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Mitch Miller and Santa Claus notwithstanding, the booboisie nowadays free-associates beards with beatniks, Vietniks and civilrightsniks. So when bearded Ted Erikson, 37, a Chicago research chemist whose intention it was to become the first to swim the 32 miles from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco, was pulled out of the water two miles short of his goal, reporters were puzzled to find he was—well, sort of square.
"About that beard," one said. "Do you have a cause?"
"Oh, that thing," said Erikson, stroking it. "That's to protect my shoulders. When you're in the water a long time you grow a stubble, and when you swing your head from side to side you rub your shoulders raw."
According to the distinguished British publication Nature, the recently concluded World Cup soccer matches may have been fun to watch, but if their intention was to determine the best team in the world, they didn't.
Nature reached this conclusion by means of a Poisson distribution, more frequently used in calculating interstellar relationships but also pertinent in determining, say, the number of color blind people in Newark or how many of the telephone calls the White House receives in a month will be wrong numbers.
Nature used a Poisson distribution of the form P(n) = e[-q]q[n]/n! with q = 1.234, to describe the distribution of scores by teams in the cup matches, and claimed that the very fact that it was applicable suggested that the teams were "much of a muchness in talent and their scores were independent of each other." Finding next that the chance of a draw on any one occasion was 27%, Nature said that if teams were equally matched "the chance that the result will be an active injustice to one of them will be 73%."
Nature's remedy: copy the World Series and let the winner be decided by a best-of-seven series Or, should the present system endure, no team should be declared the winner until its score exceeds that of its opponent by three standard deviations of Poisson distribution. In this case, Nature says, "it might be necessary to design the game so that it would be practicable for one side to score 100 goals or so within the limits of endurance of the spectators.... Such a change could easily be brought about, perhaps by widening the goalposts or by abolishing goalkeepers."