Statistics Saturday: Progress Report, 2018


So at least we have this going for us.

Sunday, 0. Monday-Saturday, 1 each.
This is the only day you can post this! And have it be true! Until 2024 anyway. And I knew it was going to be 2024 without doing the actual calculations or checking future calendars because I can’t help it. Calendars get to me that way. Send help.

Source: The Geometry of Physics: An Introduction, 3rd edition. Theodore Frankel.

Also, Twitter is plainly lying to me about this.

Trends for you, taken 6 January 2018. Happy New Year, #Illini, Isaiah Livers, #stablegenius.
There is so much I don’t believe anyone was talking about the afternoon of the 6th of January, and right at the top of my list: LLLini? Really?

Statistics Saturday: Exponential Growth Versus Time


A Google Books NGram Viewer chart for 'exponential growth', which shows from 1920 to 1970 what does look like exponential growth, apart from a little bit during World War II where it's below the curve.
Because I saw a jokey cartoon going around Twitter showing the use of ‘exponential growth’ growing exponentially with time, is why, and I wondered if that was actually so, and then I fiddled with the date range until it looked kind of true-ish.

Honesty compels me to admit the growth of ‘exponential growth’ drops off dramatically after 1970. The term reaches a peak in the late 70s, slacks off to about 1990, and rebounds, but below its disco-era peak.

This Is What I Get For Noticing Stuff (Also, Mathematics Comics)


I don’t want to sound like somebody neurotically obsessed with the exceedingly minor fluctuations in his readership, but, you know, I do blog. And I noticed over the past month that I had been getting pretty consistently more than 20 page views a day, as WordPress makes this out, and I was feeling pretty good about this, since a one-day readership spike is great but people coming back regularly suggests I’m at least amusing some people dependably and 20 is a nice round number bigger than ten. And I figured, well, the daily statistics graph WordPress offers gives thirty days of results and why not see if I can get thirty days in a row of at least 20 readers per day before saying anything and come December 6th I was just all ready to have a petty little celebration and, of course, what happens but the 6th topped out at 19 views. (It’s almost as though an essay about how this forgotten Popeye cartoon was disappointing didn’t appeal to people, or something.)

Oh, I rebounded, sure — in fact, the 7th had more readers than any other of the past thirty days — but yeah, I feel like maybe I shouldn’t have started noticing things in the first place.


Anyway, Over on my mathematics blog, which has a completely different theme where the search current-favorites stuff and list of tags and stuff is on the right side rather than the left side of the page, I’ve got another article describing stuff that comic strips make me think of. I know that a lot of people get tense at the idea of mathematics, but if it helps, I don’t get into anything that requires more effort than figuring out about how many seconds there are in a year.

Remember This! Also: How To


Whenever I get asked about what future trends I see I first suppress that sense of indignation whoever it was took so long to ask. I’ve had my answer ready for ages and was getting worried nobody was ever going to ask. I’m as good a trendspotter as any of the people getting on the trendspotting bandwagon. It’s a terrible burden having a clear picture of society’s future.

One trend I see going on is there’s going to be ever-more stuff to try to remember. Pop culture alone is expanding so fast we’re barely able to keep it updated on TV Tropes, and every thing in pop culture carries with it extra burdens of information-like constructs: not only the thing itself, but also stuff about how it was made, and what it’s referring to, and how it’s not as good as this other thing someone else made, and how it is too and if it isn’t how come you don’t make it yourself, and then how this sets off a highly entertaining flame war, and whose fault it is, and whose fault it isn’t, and who’s writing the fairest accounting of how the flame war happens, and how they do not, and why they couldn’t possibly even if they tried.

If it’s done properly just understanding a sketch of an apple someone left on the coffee table can require collating more information than writing a book about the Thirty Years War would. And even if you can keep all that new stuff straight, you’re stuck remembering the old stuff too. If pressed and facing a busy day way too early in the morning could you remember the full name of Snoop Doggy Dogg? Undoubtedly, but then how would you be on remembering what humorist I grabbed that joke from? See? I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t recognize it either.

The second trend is that we’re always going to impress people by doing stuff without the tools that make it easy and painless. Nobody cares about a person who can cut a board in half by using a sharp, well-maintained saw blade, but show around someone who can cut a board in half without even having a board and you can get a paying crowd. So if you can remember stuff without the Internet gadgets that do the remembering for you then you’re going to win acclaim for your impressive abilities in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow after about 6:45 pm.

So the problem is how to do this, given that there’s too much stuff to remember and there’s really no learning it, because we don’t have the attention spans long enough anymore to even get a decent earworm stuck in our heads. And this is where mnemonic devices come in handy. The best of them combine two points into one so after learning one you feel like you know at least twice as many things as you actually do. For example, George Washington was born in 1732, and he weighed 173.2 pounds. Just from reading that I know it’s going to pop into your head at some perfectly inappropriate time in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow, like maybe at about 5:25 pm. The links don’t even have to make any kind of thematic sense: once you’ve heard that there are both 82 constellations in the sky and 82 counties in Ohio you will never be able to fully forget either point, even though you have no responsibility for the constellations in the sky and even though you’ll never need to know how many counties there are in Ohio unless you have a job setting out chairs for the Ohio County Commissioners Annual Lunch, and you could just count RSVPs for that.

The effectiveness of these mnemonic devices are all the more impressive when you consider George Washington was actually born in 1731, at least at the time. I don’t even know that he ever weighed 173.2, or maybe 173.1, pounds, although I guess it’s possible. I mean, he was a big guy, and had the money to eat well enough when he wasn’t bunking down for the winter with hundreds of starved Continental soldiers in upstate New Jersey, but I dunno what he weighed. I’m comfortable with something in the 173 range, but I wouldn’t rule out 178.9 or even 179.9. And as for the counties in the sky, oh, no, there’s nothing like 82 counties in Ohio. You could remember that easily by recalling that 86 is number slang for “something negative or otherwise disparaging or something or other”, and there aren’t 86 constellations in Ohio either. Memorable, isn’t it?

I had some idea about what to do with defective mnemonic devices but I forgot to write it down. Sorry. Maybe someone out there has an idea? Please write in before about 6:30.

Rewritten by machine and new technology


To Whom It May Concern
YouTube Master Command
I’m Guessing Somewhere At Google, Maybe You Could Look Up Where, Thanks
Googleopolis, GO 900913

Dear May,

Sorry to give bad news but someone’s pretending to be you in e-mail, and maybe you’re not all that worried about this but you might want to check and see if someone’s sneaking in to YouTube Master Command after hours and messing around. Business experts estimate that nearly two-thirds of all corporate collapses are initiated by someone sneaking into Master Command after hours and messing around, so, just think about what your people are doing.

The e-mail, by the way, claims I got it because I indicated I was willing to receive occasional YouTube product-related mail. I’m willing to suppose that I actually have signed up for this, I guess because if found some way of watching videos that’s different to watching videos I’d find that interesting. For example, if you found some way to embed them subcutaneously as tattoos then I’d want to know that fact. While I might not be interested in having one, I could imagine thinking about getting a video embedded for example in the arch of my foot, so I could be endlessly walking on something, and selecting the correct video to endlessly step on could make for small talk at a party that’s gotten a little bit odd if it’s reached in-foot-video levels.

Also I don’t deny that the end of the year is an occasion, although it’s a little bit early to be calling this the end of the year and how do we know there aren’t going to be ten really big surprise hits over the next three weeks, mm? So that tipped me off there’s something fishy here. If they’d sent me it from a YouTube.co.uk address they might have claimed the occasion was it being 11/12/13, but obviously, that didn’t happen.

The e-mail congratulated me for being among the first twenty percent of people to discover one of the top ten trending videos of 2013. Yes, it was that “What Does The Fox Say?” video, which as of Tuesday afternoon had a recorded 518,6872,4316,47634,130506,4105 views. It’s had so many views they can’t even write the number in three-digit groups anymore, I know. And sure I saw it. It’s just there’s not any chance that I was in the first twenty percent of the world to see it.

See, I have not ever been among the first twenty percent of people in on any Internet thing. I’m lucky to be in the first 90 percent of people. Remember the “Where’re you gonna see lions? Only in Ken-ya” video? I learned of it when friends started sending me goofy parodies like the one where people in lion pajamas danced around to imitate the original video and they wondered what was wrong with me that I wasn’t laughing at all this. I first encountered “I Can Has Cheeseburger” when the captions were being stuffed into the discount books at Borders. I still haven’t even heard of River Tam.

My problem is that I’m a square. This isn’t some pose or affectation, thank you. I come by my squareness honestly: it’s the result of a lot of work spent trying to impose right angles on my natural rhomboid state. I have an almost supernatural ability to not be with whatever’s current. I’m still on Usenet, for crying out loud. I use terms like “square” or “pert near” or “hep” without a trace of ironic affection but just because they seem like the best ways to express myself, sad as that is, and I’m trying to get “twelvemonth” and “inst” back into English.

I don’t mind people who are all hep like I have never been and will never be. Many of them are quite pleasant and forgiving of my obliviousness, or they’re keeping me around because I’m cute to chuckle over, watching the with-it people the helpless way a guinea pig might stare at a heated debate in Model United Nations. I’m just not among them and shouldn’t be mistaken for one.

Anyway, all told, YouTube Master Command, someone is apparently going around sending fibbing letters to people about their watching “What Does The Fox Say”. I don’t know what you should do about fibbing like this, but you should do that now. Thank you.

             Yrs pert near truly,
             Joseph Nebus