Thursday, August 15, 2013

Barenaked Lady Odds

I'm a fan of (the) Barenaked Ladies. Please feel free to interpret that in any context you wish.

The band's most recent single, Odds Are, is respectably catchy (alright, I'll admit, I had it on repeat for a couple plays before I decided to write this). The lyrics are also moderately clever, and talk about some of my favorite things (like odds and probability. Yay!).

Here's a look through some of the lyrics they toss out, and the actual stats behind them:


Struck by lightning, sounds pretty frightening/ But you know the chances are so small

The United States of America records an average of 22.8 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes a year, or approximately one lightning bolt per 14 ‘muricans. Out of all of this lightning, only an average of 34.9 fatalities occur per year. This puts any given American’s odds at getting killed by lightning in a given year at around 0.000011% (much higher if you live in the south and/or play golf, though, so watch out). In fact, you would have to live for about 9,000 years before you’d even have a 0.1% chance of getting hit by lightning. Considering how easy it is to avoid as well (don’t stand near tall things during a thunderstorm), this really isn't something to be all that paranoid about.


Stuck by a bee sting, nothing but a bee thing/ Better chance you’re gonna buy it at the mall

Surprisingly, deaths by bee stings are about 70% more common than death by lightning (0.000019% a year). Bee stings are apparently safe enough that the average human can handle 10 stings per pound of bodyweight, meaning that unless you’re deathly allergic you could easily take on over a thousand of the little critters. I guess if you are allergic it might be time to invest in an epi-pen? As for mall deaths, it turns out that the stats on those are pretty hard to find, though I’m sure it’s not terrifically different than the going death rate from walking. I’d recommend avoiding Black Friday in the US, though, since that leads to outright murders…



But it’s a twenty-three or four-to-one/ That you can fall in love by the end of this song

This line is confusing. They’re either saying that the odds are 23:1 (95.8%) or 4:1 (80%) that you, the listener, can fall in love by the end of the song. I've listened to it without changing my love status enough times just to catch the lyrics to say that I'm sure, statistically speaking, that they’re wrong.
Surveys have shown that the average couple will drop the L-word after 14 dates, and that on average they’ll manage two dates a week. If this song was on the upper end of popular and played, say, 3 times a day on a radio station, you could reasonably hear it 150 times between meeting someone and falling in love with them (meaning 99.3% of the time you hear the song you wouldn't have fallen in love). Then again, the odds of the song playing the instant that you fall in love would only be 0.63% on a given day (at three randomly spaced plays of 3:01 each). This is on the upper end, of course – only 80% of people say they fall in love at some point in their 20s, and 33% of people settle down with their first love, so realistically the numbers are way lower than that. There’s no way I’d take 23:1 odds that you’ll fall in love by the end of the song.


Hit by the A-Train, crashed in an airplane/ I wouldn't recommend either one



I wouldn't recommend either one either. Apparently in 2011 146 New Yorkers were hit by a Subway (we can pretend it was the A-line), with 47 of them dying. If you live in New York, your odds of Subway-ing to death are 0.00057% (about 51 times higher than getting hit by lightning – watch out!).


Your chances of dying on a single airline flight on a major world airline are 0.000021%. Of course, most trips are round trips, but even if you were to take two round-trips a year your risk would only be 0.000085%. And that’s just with the average of all major airlines – the top half of airlines are four times less risky per flight, leading to the fun conclusion that taking two round-trip flights a year has pretty much exactly the same risk of death as from bees.


Killed by a Great White or a meteorite/ I guess there ain't no way to go that’s fun

Fatal shark attacks are actually ridiculously uncommon – in the United States the chance of getting killed by a shark is less than 0.0000004%. In fact, people in New York are bitten 10 times more each year by other people than by sharks. This is probably not something to worry about.

Nobody has ever died by a meteorite. That isn't to say that they can’t be dangerous (that Russian one certainly injured a lot of people), but with only approximately 500 meteorites hitting the earth every year, it isn't likely something to ever worry about either. Though if it happened, it wouldn't be fun – BNL is right on that count.


Odds are we gonna be alright for another night


On average, 150,000 people die every day. This puts your odds of surviving until the end of the song at around 99.99999996% (much higher than falling in love by the end of the song). The odds of you being “alright for another night” (here I assume "alright" means “still alive”) are about 99.9979% on average.

However, approximately two thirds of those daily deaths are age-related, and in industrialized countries the proportion of age-related deaths is up to 90%. If we factor that in, and you’re part of the young and hip demographic this blog strives to cater to, your odds of surviving another night are about 99.9998%.

Summary:

Odds of you dying by any cause mentioned in the song this year: ~0.0006%*
Odds of you being alright for another night: ~99.9998%

*Only if you live in New York

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

whew, i'm still all right. i found your piece quite entertaining, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Twenty-three-or-four, 23 or 24.

Another example of this, by way of telling time, is "twenty five or six to four". I.e., 3:35 or 3:34