If present trends continue ….

by Chris Bertram on June 7, 2005

There’s a “fun article in the FT today”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ba9e5fc0-d6ac-11d9-b0a4-00000e2511c8.html about the practice of extrapolating from current trends. Unless you are a subscriber, you’ll only get the first couple of paragraphs, but you’ll see the general idea:

bq. At the time Elvis Presley died in 1977, he had 150 impersonators in the US. Now, according to calculations I spotted in a Sunday newspaper colour supplement recently, there are 85,000. Intriguingly, that means one in every 3,400 Americans is an Elvis impersonator. More disturbingly, if Elvis impersonators continue multiplying at the same rate, they will account for a third of the world’s population by 2019.



Seth Finkelstein 06.07.05 at 5:32 am

Fiction. Urban Legend.

There is no way that 1 in every 3,400 Americans is an Elvis impersonator. That’s just too much Elvis.

The item seems to go back at least to this:

The number of Elvies Presley impersonators has reached an all-time record high – there are now at least 85,000 Elvis’s around the world, compared to only 170 in 1957 when he died. At this rate of growth, experts predict that by 2019 Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world population !

ScienceWorld Online 3rd December 2000


Peter 06.07.05 at 5:39 am

But suddenly, when these methods are applied to global temperatures, it’s rock-solid science, right? :)


bi 06.07.05 at 5:50 am

There are hundreds of scientific papers on global warming. I don’t suppose all of them use the same method.

This, however, is truly rock-solid science. (The “True Capitalism Party” figures are my own.)


Jerry 06.07.05 at 6:22 am

The original liked french-fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. A world-wide shortage in these ingredients is portended unless the gene manipulators once again come to the rescue. The Europeans will be no help.


Dan Nexon 06.07.05 at 7:00 am

Peter, I hope you are joking, because global-warming models do not use “straight-line” extrapolations of the kind discussed here, i.e., they do not project temperatures by plotting the current rate of increase over x-number of years.


rea 06.07.05 at 7:09 am

I spoke to the original the other day–as is well known, he works in a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Michigan–and he pointed out the mythic qualities of his life, martyrdom, and eventual resurrection. This impersonation stuff fits right in–after all, imitating Christ has been a big deal for Christians for at least 500 years–see Thomas a Kempis . . .


Chris Baldwin 06.07.05 at 8:02 am

Why do people say Elvis “impersonators”? They’re not really impersonating him are they? They don’t normally show up at Graceland and demand the keys.


David All 06.07.05 at 8:50 am

As the King would say:
“Thank You, Thank You”


JP 06.07.05 at 8:56 am

…Very Much”


jjoats 06.07.05 at 9:17 am

TOON OF THE DAY: “Dollar A Dance”


Vivek 06.07.05 at 9:38 am

Of course the financial press pillories scientists for extrapolating the future from past trends, but when they do the same during a bull market to declare the end of the business cycle, no one dares to raise an objection.


Andrew Edwards 06.07.05 at 9:45 am

Over the first 18 years of my life I grew at a rapid pace.

This growth has slowed over the past decade (I’m in my late 20s). However, if you plot my age by my height, and draw a best-fit linear curve, you’ll see that by retirement I should be about 15 feet tall.


Kieran Healy 06.07.05 at 9:45 am

Hey jjoats — would you mind not advertising your blog like this in threads where it isn’t relevant? Thanks.


goesh 06.07.05 at 9:46 am

If present trends continue, Hillary will not only sound more like Howie Dean, she will even look like him – getting a bit broad of face and thick of ankle if you ask me, but then, show-biz is show-biz and fictions must be enacted no matter what or where the stage.


'As you know' Bob 06.07.05 at 10:11 am

The first few paragraphs were enough, actually; we can extrapolate the rest of the piece from there.


Keith 06.07.05 at 10:36 am

I would imagine it’s a bit easier to measure temperature than it is to measure Elvises (Elvi?). Though, if we developed a scale that measured temperature in Elvi, we still would be leaning more towards the “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” end of the scale than than the “Blue Christmas” end.


John Steven 06.07.05 at 11:36 am

Well what do you know, Mojo Nixon was right… Elvis is everybody after all.


KCinDC 06.07.05 at 1:04 pm


engels 06.07.05 at 2:42 pm

Could this be the same Peter who has being lecturing us over on the other thread about the “rock solid” science of Evolutionary Psychology and dismissing its critics as ideologues? If so, don’t your scientific tastes here seem a little, how shall we say, ideologically grounded?


engels 06.07.05 at 4:38 pm

There’s a fun article in the FT today

Now that’s a datum I definitely wouldn’t extrapolate from…


Alex 06.08.05 at 4:32 am

Ah, the chap who says in March that the average temperature is going up, and that – if present trends continue – by December human life will be impossible..


lemuel pitkin 06.08.05 at 11:07 am

” In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

— Mark Twain, Life on the MIssissippi

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