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Curious catistics

30 Jun 2017

 

I’m appawlled by errors. My life is a constant battle between wanting to correct spelling/grammar and wanting to have friends.

If your an officer for the grammar police or merely a grammer enthusiast ­­– and if reading this is causing you real emotional and physical unrest, like Chuck McGill near a refrigerator* – then I feel your pain.

 

But it’s misleading and misrepresented statistics that really get my goat.

 

So without further ado, welcome to catistics: statistics with cats.

 

There are three white cats in a black box. Dancing. Big fish, little fish, cardboard box.

 

In the same room, two black cats are sat on a white sofa. Chilling. Not really feline the dance routine.

 

How many more cats are in the black box than on the white sofa?

 

1

 

What about as a percentage?

 

50%.

 

Because 50% of 2 is 1. Add that on to 2 and you have 3.

 

Then consider this.

 

How many fewer cats are there on the white sofa than in the black box?

 

1

 

What about as a percentage?

 

33%.

 

Because 33% of 3 is 1. Subtract that from 3 and you have 2. 

 

So, there are 50% more white cats than black cats. But there are 33% fewer black cats than white cats. The real difference is always 1.

 

If you'd only seen the percentages, which would you have assumed was the largest difference?

 

Misleading percentages are all around us. In the paper and on telly everyday. On the products we buy and the services we use. From energy drinks to broadband.

 

It’s not just comparisons either.

 

Percentages can inflate problems too.

 

If there was one unprovoked and unscrupulous cat attack near your home last year, and this year there were two, then the percentage has increased by 100%.

 

In reality, the risk of being mauled is low. But if you hear about a 100% increase then you’d probably double-check your windows are shut tight at night.

 

The news often tells us about the rise in X, Y and Z since [enter date that gives most appealing difference]. If 2008 is chosen then the difference looks massive. But use 2009 and it's hardly different.

 

How are we supposed to know what is meaningful and what isn’t?

 

Use real numbers purrlease.

 

Don’t be influenced by percentages.

 

They say 43% of statistics are made up – just like this one.  

 

Stay safe out there people.

 

* From Better Call Saul – the prequel to Breaking Bad

† No cats or humans were harmed in the writing of this blog post. 

 

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