Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Say Stats, Mom

My mother cannot, to save her life, pronounce the word "statistics" without tripping or spitting.  Most people don't like stats much, even though it feels like we are awash in them sometimes.  I used to feel that way myself--that statistics were being used, more often than not, to misinform, to hide the truth.  Until I saw  Hans Rosling speak on TED (down in links).

The following has nothing whatsoever to do with Japan, but may be loosely correlated with parenting.  Anyway, I said down there in my profile that I occasionally write about things that have nothing to do with anything.  And this is one of those occasions.  Besides--I simply adore this man.  He is brilliant, forthright, and his statistics are crystal clear--and utterly amazing.  Here is his most recent talk given at TED (he has given three others--watch them all and be amazed):

Enjoy.  And learn how to pronounce "statistics".


  1. He. Is. Brilliant!

    Loved the point about mortality rates and family sizes. And the about looking at longer term results (not easy when most politicians can't or won't look further than the next election...). also the... Sod it, I loved the whole thing.

    And the man himself—what a great speaker.

  2. Get on TED and watch all of his stuff--I believe this is his fourth talk there. Go down in the links below, click on TED. This particular talk is new, so it'll come right up with the newest releases (sized by release date). Click on his speech, and then you can click on his bio and get to his other speeches.

    In this one, I was particularly impressed by the way he connected 1) Education for girls, to 2) Lowered infant mortality rates, to 3) Smaller family sizes, to 4) Better lives for children. And he's right. He knows so much history, he can watch those stats moving and tell you exactly what was happening at that time to cause a sudden movement in the trendline. His website is Gapminder.org.

    Glad you liked it!

  3. Awesome! Sensei told us that the average family size in Japan was two children--I'm guessing this has to do with keeping the population in check right?

    I had taikumonohi last week (okay, I know I spelt that wrong--but in english i think it's called gym day). We did that morning exercise tape thing. You know, with that guys voice in the background. (I honstly didn't understand a word he was saying) And then we played these really funny games! I had to run and bite a donut off of this really high pole--and I'm not a very tall person, haha :)

    It was fun, and I got lots of exercise. Did your kids have a sports day too?

  4. You guys had an Undokai(I wrote a post with that title about my kids' recent sports day:))
    Actually "Tai iku no hi" ("Exercise Day" or "Sports Day"--Oct 10, translation is always spotty!)

    Ahh--morning exercise! You did Radio Taiso, which has been on the radio since around 1920 (I think, I wrote that without checking). It's on tv, too (at 6:30am). And *everybody* does it on Sports Day, and lots of people do it every morning.

    My kids' Sports Day was really early this year (back in September), but this past weekend was the community Sports Day, which we went to. Lots of fun--I ran in the relay. Now I can't move... I'll post about it later this week:))

  5. Oops--posted that and didn't answer your other question. Yup--Japan's birthrate is very low (less than 2, actually, although I'm doing my part! Three babies in four years [looks heroically upward...]). Unlike China, there's no One Child law, but because of universal education, girls are better informed about contraception (boys, too), maternal wellness, which leads to better prenatal care and knowledge of vaccination schedules, which in turn lowers child mortality rates. And when you can expect that the first two children you give birth to will survive, there's no need to keep having more.

    I have always thought that apartments in the city being so small, and Japanese women are not stupid, had an effect on birthrates. (half-joking:))

    But as standards of living went up, more people wanted better education for *all* their children, which is expensive, so birthrates fell farther. And now that more and more women are working outside the home, birthrates have fallen even further-- to below 2, in fact, which is a negative birth rate (fewer babies being born than people dying).

  6. That's sad, I didn't know that. The girls I met at the recent SFC meeting had at least 3 or more people in their families. (I'm not sure if this has anything to do with birthrates, but the Japanese students in the program I participate in come from wealthy families).

    Thanks for answering my questions! Oh, and I saw that post of your children's sports day and it looked like fun. :D