Links for 2011-01-02

  • "I recently learned that I have an above average number of legs. This is no cause for concern: most of you do, too. It was something I first learned when watching Hans Rosling's The Joy of Stats BBC documentary. He pointed out that, since there are a few people with only one leg or none at all, the average number of legs is about 1.99 - just short of most people's two.

    It shows that sometimes statistics are meaningless. There is no practical application to knowing the exact average number of legs per person. If you told a jeans manufacturer that he was accounting for too many legs, since the average person has less than two, he'd rightly say "What does that have to do with anything?"

    And that is pretty much how I've seen all statistics for a very long time. Sometimes I understood it, or at least understood how to manipulate some numbers according to the proper rules, but I always thought "What does this have to do with anything?""

  • ""How do people just write, then pause, make dinner and whatnot, and then go back to writing?"

    I was sent this question as a guest columnist for an advice column for writers (Book Divas' "Ask A New Author"), and it made me laugh. Maybe it was the whatnot. But mostly I loved the suggestion that writing is far too fragile a process to be interrupted for mundane tasks, a belief I'm hoping catches on widely.

    I mean, would a surgeon pause mid-bypass to pick up drycleaning? Would the rescuers of the Chilean miners have brought their rock-burrowing shuttle to a screeching halt to collect the kids from preschool? This is delicate and precarious work, people."

  • How about a little motion sickness to start the New Year? Video from a camera on the end of a sword.

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