Numbers vs Maths

22 01 2019

I was always “good at maths.” At school, through til A Level’s it came to me easier than most other subjects, and I hugely enjoyed it – it wasn’t until university that it felt like a completely different subject that I just had no ability to do! I kinda assumed I’d just reached my limit, or I was an anomaly who just couldn’t handle the switch from working stuff out to proving stuff.

But on the way home tonight, I listened to this week’s Infinite Monkey Cage episode/podcast called “The Origin of Numbers.” During the last ten minutes or so, they said the following:

“I don’t know a single mathematician who’d say they were good at mental arithmetic.”

And it was like a revelation – I can do all the number bits, just the theory that I find hard. They talk about there being a distinction between numbers and mathematics.

They also talk about a condition called dyscalculia which they thought many mathematicians actually have, which is where you have problems with arithmetic. I feel like maybe I had the opposite to that!

So maybe, after all those years in education, I never was “good at maths”, I was good at numbers! I wonder if that explains why I am so into data, spreadsheets, processing, rather than any inclination at all to carry on in academia.

If you’re at all into maths or numbers, it’s a very interesting listen – go ahead!

Vegetarianism and Insect bites

21 07 2016

A friend of mine put up a theory that because she’s vegetarian, and therefore has “greater respect for animals”, she doesn’t get bitten by insects. It seemed an interesting idea so I decided to test it!
She jokingly requested a report, and so I found an old template for GCSE Science write-ups and below is what we found out!

To determine whether a person’s choice to eat meat has any effect as to how much they may get bitten by insects.

Factors which will affect the results
We won’t have quantitative data to analyse as a person is not generally aware of precisely how frequently they are bitten, so this data collection will need to be qualitative.

Preliminary Work
We asked two or three people around the office to see if this is the sort of study that could be run. All subjects asked were able to give an answer, and interestingly all support our hypothesis.

I don’t think we will see a strong correlation, but hope to see a positive one to some degree.

A survey will be conducted over Facebook and Twitter to ask people to answer two simple questions:
1) Do you tend to get bitten by insects or not?
2) Are you vegetarian?

Results will simply be tallied from both social networks. There is a chance some people could be vague about their answer to question one, so some of those may need to be considered for validity.
We may get answers from pescatarians; these would need to be treated as a third group.

Internet Connection



Tables of Results

table of results

Other than the obvious conclusion that I know an awful lot more meat eaters than I do vegetarians (or at least, ones that will respond to surveys), there is a clear difference in results between vegetarians and omnivores.
80% of vegetarians surveyed do not tend to get bitten by insects, whereas for meat-eaters this was only 45.1%
Obviously it would be advantageous to have a larger sample data size, particularly of vegetarians, but the results I have obtained clearly support the hypothesis.



Evaluating Evidence

One person was a bit unclear in their answer and said “not often” in response to the first question, which I treated as a no, but could easily have been a yes. If more people had responded like this I would probably have split them across the categories. Fortunately it was only the one.

For a future extension to this project I know some people who have had phases of their lives in which they have been vegetarians and phases where they have not. It would be interesting to hear anecdotal evidence as to whether this change in diet had an effect on them being bitten by insects.s

It would also be interesting to see what other dietary options had an effect on being bitten. For example, one test subject asked if a high intake of sugar would affect the likelihood. This would be particularly interesting given the current fashion of cutting sugar out of diets.