Friday, March 02, 2012

Sloppy statistics failing to show racism

This is a bit silly, but it's a good illustration of a bad statistical understanding coloring the perception of a problem that doesn't actually exist. is running an article today called "4 Famous Pop Culture Moments Everyone Remembers Incorrectly." Sometimes I enjoy their articles and sometimes not so much. But in this case, example #2 is a little weird and random.

Will Smith Never Says "Welcome to Earf" in Independence Day

Wait, what? He doesn't say Welcome to Earth? I swear I remember him saying that. Look, it's right here in convenient video format.

Oh wait, no! The author of the article actually was trying to emphasize the word "Earf," because apparently "everyone" misremembers the quote as being delivered in some kind of comical ebonics lingo, when it actually wasn't. Everyone, huh? First I ever heard of that.

As proof, he googles up the words "Welcome to earf" and boggles at the awe inspiring 40,000 hits. Come on though, if you are going to prove something with a google search, don't you think a little direct comparison is in order?
  • "will smith welcome to earf"
    About 14,300 results
  • "will smith welcome to earth"
    About 18,100,000 results
So... when you say "everyone," I guess you mean "Less than 0.1% of everyone," eh?


  1. I hate any time they use search engine hits as an indication of significance in any article. It's as old as the Web because it results in such large numbers, but those "hits" are often so tenuous after the first page or two that they are useless anyway.

    I just Google "purple clown buttons" and got 9,420 hits.

    I googled my name(a quite uncommon one) in quotes and got 13,600 hits. And about 20 of them are probably actually about me.

  2. WHAT! Racism exists on the internet!? There really are racist people out there? All this time I thought racism was over. (Not really.)

    If all you need is 14K Google hits for something to a problem, we are going to have a lot of problems.

  3. This isto from purethe memory:I can see how this would b confusing, after wil smith triumphantly chews his cigar, while said cigar impedes lip articulation needed to enunciate the following line. And it comes out something like a mumbly "dash wut i call a closhe encounter"...i may be mis remembering it tho