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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How Not to Measure in Football Pitches

Unit of amusing measurement

If I enjoy a little poke at the poor standard of the translations around here, wait 'til we get started on the maths, as seen in the local press. The now, sadly, defunct blog "La ruina de las islas canarias" (The Ruin of the Canary Islands) gave the example of a story which ran recently in Diario de Avisos, which referred to quarries on the island of Tenerife.

"As soon as the article begins", said "La ruina", we come to the catastrophic paragraph: "The Tenerife Cabildo has approved the respective plans for four areas of extraction which add up to 1.57 million square kilometres, which is equivalent to 157 football pitches." Despite being an ex-accountant (and a reformed journalist), my mental arithmetic is crap and my judgement of distances even worse, but even I could work out that there isn't that much space in all of the Canary Islands, let alone in Tenerife.

The nearest equivalent country with 1,564,116 km² is Mongolia.

The entire area of Tenerife is only 2,034.38 km2 (785.48 sq mi).  

While most of us can visualize a football pitch, it doesn't really help when they suggest the wrong size. If 1.57 million kilometres squared is 157 football pitches, Diario de Avisos are suggesting that a football pitch is 10,000 kilometres square. If that were so, then the whole of the Canary Islands together, whose area is just 7,500 kilometres square, would be smaller than a football pitch. This might explain the high population density, mind you.

To imagine an equivalent area, try: "About 10,000 square kilometres of the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam are under rice cultivation..." Also, "About 10,000 square kilometres of the total area of Bangladesh is covered with water". The whole country of Lebanon is 10,400 kilometres square. Bloody hell, it would be tiring running round that for 90 minutes!

For the non-fanatics: An official football pitch measures about 105 x 65 meters, which is to say, 6,825 square meters (not kilometres). Somewhat less than ¾ of a hectare. As ever, said "La ruina", they have confused their meters with their kilometres. Something which is bad enough with lengths, but these errors multiply by 1,000 when you square them. 

The only figure that makes sense is that the quarries add up to 1.57 million square meters, which is to say one million times less than what the newspaper have reported.

"La ruina" had kindly provided us with a map that marked an area of one million square kilometres, which contained all of the Canary Islands, Madeira, a portion of the Western Sahara and lots of Atlantic ocean ... That was only about 2/3rds of the 1.57 million that would be affected by the quarrying, IF we were to take Diario de Avisos' figures as gospel. 

Maybe their reporters were afflicted by some kind of World Cup fever.
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