Tag Archives: Weird

Baseball player breaks computer stat systems by running back and forth

Anyone who’s seen Moneyball, or has a passion for baseball, will know that it’s a sport swamped in statistics. Those statistics are used by the various teams in Major League Baseball to figure out exactly how efficient an individual player is, and how well he will fit in with the rest of the squad. Baseball commentators, on the other hand, tend to use them to make baseball broadcasts sound like a game of decimal point bingo.

In a recent game between Chicago and Milwaukee, a player did what he could to upset both the statistics and the commentators. And all it took was a bit of running back and forth.

Here’s the short version of what happened: Shortstop Jean Segura from Milwaukeee Brewers managed to steal second base. On the next play, he tried to get to third, but didn’t make it and tried to get back to second, only to find it blocked by a teammate. So what to do? Well, Segura decided to pull a Ludo move and knocked himself back to first base. Which turned out to be perfectly legal, even though no-one, including Segura, seemed to know this at the time.

Now, if you’re European, and think baseball is like a glorified version of rounders, or English and think it’s like a confusing, underdressed and all-too-fast version of cricket, it might be easiest to go to the video evidence by clicking on the image below (opens in same window) and then come right back:

Confused? I don’t blame you.

Because so were all the statistical data systems that note down everything that happens during every single game in MLB.

“All the computer software – none of it will handle that. You don’t run the bases [from] second to first. Any software that processes play-by-play won’t accept that,” longtime official scorer and SABR historian David Vincent said Saturday.

Instead the software will have Segura thrown out stealing third – even though he was finally out, when he tried to slide into second. For the second time.


How simple maths can turn advertising into something surreal


Since coming to England (this time around) I’ve noticed a new chain of stores that I don’t remember seeing when I was here last: the Cash 4 Clothes stores.

Basically, the concept is this: you take your old clothes to a Cash 4 Clothes store. The store weighs your clothes (no, not the store itself, we haven’t gotten to the surreal bit yet) and gives you cash for it. The cash you receive depends on the weight of the clothes you brought in.

Now I’m guessing they won’t take your woolly sweater that you just wore to the local swimming pool, no matter how modest or how big a fan of The Killing you claim to be, but other than that, I think they’re pretty happy to take almost anything.

The going rate, judging on the places I’ve passed by the last couple of weeks, seems to be 50p per kg of clothes. Which brings us to the happy, happy lady in the picture above.

Now I’m guessing that she’s there to show potential customers just how happy you will be and how much money you can actually make by selling your old clothes.

OK, so far so good. An advertisement that shows people how happy and rich you can make them. Sounds good.

Well, perhaps not, if we insert a little maths into this scenario (yes, this is part of the surreal bit).

Now if we look at our very happy lady, she’s holding a fan of £20 notes. I count them to 17, meaning that she’s holding a total of 17×20 = £340. With the going rate being 50p per kg of clothes, that means that she has just sold 2×340 = 680kg of clothes. For people who prefer pounds to kg (shame on you!) that’s 1496 pounds of clothing.

Although the clothes might be allowed to be stuffed into a regular car, if you judged it solely on its weight, you might have a little trouble actually getting it in there.

Let’s imagine that the happy, happy lady was selling all of her jeans. And she used to really like jeans. Really, really like jeans. According to denimblog.com (God bless the Internet for this existing) an average pair of jeans weighs between one and two pounds (shame on denimblog for not going metric yet!). Let’s say that a pair of the happy lady’s jeans weighs about 1.5 pounds. That would mean that she would have to sell 1496/1.5 = 997 pairs of jeans to make the £340.

And jeans are pretty heavy. So say that the very happy lady was happy because she’d finally gotten rid of all her old t-shirts after deciding to go corporate. Well, according to (yep. you’ve probably already guessed where this is going) t-shirtforums.com, a t-shirt weighs between six (small) and ten ounces (XXXL). WE’ll say that the happy lady used to be really into rap and wore the XXXL t-shirts. An ounce is about 0.03kg, so our formula here is 680/0.3 = 2266 t-shirts going over the counter.

Now here’s a little experiment for you: take a t-shirt or a pair of jeans and throw them on the floor. Then imagine doing the same 996 times more (for jeans) or 2265 more times (for the t-shirts). How much of your floor do you think you can see? Or how many houses could you cover.

Right, now let’s take a second look at our smiling lady:


Now, speaking purely in marketing terms, I’d say that a little maths makes it very odd for the happy, happy lady to be giving us a smile that would probably be most at home somewhere between a commercial for the lottery and an Always add (why are those women always smiling?).

Surreal, wouldn’t you say? And that’s even before touching on the oddity of a place that buys your clothes selling washing powder….

Why robbing banks doesn’t pay (much)

Any would-be bank robber should take a second to study the data kept by the British Bankers’ Association. Now the guys at BBA’s word might not be as good as gold here, as they do have a vested interest in keeping people from robbing banks, but lets just ignore that for a second and take a look at their data, as presented in a recent paper by three economists that managed to gain access to the you can see that there were a total of 106 attempted or successful robberies in the UK in 2007. Britain had a total of 10,500 branches in 2007.

Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the average haul in those robberies was $31,600. However, a third of the ‘successful’ robbers came away empty-handed. I guess that success counts as getting away for them.

So the average heist was actually $46,600. Except that 20 per cent of the successful robbers were later apprehended.

It gets worse, though (at least if you’re a robber).

On average the robberies involved 1.6 persons, meaning that on average a person involved in a successful heist came away with $19,750. That’s roughly half of the net average earning for a UK worker, meaning that the bank robber would have to take part in two robberies a year to be middle class. Yep, here’s another candidate for the hardest way to make an easy living.

China ups ante: photocopies entire village

The Chinese seem to have built the world’s biggest photocopier. OK, so that might not be the exact way they managed to replicate a whole Austrian town and put the copy in the middle of their country, but it’s still bloody impressive.

To begin with the Austrians were, to put it mildly, not impressed when it turned out that the copy of Hallstatt – a centuries-old village of 900 and a UNESCO heritage site – now had an identical twin in China, but since then they’ve grown more used to the idea.

It does, however, pose some serious questions about what you need to put a trademark logo on in the future….

How can you have your pudding if you don’t scan your face?

Envision this scenario: you’re a food company that has just come up with great a great recipe for rum pudding. Only problem might be that it actually does contain rum, making it alcoholic. Usually, that would me it would be impossible for you to sell it through vending machines. Or does it?

It sounds like something half way between science fiction and comedy, but a new vending machine from Jell-O Temptations actually scans your face, before deciding if you’re allowed to have a tasty treat. If it decides that you’re a kid, it’ll simply refuse to serve you.

Sounds like a joke, right? This article proves that it’s not.