Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Large standard errors in practice

From an article on NASA's soon-to-return-to-earth falling satellite:
NASA says the satellite is likely to begin re-entry on September 23, 2011, give or take a day. Hurtling at five miles (eight kilometers) per second, they say it could land anywhere between 57 degrees N. latitude and 57 degrees S. latitude – basically, most of the populated world.
That's a really imprecise estimate!  As the article notes, it basically leaves out only Santa and penguins. I hope this prediction did not cost very much.

Hat tips: Frank Stafford and Charlie Brown.

1 comment:

don said...

The estimate was free. The satellite is in an orbit inclined 57° from the equator, and NASA has NO idea when it's coming down. When it hits the atmosphere it could be anywhere along its north/south travels, and the earth could be in any rotational position underneath it. Keep an eye on the western sky.