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I hope this is the proper forum to ask this question.

In November I will be giving a short talk on Statistics to a Science group, and will be including a warning about how averages can mislead. One amusing example, from a BBC4 TV programme, is that the average number of legs in the population is about 1.998, since a few people have one or no legs, but no one has three or more. So nearly all the population has more than the average number of legs.

For a more serious example I remember from years ago reading that the average level of radioactivity on a beach near Dounreay Nuclear Site, after a series of accidents there, was (whatever), well within safety limits. I thought then that the real danger would be intensively radioactive particles that could be ingested, but averaged out over an area would give this reassuringly safe value.

I cannot find a reference to this, all that I can find is the shameful story of failure to deal with the admitted problem of huge numbers of these particles.

Can anyone help me with figures to illustrate this, or a similar example, or a reference to the original reports?

  • You can go to Pubmed and type your query there. We have Chernobyl here in Belarus, it is not lethal, but people die from cancer early and mushrooms and berries have Cs and other poisons. It is a reality. – player777 Oct 31 '17 at 17:06
  • You could considering the radiation level to that of Denver CO. It's high elevation and granite geology give it a relatively radiation background level. – blacksmith37 Nov 1 '17 at 20:31

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