Posted on: November 15, 2009 7:43 pm
Today's entry is about bare facts: simple stats or findings about the way the world is. Trivia, perhaps, but we all like to challenge our friends or ourselves to see how we score. But bare facts are more complex than just Jeopardy - they can rewrite our minds without asking and trigger a laugh we never see coming.
First, a stray fact can be intriguing on its face. Consider an example:
- Estimated number of women killed as witches in Tanzania each year? Yipes, there are still people pointing medieval fingers? Salem lives? Where *is* Tanzania, anyway? Killed, huh? Wow, let's see, maybe 17... 18. I didn't realize they had perfected the witchometer... and such strict sentencing. You'd have thought keeping a few might help during dry spells.
Second, the answer can contradict what we suppose:
- 500 killed a year [HelpAge International (London)] Almost 10 a WEEK?? Has Harry Potter spawned a new wave of suspicion and intolerance? Is Hogwarts in Tanzania? Sometimes the answers take us into uncharted territory. What if they contradict our comfortable view and force us to revise our thinking? [ nervous laughter here ].
Third, two stray facts taken together can change the whole idea. For example:
- Maximum number of miles that Ford's most fuel-efficient 2003 car can drive on a gallon of gas: 36. Hummm. - Maximum number its 1912 Model T could: 35. One small step for a man, one giant nanometer for mankind! Instant perspective not just about the world but also about our world view.
Many bare facts make us laugh... when they become surprising little exclamation points that derail our train of thought by taking a sudden left turn. Usually when we don't expect it. A speed bump we never saw coming. And then we backtrack, re-read them, and laugh at ourselves when we realize our view of the world was incomplete. Aha! Caught off guard by a stray idea. Sprouting seeds of funny. Examples that humor is the truth taking you by surprise.
Dept. of One Adam 12, See the arMANi Suit:
- Cost to produce a one hour episode of the TV show "Miami Vice": $2.7 million
- Annual budget for the entire Miami metro Vice squad (in the same year): $2.3 million
The very best source I know is The Harper's Index, a monthly page of revealing research findings that always uncovers hilarious contradictions, keeps me from taking things too seriously, and jolts my funny bone. My collected best follow (1987 - 2006), with comments I just couldn't resist.
BARE FACTS: The World as It REALLY IS
Real stats, revealing what people really think (or don't, as the case may be).
Test your view of reality... and your friends. [ editor's comments follow each item ]
GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING PAY TV...
% of Americans who believe the accused are guilty until proven innocent: 50%
- ...You mean, they're NOT?!!
% of Americans who cannot name a country "near the Pacific Ocean." 42%
- ...I can't be pacific, but...
% of Americans who don't know how long a meter is: 66%
- ...Until the quarter runs out?
% of Americans who never read books: 45%
- ...But I read Penthouse for the articles...
Barbie's measurements, if life size: 39-23-33
- but Ken would be a mezzo soprano
Chances of a white Christmas in New York: 1 in 4
- Global cooling
Chances that a physician is an imposter: 1 in 50
- The tipoff was the whipped cream...
Chances that an American has appeared on TV: 1 in 4
- Sure, since America's Most Wanted
# of Americans who drown in the bathtub each year: 365
- Expecting a Baywatch babe rescue?
# of Americans who are struck by lightning each year 350
- More than are struck by a new thought...
# of armed robberies in history in Iceland: 1
- Yelling "Freeze" doesn't even stop a Yak
Estimated % of missing children who have been
abducted by strangers: 1%
- The rest become brides in Alabama
Reported cases of people bitten by rats in New York (1985): 311
- We know because all the rats died
...bitten by other people: 1,519
- Just bigger rats?
% of Americans who say they spank their children: 83%
- Tough love or Quality time?
% of Americans who say spanking is "seldom, if ever, effective:" 40%
- Except in Singapore
% of American parents who say they never read to their children: 40%
- But they eat green eggs and ham
...never help with homework: 27%
- It's the New Math
YOU CAN'T LIVE WITH 'EM... YOU CAN'T SHOOT 'EM:
% of married men who say they would marry the same
woman if they had it to do all over again: 80%
- They all name the same woman: Cindy Crawford
...% of married women: 50%
- The influence of Fabio
% increase in the # of women in US prisons since 1974: 285%
- The popularity of conjugal visits
% of adults who say they were first told the
facts of life by their mothers: 21%
- No dessert 'till you eat your veggies
...told by fathers: 5%
- But they show better videos
% of executive men who are single or divorced: 4%
- The rest live on fantasies
...% of executive women: 52%
- Better able to make decisions
Month with the most car accident fatalities: Aug
- EMS is on vacation?
Month with the most births: Aug
- While driving...
Proportion of the year's rain in April: 1/12
- The flowers just KNOW, that's all
% of trees in New Hampshire whose leaves turn red in autumn: 13%
- The rest just look red after a long drive...
IN THE SPRING A YOUNG MAN'S FANCY TURNS TO THOUGHTS OF gLOVEs:
% of baseball players signed to professional contracts
who never appear in a major-league game: 90%
- Besides Bob Uecker?
Lifespan of a baseball in the major leagues: 5 pitches
- Longer than Bob Uecker
% of car owners who keep gloves in the glove compartment: 0%
- Gotta keep 'em ready for foul tips
Average length of intercourse for humans (in minutes): 2
- Including the smoke?
...for chimps: 7 secs
- They eat the cigarette
% of the population that has never flown in an airplane: 33%
- They keep their seatbelts on
...never goes to the movies: 39%
- Cineplex Odious?
...has never eaten a bagel: 80%
- Antisemite bastards!
% of the world's population that cooks on wood or charcoal: 50%
- Mesquite or nothing, demanding cooks say
NYPD BLUE MAN GROUP:
% of police who fired their guns in the line of duty: < 1%
- Though 74% did off-duty...
Average take in a bank robbery: $3,000
- Professionals prefer unmarked singles?
...by a pickpocket: $218
- Donald Trump must walk around a lot!
...by a shoplifter: $72
- That's just at the dollar store?...
MICKEYUM, GOOFYUM, PLUTONIUM:
Pounds of plutonium & enriched uranium missing from US inventories: 9,600
- Employee lunches?
...# of pounds needed to make an atomic bomb: 11
- Not counting the PlayDough
DIE HARD III - OLD HABITS:
# of Americans who drink Coca-Cola for breakfast: 965,000
- ( editor's note: 965,001 )
Average # of parrots smuggled into the US from Mexico each day: 137
- The hard part is getting them to spit out the cocaine
% of American men who say they sleep in the nude: 19%
- I thought you said "with a nude" - Sorry
...% of women: 6%
- ... you said "sleep 'till noon"? - Sorry
Bars of soap used by the average French person in a year: 2
- Hence the perfume
Proportion of the world's nations that have practiced torture since 1980: 1/3
- "We'll KEEP practicing until we get it right!"
% of Americans who eat at McDonald's each day: 7%
from the Harper's Index Book, Henry Holt & Co., 1987.
Lapham, L. H., Pollan, M., Etheridge, E.
Reassembled by Fast Food for Thought ,
the Irrational Numbers Division of
United Illuminations, the aha! company
StatGuy, editor & chef. BareFacts - 1