Sunday, April 04, 2004

There's a topic in here somewhere...

We often speak as if knowledge is of infinite value, but we can say for sure that some data have more social value than others. And I don't think it's controversial to say that some data are more fun to acquire than others.

For instance, consider Cindy Crawford. She's busy being a mother now, but that doesn't mean that she isn't still a knockout.

But she isn't absolutely perfect. For instance, there's that mole above the corner of her mouth that she's famous for. Well, how perfect is she?

Hmm, how to measure? How about comparing the amount of skin she has to the amount occupied by the mole? And I want accurate results too - you'll have to recheck and recheck. Show me hands - who'd like to take the measurements?

Well, it's not so simple. We'd like to have Ms. Crawford's consent, and that could turn out to be a problem.

For anyone but an engineer, that is. We're everlastingly applying estimating techniques for things we can't measure directly. In this case let's approximate Ms. Crawford's skin with a cylinder of 30" circumference about 70" high. That leaves her with about 2100 in2 of skin surface. Now that's reductionism.

How big is the mole? Call it approximately a 1/8" circle. Sparing you the details, that amounts to 0.012 in2.

So the mole occupies approximately 0.0000057 of her skin, or .00057%.

Now let's consider something else that's beautiful where I won't be drilling any time soon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. There's oil up that way, and in a saner world we'd be drilling there. But no, the usual suspects speak of how we'd be defiling the land, blah blah.

Well, OK. For those of us who don't appreciate the austere industrial beauty of oil rigs, just how much would be be fouling up the ANWR if we drilled as proposed in the legislation the Dems oppose so bitterly?

The proposal calls for drilling on 2000 acres. The ANWR has 19,000,000 acres of land. Thus the drilling would take up .00011 of the land surface, or .011%. Or about 20 times as great a proportion of ANWR as Cindy Crawford's mole takes up on her.

Hmm, let's try again. Suppose Ms. Crawford is nude but for a thong. How much could it cover to be in proportion to the 2000 acres to be impacted at ANWR?

2100 in2 * .00011=0.23 in2. That's about the size of the smallest Band-Aid I've ever seen. If you sold pictures of Ms. Crawford wearing no more than this you'd never lack for business.

But environmentalists have a problem with the 2000 acre figure:
Turns out the 2,000 acres don't have to be contiguous and only the space of the equipment touching the ground is counted. Each drilling platform can take up as little as 10 acres. The pipelines are above ground. For space purposes, the amendment counts only the ground touched by the stanchions holding up the pipe. Road widths also are conveniently left out of the space limit. "It's a complete sham," complains Allen Mattison, a spokesman for the Sierra Club which opposes drilling. "It's like a fishing net. If you count just the space of the string's width, that's small. But if you open up a fishing net and count the area it covers, that's much larger." Environmentalists complain that the House limit ends up allowing oil companies to spread out over practically the entire 1.5 million acres.
OK, I'm easy, let's say they're right. Now we have (1.5)(2100)/19 = 170 in2 of fishnet for her outfit. Allow about 60 in2 for some brief panties on the bottom and a tube top about 3" wide takes up the rest. I'm thinking you could sell pictures of Ms. Crawford in that outfit too.

I'm gonna have to get out more often. Hello, Bonfire of the Vanities?

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