Someone’s been given access to a market report I wrote 10 years ago:

The Chicken and Egg Problem With Energy Metals: Scandium as a Case Study

That’s what I called it, the chicken and egg problem.

Around 10 per cent of the weight of an airplane is accounted for by the rivets used to maintain its structure. An Airbus A380 reportedly has an empty weight of 610,000 pounds. It is believed that using Al-Sc alloy in airplanes can reduce the overall aircraft weight by 10 to 15%, so the weight reduction is substantial and would more than pay for the cost of scandium over the life of the aircraft in higher operating efficiency. As fuel is the primary cost for airlines, scandium use to lower aircraft weight should be of particular interest as it can help mitigate the effects of higher fuel prices. Clearly Airbus has seen the light.

And that’s striaght from that study.

25 thoughts on “Amusing”

  1. “the weight reduction is substantial”: well said. One clue that I should read no further is when a prattish author writes “significant” rather than “substantial”.

  2. One clue that I should read no further is when a prattish author writes “significant” rather than “substantial”.

    Hmm, that’s a good one (disappears to correct report currently in progress on his computer).

  3. “Material” is also a good word to describe the impact that a particular change will actually cause (although probably not when it might be confused with other meanings of the word.)

    Often used, in my writing, in the negative.

  4. @Dearime
    What is the significance of writing substantial rather than significant, bcause I can’t detect a substantial difference between the two myself.

    A genuine inquiry from someone who could hold forth on the difference betweem may and might for example.

    Your reply may be sarcastic if you like, even if it might cause me offence.

  5. A weight reduction could be significant but not in itself substantial, or substantial but not significant (or both or neither)?

    In the context above, I would be more concerned that it was at least “significant” in the context of any calculations impacting on the economics of the decision.

  6. Talking of “not read on” moments, I do hope he didn’t get the misuse of “disinterested” from you Tim.

  7. @IR: when someone says that something is “significant” I tend to enquire what it signifies. I never get an intelligent reply. Whereas “substantial” is just a rather poncy Latinate word for “big” or “large”.

    All this is apart from the crookedness of people who try to imply that “statistically significant” means “substantial”. They are not clumsy writers but lying bastards.

  8. @ dearieme et al
    Good comment but…
    I use “substantial” when it is a large %age of that item, “significant”when it makes a large, or useful, %age difference to the profit before tax/earnings per share.
    If you’re looking at a wholesaler, a 1% rise in gross margin is not substantial but it is significant.

  9. @ PF
    “statistically significant” is a jargon phrase (I think it is a good one) that alerts the educated reader to the difference between meaningless random variations and differences that MIGHT reflect real underlying differences .
    “Statistically significant at the x% level” is how it should be phrased. x% is most commonly 5% but it can be 1% or 0.01% or 0.000001%. If you’re designing nuclear power stations the significance level is 0.0000000001%, which is why fewer people died at Three Mile Island than at Chappaquiddick.

  10. @ john77

    I agree with all of that – it was just a randomly warbling follow on from the “what does it sgnifiy” bit…:)

  11. Dearieme,
    I have noted your concern, and will be looking into this at the earliest opportunity. Please be assured that we’re taking this very seriously, and will be transparent and proactive in relation to any lessons learned. Many improvements have already been made, but we aim to do even more.

    Your comments are important to us.

  12. @John77

    which is why fewer people died at Three Mile Island than at Chappaquiddick.

    Very good. I may have to borrow that for the next anti nuclear luddite I meet.

  13. @ Gunker
    You’re welcome – I can’t be certain that I’m not plagiarising, but I am not consciously doing so, so this clears you.

  14. “Statistically: doesn’t one usually think “relevant” (or important) more than substantial.” No; john77 has it. It means something like “discernible against the background random variation” with some stated degree of confidence. It does not mean “important” – it could be utterly trivial in practical terms.

    P.S. There’s another read-no-further clue: the use of “relevant” without explaining the referrant – i.e. without defining what it is meant to be relevant to.

  15. And while I’m on the subject, other such clues include “UK plc”, “special relationship” and “American exceptionalism”.

  16. “If you’re looking at a wholesaler, a 1% rise in gross margin is not substantial but it is significant.” Ah, but you’ve explained what it signifies. Everyone I’ve challenged has failed that test – they’ve just been wind-bagging with an adjective that they think sounds rather posh.

  17. Rivets make up 10% of the weight of an aircraft? I really doubt that. Just compare the volume of the rivets to the volume of the rest of the airframe. Also consider the parts that aren’t riveted, such as composite stabilizers and wing panels that are machined from solid slabs of aluminum. (This nit is more nittish than ‘substantial vs significant.)

  18. dearieme

    You talk way too much sense on here for me to want to get into a pointless discussion.

    “no; John77 has it” – fwiw, I completely agree with john77.

    Most of us don’t feel the need to “explain” the obvious unless challenged to? Ie, depending on the audience, it’s often intuitive?

    For example, I didn’t “explain” the 95% bit, and John then did the detail (to which you said “John has it”). It didn’t mean that what I said was not understandable (crucially depending upon the audience?), if that makes any sense? Ie, anyone who gets statistics will have understood it, those that don’t won’t?

    btw… “UK plc” (and lots of others) – we’re fine with idioms, and mostly we understand them, and if we don’t we ask?

    Whatever – I’m probably waffling – if we’re on different pages at all, I suspect we may be dealing with variations of pendantry…

  19. The “More people died at Chappaquiddick…” thing was a US bumper sticker, I think at the time of Kennedy’s 1980 election campaign.

    It’s probably false, unless you want to take “at Three Mile Island” very literally.

  20. and also it’s not just the weight of the rivet which is significant, but also the drag it causes by being where there would otherwise be smooth metal. So composite materials which require fewer rivets are especially attractive.

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