At first, I thought I was reading about an incredible medical breakthrough, instead of the evacuation of a hospital in New York City.  No, that's not true.  At first, I passed over the numbers, as I often do.  So, I suspect, do most people.  (Okay, not Joseph.  But most people.)

New mom Jo-An Tremblay-Shepherd said, "The power went off completely, and all of the monitors, you're seeing all these monitors here, and there's a lot of buzzing and whatnot and everything just went."

Tremblay-Shepherd's son, Jackson, born 27 weeks prematurely, was carried in the dark by a nurse who also held his oxygen tank.

But the back of my mind wouldn't let it go.  Born 27 weeks prematurely?  So I stopped to calculate.  Normal gestation is 40 weeks, 40 minus 27 is ... 13?  Thirteen weeks?  The quintuplets I pray for were born at more than twice that age, just shy of 28 weeks, which is 12 weeks prematurely, and although they are doing well for their age, life has not been easy for any of them.

So I turned to Google, and learned that the youngest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks, five days.  At 13 weeks, the baby is but three to three-and-a-half inches long.

So, obviously, the CBS News article was wrong.  The baby was no doubt born at 27 weeks gestation, not 27 weeks prematurely.  Not much more than a typo.  But it set me thinking:  How many of the numbers that assail us in news articles and broadcasts do we absorb without thought, let alone fact-checking?  How much information that is just plain wrong has become part of our national consciousness?  What inaccuracies, mistakes, and downright lies do we propagate unthinkingly?


Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Edit
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Yes, with so many numbers whizzing our way it's no wonder a number fly under the radar. I ran across an example in a news article about an errant e-mail that also includes information on a fraud. Not until reading the comments did I realize the guy defrauded others for far more than the amount he was ordered to pay in damages.

Posted by Stephan on Friday, November 02, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Hmmm. Steal $1 million, pay $120,000 back. Sweet deal. Makes as much sense as President Obama running in 2016.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, November 02, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Could it have just been for lack of a comma? If he was born "27 weeks, prematurely," all would be scientific and well, no? Bad editing or bad facts, he asked, dumbly. . . :)

Posted by Eric on Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 7:41 am

And then I was thinking, if "prematurely" is an adverb it would made to modify the "born" and not the "27 weeks". . .If he'd been born "27 weeks premature" THEN we'd have to call the Guiness book. . .but "27 weeks prematurely" might work? Where's my Strunk and White?

Posted by Eric on Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 7:44 am

That's kind of you, Eric, to extend the benefit of the doubt, and an interesting approach. I don't agree with it, because (a) the sentence would be missing an "at" or other preposition in my opinion, and (b) the extra comma would make the sentence even more awkward, but I can't say for sure it isn't a grammatically correct possibility.

Posted by Stephan on Saturday, November 03, 2012 at 2:52 pm
That call negated months of marketing and stalled merchandising campaigns, but the studio believed that it would be a better movie in 3D and knew that If audiences turned out, the conversion would provide a real boost in grosses because of the $3-$4 surcharges theaters charge.

"We wanted to put out the very best movie we could," Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap, "and it became clear to us that 3D was the way to go."

The PG-13 rated "Retaliation" was on 3,719 screens nationwide, more than 3,000 of which were 3D and another 302 Imax. Forty-five percent of the grosses came from 3D, and Imax theaters accounted for 9 percent. The film played to audiences that were 68 percent male and 59 percent over 25. The critics weren't keen on "Retaliation," but moviegoers gave it an "A-" CinemaScore.

So, if I calculated correctly, the (at most) 417 screens (11.2% of the total) that showed the movie without 3D accounted for 46% of the grosses?

Posted by Stephan on Monday, April 01, 2013 at 2:38 am

So, to paraphrase Eric's question above, is it bad facts, or bad statistical analysis? Or really bad decision-making on the part of the studio? The way I read it is that the studio had one idea of what makes for "the very best movie," and actually sacrificed profit in order to do so. Artistic considerations aside (if one can use that term about something that sounds as if it's all explosions, blood splatter, and chase scenes), the public disagreed even more with that decision than with the critics' analysis. The studio would have been better off adopting GEIBTP (good enough is better than perfect).

Still, the discrepancy is mind-boggling enough to make me suspect something is wrong with the numbers.

Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, April 01, 2013 at 7:57 am

My guess is that more than 1'000 were 3D, not more than 3'000.

Here is the original article.

Posted by Stephan on Monday, April 01, 2013 at 9:15 am