# Journalists and numbers, journalists and numbers….

So the Scots are doing deep fried butter now.

Nutritionists said its estimated calorie content was 1,450 – enough to keep an adult alive in the Arctic for a week.

Jesus fucking christ, can we not get a few of these arts graduates to understand some basic numbers?

Not asking for any arithmetic or anything, certainly not calculus. Just a general understanding of what certain numbers are likely to be?

You know, like the arts graduates ikeep snarling at the rest of us about simple things like a sentence must contain a verb, it\’s and its are different, that sort of level of thing?

Just numbers that any educated adult should have a rough idea of. UK GDP is around £1.4, £1.5 trillion, EU £15 trillion, there\’s 60 odd million people in the country, the Earth\’s 25,000 miles (ish) around in the middle, the Sun\’s 90 to 100 million miles away……not trying to say that people have to be accurate, just aware of the rough numbers.

And that 1,450 calories won\’t keep an adult alive in the Arctic for a week. Actually, it\’s a little less than three Big Macs and also a little under 3/4 of the daily calorie requirement for a sedentary male in the UK.

Or somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 of what you\’d try to feed someone running around the Arctic.

I know, I know, it\’s a hopeless task, asking the arts grads to find someone who can do sums but can they at least try to find people who are vaguely numerate?

#### 29 comments on “Journalists and numbers, journalists and numbers….”

1. SimonF says:

IIRC the Army’s Arctic ration pack contains 6,000 calories. That’s for an active soldier but then anyone in the Arctic is likely to be active anyway as its not the place for couch potatoes.

On your main point its not like these numbers are hard to find, here’s the top of my Google search of “Arctic Calories”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8027768.stm

“Here, Ann Daniels describes the food that make up the 6,000 calories needed each day to keep the explorers going. “

2. ChrisM says:

The article has been stealth edited. A number of commenters have quoted and corrected the claim which now no longer features in the article.

3. Jim says:

People don’t know anything any more, and they have little to no intellectual curiosity to find out.

In other news, the State education system is doing wonderfully, and students are passing their exams with higher and higher grades every year.

4. Matthew says:

EU GDP is not £15 trillion. More like £11 trillion. You are (I think) confusing \$ for £.

Tim adds: I got the first digit and the number of digits correct. Which is the level of accuracy I’m hoping the Arts types can get to…..

5. Matthew L says:

Orders of magnitude, that’s what it’s all about.

6. Surreptitious Evil says:

Actually, could we send a couple of gross of Arts grads for a month in the Arctic with a carefully selected 1500 calories per week? We’ll even allow them to select organic vegan if they must.

7. Super Sam says:

@SE, perhaps the 1500kcal is adjusted for global warming?

8. Give the journalist a break, their previous job was a dietician for a supermodel.

9. Its all fun and games ’til we discover this poor hack has been living under the delusion that they need a few hundred calories a day.

10. DBC Reed says:

Less of the Arts bashing. Too much Maths have ruined Economics.e.g Sorbonne undergrads and Cambridge graduates calling their subject autistic; the Black Scholes super dooper formula
for pricing options winning the Nobel Prize then failing on the job causing the Long Term Capital Management crisis on the markets (big bailout);
all these geezers with computers and a ludicrous sense of entitlement born of scientific
certainty completely failing to notice the Credit Crunch looming and being shown up by the Queen of all people,”Something this big; how come none of you noticed?”

11. BraveFart says:

“there’s 60 odd million people in the country”

there are 60 odd million people

??

12. Umbongo says:

The Black-Scholes formula might have worked consistently well for LTCM except that someone forgot, among other things, that sovereign debt (in this case Russian debt) was not riskless and that OTC markets sometimes suffer from shortages of liquidity. What is unforgiveable is that Scholes and Merton must have known that LTCM was using the Black-Scholes – essentially a brilliant but academic formulation based on a perfect economic world – in the real world where the formula was not universally applicable

13. Mr Potarto says:

Did the Queen really say, “How come”?

14. Stuck-Record says:

Jim is right.

I call it the Ballpark problem.

The problem is that there are a whole set of people (media/govt/PR etc) who, whilst brainy, simply have no idea of how to guesstimate things. They can’t guesstimate whether something is true or not (and therefore should be checked)because they have no ‘knowledge’; no framework to compare it against. They simply don’t ‘know’ any stuff. Stuff they already KNOW to be TRUE.

They can therefore read that 1500 calories nonsense and, because they simply have no idea that daily intake for men is 2-2500 per day, just copy it.

Add churnalism and a post-modern degree that teaches that are no verifiable facts, or indeed reality, and you get where we are today: governed by an idiot like Chris Huhne.

15. Fred says:

>Nutritionists said its estimated calorie content was 1,450 – enough to keep an adult alive in the Arctic for a week.

Wouldn’t it depend a lot on the exact Arctic environment you were in? If you were living in a scientific research station which would be heated but still cold the you surely you could survive a week on 1450 calories? But if you were outside in the Arctic with nothing else other than a thin T-shirt and slacks and loafers then wouldn’t you be struggling to last a week even on 1450 calories a day?

16. Surreptitious Evil // Dec 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Actually, could we send a couple of gross of Arts grads for a month in the Arctic with a carefully selected 1500 calories per week? We’ll even allow them to select organic vegan if they must.

That’s already been done, a whole boat load of them trolled around the Arctic a few years back and produced all the usual artspeak and warmist
bollocks afterwards, I don’t recall who paid for it but I’ve a horrible feeling it was us.

There was a telly programme a while back ‘Green Valley’ which I have on DVD, it’s very interesting a reconstruction of life on a seventeenth century Monmouthshire farm. One of the things that gobsmacked me was that it was believed that people doing heavy agricultural work at the time consumed as much as 4,000 calories a day. No reference was given and I’ve not checked how accurate that is but if it is it rather puts our obsession with low calorie diets in perspective and belies the claim that exercise won’t get rid of excess consumption on its own.

17. Tractor Gent says:

@Thornavis: I can well believe that, as life was physically *hard*. Heavy work plus staving off the cold would use up the calories like mad. On a similar point, I was musing as to why many Americans are so obese. Thinking of hard manual labour e.g. cowboys, roustabouts – they would need the 20oz steaks, 6 eggs & a stack of blueberry pancakes for breakfast to keep them going. The average middle manager thinks that’s how a real man should eat, but he would need at least 20 rounds of golf to work it off…

18. Tractor Gent, yes I can well see how a seventeenth century farmworker would need a high calorie intake but what I wonder is where did he get it ? The programme I mentioned went into diet quite deeply and the basic fare was, well just that, basic, peas pudding and onions, bread and cheese that sort of thing. They prepared more elaborate stuff for various festivities but how many people ate like that with any regularity I don’t know, not many I should think.

19. So Much For Subtlety says:

Thornavis. – “I can well see how a seventeenth century farmworker would need a high calorie intake but what I wonder is where did he get it ?”

Bread. A lot of it. I read an estimate that a mediaeval Russian worker had to consume getting on for two pounds of bread every day. If you go to newly industrialising Third World countries like China you can still see workers eating a simply huge amount of rice or other carbohydrate with a moderate amount of greens and a tiny amount of meat. It is an agricultural diet come to the city. Needless to say diabetes is a growing problem.

20. So Much For Subtlety says:

DBC Reed – “Too much Maths have ruined Economics.e.g Sorbonne undergrads and Cambridge graduates calling their subject autistic”

I agree too much mathematics is bad for economics, but a bunch of leftist posers who are upset that the maths doesn’t agree with their personal politics is not evidence of that.

“the Black Scholes super dooper formula
for pricing options winning the Nobel Prize then failing on the job causing the Long Term Capital Management crisis on the markets (big bailout)”

The Black-Scholes equation had one failure. Big deal. No one said it was infallible – or that the people using it could not screw up if they tried hard. What it has done is allowed trading in derivatives which is now worth some \$450 trillion a year. If you believe the Wall Street Journal. That is pretty good going for one little equation. And dwarfs any failures.

“all these geezers with computers and a ludicrous sense of entitlement born of scientific
certainty completely failing to notice the Credit Crunch looming and being shown up by the Queen of all people,”Something this big; how come none of you noticed?””

How did she show them up? Did she notice it coming? Not that I recall.

21. Jim says:

@SMFS: Correct on the bread. My great Uncle was born in 1900, and after serving on the Western Front in WW1, worked in the family sawmill and log business. In those days trees were felled and cut up by hand, no chainsaws, just axes and 2 man cross cut saws. My great aunt (his sister who never married and looked after her brother all his life – he never married either) said he would eat 2 whole loaves of bread and a pot of jam for dinner (middle of the day meal) alone. I expect he would have had a pretty hefty breakfast and evening meal too.

Men were seriously strong in those days. We are talking muscles that today would only be seen on professional sportsmen – the result of years of hard manual labour. No wonder that Yorkshire recruited so many of its fast bowlers from the mines – they came ready conditioned!

22. The Black-Scholes formula had nothing to do with he failure of LTCM.

23. bloke in spain says:

If you want some idea of the strength of our ancestors try using a longbow. Modern one has a draw of around 60lbs. Mediaeval draw was up to three times that. Equivalent to lifting a 13 1/2 stone man one handed.

24. SMFS & Jim
Yes I’d overlooked bread as a plentiful source of calories, peasant women must have been pretty well constantly kneading and baking, so much for the idea of the liberating nature of self sufficiency that the Greens are always trying to sell us.

25. Gene Berman says:

It’s been years and I’m a geezer but I’m still pretty sure I remember that the official account of the Lewis & Clark expedition laid out pretty completely the rations taken along for the trip–and that they alloted 9 lbs of meat per day per man. I also remember that thay ran out of food and had to eat some of their horses, mules, and dogs. And, in cold weather, the meat of rabbits and elk was barely tolerable (because it was too lean).

26. DBC Reed says:

Of course,if you were being really scientific you would subject the whole calorie counting shenanigans to some basic scrutiny.Modern medical opinion is, I believe, that of 1000
calories of fat is quite different in its nutrional effects from 1000 calories of carbohydrate.
Otherwise you are getting towards the situation expertly delineated by Miss Piggie in her “Book of Life” where she tells her readers they can choose between 10lbs of meringues and 10lbs of potatoes.
Sorry to intrude a frivolous non -scientific example into this po-faced and patronising discussion.Perhaps I should have used an algebraic formula.We all know these are always true and must be obeyed.

27. DBC Reed
“Sorry to intrude a frivolous non -scientific example into this po-faced and patronising discussion.”

What are you on about ? We’ve been having a perfectly civilised discussion and this particular non scientist has enjoyed it and learnt a couple of things.

28. “Add churnalism and a post-modern degree that teaches that are no verifiable facts, or indeed reality, and you get where we are today: governed by an idiot like Chris Huhne.”

Conclusion does not follow from premises. Oxford PPE is one of the best groundings in “stuff that sounds about right” that there is, as well as having a good mix of logic, maths, history and pol/phil theory.Would be bloody surprised to see a PPE grad making the mistake above. Much more likely an Eng grad or a polsci grad from somewhere where they (wrongly IMO) offer polsci as a solo subject.

Relatedly – DBC is basically wrong, there’s very little difference between the effect of 8000kj of potatoes and 8000kj of lard, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to get through 8000kj of lard, so lard-eaters tend to be fatter than potato-eaters.