Archive for the ‘number crunching’ Category

Worst performing parties in the 2010 British General Election

Monday, May 24, 2010

Who did worst in the General Election of 2010? Did the Christians do worse than the Loonies? Did the Communists outdo the Libertarians? And did the banking crisis spur any of the seven socialist parties to any shred of electoral success?

Here, for your pleasure, is the internet’s only guide to the success and (more commonly) failure of the lunatic fringe.


James Bond – sex pest (spoilers for Quantum of Solace)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cumulative mortality rate of James Bond's sexual partners

(click to enlarge)

The health warning issued two years ago appears to have little effect on women’s ignorance of the risks of sleeping with James Bond.

The man is more dangerous than ever: there is now a 31 per cent chance of premature death among Bond’s sexual partners.

His most recent mission saw not only a rise in the casualty rate to 16 deaths out of 51 lovers, but also a worrying failure of the only known method of protection – having a silly name.

Medical opinion remains divided on the matter, but it appears that Strawberry Fields’s moniker was insufficiently racy to afford her the same protection previously enjoyed by Pussy Galore and Molly Warmflash. Camille, surname unknown, was sensible to resist Bond’s advances. According to advice issued by the Chief Medical Officer, her only hope would have been a surname like Rubmealova or Moistclam.

Mortality rates have risen from 27 per cent during Bond’s first 20 missions to 30 per cent for Casino Royale and now 31 per cent.

Recent danger signs include overly tight hammocks, underwater lifts and application of the wrong type of essential oils.

Why Daily Express readers are idiots

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Daily Express is, as anyone with any news sense knows, a joke newspaper, but it is still worth buying if you wish to read:

a) unbridled speculation about Diana, Princess of Wales,
b) lies about Madeleine McCann, or
c) invitations to take part in the most one-sided polls since Charles King claimed to have won the 1927 Liberian presidential election with 16 times as many votes as the number of registered voters.

The last of these is a particularly rich seam, as shown by my friend T, whose research on the matter was published briefly in a national newspaper but, regrettably, has no online presence. No longer.

Express polls are both pointless and stupid. Pointless because the result to every question is obvious if you know the prejudices of the Express readership, and stupid because the only people not to realise this are the suckers who pay the 25p premium-rate tariff to cast their telephone vote.

But they are also fascinating. The questions are posed using language that make it clear how readers are meant to vote. Sometimes this is subtle (“Should all violent video games be banned?”) but mostly it is obvious (“Do MPs deserve their massive perks?”). All of its polls yield percentage results in at least the 90s and some are unanimous (“Do we let too many immigrants into this country?”) but just how loudly the answer rings forth depends not so much on the topic under discussion as whether the obvious answer is “yes” or “no”.

Most of the time, the obvious answer is “yes” – “Are you fed up with Britain’s traditions being axed?” or “Does Europe have too much control over Britain?”. Occasionally, however, the intended response is “no” – “Should failed asylum seekers get handouts from Britain?” or “Should nurses have to turn beds to face Mecca?”.

When the answer is “no”, the results tend to be more equivocal than when the answer is “yes”, a finding which nicely buoys a theory called the Acquiescence Effect (Kunda et al, 1993), which predicts that people prefer to agree with a position than dispute it.

Thus the lowest majority among 40 polls analysed was 91 per cent, not because it was a contentious question – “Is it fair to make us work until we drop?” – but because some people voted “yes” by mistake simply because they thought they were agreeing with the newspaper.

But that’s enough from me. The real treasure here is the questions themselves. Clink on the link below to see them (along with the results) in all their biased glory.


Worst Olympic nations

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dalai Lama and BA Baracas

It might be considered smug, now that Britain has won enough gold medals at Beijing 2008 to make BA Baracas look like the Dalai Lama, to try to work out the least successful Olympic nation ever.

But what the hell.

There are 74 nations that, at the beginning of this year’s Olympiad, had never won an Olympic medal of any colour. The reasons are various, although none is, on its own, enough to guarantee failure.

Poverty, for example, is a huge impediment to producing sporting champions, but Kenya (where the average wage is $5 per day) has won eight medals so far in Beijing, bringing its all-time total to 69. Other important factors are war (although Ethiopia has won 34 medals to date despite being at war for more than half of its 52-year Olympic membership) tiny populations (although Luxembourg has three medals despite a population of 486,000) and short existence (not a problem for Armenia, which has won eight medals since it began competing 12 years ago).

Some nations are dogged by a combination of these factors, but the ability of other countries to overcome similar difficulties suggests that genetics and culture are significant. Some peoples, to be blunt, are just bad at sport – or at least those disciplines deemed worthy by the International Olympic Committee.*

Caveats aside, the question remains: which country is the worst Olympic performer? Depending on which method you choose, it’s a toss-up between Monaco and Bangladesh, but it’s worth taking an in-depth look before leaping to any conclusions. Click on the link below to make up your own mind.


Government health warning: Sex with James Bond

Friday, November 3, 2006

27 per cent of James Bond’s sexual partners die.