Friday, September 22, 2006

There’s always an Olympic swimming pool involved somewhere, experts warn

From the BBC

Half of UK children "drink" almost five litres of cooking oil every year as a result of their pack-a-day crisp habit, experts warn.

Figures from Mintel reveal that we eat a tonne of crisps every three minutes in the UK.

This would be enough to fill a telephone box every 43 seconds and an Olympic size swimming pool every 14 hours.

Researcher 1: How about this, Steve? I’ve worked out that every Thursday all the left-handed people in Britain eat enough sugar to fill 52 Fiat Pandas per hour, which is the equivalent of filling eight Olympic swimming pools with hamsters every forty minutes, and if converted into energy would equal the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes!

Researcher 2: Oh nice stat, Jim.


Duck said...

Call this the "Olympic Swimming Pool" fallacy. Any process that can eventually fill an Olympic swimming pool with anything is considered an example of excess. No thought is given to the sample size or the time duration involved. This is why news organizations should not cover health related issues. Reporters are generally innumerate, as are the general public. An average person's sense of what is large is never based on a context involving millions or billions of people.

The same fallacy involves stories where ther reporter says "every ten minutes a (take your pick of undesirable phenomenon) occurs in the United States. The only important statistics are expressed as rates, or per-capita. Aggregate statistics will always overwhelm the ability of ordinary people to grasp the significance of.

Peter Burnet said...

As with metric conversion, this is particularly confusing for us older guys who were taught in our statistics classes to measure everything in backyard wading pools.

Bloody Europeans.

M Ali said...

I've stopped eating Walkers in protest of how they successively put fewer and fewer crisps into each packet with every passing year.

Pringles should be outlawed. They're the closest legal equivalent to crack cocaine.

Brit said...

Yes, the crisps they no longer put into Walkers packets could fill an Olympic size swimming pool every 28 minutes.

Mars bars and Creme Eggs have suffered the most from annual shrinkage though, haven't they?

Peter Burnet said...

Of course, once and a while we come across some pretty revolting things that actually do fill up swimming pools.

martpol said...

The Olympic swimming pool may be the accepted statistical measure of volume, but Wales is the standard measure of area. "An area the size of Wales" may be that cut down in Brazilian rainforests, filled with polystyrene cartons or polluted with industrial effluent, but don't ask me how often.

Brit said...

Yes, I heard there are enough Olympic size swimming pools in California alone to cover an area the size of Wales.

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