Blog : Posts tagged with 'statistics'

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Vegetarian

In which we disbelieve vegan propaganda, and try food made of additives and nothing else


At the weekend: off we went to a vegetarian food event we’d seen advertised in The Spark, put on by vegan campaigning organisation Viva!. We were expecting it to be slightly biased, obviously, but even so the strength of the propaganda they gave was slightly surprising. They claim, according to a poster we saw there, that their “veggie roadshows” have saved the lives of 100 million animals so far,* which sounds like, well, a rather large number. They claim that one person converting to the veganist religion will save “around 11,047 animals”. I love that figure, and, particularly, the “around” part. Around. A rough estimate: it might only be 11,046-and-a-half animal lives, or you might do well and manage a whole 11,047-and-an-eighth! Going by these numbers, that means they think they’ve converted 9,052** people to veganism – or about 650 a year, on average, since they started out. How they count those 11,000 – sorry, roughly 11,047 – animals, I’m not entirely sure. Do animals who will now not be born count as lives saved? Will all those 11,047 (roughly) animals live out their natural lives in some happy, predator-free elysium? Forever cute, as their propaganda posters show? Who knows?

Anyway, we did have a poke round the stalls giving out samples of vegan food from various suppliers,*** and even tried a couple.**** K sampled some vegan “milk” chocolate – “ok, but like that cheap shit you get in advent calenders,” she said. Which is seasonal, at least. Moreover, we both tried “Sheese”, a vegan cheese substitute made on Bute. The one we tried was “Creamy Sheese”, a rather sweet gloop made from water, vegetable oil, soya concentrate, salt, lactic acid, sugar, “flavouring”, and carrageenan gum.***** In other words, not very much. It tasted rather like sweetened processed cheese spread. Looking at the ingredients, that’s not too surprising, because it has a lot of the sort of thickener and flavouring that you get in cheap processed cheese spread. It explains, too, why the non-dairy “milk” chocolate tasted like cheap confectionery milk chocolate: because we recognise the additive taste.

We try to eat healthily, so we thought the Viva event might be interesting to us. Frankly, though, they’re not about eating healthily, at all. They’re not too concerned about the environment either, or about fair trading;****** their main care is saving all the cute fluffy animals. It’s easy: just take out all the meat, milk, and eggs from your diet, and replace it with Brazilian soya and additive-enhanced, flavouring-enhanced artificial food. Personally, I’d rather eat real food, genuinely additive-free food, simple local ingredients grown in ways that respect the land. That’s the way to eat healthily, and that’s the way to help the environment. We don’t eat much meat; but we do try to stick to organic meat. It might have looked cute before it was killed and butchered, but I’d rather eat a pig from five miles away, or cheese similarly, than soya that was grown on the site of a tropical jungle and flown over to a British factory to be turned into something resembling food.

* I know it sounds like a preposterously large figure, but I’m sure that’s what it said. I can’t find the same claim on their website anywhere, though.

** or 9052.2314 to be precise. Don’t forget that .2314 of somebody!

*** and Lush cosmetics, who you’d think were well-enough known already. Some of their stuff does look almost like you could eat it, I guess.

**** not that it was the best place to try food samples, what with the smell of the Lush stall overpowering everything else in the building. Although, K does say, that was probably a good thing.

***** The ingredients list is copied from their website, which stresses that the water is filtered and the lactic acid from non-dairy sources, but doesn’t give any more detail than “flavouring” for the artificial flavourings. It has slightly less energy and fat than genuine cream cheese, but is roughly comparable. By comparison, the Sainsburys organic cream cheese in our fridge doesn’t actually have an ingredients list, apart from “Contains cow’s milk”.

****** to be fair, the stall with the vegan chocolate products did have a lot of organic, fair-trade produce; but it didn’t seem to be a major concern for any of the other stands. And we did pick up two useful things: a list of local healthy food suppliers, and a menu for the oriental restaurant in the Tobacco Factory building!

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The image of popularity

In which we see how popular food is


After posting pictures of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week, it got me looking at my Flickr account and wondering what pictures are the most popular. Flickr will, if you like, give you pages of tables and graphs to tell you how many people have been looking at each of your photos,* so I thought I’d see if there’s any general pattens in what sort of photos people like to view at full size.

The results were rather surprising. The least popular photos: pictures of random countryside, close-ups of tree bark, that sort of thing.** More popular than that: trains, with steam trains and “heritage” trains being more popular than normal ones. But, what photos get the most hits, and fastest after they’ve been posted? Food. Pictures of food being cooked or ready to be served. I don’t know what you think, but I wasn’t expecting that. Post a picture of a nice meal being made, and hits come up right away.

Given that: here’s some pictures of a nice meal being made. Pan-fried parmesan-crusted chicken breast, with salad. Very very easy, and delicious.

Cooking: bashing some chicken Cherry tomatoes Coating chicken Cooking: frying tenderised and coated chicken
Cooking: salad dressing Cooking: frying tenderised chicken breast Cooking: fried chicken breast with salad

* in my case, the graphs (for individual photos) are generally rather flat with the occasional spike

** That’s not quite true: the very least popular are photos of people at parties. That’s unsurprising, really; photos of people at parties, unless they’re exceptional photos, are usually only likely to attract other people at the same party.

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Statistics and probability

In which we think about flooding and chance


In the summer, we had big floods up here, worse floods than anyone in this village could remember. It was, apparently, a once in fifty years event.

Now: we’ve got floods again, six months later. Maybe not a once in fifty years event, true, but let’s say (for the sake of argument) that this is a once-in-twenty-five year flood.

Maths time: in any 6 months, your chance of having a 1-in-50 year flood is 1/100. 1/50 for the more likely 25-year flood. The chance of having both, though, is those numbers multiplied together. 1 in 5000. Which doesn’t, at face value, look like a particularly big number; but that’s because we’re not great at judging magnitude. Something that has that chance of happening within 6 months should, on average, have happened once in the last 2,500 years. That’s once, since the start of the Iron Age.*

The problem with probability, though, is that you can’t say: this will definitely only happen once. It could happen three times within a week,** and still be within the bounds of probability. It could still happen, within the rules of our simple model; it is just highly unlikely to happen. If it does, you’ve just seen something amazing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your starting figures are off. On the other hand: if something happens that, according to your figures, is highly unlikely, it does make more sense sometimes to decide that the numbers you’re basing your statistics on are out of date. Suddenly, big floods aren’t rare any more.

* slightly more than once, to be honest, because the Iron Age started about 2,700 years ago.

** Hull was flooded twice, 14 days apart, in summer 2007. Some of the floodwaters in unimportant places, such as verges and parks, still hadn’t drained from the first flood when the second (and worse) flood came. That, though, means that normal “multiply the two numbers together” probabilities don’t work. The two floods weren’t independent of each other, because of all that water lying about, so the probability of the second was rather lower than it would have been.

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Percentages

In which we make some numbers up


According to Martijn, 47% of all blog posts consist of links to other blogs.*

Well, according to new research by the FP Militant Invective Laboratories, an entire 0.3% of current blog posts consist of links to blog posts about the proportion of blog posts which just consist of links to other blogs.

No, really. Honest. No, I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air. What sort of person do you think I am?**

* well, actually, he made it up. But it could be true.

** Oh, OK, I did really. But you never know.

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