Report from the P files

Share
Related Topics
Think of the odder topics of news stories this month: we have had penguins (both boardroom dealings in the biscuits and proposals to bar-code the flippered ones), prostitutes (legalising them and illegalising their calling cards), phone numbers and life on other planets. What they all have in common is, of course, the letter P.

Was this all, in the first two weeks of P-registration cars, a marketing device by the motor industry? We have done some statistical tests.

1-14 Aug Avg

Penguin 64 48.4

Prostitute 104 88.0

Phone 751 707.6

Abortion 266 57.2

The table lists, in the first column, the number of articles in the national press over the first two weeks in August this year featuring each of the listed words. The second column is the fortnightly average over the past year.

Penguins, prostitutes and phones are all significantly ahead of expectations. But the rate of increase of abortions (included as a non-P word to act as a control) is far higher. Yet the Abortion figure is only a by-product of the Pro-life lobby. The word "Pro-life" featured 81 times in the fortnight compared with an average of 5.4. The case for the P-bias seems very strong indeed. For a broader picture, we must compare appearances in newspapers during the first six months of this year with the same period in 1995.

1995 1996

Penguin 619 642

Prostitute 1167 1117

Abortion 708 745

Yuppie 275 270

Ostrich 182 315

Squirrel 223 276

Moose 63 72

Kangaroo 261 190

Penguins and prostitutes have scarcely changed, with a rate of almost two prostitutes per penguin. Yuppies (acting as a statistical control for the prostitutes) remain almost constant. The most dramatic increase has been in ostriches (up 73 per cent) and squirrels (up 24 per cent). Moose are up 14 per cent. The 23 per cent drop in kangaroos is hard to explain.

The crucial test is the stories of life on Mars. Surely, if the automobile spin-doctors have been at work, it should have been Pluto in 1996 and Neptune in 1995 (year of N-registrations). In fact, Pluto sightings in July 1996 were indeed up to 12 from 9 the previous year, but in the same periods Neptune almost doubled from 13 to 24. We conclude that car registrations are not affecting the news.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling taking part in a live television debate in Glasgow on Monday  

Scottish independence: Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?

Ian Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis