When we think about “acceptable” numbers in our lives, life can be pretty scary.

In a perfect world, 100% of something would provide assurance. If we board an airplane, we’d like to know 100% of the parts work. We’d like to know 100% of the passengers have been checked for weapons. We’d like to think there is a 100% chance that we’ll arrive at our destination in one piece.

In reality, 100% doesn’t really exist, and in the world of statistics, 100% is not possible.

The best you can hope for on most counts is 99.7%.

While 99.7% sounds pretty decent, let’s think about some things.

If we think about the airplane scenario, out of 1,000,000 flights in any given year, 3,000 parts are probably flying with at least one defective part. Out of a million passengers per day, 3,000 are probably not being for weapons. As for how many flights might crash, that percentage is actually lower, at 0.005%, but if we think about the 0.3%, this could amount to an estimated 3,000 near misses by air traffic controllers.

Let’s look at medical numbers now…

According to the World Health Organization, more than 234,000,000 surgeries are performed worldwide annually. Let’s use the 99.7% rule here and say that only 0.3% of these 234,000,000 surgeries will go bad. Let’s just say the doctor leaves a tool inside the patient or messes something up.

That’s 702,000 surgeries annually.

Let’s say a drug manufacturer “accidentally” produces a wrong formula in a run of 10,000,000 pills.

That’s 30,000.

If you’re looking for some other fun statistics, check out whats in our food. Did you know there is an acceptable percentage of rat droppings in human food products. The FDA allows up to 13 “fragments of rodent excrement in a 24 ounce container. Want some canned tomatoes? The government allows up to three maggots in your 28-ounce can. Then there is the allowable amount of insects and insect parts. Yes, there is a certain amount insects allowed in your food as well. Did I mention hair? That’s allowed too.

And that’s ALL food, not just what’s listed above.

Numbers are a funny thing. They’ll drive you crazy if you let them.

Just think happy thoughts.

~ Marty ~

Interesting statistics blog post