The opening exhibit of a new show at the British Library about displays of scientific data, Beautiful Science, is an animated film depicting the world's oceans and the thousands of currents that drift and swirl across them. Perpetual Ocean, made by Nasa, is less beautiful than it is mesmerising: in three minutes the film shows the surface currents of the oceans over a two-and-a-half year period, from June 2005 to December 2007. There's a no less mesmerising 20-minute version too.
One of the many pieces of bin Laden-related trivia in the news today is the resuscitation of a study by a group of geographers at UCLA, published in 2009, which according to the BBC ‘said there was a high probability Osama Bin Laden was located in the town where he was ultimately killed by US operatives on Sunday'. The BBC report goes on: The model employed in the study, which is typically used to track endangered species, said there was a 88.9 per cent chance he was in Abbottabad in Pakistan. But geographer Thomas Gillespie at UCLA said the same study gave a 95 per cent chance he was in another town, Parachinar. There's clearly something amiss here: if there was an 88.9 per cent chance he was in Abbottabad, there could only have been an 11.1 per cent chance he was anywhere else. Puzzled, I asked a statistician how the numbers could add up, and he said: