Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kansas Vs. Pancakes

In a survey conducted by the American Geographical Society, almost a third of all respondents said that Kansas was the flattest state. Some people even call it “flatter than a pancake.” But what does science have to say about that?

The first, and only, study that we know of that directly compared the Sunflower State to a pancake was done by a trio of geographers in 2003. For their tongue-in-cheek analysis, they acquired a pancake from IHOP, cut out a sample slice and made a topographic profile of it using a laser microscope (assuring us that they would “not be daunted by the ‘No Food or Drink’ sign posted in the microscopy room”). They then compared their pancake to an east-west profile of Kansas taken from a 1:250,000 scale digital model of the state’s elevation data, and calculated flatness estimates for each. 

A flatness value of 1.000 would indicate “perfect, platonic flatness.” The pancake was scored as 0.957, which the researchers said is “pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat.” The value for Kansas, meanwhile was ~0.9997, or “damn flat,” as they said. 

“Simply put, our results show that Kansas is considerably flatter than a pancake,” the team concluded. 

But that’s not the whole story. When the playful study first came out in the Annals of Improbable Research, Lee Allison, then the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, quipped that “everything on Earth is flatter than the pancake as they measured it.” 

Clarifying Allison’s retort in a paper from earlier this year, geographers Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell explain it like this:
“The pancake measured in the article was 130 millimeters, and its surface relief was 2 millimeters. Apply that ratio to the east-west dimension of Kansas, approximately 644 kilometers, and the state would need a mountain (2/130 x 664,000 meters) 9,908 meters tall in order not to be flatter than a pancake. Since the highest mountain in the world is 8,848 meters tall, every state in the U.S. is flatter than a pancake.”
 So, go ahead and rejoice, Kansans. Your state’s not alone in being flatter than a flapjack.
When your coastal friends don't believe you about this, bet them some money and then up the ante with this:
The state with the most land in the flat, flatter and flattest categories is, perhaps surprisingly, Florida. Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, Delaware, Kansas, Texas, Nevada and Indiana round out the top ten.
Bam!  Not even in the top five.

Also, I'm hungry now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Do Women Really Make 22% Less Than Men?

Yep, let's go there:

The Census Bureau released updated data this week showing that the so-called “gender pay gap” between men and women reached a record low, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.

But does this mean that a woman who performs the exact same job as a man gets paid 22 cents less on the dollar? Of course not. If companies behaved that way, they would face lawsuits. Their profits would also suffer: underpaid women would jump ship to competitors and overpaid men would drive up costs and reduce companies’ competitiveness.

The pay gap results from the choices women make. Once factors such as career choice, education and experience, hours and work schedules, and career interruptions are taken into account, the so-called pay gap falls to about 5 cents. Other factors, such as the cost of fringe benefits, likely explain some or all of the remaining gap.

For example, even within the government’s General Schedule pay scale that effectively prohibits pay-based discrimination, women make only 89 cents on the dollar compared to men. Why? Well, women make up 75 percent of all federal social workers but only 17 percent of all federal engineers. However, federal social workers make an average of $79,569, while federal engineers make an average of $117,894.

Differences in career choices do significantly affect earnings differentials between men and women. But does that mean we should limit individual choices, forcing women into male-dominated professions and men into female-dominated professions?

Attempts to reduce the so-called remaining “pay gap” through legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act would unintentionally harm women by forcing one-size-fits all jobs upon employees, thus taking away some of the choices women make, and by potentially subjecting women to increased discrimination in the hiring process.

While it may be true that the average women earns less than the average man, most women don’t measure their worth by the size of their paycheck, but rather their ability to freely pursue their own choices and happiness.

It's not rocket science, nor is it some giant sexist scheme to keep women down.

Can we please put this myth to bed now?  Just sayin'.

Agree or disagree?  Feel free to comment below...I think this could be an interesting discussion.