Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If you do not try to avoid careless errors, will you avoid any errors?

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The clip above is from the Albany Times Union from today (Feb. 8, 2017), which happens to be the grand opening day for Rivers Casino in Schenectady, NY. I note a little urban attitude in the clip, with its subtle inference that only farmers would use a measure in acres. That attitude alone does not surprise me, and it could be more my personal attitude showing through. But that is not why I include this clip here.

Read it really carefully, and you will note that its key thrust is that 50,000 square feet is approximately 1.5 acres. To quote our President, "Wrong!!!"

An acre calculates out to 43,560 square feet. I say "calculates out" because it is initially defined as an area of one furlong (660 feet, or one-eighth of a mile) by one chain (66 feet, or one-tenth of a furlong). Do the arithmetic, 66 times 660 equals 43560.

Calculating further, dividing 50,000 square feet by 43,560 square feet gets us approximately   1.147842. So, if the Times Union intended to use 1.15 acres, with 1.5 as a typo, then it is a sign that the TU has to strengthen their proofreading. On a different hand, if 1.5 was used because the writer and proofreader just did not know, then the TU has a bigger problem. Possibly, the writer might have "known" that 1.5 is correct in the same way that Donald Trump "knows" that over 3 million votes cast in November were illegal votes.

No matter what the cause(s) of the error was(were), some people will undoubtedly look at it and claim "no big deal". That is the part that is scary, because what is "no big deal" to you might be a big deal to someone else. This error was an error of 30.68%. Suppose there was an error that big on your tax bill or your car payment or your grocery store checkout or your casino hotel bill? Would that error all of a sudden become a "big deal"?

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