from the sky.