Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Using Three Words in Place of One

I recently heard the phrase 'piece of data'.

The single word 'datum' would suffice'.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Temperatures and Colours

The cover of this month's copy of The Garden has a picture of some orange flowers with the caption Hot Heleniums

Reds and oranges are often referred to as 'warm' or 'hot' colours, while blues are commonly considered 'cool'.

The opposite is the case. Within the visible spectrum, blue light is the most energetic, and red the least.

The 'warmth of reds' is a cliché copied by people who don't pause to consider what they are saying.

Friday, 20 July 2012

More fumbling with numbers

This morning's Radio 4 news broadcast mentioned the discovery of about 48 tons of silver near the Irish coast, and claimed it was worth nearly a billion pounds.

That sum seemed implausibly large, so I checked current silver prices (about 17 pounds per ounce) and calculated a value in the region of 29 million pounds. Some people seem unable to tell whether or not numbers make sense.

Incidentally there are three different 'tons' in use; fortunately they differ by only a few percent.

The metric ton (or tonne) = 1000 kg

The imperial ton (long ton) = 20 hundred weight = 2240 pounds, roughly 1016 kg

The short ton = 20 short hundred weight = 2000 pounds, roughly 907 kg

Americans use the short ton

I used the imperial ton in my calculation

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Fear of Precision

I've often noticed that news media prefer vague terms like 'large, 'tiny', to numbers. I may have blogged about this before.

A couple of days ago the BBC television news reported early results of an election in Libya, saying that one group had achieved a 'landslide victory'

I checked on the BBC website and found that the 'landslide' in question amounted only to winning 39 of 80 seats filled from party lists.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Taking Footballers too Seriously

Towards the end of last year, two footballers were rude to each other in the course of a game. One of them complained that the other used especially rude words, so there was a prosecution leading to a prolonged court case, extensively reported on air.

It  amazes me that people could be so solemn about something so silly.