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Just the facts Ma’am

One of the books I recently enjoyed reading was Freakonomics.  It re-affirmed to me the importance of questioning things [social phenomena] through examining evidence [data].  This should be common sense but folk make a lot of faulty assumptions regarding cause and effect when things are presented as straight fact: correlations are not causes.  But the book also made me aware of how much facts make ‘the social’  fascinating, breathing life into it in a way that so much of, say, cultural theory sucks it dry.  Data, ‘evidence’, makes you ask ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘where’, when’ and ‘how’. 

Anyway, here are some [spurious and bizarre] ‘facts’ I’ve pilfered from The Week, that glorious publication for lavatories everywhere:

"UK consumers have run up 66% of the credit card debt outstanding across the entire European Union" [source: New Satesman]

"Londoners have paved over almost two-thirds of their 1.9 million gardens – an area 22 times the size of Hyde Park, or equal to 5,200 football pitches" [source: The Guardian]

"50% of middle-aged men say they’re "often or almost always annoyed" [source: The Times]

"By 2010 there will be 180 000 Avon ladies in Britain – more than the combined staff of the Army and Navy" [source: The Daily Telegraph]

"36% of 8-14 year old children don’t know that chips are made from potatoes" [source: British Heart Foundation]

"The total weight of insects eaten every year by spiders is more than the total weight of humans in the world" [source: The Daily Mail]

Ask ‘why?’ and ask it around 5 times to take you interesting places…
More weighty numbers to ponder can be gotten from UK Statistics [the ONS] and are used to make oh you know big policy decisions.  I wonder how often civil servants and ministers ask why?