Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

April 20, 2014

Odds are good that you didn’t know this

Odds or Probabilities fascinate many people. There is a special website called and an accompanying location on Facebook at /BookofOdds .This website lists 400,000 odds. Three of the people who are involved in this media display have coauthored a book, “The Book of Odds” that presents some of key odds, drawing from polls and statistics published in journals. The authors are A. Shapiro, L.F. Campbell and R. Wright. This paperback was published this year by Harper Collins with ISBN 978-0-06-206085-3.

Skipping the first few sections on dating, marriage and related behavior, I came to the odds on life expectancy. What are your odds of living to 100?

If you are 21 years old, your odds of making the century mark are 1 in 56.8. At age 35, the odds that you will live to be 100 (a centenarian) are 1 in 56. At 50 years old, your odds are 1 in 50. At age 70, living 30 more years have odds of 1 in 44.2. At age 90, the odds are 1 in 31.2.

These odds combine data from both men and women. Comparing the sexes, at age 40, a woman’s life expectancy is 11 percent higher than a man’s. At age 80, a woman’s life expectancy is 19 percent more than a man’s. Of 100,000 women, 2,460 will live to be 100 compared to 850 men (out of 100,000 men).

Another interesting area are birth streaks, where a woman gives birth to just boys or girls. The odds a woman’s first two babies will be boys are 1 in 3.8.

For the first three babies to be boys, odds are 1 in 7.5. For four straight baby boys, the odds are 1 in 14.6.

Consider just baby girls; The odds a woman’s first two babies will be girls are 1 in 4.2. For a woman’s first three babies will be girls are 1 in 8.6. For four straight baby girls, the odds are 1 in 17.6.

My sister had just three girls, all turned out fine. Now her oldest girl has already had three girls of her own and will have fourth baby late this year.

As for given names, the odds change from decade to decade. In 1950, (the year closest to my birth), the odds of a baby being named Robert (my name) was 1 in 21.8. My sister who was born a little after 1950 was named Carol, with odds of 1 in 67.2.

By 2009 many more names being used, so the odds for each name have dropped considerably. The most popular male name is Daniel at 1 to 121. The most popular female name is Emma at 1 to 113.

The odds to be a left handed male are 1 in 7.7. The female left handed have odds of 1 to 12.4. For males, this can be expressed as 1/7.7 = 13 percent of males are “lefties” while 1/12.4 = 8 percent of females are left handed.

Some may remember in the 2008 presidential election that the nominees of the two major parties were both left handed.

As for allergies, the odds that a child under 3 is allergic are: to milk, 1 in 40, to eggs, 1 in 76.9, and to peanuts 1 in 125 The odds that a student will drop out before high school graduation by state are: Louisiana 1 to 13.3, Colorado 1 to 15.6, Michigan 1 to 16.1, Washington 1 to 17.5 and District of Columbia 1 to 18.2. The lowest odds for dropouts are: New Jersey 1 to 58.8 and Idaho 1 to 50.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
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    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

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    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

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    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

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