Monday, January 16, 2017

How Many Bombs Were Dropped Per Hour In Combat In 2016?

As a subscriber to the magazine "Harper's Magazine" I receive e-mails with facts and statistics that are contained or discussed in the current issue.  An example of what I see is shown below:

If you were to zoom in on the second paragraph, the highlighted text would be visible as shown below:

Yep, you read correctly on the order of 3 bombs per hour was dropped in the year 2016 in the combined wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.  If you are the type of reader that I am, then the statistic will stick in your head until reproduced using dimensional analysis.  Maybe you have no interest in doing so?  That is fine too.  If you are interested in reproducing the calculation, keep reading below.

Bombs Per Hour?

The statistic was fascinating to me for a variety of reasons.  I did serve in the U.S. Military and know that in even "peace time" missions, bombs are dropped.  But the main reason why the statistic is interesting is in presentation.  The statistic is suppose to be thought-provoking -- which it is.

How does a person perform such a calculation?

In most cases, when a statistic (or number) is presented with a statement like "bombs dropped per hour over the course of the year," then the total denominator (number divided by) is a year.  Unless otherwise stated (broken down by month, week, hour, etc.).  Therefore, to reproduce the calculation, the following numbers are needed:

1) Total number of bombs dropped over the course of a year

2) The number of days in a year

3) The number of hours in a day

Yes, these are the only numbers needed.  We know that there are 365 days in a given year.  Unless the year is a 'leap year'.  And in a given day, there are 24 hours.  Right?  Since we have all of the numbers according to the image above, the calculation can be shown as a series of divisions which cancel out to result in 'units' of 'bombs per hour' as shown below:

Was that calculation difficult?

When I first confront a statistic like the one above, I look at all of the given (or available) information.  In science, we say "what is given in the problem?" to mean "what parameters are given to find relations to arrive at an answer?"  Pretty straightforward right?   Well, too often students stress about reading a math or science problem.

Conclusion . . .

In the excerpt given above, the Council on Foreign Relations cited the statistic of 3 bombs per hour throughout the entire year.  Based on the wording of the statistic, the year and total number of bombs were given.  Therefore, the average is over the entire year -- unless otherwise stated.

As you can see, the solution is pretty straightforward.  A solution is even easier if you write the math out in a linear fashion -- with units canceling out to arrive at the correct units as shown above.  Find a problem and try to solve it for yourself.  Try it.  If the problem is too difficult to solve, leave the problem in the 'comment section' below.   Now you have seen a solution to a problem, you realize that statistics will have a new meaning.

Until next time, Have a great day!!!

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