Too hot to count

Here is another one to file in the “lies, damn lies and statistics” category: an article dated yesterday titled “Dutch bask in warmest autumn in three centuries” that starts with “The autumn of 2006 has been the warmest in the Netherlands for over 300 years, 12.5 percent hotter than the previous year which was already a record, meteorologists said.” We find out later where this 12.5% comes from: “The average temperature for the months leading up to November 17 was up to 13.5 degrees (56 degrees F), as compared to 12 degrees last year.” Except that such percentages don’t make much sense when applied to units that have an arbitrary zero. The same calculation using Fahrenheit degrees results in only a 5% temperature rise. Use the Kelvin scale and you’re down to a paltry 0.5% rise. Now imagine that a city has a 0.5C average one year and 1.5C average the next year. That’s a 200% increase in temperature! And if you live in a place that at some point gets a 0 degree temperature average, I would recommend moving out before the next year because you’re very likely to experience a terrifying *infinite* rise (or decrease) in temperature the following year!

This article comes from Agence France-Presse. And the French education system is criticized for putting too much emphasis on Mathematics…

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