Statistics are Okay

Chris Farmer RSS / 03.04.2010. u 08:59

There are worse things to be than being a ghost in Oklahoma.

I just discovered, quite by accident, a little town in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, called Okay. Okay, OK, has 597 people and a population density of 737.3 people per square mile. By my calculation, that makes 597 humans and 140.3 ghosts in this posited square mile.

Ok, but as Okay, OK, does not actually have a square mile but rather only 0.8 square miles, it means that the extra 140 non-people (and the truncated 0.3) live on a virtual space of about 518,000 square meters. For every fictional person or ghost in Okay, there are about 3,700 imaginary square meters of space.

On that space, an ambitious ghost could build an office building, a few houses, and a small park with a slide, modern swing set, and jungle gym. I like the jungle gym idea as a ghost could never fall off it and break his arm.

What is all this about? It is about the numbers of course. It started out being about a town called Okay, OK, but the numbers attracted me more. Some group of dust bowl oldies sat around a checkerboard one day and decided to give their town a joke for a name. But the statisticians, serious folk in tweed with sophisticated machinery, are the ones who ran the numbers.

They came up with a mathematical expression of the population which relied on non-existent people for it to be entered in the records. Moreover the 597 people of Okay (fewer people than are milling about Mercator of a Saturday afternoon), the 2000 census broke them down into racial groups as well: 64.15% White, 4.36% African American, 21.27% Native American, 0.17% Asian, 0.50% Pacific Islander, 1.84% from other races, and 7.71% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.69% of the population.

One also wonders about the presence of 29 people from a Pacific island: why come to Okay?

And this is the point that rubs me wrong. Each of these percentage points are individuals, people, someone's mother, father, sister, brother, or much despised neighbor with a loud aggressive pit bull. They all have names - the delegation of 10 Asians presenting a pronunciation challenge for checkerboard contingent.

Statistics are ok as long as we are talking about large undefined groups. But as soon as the group is small enough for one guy to go out and count on a morning walk, it seems a little cold and inhuman to assign numerical values to them. As soon as you place a number instead of a name, you take away the stories which comprise their lives and leave them exposed to the cold unfeeling winds of demographics. Mr. Ng, who runs the hardware shop in Okay, OK, has a story. But as he constitutes only .017% of the population, his tale will certainly be overlooked. The Great 64% Majority will get all the press. The Wilsons, the Wainwrights, and the Joads.  These are the Okies who inspired John Steinbeck.  Their stories will be the ones we remember because they are statistical majority.

But Mr. Ng has opinions. He has friends. He has neighbors. Mr. Ng may be a man of considerable influence on Main Street, Okay, OK. He may even be a trend setter. But we will never know this: Mr. Ng lives on the border between a statistical error and the great imaginary 140 people in the Okay Square Mile.

Let' s talk to him before we start running the numbers on this town.


Komentari (4)

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draft.dodger draft.dodger 09:28 03.04.2010


"Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.
14% of people know that."

Homer Simpson
blazha2000 blazha2000 19:42 03.04.2010


This was great,i enjoyed
marco_de.manccini marco_de.manccini 20:15 03.04.2010

Game of numbers

And I always wondered how Babe Ruth managed to achieve batting average of 0.342.

There must be some funny ghost explanation.
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 10:14 04.04.2010

Re: Game of numbers


Since you asked, the study of baseball statistics is called Sabermetrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabermetrics). It is the single most inventive way to make the long and somewhat action-free game of baseball even more gruelingly dull.

Babe Ruth’s batting average was .342 meaning that he only made a hit 34.2% of the time he went to bat. Statistically, this makes him the tenth highest hitter in MLB records.

A perfect batting average would be 1. It is calculated in Sabermetrics by the number of hits divided by the number of times at bat. No one in baseball history ever did better than 36.6% (and that was Ty Cobb more than 100 years ago). Living up to the legacy of his ghost would be no mean feat…

I got the same score on a math final in high school and failed.



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