The Incredible Shrinking PAX Medals

A few weeks ago I attended my eighth consecutive PAX Prime. While there are many things to love about PAX, one of my personal favorites has become the PAX medals. All weekend long there are various tournaments and contests you can participate in to win a medal.

I have won a PAX medal at each of the last three PAX Prime events that I have had the pleasure of attending. In 2011 I got one for placing second in a Pac-Man Championship Edition DX tournament. In 2012 I won one for having the second-best pitch at the Pitch Your Game Idea panel. This year I won a high score contest for the Super Nintendo game Tin Star, using the SuperScope.

PAX Medals: 2011, 2012, 2013

As I was enjoying my PAX medals, I noticed something odd. Each year, the PAX medals are getting slightly smaller.

Time to break out some measuring tools.

PAX Medals: Ribbon Length

First up, length of the ribbons:

Ribbon Length Comparison of PAX Medals: 2011, 2012, 2013

That’s 4cm of ribbon loss in just two years. At this rate, PAX medals will be a 15cm choker by 2020.

PAX Medals: Medal Height

Let’s check the height.

Height Comparison of PAX Medals: 2011, 2012, 2013

The shrinkage of the medals is even more dramatic than the ribbon shrinkage. If it keeps up at the same rate they’ll disappear completely by 2020.

PAX Medals: Mass

Finally, let’s weigh these suckers on my kitchen scale.

Mass Comparison of PAX Medals: 2011, 2012, 2013

The loss of mass is the most extreme, with an average loss of 3.5g per year putting the medals on a path to vanish entirely by 2018. Also, apparently PAX medals are not very nutritious.

PAX Medals: Shrinkage Summary

Here’s a summary of my findings:

Year Length Height Mass
2011 33.0cm 0.76″ 25g
2012 30.5cm 0.66″ 20g
2013 29.0cm 0.58″ 18g

There is one category in which PAX medals are getting measurably better: back-side engraving. The 2011 medal just had a generic number. The 2012 medal still had the number, but they added a bit about what the medal was for. In 2013 the number was dropped entirely and the font got a sweet upgrade.

Back of PAX Medals: 2011, 2012, 2013

Anyway, this is all apparently interesting enough for me to write a 333-word blog post, but despite the shrinkage, I still enjoy my PAX medals.

Horse Head: Three-Time PAX Medal Winner!

“Double Stuf” Oreos Actually Only “1.89x Stuf”

Here’s another great story about data, this time on a small scale.

Dan Anderson is a high school math teacher. As part of a class exercise, he had his kids measure the “stuf” content of regular Oreo cookies, “Double Stuf” Oreo cookies, and “Mega Stuf” Oreo cookies.

According to his kids’ calculations, the “Double Stuf” Oreos contained 1.86x as much filling as regular Oreos. Oops.

After his original blog post blew up on the internet, Dan did a more extensive experiment of his own and came up with similar results: “Double Stuf” Oreos contained just 1.89x as much filling as regular Oreos.

The experiments got quite a bit of attention online, and even drew an official response from Nabisco, as covered by ABC News:

A spokeswoman for Nabisco told the company’s Double Stuf Oreos are made to have double the creme filling as the original Oreos.

“While I’m not familiar with what was done in the classroom setting, I can confirm for you that our recipe for the Oreo Double Stuf Cookie has double the Stuf, or creme filling, when compared with our base, or original Oreo cookie,” the spokeswoman said.

And yet… That’s not what the data actually shows.

Data-driven observations: 1
Nabisco: 0

via BoingBoing

LA Times: 6,297 Chinese restaurants and hungry for more

LA Man Collects Data on 6,000+ Chinese Restaurant Visits

I love stories of people or companies using data in interesting ways, and today I came across a great one.

From the Los Angeles Times: 6,297 Chinese restaurants and hungry for more

[Los Angeles attorney David] Chan, 64, has eaten at 6,297 Chinese restaurants (at press time) and he has documented the experiences on an Excel spreadsheet, a data-centric diary of a gastronomic journey that spans the United States and beyond.

LA Times: 6,297 Chinese restaurants and hungry for moreChan was eating at new restaurants faster than they could open up. Soon there wasn’t a single one in the area he hadn’t tried, but still, he was unsatisfied.

In 1985, he hit 86 restaurants in the Los Angeles area and around the country. The next year, 119. Before long he was trying more than 300 restaurants every year.

In Toronto, he hit six dim sum restaurants in six hours. When he traveled for business in Florida, he zigzagged the state to sample 20 Chinese restaurants.

Chan had always wanted to travel to all 50 states, and Chinese food gave him an excuse. In places he would have never imagined, he found Chinese people with their own version of Chinese food.

They’ve also created a neat interactive timeline visual of the LA-area visits documented in Chan’s spreadsheet, a static portion of which I’ve excerpted above.

The article doesn’t really get into the details of how he’s kept his list, or what types of information he keeps about each visit aside from the date, location, decor, and his order. Since he started his list in 1955, he must have kept it in a paper journal for decades before taking the time at some point to transcribe it all into Excel.

That is a seriously impressive dedication to data.

via BoingBoing

Can Seattle Support Six Major Pro Sports Teams?

I was reading an article in today’s Seattle Times about a Metropolitan King County Council hearing on the Seattle arena proposal to build yet another sports arena in SoDo, when this bit stuck out to me:

[Councilmember Jane] Hague then wanted to know if the region could support so many teams. Counting the NBA and NHL, as well as the University of Washington football team playing in a new stadium, Councilmember Larry Phillips said the area could have seven major teams. He wondered if any other “midsized major market” supported that many.

“I think this area can support it,” [former Sonics coach Lenny] Wilkens said.

Phillips said he’d want to see a market analysis.

Traditionally the only kind of market analysis I do is for the Seattle real estate market, but once in a while I like to branch out, so I thought I’d give the Council a head start.

To get an idea of how reasonable it might be to have six professional sports teams here in the Seattle metro area, I took a list of the top 30 largest metro areas in the United States and counted up how many pro sports team each metro area currently has. For this analysis, I decided to exclude college sports and just focus on NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MLS. Las Vegas is the 30th-largest metro but has no pro sports teams so we’ll leave it off the chart. LA’s Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino Counties, #12 on its own) doesn’t have any sports teams of its own, so I included its population with LA. I’ve also included the San Jose metro area population (#31) with the San Francisco population to better reflect the whole Bay Area.

Here’s the resulting chart, showing where Seattle sits today with four teams (NFL, MLB, WNBA, and MLS):

Number of Professional Sports Teams vs. Metro Population

As you can see, Seattle’s current collection of professional sports teams puts us slightly above the trendline of these 28 metro areas. If we were to add NBA and NHL teams to our roster, it would put us on par with Washington DC, a metro area with 63% more people than Seattle.

[Update: A friend of mine asked for a weighted version of the above chart, where the major sports (NFL, MLB, and NBA) count double. You can view that version here.]

Another informative way to look at this question is in terms of population per team. Here’s a table of that data, showing Seattle’s location with and without two extra teams:

Click on any column header to sort by that column.

Metro Teams Population Pop. per Team
Denver 5 2,599,504 519,901
Seattle (proposed) 6 3,500,026 583,338
San Francisco Bay Area 7 4,391,037 627,291
Minneapolis 5 3,318,486 663,697
Kansas City 3 2,052,676 684,225
Cleveland 3 2,068,283 689,428
Pittsburgh 3 2,359,746 786,582
Phoenix 5 4,262,236 852,447
Seattle (today) 4 3,500,026 875,007
Boston 5 4,591,112 918,222
St. Louis 3 2,817,355 939,118
Tampa 3 2,824,724 941,575
Washington DC 6 5,703,948 950,658
Cincinnati 2 2,138,038 1,069,019
Detroit 4 4,285,832 1,071,458
San Antonio 2 2,194,927 1,097,464
Portland 2 2,262,605 1,131,303
Philadelphia 5 5,992,414 1,198,483
Dallas / Fort Worth 5 6,526,548 1,305,310
Atlanta 4 5,359,205 1,339,801
Chicago 7 9,504,753 1,357,822
Baltimore 2 2,729,110 1,364,555
Miami 4 5,670,125 1,417,531
Houston 4 6,086,538 1,521,635
San Diego 2 3,140,069 1,570,035
New York 11 19,015,900 1,728,718
Los Angeles + Inland Empire 9 17,249,798 1,916,644
Orlando 1 2,171,360 2,171,360
Sacramento 1 2,176,235 2,176,235

At 875,007 residents per local pro sports team, Seattle is already 25% below the 28-city average of 1,174,483. If we were to bring both NBA and NHL teams to our market we would shoot to a full 50% below the average.

It would appear that the answer to Councilmember Hague’s question of whether Seattle can “support so many teams” would appear to be “probably not.”

As for Councilmember Phillips’s question of whether ‘any other “midsized major market”‘ supports six teams, the answer is no. Only five other markets currently have six or more professional sports teams:

  • Washington DC – 6 teams, 63% more people than Seattle
  • San Francisco – 7 teams, 79% more people than Seattle
  • Chicago – 7 teams, 172% more people than Seattle
  • Los Angeles – 9 teams, 393% more people than Seattle
  • New York – 11 teams, 443% more people than Seattle

Not even close.

Obviously a more detailed analysis would take into account incomes, recreational spending patterns, and other factors. That said, we’re obviously not hurting for pro sports teams here in Seattle, relative to the size of our market. So why exactly do we need to spend $200 million in public funds to build a new stadium and bring two new pro sports teams to Seattle?

[Update: Whoa, 164 226 comments and counting on the Seattle Times piece linking to this post. People certainly have strong opinions on this subject!]

[Update 2: …and it’s been posted on the Seattle P-I as well.]

[Update 3]
There have been a number of comments on the Seattle Times piece as well as here on this post about the various other factors that need to be considered when attempting to answer the question of whether Seattle can support six pro sports teams.

Although I did plainly call out that this was just a cursory analysis meant to answer the specific “metro size” questions posed by the Councilmembers, I decided to get the latest Personal Income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to run a few additional numbers.

Here’s what the first chart looks like if you use Personal Income as the x-axis instead of population:

Number of Professional Sports Teams vs. Metro Population

I made a weighted version of this one, too if you prefer that.

For the non-stats-nerds out there, the R² value on the chart is the coefficient of determination, which is basically a way of measuring how closely correlated two sets of values are. In this case, total Personal Income and number of sports teams are 82% correlated, which is pretty high, and sightly better than the 79% correlation between population and number of sports teams.

And as long as I’m posting an update with incomes, here’s the table version, looking at personal income per local pro sports team instead of population per sports team:

Click on any column header to sort by that column.

Metro Teams $M Income $M per Team
Denver 5 $121,902 $24,380
Cleveland 3 $84,854 $28,285
Kansas City 3 $85,217 $28,406
Seattle (proposed) 6 $176,085 $29,348
Phoenix 5 $152,810 $30,562
Minneapolis 5 $154,479 $30,896
Pittsburgh 3 $103,039 $34,346
Tampa 3 $105,596 $35,199
St. Louis 3 $117,421 $39,140
San Antonio 2 $78,416 $39,208
Cincinnati 2 $84,611 $42,306
Detroit 4 $170,618 $42,655
Seattle (today) 4 $176,085 $44,021
Portland 2 $90,654 $45,327
Boston 5 $253,463 $50,693
Atlanta 4 $208,107 $52,027
San Francisco Bay Area 7 $374,249 $53,464
Washington DC 6 $323,536 $53,923
Dallas / Fort Worth 5 $277,516 $55,503
Philadelphia 5 $281,517 $56,303
Miami 4 $242,278 $60,570
Chicago 7 $435,413 $62,202
Baltimore 2 $133,587 $66,794
Houston 4 $281,842 $70,461
San Diego 2 $143,109 $71,555
Orlando 1 $75,289 $75,289
Los Angeles + Inland Empire 9 $691,121 $76,791
Sacramento 1 $86,943 $86,943
New York 11 $1,028,140 $93,467

At $44,021M in Personal Income per local pro sports team, Seattle is currently 15% below the 28-city average of $51,811M. If we were to bring both NBA and NHL teams to our market we would be at 43% below the average.

Here’s how the five markets with six or more professional sports teams stack up against Seattle in terms of total Personal Income:

  • Washington DC – 6 teams, 84% more income than Seattle
  • San Francisco – 7 teams, 113% more income than Seattle
  • Chicago – 7 teams, 147% more income than Seattle
  • Los Angeles – 9 teams, 292% more income than Seattle
  • New York – 11 teams, 484% more income than Seattle

It would appear that the answer comes out roughly the same when you factor incomes into the equation. Seattle still just doesn’t stack up with the metro areas that have six or more teams.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that I personally don’t really care whether Seattle gets a new stadium and two new teams. I’m neither a sports fan nor a sports hater. I’ve got no horse in this race, and nobody’s paying me to do this basic analysis. I just saw the Councilmembers quotes in the Seattle Times and thought it was an interesting question worth exploring.