London’s protected views

This diagram in the Economist captures 10 of the 13 protected views in London:

London Protected Views Economist


The London Plan protects views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster, as seen from London’s larger parks. You must, for example, be able to see both buildings from a specific oak tree on Hampstead Heath. Erecting tall buildings behind them is discouraged, too. These protected views help to explain why tall buildings are rising in such a dispersed pattern. The Shard will not get neighbours anytime soon, as it is wedged between two viewing corridors. In the City, towers are scattered instead of crowding around transport hubs, as economic theory might predict. Their odd designs—described by nicknames such as the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater—are in some cases a means of avoiding imposing on St Paul’s. Only at Canary Wharf, which is too far east to spoil many views, do cuboid skyscrapers rub together in the way they do in other big cities.


How big a problem is HIV

If you collected all of the HIV from the world’s 30 million sufferers, it would fit onto a spoon. [source]


Bronze [at my] age

I’ve started running again and discovered the weekly 5km park runs organised across the UK.

Yesterday’s 5km run at hilly Hampstead Heath was better than expected:

Hampstead Heath Park Run Results

My first thought was, “wow, 3rd, and at my age!.” But inspecting the table it’s quickly clear that I’m not relatively old compared to the other top finishers.

It was the second highest attended race in this location’s 3-yr history (183 finishers) so plenty of data to play with which I put into Excel…

In terms of straightforward averages by ages, or median times, I could see no patterns.

Focusing instead on we ‘elite’ runners, ahem:

Hampstead Heath Park Run Male Finishers Average Times

Considering the top 3 runners in each age group, it does seem that mid 30s is the sweet spot for this kind of distance (for fit non-professionals, at least). The effect is even more pronounced upon removing potential outliers and considering the times for the 3 runners finishing in 4th to 6th place.

Investigating a little on the interwebs, this seems to be a real relationship. For example, data regarding aging and endurance performance for 10ks shows this:

Anyway, hats off to Jason Merron who was running around with a baby-filled buggy and still finished in the top half. I don’t know what the adjustment factor is for that…

Taking money from mathematically challenged customers

A couple of pricing tricks I’ve come across in the last week to take money from non-thinking customers.

Wizz Air On Time Arrival Guarantee

Calling £9 equal to €10, then you need to know that the probability of Wizz Air being over an hour late (probably plus another 15 minutes padding in the flight duration in the first place) is somewhat in excess of 10% for this to make sense. I checked flight stats here and of course no airline has been an hour late that frequently this year. Tim Harford covers why you should not normally take out insurance anyway for things that won’t wipe you out.

I won’t comment on the send me an sms for a pound.

I was in the market for a new phone, and found this pricing on O2 for an HTC One. Which option would you go for (this is just for the handset, the Airtime plan is separate and not dependent on the option picked below)?

O2 Refresh HTC One

The more you pay today, the less you will pay each month, indeed. Come to daddy. And surely the last option is only there as an anchor so that people believe they are getting a £600 phone. No-one’s that stupid?

Anyway, whichever option you went for, you’re [possibly] wrong: it’s £422 unlocked on Amazon.



Consumption spreads faster today

An interesting graph at this location for the US (no original source given):


I’m not sure I agree fully with the talking title. If anything the radio penetrated households faster than the internet, and washing machines were probably adopted more quickly (World War 2 impact corrected for) than dishwashers. Still, interesting.

Channel Tunnel

A link from a new blog I’ve started following revealed the following details about the Channel Tunnel’s construction:

  • Such was the volume of material which was drilled out of the tunnel that the UK has actually been expanded by 90 acres to accommodate the “waste”
  • On average the British workers managed to tunnel around 150 m a week whereas the French figure was lower at 110 m a week

Notes here on saving money on Eurostar tickets.

And an excerpt direct from the blog in question, Further or Alternatively, which made me smile:

…the apocryphal story of the indulgent jury or magistrate who, not wanting to ruin the life of a poor young defendant who has made a silly mistake, returns the verdict “Not guilty” – and then adds sternly “but don’t do it again”.

Scarecrows for pikeys

A quick Google search seems to suggest that one reason to have staff greeting customers as they enter a shop is to deter shoplifters:

Have your employees greet each customer as they enter the store. A shoplifter is less likely to go through with his crime if they think someone might be able to identify them

Or, go for the scarecrow approach:


Welcome to Denton.

Who’s your daddy?

I was a guest at the Brazilian embassy in London earlier this year, and had a DNA test done to assess the ancestry of my genes.

The results are now in:

I’m quite European it turns out. Who knew?!

More here.

Two sleeps per night

Now we have so much artificial light that after a 1994 earthquake knocked out power, some concerned residents of Los Angeles called the police to report a “giant, silvery cloud” in the sky above them. It was the Milky Way. They had never seen it before.

From an article on how it was once normal to have two sleeps per night:

Before this electrically illuminated age, our ancestors slept in two distinct chunks each night. The so-called first sleep took place not long after the sun went down and lasted until a little after midnight. A person would then wake up for an hour or so before heading back to the so-called second sleep.

Hospital treatment cost -v- mortality rate

Welcome to the blog Mrs Price, a graph for you:


Hospital treatment cost v Mortality rate


The Source is a paper based upon data collected over the past two centuries on mortality and costs incurred at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Broadly speaking one can describe three periods:

  • Until 1910, there were flat costs with year-to-year variation in inpatient mortality determined more by world events and epidemics than by the quality of care.
  • Then until 1960 or so value increased modestly with the introduction of novel high-impact therapies, such as penicillin and other antibiotics.
  • For the rest of the 20th century research became industrialized, with complex diagnostics and therapeutics to address an expanding array of diseases discovered and introduced: it now became worthwhile to spend more on health care. In this period, each extra $1,000/patient (2010 dollars) spent on hospital treatment led to 2.4 extra patients being discharged alive for every 1,000 admitted (~$400k to save a life).

Here’s an earlier article looking at health care costs compared to live expectancy which suggest the US health care system is less efficient than that of other countries.