Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Significant figures

"Stewie, a Maine Coon who lives in Reno, Nevada, is the world’s longest domesticated cat. He measures 48 and 1/2 inches.... "

That's the original report.
As it comes into the Odd Spot in The Age, it's
Robin Hendrickson and Erik Brandsness of Reno, Nevada, knew their pet cat, Stewie, was big but were surprised to find the five-year-old Maine Coon is a world-beater. Measuring 123.2 centimetres, he is now in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest domestic cat.

That is, a measurement to the nearest half inch has become a measurement to the nearest tenth of a centimetre, an increase in claimed accuracy of about twelve times. Which is silly, because cat length measurements just aren't that accurate, particularly if your cat doesn't want to be measured, as mine didn't. Was Stewie measured with claws retracted or claws extended?

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