The Atavism

Friday, April 23, 2010

Garth George: wrong, wrong, 2.75 million times wrong.

Urrrgh, I screwed up the maths here. Garth George is really, really wrong. But sadly he's not the wrongest person ever. A post showing the error of my own ways can be found here and the last graph now includes my own error.

Garth George has this climate science stuff sorted out, it's a scam you see. And even if it weren't, New Zealand's emissions make such a tiny proportion of the worlds carbon dioxide we should just do nothing. You want evidence or New Zealand's tiny carbon footprint? Well, George doesn't need evidence because he has his suspicions:

I suspect that the eruption of Mt Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland shot more gases into the atmosphere in five minutes than New Zealand would in five years.

But, as Gareth Renowden points out at Hot Topic, George's suspicions don't match the data. In order to work out how much carbon dioxide Mt Unpronounceable (Paul Litterick's joke, not mine) was shooting into the atmosphere the Guardian took the surprising step of asking some scientists. The upper bound of their estimates is 300 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day (or about 1040 tonnes in 5 minutes). Impressive, but not much when compared with the 377 million tonnes New Zealanders managed between 2004 and 2008.

Amazingly, Garth George's estimate is out by a factor of 2.75 million 375 000 [damn!]. That's equivalent to estimating the driving distance between Dunedin and Auckland as being 3.7 metres. I couldn't let a week that combined such breathtaking stupidity with this nice infographic go without memorialising George's folly:

And, because it's pretty hard to see those few red pixels, a close up:

I've just spent a lunch break trying think of any one who has ever made a larger error of estimation. I couldn't come up with one, but here, to provide some context, is George's error against some of history's more famous mis-measurements (if you have some more to add I'd be happy to hear them, especially if you can beat George's effort):

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Posted by David Winter 2:32 PM

10 Comments:

Chortle!
So Garth is slightly worse than a creationist?
He's actually quite a lot worse, that's a log scale.

6000 years is only about 1.3 million times smaller that 4.5 billion!
Genius!
This is one of the most spectacular blog posts I've read in a long time. Great effort.
"Garth George's estimate is out by a factor of 2.75 million"

What?

Garth Georges estimate: Volcano In 5 minutes > NZ In 5 Years

https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0ArsZHIe62-KLdE1oQzJKUEJPZVBVaU55di0tVUNUM0E&hl=en&output=html

Where in the hell did you get 2.75mil?

Don't get me wrong, Garth George was way off and that's hilarious, but if you're going to knock someone on numbers they should at least pass a cursory examination.
Using your numbers:

Volcano does 1040 tonnes in 5 minutes.

NZ does 377 million tonnes 2004-2008.

377,000,000 divided by 1040 = 375,498

Where did your 2.75 million come from?
This is a mathematical equivalent of Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation

Hartman's law states: "Any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one error".
Embarrassing, wrong, wrong ~8x wrong!

Will update and post a mea culpa when I get a chance
Dear blogger - you have committed the very same error that all the climate scientists have made - you have got the numbers wrong.

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