Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

With news of the latest big earthquake -- this one in central China -- many people are wondering if there is more shaking happening in the world than is usual. A Los Angeles Times essay says no. The number of tremors, large and small, this year is rather typical. What may be different is the greater incidence of destructive quakes in populated areas. Most sesmic activity occurs in remote areas, but with expanding world population the chance of fatalities and severe damage increases.

For the obsessive worrier, the U.S. Geologic Survey provides near real-time reporting of recent earthquakes around the globe. Here's a running list of quakes (2.5 or greater in the United States and 4.5 or greater outside the country) that have occured in the past seven days. There's also a similiar list and accompanying map for current activity in California (magnitude 3.0 and greater). Map pinpoints are coded for recency and size.

I don't know about you, but daylight savings time seems to be ending very late this year. Actually it does end later than most of us remember as kids. (A federal law changed the end date from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November starting in 2007.) This year the end of DST falls on Nov. 1. That's the earliest it can be (though it still seems really late this year.) But just wait until next fall: you'll have to wait til Nov. 7 to get relief from the morning darkness.

Here's a handy chart showing dates for the start and end of daylight savings time for years 1990 through 2015. It's compiled by the California Energy Commission which also provides an interesting article on the history and rationale for the time change.

Where on the Web do you go for credible information on, say, the odds of someone having a heart attack? Or a spouse having an affair? Or the probablity of hundreds of other things occuring in everyday life?

One place is The Book of Odds -- an online database of probability statements intended to inform, educated and entertain readers. It covers hundreds of serious and less-than-serious topics arranged under four broad categories: accidents and death; daily life and activities; health and illness; and relationships and society. The odds statements are fully sourced -- though some of the research behind these numbers is pretty old. Aside from browsing the database by category, you can search by keyword or numerical odds.

Some examples:

1 in 5,533,000 / The odds a person will be killed by lightning in a year.

1 in 8.14 / The odds a female will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

1 in 41.67 / The odds a man 18-70 has a phobia of snakes.

1 in 24.56 / The odds a registered vehicle in Hawaii has vanity plates. 

About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at

June 2010

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