One sandwich short of a picnic

Agree to Disagree

Debate in a non-hostile environment



One sandwich short of a picnic


Since 1980, scientists have been using satellites to monitor the number of sandwiches in the Arctic region.

Why do scientists monitor the number of sandwiches in the Arctic region, you might ask? The answer is quite simple. What do you think polar bears eat, when they can’t hunt seals, because there is no sea ice.

The number of sandwiches grows and decays with the seasons. There are more sandwiches in winter/spring (while the polar bears are eating seals). And there are fewer sandwiches in summer/fall (when seals are not available).

But scientists are concerned, because over the decades, the number of sandwiches is following a decreasing trend.

The number of sandwiches is obviously getting smaller. Not every year, of course. It does so in fits and starts. But the long term pattern (the trend), is clear. Deny it, and you are a sandwich denier.

A bitter argument has broken out, between the 2 scientists who have been monitoring sandwich numbers.

Dr Anne Alarmist, insists that sandwich numbers are falling rapidly, and may fall to zero within 10 to 20 years.

But her rival, Dr A Skeptic, claims that Dr Anne Alarmist is talking “poppycock”. Dr A Skeptic agrees that there is a decreasing trend, but claims that sandwiches will continue to be available, for at least 100 to 200 years.

Each scientist has plotted a graph of sandwich numbers from 1980 to 2018.

Here is Dr Anne Alarmist’s graph:

Graph Anne Alarmist

Here is Dr A Skeptic’s graph:

Graph A Skeptic


If you examine both graphs, you will see that the data plotted, is exactly the same. Both scientists agree on the number of sandwiches for each year.

The only difference in the 2 graphs, is the scale on the Y-axis.

Dr Anne Alarmist made her Y-axis go from 10.0 million sandwiches, to 12.5 million sandwiches. It is important, she said, to make people panic about sandwich numbers. Because otherwise, people won’t do anything about them. And what will the polar bears eat, if there are no sandwiches available?

Dr A Skeptic made his Y-axis go from 0.0 million sandwiches, to 14.0 million sandwiches. He claims that since we are worried about sandwich numbers falling to zero, we should have zero on the graph. This allows us to more accurately estimate when sandwich numbers will reach zero.

Dr A Skeptic added, we don’t need to worry about what polar bears will eat, when there are no more sandwiches. Polar bears survived during the Eemian warm period, which was before sandwiches were invented (by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, in the eighteenth century).

Who is right? Dr Anne Alarmist, or Dr A Skeptic?

People who are observant, may notice a similarity between this article, and one that was written by Tamino:

Tamino was the inspiration for Dr Anne Alarmist.

I won’t tell you who the inspiration for Dr A Skeptic was. But whoever it was, they must be very clever.

Tamino claims to be a professional statistician. So it is probably safe to assume that he knows that his graph of sea ice extent, is highly deceptive. Why didn’t he include zero on the Y-axis?

Could it be, that Tamino wants to panic people into doing what Tamino wants?

To show what a nice person Tamino is, I want to point out that Tamino made some negative comments about some graphs, that WattsUpWithThat displayed. Tamino said, “Sometimes, it’s what they DON’T show you, that you should pay most attention to”.

I wonder if Tamino meant for his comment to apply to himself?

Alert readers will have noticed that “sandwiches”, is almost an anagram of “sea ice extent”.

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If you would like to vote for which graph you think is more “honest”:

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