Thursday, August 03, 2006

Did you know?

The ingredients of an average US caesar salad travel about 3,700 km (2,300 miles for pre-moderns).

You are more likely to die from a meteorite strike than in a plane crash.

Poor countries account for only 0.4 per cent of world trade. Since 1980 their share has halved.

Israel is the fifth largest military power in the world.


Emma said...

Some freaky facts...

Did you notice the front page news on the smh and australian today? Ian Thorpe is porking up and Hugh Whatshisface calls Australia home. You'd think there weren't any horrific wars on!

Thanks Byron! It's good to be friends! Sorry for being cheeky!!!

Aaron G said...

Regarding fact #1...if it is a US salad why complain about the miles measurement (sorry just an ex-pat having a go at you).

Regarding fact recent post - "middle class theology (3)" deals with some of similar statistics.

Mark said...

Hey Byron. Just found your blog (via MJ). A query re: fact #4

According to military analyst Robert Martin, the top 5 military forces are:

1 - China – 2,840,000
2 - United States – 1,431,000
3 - Russia – 1,200,000
4 - India – 1,145,000
5 - North Korea - 1,055,000

byron said...

Aaron: Because the US retro-outlook makes such distances seem smaller ("only 2,300? Well at least it's not 3,700!"). And dogged irrationality sometimes seems to be part of the national identity (as Emma points out, Australians probably need to be reminded that people in glass houses...).

Mark: depends how you measure it - your numbers are based on personnel, but perhaps if you look at spending... (I need to chase up the refence for this myself!)

byron said...

Mark: The limited relevance of personnel is clear in that it makes China seem twice as powerful as the US.

If someone feels like doing a search for military spending, that would be fascinating.

byron said...

The reference from which I gained this (possibly dubious, but I'm yet to be persuaded so) insight about Israel's relative military might is Wallis, God's Politics, 181.

Looney said...

Item #2 is definitely wrong, unless the author knows about an imminent asteroid impact.

Item #3 begs for some clarification.

byron said...

Looney: #2 - there is roughly a 1 in 10,000 chance each year of a meteriorite strike large enough to wipe out the vast majority of higher life forms on earth. This is higher than your chances in a given year of dying in a plane crash (unless you are part of the small minority of the very rich who do a great deal of air travel).

#3 - either check out Aaron's posts, or try here.

Justin said...

Here is an interesting claim: In this site, you can see all the plane crashes etc. [Morbid, I know. And on this page you read:

"Accidents are extremely rare, with the probability of a passenger being killed on a single flight at approximately eight million-to-one. If a passenger boarded a flight at random, once a day, everyday, it would be approximately 22,000 years before he or she would be killed."

22,000 years my friends. Catching a plane every day. So even the rich are pretty safe.

If one is worried about plane travel, they one ought not to walk outside. Its a pity, although a truth, that fears aren't often governed by reason.

Looney said...

"there is roughly a 1 in 10,000 chance each year of a meteriorite strike large enough to wipe out the vast majority of higher life forms on earth."

I am a young earther, but according to the old earthy types, the last time this happened was about 200 million years ago - and no humans were killed. Tough to reconcile with a 1 in 10,000 chance.

byron said...

Thanks Jsutin for defending the rights of the rich to kill themselves very slowly and everyone else very quickly (international air travel is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and demand for oil). :-)

Looney: Even if we take the once every 200 million years (and I suspect that a longer view might increase the odds - I also think that the 1 in 10,000 is based on present tracking of thousands of extra-terrestrial objects - thus this is not necessarily a constant at all times, but reflects present best guesses about the next few years), this is still more likely to kill someone than a plane accident. Granted, the plane is (very slightly) more deadly if you choose to catch one, but overall, the meteorite still wins since the vast majority of people never or rarely catch planes.

byron said...

Oh, and Looney, if you're a young earther, wouldn't this mean in your view that meteorites strike far more regularly?

Looney said...

Byron, I am actually a bit of an agnostic young earther. It isn't that I think that Moses knew all that much, it is just that I believe that few scientists actually know more than Moses. There is no reason to believe that Darwin knew more biology than Moses did.

Still, since I have done some graduate level math on statistics and was employed for awhile doing stats on nuclear power plant failure, the claim strikes me as something that somebody pulled out of thin air. For example, my 95 year old granny whose health is weak apparently has the same 1 in 10000 chance of dying from a meteor as a newborn!

Looney said...

Byron, perhaps I should gladly embrace the 1 in 10000 statistic. If the source of that statistic is correct, then Noah's flood was probably the result of an asteroid impact and higher life forms couldn't possibly have evolved!

I will still remain skeptical rather than following the usual creationist practice of accepting it because it gives the result I am looking for.

Mark said...

Not to harp on about it or anything ... BUT I just can't imagine Israel being rated 5th in the world in terms of military powers. Mind you if you count the fact that they have the backing of the US, maybe that would boost their figures.

Here's some stats re: military spending (2003-4):

1 - US $335.7 billion US
2 - Japan 46.7
3 - UK 36.0
4 - France 33.6
5 - China 31.1
6 - Germany 27.7
7 - Saudi Arabia 26.6
8 - Italy 21.1
9 - Iran 17.5
10 - South Korea 13.5

byron said...

OK, according to different sites, Israel is somewhere around 15th in terms of military spending. However, the level of military aid the US gives to Israel is truly staggering.
But here's an analysis that puts Israel 3rd! Remember, neither spending nor number of personnel are by themselves adequate measures; there are a wide variety of factors to take into account, making any call somewhat subjective.

Thanks for pushing me on my initially dodgy claims! But it's been fun doing a little research.

Mark said...

Pretty convincing article, though as you put it fairly "subjective".

Sorry to make you work so hard!!

byron said...

Subjective: yes. Yet whatever the exact ranking you assign, I suspect that Israel will end up solidly within the top ten.

Chris Tilling said...

'Wow', I thought as I read: 'Israel is the fifth largest military power in the world' - but now I've read the discussion, thngs don't seem so clear.

I think I've only jsut found your blog - I thought I would have linked to it for ages, but hey ho. My oversight.

Loving it!

byron said...

Chris: thanks - and thanks for writing a comment that was obviously linked to a specific post so that when it came through on email I knew which old post you were looking at.
As for Israel, having now done some more research, I'm still happy with the 5th most powerful claim - just means its a subjective call, but most serious observers seemed to put it right up there well into the top 10 and well above its population and GDP.