Yesterday’s Thoughts

September 5, 2007

Quirky Units

Sitting around, waiting for an event to start, two new units of measurement occurred to me.

Name50 – Size of the group required for the given Name to have a 50% chance of being first on an alphabetical listing.

Late50 – Size of the group required for an event having an equal chance of being postponed because of the absence of a single individual.

My name, Baxter, seems to have a surprisingly small Name50 in the typical mostly American circles that I have moved in through my life. Throughout grade school, high school and college, whenever there were more than about 13 or 14 people in the class, I was second alphabetically. The Adamses, Bakers and Ballarons came first.

In the San Francisco white pages my name would appear on page 24 of 456. That means that my name alphabetically proceeds that of 432/456ths or about 95% of the admittedly atypical population of San Francisco.

By calculation, Baxter50 is 1 + ln(0.5) / ln(432/456) or 13.82, a remarkable confirmation of my impressions above so take it with a grain of salt.

Late50 obviously depends on the composition of the group, who it is that is late and what the event is, but it sure does seem like it is often a surprisingly large number. I’ve seen 50 people sitting or standing around waiting for one person who is only peripherally involved in the proceedings. Talk about the difference that one person can make.

I have no idea what either of these metrics could be used for.

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