Numbers In The News

Some notable numbers we have spotted recently

2,043,599 Pennies is a big number but is it Art?

Michael Dean is one of the finalists for the 2016 Turner Prize. One of his artworks that forms part of the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain includes £20,435.99 worth of pennies. This is 1p short of the amount designated as the poverty line in the United Kingdom in 2016.

How old are Olympians? (for each sport)

I love how continue to apply their numerical/analytical skills to such a wide variety of subjects and not just to the political polling that is their main focus.

In this article they look at how different sports suit participants of different ages from the very young (gymnastics) to the (ahem) somewhat older (equestrianism).  One fun fact: for Track and Field (the most iconic of the Olympic events) the median age for men and women is exactly equal at 26 years old.

GDP: a Predictor of Olympic Gold?

From the (UK) Office of National Statistics - relationship of national GDP to Olympic gold medal tallies in 2012. How will 2016 look?

Guide to Spotting Dodgy Statistics

David Spiegelhalter gives some advice on how numbers are abused in public life.

Juno arrives at Jupiter

After a 2.8 billion km journey (more than 7000 times the distance to the moon), NASA’s space probe Juno entered orbit around Jupiter. After 5 years of plunging through space, it arrived at precisely the right place at precisely the right time (to within 1 second!).


Is That A Big Ship?

Harmony of the Seas has been in the news due to the apparent unreadiness for its first cruise, but from our point of view it offers some good Big Num8ers.

Length: 362.2m; Tonnage 226,963 (=227million kg); Capacity 5,000 - 6,000.

200 Terabyte Mathematical Proof

May 2016: The world’s largest ever mathematical proof has been announced, and it takes 200 Tb to document it. That should be a spur for IsThatABigNumber to add a new section on data sizes. But it’s not the only large number involved.

It’s all about Pythagorean triples, whole-number solutions of Pythagoreas’s equation, and whether all integers can be coloured, each blue or red, such that no Pythagorean triple can be constructed of numbers of the same colour. Turns out there is no such colouring scheme once you get to 7825 or more.

Choosing colours brings us to combinations - in this case that there are 10^2300 ways of colouring 7825, and that is a whole new class of big number.

And finally, the proof wins a prize of $100 (not a big number) from Ronald Graham, who gives his name to the famously big Graham’s Number.

481km: Journey of Wolf over 13 days

“He covered 481 kilometres over 13 days, so he averaged 37 kilometres a day,” said Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park. “I’ve always known wolves are travellers.“

Is that a big number?


Falcon 9 Launch and Recovery

May 6, 2016: SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket, delivered a Japanese comms satellite into orbit, and then recovered the first stage booster on a platform floating at sea.

Hottest April Ever

0.87 degrees C.

That’s how much hotter April 2016 was, compared to the baseline average. And it’s only the latest in a string of seven record-breaking hottest months.

0.87C?  Is that a big number? In this context it certainly is.

Sumatran Rhino calf born

12 May 2016. A healthy female Sumatran Rhino calf was born on Sumatra Island in Indonesia. There are estimated to be less than 100 left in the world.

Is That A Big Number? No, assuredly not!


Tim Harford on Brexit BS

Tim Harford (”the Underground Economist”) is one of our heroes for the way in which he and his team at the BBC’s numbers radio program “More or Less”, forensically dissect dodgy numbers in the news, and abuses of statistics.

Here he tears into three numbers floating around the Brexit debate (for non-Brits, “Brexit” is the potential scenario of BRitain EXITing from the European Union, a proposition that the UK will vote on, in June 2016).

Large Prime Number

On 24 February 2016, 20:53:55 UTC, PrimeGrid’s Generalized Fermat Prime Search found the Generalized Fermat mega prime: 43163894^131072+1 The prime is 1,000,751 digits long and enters Chris Caldwell’s “The Largest Known Primes Database” ranked 16th for Generalized Fermat primes and 154th overall.

UK Trade Stats: EU vs non-EU

Here are latest figures for UK imports and exports. Judge for yourself the importance of EU trade.

SpaceX Launch Finally Successful

Mar 4, 2016. After 4 scrubbed attempts, SpaceX has now used its Falcon 9 rocket to deploy the SES-9 satellite. The satellite will enter a geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of around 36,000 km, 90 times higher than the International Space Station, and 1/11 of the way to the moon.


Car Sales Grow More Slowly

Worldwide, 89.2 m cars were sold in 2015, 2.2% more than in 2014. Still, this is reported as bad news, because the growth is the lowest since 2009. And that still represents 1 for every 80 people in the world, and 1 for every 13 cars already out there.


Biggest Lottery Win?

On Jan 13th, the US Powerball jackpot was a record $1.59bn. BUT because there were 3 winning tickets, this hasn’t created the world’s largest win. That still sits at $370.9m, a record set in May 2013. And $1.59bn is the total, if the prize was taken as income: the cash value is $983m. It’s still enough to buy around 9,000 Porche 211′s. And incidentally, it’s only around $3 for each person in the USA.



NHS Budget for 2015/16

The budget for the Natiional Health Service in the UK is £116.4 bn. That works out to approximately 1/18th of the UK’s GDP, or £1800 for every person in the UK.



How different were these two Earthquakes?

On Jan 25th 2016, between Spain and Morocco, there was a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. Then on Feb 6th, in Taiwan, there was a magnitude 6.4 earthquake. Were these earthquakes of roughly the same size? (Property damage in both cases but deaths only in the latter) Earthquakes are measured on a log scale which makes magnitudes hard to understand. In fact, the 0.1 magnitude difference means a 26% (10^0.1 - 1) increase in energy.