By Kevin Meyer
In this edition of Fun With Statistics we'll take a quick look at a common problem when communicating statistics: describing orders of magnitude.
I'm still scheduled to be in Yokohama in a month to attend a trade show, so obviously I'm keeping a close eye on the situation in Japan. I love the country and am looking forward to returning for a few days, but the radiation issue is worrisome. I haven't changed any plans figuring that in a couple weeks it will probably either be stabilized and under control or really, really bad – making the decision easy.
A sievert here, a rad there, but at what point is it really a problem. How does it compare with a chest x-ray… to a plane trip… to Chernobyl?
It turns out pretty small, at least for now. Sometimes it just takes a visual to help show the difference in magnitudes. I could improve on this by simplifying it further, but as a start it works great. Here's a full-size version of the chart below.