Saturday, 8 June 2013

Dang that spurious accuracy

I have been deprecating spurious accuracy and chiding my students for it since a long time.  I should be more tolerant of such slips because last night I hoist myself on my own indignation:

Neckarsulm near Stuttgart [is] 621km north of Firenze

For shame Bob, surely you can get less accurate than that and not slavishly copy the number delivered to you by WolframAlpha? And for shame WolframAlpha for not rounding to the nearest 10km.  To report a distance accurate to 1000m, you need to define your terms and do more research.  Where with respect to Neckersulm Centrum is Der Lidlaldikuchenfabrik aka Confiserie Firenze?  What in Firenze does WolframAlpha take as the point of measurement?  The Duomo?  The David?  Charing Cross is one of several popular choices for the exact centre of London. Other centres include the London Stone with its considerable power as a fetish; or the doors of St Mary le Bow the sound of whose bells define 'cockney'.  The Londonist has adopted a commendably empirical approach.  Firenze/Florence is over 100 in size and even Neckarsulm is officially 25 in size.  So let's call the distance between the Confiserie Firenze and the real Firenze 620km and move on.

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