Part 92

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I discuss the controversy surrounding the BBC commentators and Alana Smith.  Also, a return to conspiracy theories as a friend tries to convince me the Earth is flat.  Finally, a look at Benford’s Law which blew my mind.  First, the Quote of the Week: 

Quote of the Week

Although I have quoted Metro for this story, I could have picked from a number of different sources.  The short version of the story is that BBC commentators misgendered Alana Smith, the first (openly) non-binary competitor at the Olympics.  I have quite a few opinions on this, and it’s going to take some time to unpack them but I also should stress that I’m not an expert in this area and I can’t truly understand the struggles that this community experiences daily.  

I’m not sure if this incident came from a place of honest ignorance or deliberate disrespect.  So, using words like “outrage” and “disgrace” just seems a little too much and disproportionate to the offence.  Yes, there needs to be a discussion and there should be feedback to the commentators.  However, I’m just not comfortable with the trial by public mentality that can build momentum quickly and before you know it, the concept of presumed innocence is thrown out of the window.  

I understand the difference between sex and gender, and there could be an argument that the commentators were referring to Alana’s sex and not her gender, because the Olympics are categorised on the former not the latter.  Competitors take part in female events and male events; competitors are not organised based on how they identify.  This is clutching at straws somewhat to defend the commentators but if we are being charitable to the commentators we should remember that Alana was competing in the female category for her sport. 

I suspect this is going to be a huge issue moving forward, especially where trans competitors are concerned.  I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live, so long as that choice does not encroach on the rights of others.  If people are not happy with the sex they had at birth; fine.  Live your best life.  Likewise, if people are not happy with the gender they were assigned; fine.  Live.  Your.  Best.  Life.  

It’s my hope that the commentators made a genuine mistake in how they referred to Alana and that it came from a place of honest ignorance.  People make mistakes.  Instead of damning them in the court of public opinion it might be better to just take a breath and move on.

As society becomes more open to those who embrace non-traditional identities, sports as a whole are going to have to adapt.  There have been a host of news reports about Laurel Hubbard, who was born male but transitioned to female, competing in the weight lifting event at the Olympics.  Laurel will compete in the women’s +87kg weight lifting on Monday 2nd August.  Some have said that Laurel has an unfair advantage over those athletes who were born female. Some of the competitors that Laurel will be competing against have openly stated it is unfair because Laurel previously competed as a male. This issue is a minefield, and it’s useful to remember the difference between equality, equity and justice come into play, as outlined by the image below. As we evolve as a society, sport needs to follow suit.

We have traditionally categorised competitors according to sex, and then body shape, size and weight.  Perhaps it is time for certain sports to embrace a different approach where athletes are categorised according to body composition and levels of things like testosterone with all sexes competing against each other.  Maybe there are other options I’ve not thought of.  

Flat Earth

Is the Earth flat?  Of course not.  The fact we have to explain this to adults in 2021 is cringeworthy.  However, I happen to know several Flat Earthers, or as I like to call them, “Sphere Skeptics” or “Globe Deniers”.  

A friend sent me a six hour video about Flat Earth theory and asked me to watch it.  I politely refused.  The thing is, I’m open to evidence about anything and that’s the great thing about science; it’s fluid and changes according to new research and evidence.  However, if evidence was uncovered that supported the idea the Earth was flat then it would be the biggest news story in human history.  I would not receive that evidence via a badly edited video shared on Whatsapp.  

I’ve written about conspiracy theories before but it’s worth revisiting a few points.  With any conspiracy theory, you have to ask, “why?”.  What is there to gain from the conspiracy? Let’s look at a popular conspiracy theory; the Moon landings.  

It is easy to understand why such a thing would be faked.  The Cold War was in full swing and the US and Soviet Union were engaged in a frantic race to be the first to land on the Moon.  By faking the Moon landings, the US would be able to undercut the Soviet effort and claim victory.  It’s obvious why the landings would have been faked.  We know it wasn’t faked because we can see evidence of the missions to the Moon with a decent home telescope.  Also, the sheer number of people that would have to be complicit in the conspiracy all but assures it would be revealed eventually. 

Now, think about the number of people that would have to be involved in a conspiracy to keep the nature of a flat Earth secret.  We have been able to demonstrate that the Earth is spherical since the time of the Ancient Greeks.  This was done by studying the movement of the sun and how shadows change depending on location and the time of day.  For fun though, let’s just complete a little thought experiment and assume that the Earth is flat and this fact is being kept secret.  A few assumptions from traditional Flat Earth theory;

  1. The Earth is squashed from the top, with the North Pole being at the centre of the map.  The Antarctic makes up the edge of the Earth.
  2. Space travel is impossible because we are in a bubble/dome etc.
  3. The edge of the planet is a giant ice wall guarded by agents of the conspiracy.

The circumference of the planet would be over 40,000km long.  This needs to be guarded, but because space travel is impossible there can be no satellite surveillance.  There could be a system of radar tracking stations and patrol boats, but there would still need to be actual guards patrolling the walls.  Assuming one guard every five hundred meters, you still need 80,000 guards and that is just for one shift.  Assuming three shifts a day, you need 240,000 guards not to mention cover for illness, holidays, accidents etc.  Then, you need to factor in the other roles that would support these guards such as tech support, engineers, medics, cooks, cleaners and so on.  

In addition to those people stationed along the edge of the world, you would expect there to be ships and aircraft on patrol.  There would need to be regular supply runs and trips to ferry the guards to and from their homes in the real world.  It’s impossible to estimate the number of people that would need to be involved at this point, but I suspect we are talking around a million or so.

In addition to those people involved in guarding the edge of the world, you would need people to be involved in the production of equipment for these agents.  The families of those working in this shadow organisation would also need to be held to secrecy.  There is also the point that the people working in this conspiracy would retire eventually and need replacing.  Based on this scenario it would not be unreasonable to suggest that over two million people would have to be involved.  

Outside the immediate conspiracy, everyone working at NASA, the ESA, the Russian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and the North and South Korean space agencies would have to keep the secret.  NASA alone has over 15,000 employees.  It is not only these people that need to keep the secret, but those working at Space X, Blue Origins and Virgin Galactic.  We are talking about millions and millions of people keeping the biggest secret in history for centuries with not one single scrap of credible evidence being leaked.  If you believe the Earth is flat, you need help.  This conspiracy would require so many people to be involved that those not involved would be the minority.  Coming back full circle though, no one has yet provided a compelling answer as to why this would need to be kept this secret.  

“But where is the curveeeee?”

It’s all about perspective.  The Earth is big.  Well, actually it once again comes back to perspective.  Compared to the sun, the Earth is small.  Compared to the level of mental gymnastics required to believe the Earth is flat, the Earth is tiny.  Anyway, we are like tiny ants walking across the surface of a football.  They are probably wondering where the curve is.  Another example is in the image below.  

A close up view of a tennis ball suggests that these things are actually flat.  What even is reality?

Weekly Update

This week has forced me to deal with people more than normal.  This is not good.  It’s mentally exhausting.  At the start of the week I had an occupational health review, which was actually pretty positive and some great suggestions were made.  I also had a dentist appointment and a physio session for the ongoing problems with my ankle.  It’s just so exhausting having to go through my medical history three times in one week.  

Following a great weekend last week where we caught up with an old friend, this week has been a dose of reality again.  I just feel as though I am wasting so much time doing things I don’t enjoy.  I keep having to remind myself that it’s all to help me achieve FIRE.  

2021 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2021

1 – Reduce weight to 92.8kg.  (Current weight 121.9kg).

2 – Finish 104 new books. (Current total: 67).

I’ve been loving my audiobooks lately and I’ve been smashing through Jeremy Robinson’s work.  I finished his Kaiju series and then devoured Infinity and Infinity 2.  I am now listening to NPC.  Robinson’s work is great and I love the interconnected universe he creates with characters, settings and events crossing over from one story to another.  

You may also have noticed that I’m starting to slowly lose weight.  For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier, and a little less.  Hopefully this trend will continue.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £18,500.00 (up £300.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £27,256.28 (down £157.22 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £125.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £445.75 (up £48.17 from last update). 

Pensions: £48,138.65 (up £122.27 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £207,807.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £134,098.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £436,370.68 (up £313.22 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £921.27 (up £479.54 from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £158,925.57 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £93,079.52 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £252,926.36 (up £479.54 from last update).

Total Wealth: £183,444.32 (down £166.32 from last update).

Investment Income in 2021: £2,105.57 (target £5,000).

A bit of a nothing week this week with hardly any change.  I know I’ve said it before, but I could really do with the stock market having a little surge in the coming weeks and months.  Now that I’ve started tentatively looking for a second BTL I would like to be able to use some of the gains in my stocks to fund the deposit.  It’s not essential as I will be able to accumulate the deposit one way or another, but an increase in my ISA value will just help speed things up.

My credit card increased again as I needed to pay for a few more cat related issues, and my dentist appointment.  It will start to come down again in the coming months but in the short term it may increase further as we have more vet appointments on the horizon.

Benford’s Law

I just want to finish up by talking about something I discovered this week; Benford’s Law.  It blew my mind a little but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense.  

Let me ask you a question; if you were looking through a list of the tallest buildings in the world and comparing their height, how often would you expect the leading number of each entry in the list to start with the number 3? Or 6? 7? Would you expect each digit from 1 through 9 to appear roughly equally?

If you thought that each number should be equally present (approx 11% of the time) you would be in good company.  You would also be wrong.

Under Benford’s Law it has been demonstrated time and time again that the leading number in any data set is 1 more than 30% of the time.  The image below shows the frequency expected for each number:

This law is so reliable that it can be used to check the validity of any data set.  If the numbers do not match up with Benford’s Law, the data set has almost certainly been tampered with or contains errors.  I love shit like this.  

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com. 

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