Startling facts, or not

Just a numeracy quickie:

On the way in to work, listened to a news report about a “green” car show (on California Report, CA NPR stations, produced by the local station). So far, so good.

Some official said it was so important because Californians buy one out of every ten cars sold in the U.S., which she seemed to think was a startling fact.

Antennae having risen, I confirmed what I believed to be the case: One out of every eight people in the U.S. lives in California.

So I guess the startling fact is that Californians buy cars at a slower rate than the rest of the country–that it’s not the “car-crazy” state after all?

7 Responses to “Startling facts, or not”

  1. John Dupuis says:


    Check out this post from Good Math, Bad Math for an even more brain-numbing example of innumeracy. Lots more in the comments to that post too.

  2. walt says:

    John, Good example!

    I’d already seen it, as Good Math, Bad Math has been in my Bloglines list for a while now. (Your blog may have pointed me there?)

    The “California does more X” examples are legion and remarkably sloppy–particularly those that say “California has more X than any other state (or than many other nations),” where X could be almost anything unsavory or savory (other than land area).

  3. John Dupuis says:

    The story continues… It seems that the poor guy that started the whole thing has set up a blog about his experience with Verizon customer service.

    I also can’t help but point out the Technorati search used by the blogger at A Blog Around the Clock to find other reactions: verizon 0.002.

  4. walt says:

    John, Just wanted to note that your comment was flagged as spam–apparently the three links (and maybe the lead text?) outweighed the fact that you’ve commented before. But I do still check all spam before deleting it.

  5. Ruth Ellen says:

    This is just astonishing. I would have thought it was a hoax. Even more astonishing is how patient he was on the phone. I would have blown my top LONG before the twenty-somthing minutes had passed.

  6. Ruth Ellen says:

    Um… I’m referring to the Verizon thing, not the car thing, which, by the way, I also heard, and thought to myself “Well, duh… one in ten Americans lives in California.” Guess my percentage was dated – I had remembered the 10% from my high school days.

  7. walt says:

    I was wondering…but that explains it.