crowd sizes, home energy usage, baseball odds, and pop songs

This is a blog post about four topics that have nothing in common.

This Popular Mechanics article on estimating crowd sizes is great. I wrote about crowd sizes earlier when I blogged about Obama’s inauguration, but the PM article goes into the details a little better.  Crowd estimates might be obtained by crowd-sourcing in the future. Why are crowd size estimates so important? “[R]emember that accurate crowd counting can have practical applications such as preparing emergency responders. If a fire, terrorist attack, stage collapse or other calamity happened at a large event, Westergard figures that within 20 minutes he could provide first responders with the location of the threat and rough estimates of the number of people who might need treatment.”

You simply must look at these numbers on the DOE’s average home energy use. This site generated quite a bit of discussion between my husband and I. On average, 31.2% of household energy is used for heating and air conditioning, 9.1% is used for the water heater, and 26.7% is used for kitchen appliances. The refrigerator alone uses 13.7% of a home’s energy. Compare this to a mere 2% of energy consumed by PCs and printers (and this was before everyone had more efficient LCD monitors). If you really want to help the environment, turn off the AC and get a smaller fridge. On second thought, maybe I’m not ready to be an environmentalist.

Nate Silver of the NYT calculates the odds that the Red Sox would not make the playoffs. On September 3, they held a 9 game lead over Tampa Bay, with a mere 0.004 chance of missing the playoffs. Ouch. As a Cubs fan, I found a little solace in the Red Sox collapse. It helps to reduce the pain associated with the many, many Cubs collapses over the years. (Luckily, I’m also a White Sox fan). The 10 teams who ruined the greatest chance of making the playoffs is surprisingly not dominated by the Cubs.

What are the odds that the Red Sox would make the playoffs?

The image below is graphical proof that pop song lyrics are becoming more repetitive over time (I’m not sure if it answers the age old question: Music or Lyrics?) It shows that pop song lyrics contain fewer unique words than they used to. This blog post delves into the details. Songs have become longer over time, since technology no longer limits singles to be ~3 minutes long. It’s not surprising that (a) songs have more lyrics and (b) a small proportion of those extra lyrics are new (if the chorus is sung one or twice more, it would add no new words). Some excellent songs have few words (such as Hey Jude by the Beatles), so I wouldn’t equate fewer unique words to a song being bad. HT to John D. Cook.

Fraction of words in pop song lyrics that are unique. Is this graphical proof that songs are getting worse over time?

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