These days I’m having trouble crunching some rather public numbers. First, a rogue presidential candidate hijacks the process with what can only be described as a plurality of votes. Should that happen? Second, there’s science and there’s popular science. Third, there are numbers treated as fact which are, in fact, numbers, but not facts? Got that?
Thank You, Jon Oliver
First up, Apple, the company that was castigated by the stock market, media critics, market analysts, and those who should know better because the company performed much like it said it would and delivered more than $10-billion in profits during what can only be described as a horrific quarter. That’s profits beyond Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Facebook, and Amazon. Combined.
Bad numbers, Apple. Bad numbers.
Are there any good numbers anywhere these days? A few leading presidential candidates are into math, and so is Apple which informed us that the company has more than 1-billion Mac, iPhone, and iPad users in the wild; the vast majority of whom love their products. Google, on the other hand, informed the world that there are 1.5-billion Android devices also in the wild, leaving Apple with– and check my math because I used a calculator on this, and we all know they’re prone to user error– about 40-percent marketshare.
Yet, similar calculators were used by the folks at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech to check on such things as product marketshare earlier this year, and Apple’s iPhone is down while Android is up. Fair enough, but the numbers don’t match. The best Apple can squeeze out of the
estimates guesses from Kantar is barely 20-percent. Windows Phones keep going down, but that’s not news, not a surprise, and not even a trending topic on Facebook anymore. Yet, based on Apple’s real numbers and Google’s real numbers, Apple has a much larger share than Kantar’s fake numbers based on unreal data.
What does all this have to do with science?
Just as numbers can be manipulated to say anything in any language– remember ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics‘– science has a similar problem, especially where numbers are conflated as science (ostensibly because science uses a lot of numbers to determine scientific fact, and similar numbers to determine scientific theory; but both are conflated to be just plain science).
Leave it to the paid comedians to tell us the obvious that we cannot see.
I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.
Alright, things change. Take out Democrat and replace it with Republican and all is right with the world again, right? Right? Not so fast.
Journalism, Meet Science
In other words, can you trust what you read, regardless the source? Perhaps ‘trust, but verify‘ would help. Or, my favorite, ‘consider the source.’ Therein lies another problem. Apple publishes hard numbers. All the rest of the numbers that compare to Apple’s real numbers are guesstimates because other companies that compete with Apple do not publish similar numbers. If they’re leading in marketshare all over the world, as Kantar’s numbers suggest, then why not?
Maybe they’re not leading with their own numbers as much as they lead with Kantar’s numbers.
Let me leave you with what happens when 21st century journalism (which looks and works much like journalism in the 20th century, only faster) meets 21st century science. It’s all good, right? Not according to comedian Jon Oliver who castigated both so-called science and so-called journalism with a hilariously accurate examination of science.
When you hear a pseudo-journalist start a report with ‘Scientists have discovered…’ or ‘A new study shows…’ or ‘Scientific research says…’ then a steady stream of cow pies likely is on the way. Likewise, when market anal-ysts, researchers, and members of the technorati elite politburo start to talk about Apple’s numbers vs. anyone else’s numbers, just remember that you need boots for protection when you walk through a field of cow pies.