Tabulating The 1890 Census


A report of the tabulation of the 1890 US Census from the Chicago Tribune, which, for the first time, used Hollerith punch cards for automated counting. Below is an excerpt of a particularly stark depiction of the role statistics played, and the narratives they told:

“The main Census Office is on G street, near the Pension Building. The edifice is of brick and six stories high. It is here that the returns are tabulated by special classes. Lists of the blind, the deaf, the dumb, paupers, and criminal classes are made, with special information about each. In compiling these lists machines invented by a former employee of the bureau are used. The system is very ingenious. A young lady sits at a little table upon which there is a metal plate containing 240 holes. These holes are marked by letters. “B.” means black; “M.,” male; “En.,” speaks English; “O. K. ” free from disease; “Bu.,” guilty of burglary; “Wd.,” widow or widower, according to sex, and so on. With the enumerator’s special returns before her the young lady places a blank card beneath the metal plate. She looks at the special return. The person is a negro. She shoves a punch through the hole marked B. The person is a male. She punches the hole marked M. He speaks English. She sends the punch through the hole marked En. He is free from disease. The punch goes through the hole marked O. K. He is guilty of burglary. The Bu hole is punched.

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Law & Order Stats: Gender and Computer Counts


What are you looking at? From the final episode (season 20, episode 456).

Having finally finished all 456 episodes of “Law & Order” (totaling approximately 20,520 minutes or 342 hours or 14.25 days) I now have just under 11,000 screenshots of computers and people using them. While watching, I also gathered extra data: I recorded the victim and perpetrator’s gender, as well as the total number of computers per episode. Below are some thoughts on those stats, for those interested such ephemera.


While the Law & Order Database has some great data, surprisingly it is missing the gender of victims and perpetrators. Since the show is “ripped from the headlines”, it is especially interesting to compare those numbers from the show with real murder statistics in the US.

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Law & Order: Midpoint Update


This week I finished the first ten seasons (228 episodes = ~167.2 hours) of “Law & Order” for a commission with, cataloging computer use through screenshots over the show’s entire 20-year run. Many, many computers:

  • Just over 4,500 screenshots so far (at 5 per computer = ~ 900 computers)
  • Average of 107 computers per season
  • Average of 4 computers per episode
  • 16 episodes that feature no computers at all

I have also been keeping notes of the first onscreen appearance of computer devices, for example:

  • First laptop: season 2, episode 34
  • First inkjet printer: season 6, episode 125

Additionally, I’ve been tracking victim and perpetrator gender to add to the already great Law & Order database. The current tally is rather interesting:





We can also look at this another way, seeing crime by perpetrator gender and the gender of their respective victims:

male43 (18.94%)43 (18.94%)20 (8.81%)
female12 (5.29%)17 (7.94%)3 (1.32%)
both19 (8.37%)12 (5.29%)17 (7.94%)

A 2011 United States Department of Justice report provides some interesting comparisons: 90% of all homicides were committed by males; 66% of victims were male. Some interesting conclusions to be drawn, but I have another 226 episodes to watch!

And with that, onward to season 11!

Science of “The Wave”

From the Wikipedia article on “The Wave“:

In 2002, Tamás Vicsek of the Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary along with his colleagues analyzed videos of 14 waves at large Mexican football stadiums, developing a standard model of wave behavior (published in the September 12 issue of Nature). He found that it takes only the actions of a few dozen fans to trigger a wave. Once started, it usually rolls in a clockwise direction at a rate of about 12 m/s (40 ft/s), or about 22 seats per second. At any given time the wave is about 15 seats wide. These observations appear to be applicable across different cultures and sports, though details vary in individual cases. [11]