February 18, 2014

XKCD on the Frequency of Bike Theft

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, over my morning bowl of oatmeal, I check out the latest installment of xkcd, a self-proclaimed "webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." Bike theft may not have cracked the top-four list of most treated topics, but it did make an appearance in yesterday's offering.

Titled "Frequency," the comic features a 10 by 5 grid of words and phrases flashing according to how often the events they describe occur. It's mesmerizing to watch, and interesting if you fancy, say, a visual representation of the relative frequency of earthquakes of magnitudes 1, 2, 3, and 4 or care how the pace of car production in the United States compares to that in China or Germany or Japan.

Now I have no idea how Randall Monroe came up with the numbers he used to create the graphic or, therefore, how much stock to put in them. According to the hover-over explanation, the "comic shows estimated average frequency." For whatever it's worth, Monroe estimated the frequency of bike theft at one bike every 25 seconds.

That's the reading I got, anyway, when I took a break from contemplating cat adoption and bottle recycling and domain registration and sex in North Dakota (!) long enough to put a stopwatch on the time lapse between flashes of "SOMEONE STEALS A BICYCLE"...

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