Friday, March 27, 2009

What have a panzer tank and a Dublin taxi got in common?

You can use statistical methods to estimate their numbers boom boom

How many taxis are there in Dublin? I'm going to try guess without looking it up then see if I'm right. And I'm going to use Panzers to do it.

During WW2 the allies had to try guess how many tanks the germans had. From the Guardian
"The statisticians had one key piece of information, which was the serial numbers on captured mark V tanks. The statisticians believed that the Germans, being Germans, had logically numbered their tanks in the order in which they were produced"

People are always trying to guess how many of something there is. Iphones, kindles, computer worms, all sorts of man made objects. Mainly though it is important for military reasons.

Lancasters square law says that the power of a modern military force is proportional not to the number of units it has, but to the square of the number of units. This means that relatively small changes in the number of units an enemy has can have big changes in their effectiveness. Play around with the graph of x^2-x; here if you want to see for yourself. This is also important in computer game simulations of military operations.

Anyway I'll get some data on the Dublin Taxi driver licence numbers and get back with the calculation. The estimation problem should make more sense with an example.

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