May 26, 2005

How many murderers do you know?

For some reason, on my 5-hour drive home last weekend, I started to wonder if anyone I knew had ever gotten away with murder. Then I figured it wouldn't be that hard to approximate the probability of that being so. So here is what I found out.

First, I had to figure out how many murderers there are. From the Bureau of Justice statistics page, I was able to get the number of murders since 1976. I was also able to find the percentage of homicides cleared by arrest. From these two pieces of information I can figure out how many unsolved murders there are since 1976 - about 160,000.

Now, number of murders is not the same as number of murderers. Some murderers are responsible for multiple deaths (Jeffrey Dahmer - 16, George W. Bush - >100,000). But since the bureau of justice statistics claim that there are fewer homicides with multiple victims than there are homicides with multiple offenders, I think it is reasonable to assume one uncaptured murderer for every unsolved murder. So, that leaves us with 160,000. (Note: I may be thinking of that statistic wrong - it is possible that the BoJ considers a homicide with multiple victims one in which several people are killed at once, like a terrorist explosion, as opposed to a serial killer, who commits multiple homicides with one victim each time. In addition, I'm not really sure what it means for a homicide to have multiple offenders. It's possible that many cases involve more than one person, but only one of those people does the actual killing, and the other is charged with some "conspiracy to commit murder" type crime. Anyways, I'm only interested in people who have actually killed.)

Now that we have an (admittedly rough) estimate of the number of killers on the loose, we need to find out the probability that I know one of them. Given a U.S. population of around 272 million (2002 estimate), and 160,000 uncaught murderers, then the odds that any particular US citizen is a killer on the loose are quite low at 0.000591499868387572.

The easiest way to do the desired calculation is to figure out the probability that none of your acquaintences are killers, and then subtract that value from one to figure out the probability that one or more of your acquaintences are murderers. To that end, the probability that someone isn't a killer is 0.999408500131612. But the odds that neither of two people you know are killers is (0.999408500131612 * 0.999408500131612 = 0.998817350135319). Slightly lower now, isn't it? For each person you know, you multiply this new number by the odds that the new person isn't a killer, so that the number we want is (1 - (0.999408500131612^N)), where "^" is "to the power" and N is the number of people you know. Now the important question: how many people do you know? If you only know 50 people, there is only a 3% chance that you know a killer. But you probably know many more than that, you charismatic devil, you. If you know 500 people, then there is about a 25% chance that you know a murderer. And to get to better than even odds (> 50%) of knowing a killer, your social circle would need to include 1172 people. And if you know 5000 people, then it is a virtual certainty (94%) that you know a killer. 5000 certainly seems like a lot, but remember, Wilt Chamberlain claims he had sex with 20,000 women! According to my numbers, there were probably a few murderers just in the group of people that Wilt the Stilt "knew" in the biblical sense.

Now, I know that there are a lot of rough edges in this analysis, but if you can think of any good reasons why this is complete bullshit, please let me know in the comments section.

Here is my spreadsheet file in Excel and Gnumeric file formats.

Posted by mill1991 at 10:40 AM

May 23, 2005

The man hug

This article has a very interesting analysis of the man hug. I usually go for the handshake with people I see regularly, but for seeing close friends that I only rarely visit, I go with the embrace:
Other men opt for the embrace, with one arm around the waist, and the other draped over a shoulder: back-clapping tends to accompany this hug.
It's almost as if you want to be sincere and affectionate, yet in a position that allows you to switch to a bodyslam as quickly as possible if necessary.
Posted by mill1991 at 6:36 PM

May 16, 2005

Weekend recap

This past weekend, I went to Milwaukee to party with some friends. We all got dressed up like it was the Kentucky Derby, including gaudy suits and hats for the guys and lovely dresses and big hats for the ladies. We then rented a limo bus, and drove to a dog track outside of Milwaukee. Here is an overview of what happened.
  • We discovered the magic of Mint Julep. Unfortunately, so did most seats of the party limo.
  • We found out that the recipe for "a good love" is the following: One man, one woman, and Jesus. Coincidentally, that is also the recipe for a really awkward threesome.
  • We learned that, when renting a limo, your five hours includes the time it takes the driver to get to and from the location where he picks you up and drops you off. Unfortunately, this required us to pay a little extra, as the limo service was based half an hour from The Wizard's place. It could've been worse, though; if we had to pay the driver by the volume of his perspiration (a surprisingly common pay scale in Canada) we would all be broke.
  • We tried a myriad of different betting strategies, from picking the three best odds, to picking the one dog with the most spots, to picking the dog whose handler had the best limp. I don't think anybody ended up in the black, although our driver gambled so much he makes Michael Jordan look like a Quaker.
  • The Uncle Tipsy award went to Tone Loc, who on the drive back from the track was doing a sexy walk down the aisle, tried to remove his jacket in a sexy manner, and ended up pulling off his jacket and shirt, so that his glorious mane of chest hair was revealed for all to admire.
Posted by mill1991 at 11:22 AM

A subjective ranking of the offensiveness of curse words

I have a pretty good idea of what the worst swear words are, and the order, but I wonder if they are the same for everybody else. Here is my list, in order of most offensive to least offensive. Feel free to make any additions or changes in the comments.
  1. The c-word
  2. Fuck
  3. Shit
  4. Ass
  5. Bitch
  6. Damn
  7. Hell
Posted by mill1991 at 10:39 AM

May 2, 2005

Review of Diet Mountain Dew

Today I will examine an oft-overlooked member of the citrus flavored soda family, Diet Mountain Dew.

Flavor: Diet Mountain Dew (DMD) has an extremely sweet first flavor, but it rings a little hollow, like you didn't quite earn it. It's sort of like losing a game of coed softball, but then being rewarded the victory on a technicality because the other team had too many girls. A thicker soda like Mello Yello gives you the sense you've really worked for it. This is probably because DMD has no calories. DMD achieves this by using aspartame instead of sugar. Aspartame has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats; it has also been shown to cause yumminess in my mouth. [Update: I am not aware of any actual evidence that aspartame causes cancer. In fact, there are a huge number of studies showing otherwise, and that aspartame is completely healthy as an artificial sweetener. But since that undermines the premise of the joke, I left it in.]

Purity: DMD loses some points by having concentrated orange juice as the second ingredient behind carbonated water. If I wanted orange juice, I'd drink orange juice. I want my sodas to be chock full of "partially hydrogenated" things and "benzoates" and other complicated compounds that sound like unholy laboratory concoctions. DMD does have a low level of "brominated vegetable oil," allowing it to earn some points back. I'm not sure what "brominated" means, but if I had to guess I would say it means something close to "made awesome."

Other: By having no calories and no sugar, DMD benefits in two ways. First, the risk to your teeth is decreased, because they are not being attacked by both sugar and acids (I assume there is still a full-scale assault by acids). Second, the calorie free allows you to drink it in massive quantities without getting fat, although you will have to get up from your desk every 8 minutes to pee. Also, if you are a rat you will get cancer.

Conclusion: In conclusion, I give Diet Mountain Dew two hollow thumbs up. DMD is unfortunately not available in the Constitutional Cokeocracy that is our campus, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it also makes the head grow painful from caffeine withdrawal.

[Update: Thanks to the help of some of the U's top scientists, I have corrected the chemistry errors in this post.]

Posted by mill1991 at 2:39 PM