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The Numbers Guy

Last Build Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:36:27 EDT

Copyright: copyright © 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

In Sports, the Camera Sometimes Lies

Sat, 09 Nov 2013 19:30:01 EST

In implementing electronic review, sports' administrators face a tricky decision of their own: whether to make plain that even technology can make mistakes.

What Matters: Golds or Total?

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 08:04:26 EST

The 2012 Olympics managed to do something the 2008 games did not: bring clarity to the top of the medal standings.

Al Qaeda's Ranks Are Hard to Measure

Sat, 10 Sep 2011 11:58:40 EDT

Terrorism experts are sharply divided over the size of al Qaeda's network. They don't even agree on whether the group's size matters in assessing the terrorism threat.

What's a Wedding Without a Fight Over Money?

Wed, 04 May 2011 05:44:43 EDT

A few U.K. economists warned that the national holiday surrounding the royal wedding would amount to a substantial hit to the economy from lost productivity, but the biggest estimates don't stand up to scrutiny.

Suspect Sex Trafficking Estimates

Sat, 19 Jun 2010 08:32:46 EDT

Evidence to support an estimate suggesting that 40,000 sex workers could be trafficked into South Africa during the World Cup is scant, say researchers, and the real number is likely far smaller.

In Disaster's Wake, Hurried Claims

Fri, 12 Mar 2010 21:23:33 EST

Natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti are often followed by near-instant assessments of the economic impact. But the figures, closely monitored by insurers, can be unreliable.

An Ill-Conceived Health-Care Ranking

Wed, 21 Oct 2009 11:38:37 EDT

During the health-care debate, one damning statistic keeps popping up: The U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care. But the ranking is dated and flawed.

To Count Stimulus Jobs, Help Wanted

Wed, 16 Sep 2009 11:55:26 EDT

When states report jobs created by stimulus, the numbers will fall short of projections -- reflecting how hard it is to attribute new jobs to one cause.

Sum Help: Search Engine for Mathletes

Thu, 18 Jun 2009 23:13:59 EDT

A new search engine called Wolfram Alpha automates arithmetic drudgery for students. But teachers worry it does homework, too.

A Pandemic of Confusion About Flu's Death Rates

Wed, 13 May 2009 23:23:12 EDT

The CDC's daily figure of 100 flu-related deaths is flawed, since the tallies are based on incomplete death certificates, but that hasn't stopped the spread of the erroneous statistic.

And the Survey Says...

Thu, 19 Jun 2008 23:34:00 EDT

The "Family Feud" is one of the few neutral parties measuring what Americans think when they're not thinking about politics. Its surveys are designed with rigor, but pollsters aren't entirely won over by the methodology.

Counting the Centenarians

Thu, 10 Apr 2008 22:40:00 EDT

Reaching 100 years of age is a milestone celebrated in local newspapers, on the "Today" show and in greeting cards from the White House. But counting how many people are celebrating these birthdays is tricky. (Discuss)

Web Use in China, U.S. Is Tough to Measure

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 20:46:00 EDT

The news that China recently surpassed the U.S. in Web users garnered a lot of attention, but the U.S. actually is still ahead by some counts. (Discuss)

Can You Read as Well As a Fifth-Grader? Check the Formula

Sun, 16 Mar 2008 21:30:00 EDT

The readability formula used by Microsoft Word purports to represent the text's appropriate grade level. But its results are questionable. (Forum)

Election Handicappers Use Risky Tool

Thu, 14 Feb 2008 21:25:00 EST

Web sites mash up polling data in political races to smooth out aberrant results, but the polls themselves are often too different from each other to deserve equal weight.

Counting Repeat Sex Offenders

Thu, 24 Jan 2008 23:38:00 EST

Conventional wisdom says people released after serving time for sex crimes are likely to strike again. The numbers aren't as certain.

How Much Water Goes Into a Burger?

Thu, 10 Jan 2008 21:51:00 EST

A fast-food quarter-pounder requires 1,300 gallons of water to produce, but a loaf of bread uses up 150 gallons. The message, which supports calls to eat less meat, is broadly correct, but the number itself is disputed.

Coming Soon: 'The Number 24'

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 00:33:00 EST

"The Number 23," a new thriller starring Jim Carrey, shows how just about any number can appear to have eerie properties if you look hard enough. Such as the number 24. Plus, join a discussion.

Farm Group Sows Questionable Stat

Thu, 15 Feb 2007 08:44:00 EST

A trade group for farmers is promoting a holiday aimed at "celebrating the continued affordability of food." But the group uses some murky math to crunch the numbers on how much Americans spend on food. Plus, join a discussion.

Nielsen's New College Numbers

Fri, 09 Feb 2007 23:22:00 EST

Nielsen is expanding its TV ratings to include college students living in dorms, a group that had previously been excluded from the research firm's numbers. The students are already having a huge impact on ratings for some shows, but national stats are being based on a survey of just 130 viewers. Plus, join a discussion.

Coke's Contest Takes Time (and Soda)

Wed, 31 Jan 2007 21:16:00 EST

A promotion from Coke offers big-screen TVs, expensive trips and other prizes to loyal Coke drinkers. But to obtain the loot, customers need to jump through a lot of hoops. Claiming some of the biggest prizes could require you to drink thousands of bottles of soda, and repeatedly visit a Web site over several months. Plus, join a discussion.

Winning a Longer Life

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 16:45:00 EST

Can winning a Nobel Prize or Oscar really add years to your life? Carl Bialik examines scientific studies that purport to measure the effect of status on longevity. Plus, join a discussion.

Another Look at Murder Stats

Sun, 21 Jan 2007 23:30:00 EST

Murder stats are making headlines around the country, as cities publish their 2006 figures. But those numbers may not be the best gauge of violent crime, or a city's safety. Here's a look at two theories from criminologists that question the way the numbers are used. Plus, join a discussion with Carl Bialik.

Rethinking Mileage Estimates

Thu, 11 Jan 2007 21:04:00 EST

Later this year, car shoppers will see a drop in the fuel-economy estimates posted on new cars. The EPA is recalculating the numbers in an effort to better capture real-world conditions -- an update critics say is long overdue. Plus, join a discussion with Carl Bialik.

Counting Internet Users

Fri, 05 Jan 2007 10:36:00 EST

The Internet and all its high-tech tracking tools should make it easier to count Web searchers, video viewers and videogame players. But different methodologies and a lack of data transparency can lead to some dubious stats. Plus, join a discussion with Carl Bialik.

Forrester's Controversial iTunes Report

Thu, 21 Dec 2006 15:11:00 EST

A research report suggesting a steep drop in sales at Apple's iTunes store rattled investors. It also prompted reports that painted a rosy picture of iTunes. The uncertainty shows what happens when different people measure different numbers, using widely varying methods. Plus, join a discussion with Carl Bialik.

Internet Video Stars Are Hard to Count

Thu, 21 Dec 2006 09:03:00 EST

Was the Internet video of the teenage boy pretending to wield a "Star Wars" lightsaber really viewed 900 million times? A closer look at a marketing firm's ranking of the most-watched Web clips finds more science fiction than math. Plus, join a discussion with Carl Bialik.

The Numbers Behind Pfizer's Decision

Wed, 06 Dec 2006 16:52:00 EST

Pfizer abandoned a potentially blockbuster cholesterol drug after some patients died during clinical trials. The number of deaths wasn't much bigger than the number of people in a control group who also died. But a closer look shows how small differences can have big impacts in medical trials. Plus, join a discussion.

How Many Kids Have Autism?

Fri, 01 Dec 2006 00:02:00 EST

A number of media reports and public-awareness campaigns have reported that one in 166 U.S. children has autism. But the number doesn't tell the whole story. Plus, join a discussion.

Grading the Pollsters

Sun, 19 Nov 2006 21:34:00 EST

Pollsters earned overall high marks in last week's elections, accurately predicting the broad Democrat victory. Some did better than others, and firms haven't hesitated to trumpet their results. Carl Bialik looks at the difficulties in evaluating polls, and crunches his own report card. Plus, join a discussion.