Because it’s Friday: Reviews of Random Digits

October 7, 2011

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

If you dig around enough on, you can find some pretty odd products (like the Badonkadonk tank now sadly unavailable). Attached to these products you can often find a new form of comedy: the funny Amazon review. The products that attract such attention can be hard to fathom: this gallon of milk has more than 1,000 reviews. (Sample: ""Tuscan Whole Milk" can be re-arranged to say "I'll know mustache". Coincidence? I think not.") Other examples include: the book "How to avoid huge ships" ("I couldn't find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined"), Uranium ore ("I purchased this product 4.47 Billion Years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty") and wolf urine ("The palate has panache, with a firm, mineral acidity that cuts through a rather elegantly styled, poised meaty presence").

My favourite set of reviews by far are those for the book "A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates", from the RAND Corporation. You might think this is a strange thing to publish, but for some applications pseudo-random numbers (such as those generated by R) may not be suitable, and at the time this book was first published sources of "true" random numbers like built-in RNG chips or internet-enabled dice and lava lamps weren't available.

The Freakonometrics blog has a sample of some of the best Amazon reviews for the book, including these gems:

To whom do I write to report typographical errors? I noticed that the first "7" on the third line page 48 should be a "3". The "7" that’s printed there now isn’t random. Other than that, this is really an excellent book.

Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it's a shame they didn't sort them, to make it easier to find the one you're looking for.

There's also this review, which may not actually be a joke:

I took a class in statistics in college. I used this book to help me select random phone numbers for a poll I was conducting for my class project. (The most popular household cleanser in the greater Siouxland area is Bon Ami, by the way.) One of those phone calls was answered by the woman who is now my wife. We've been happily married for ten years! Thank you, RAND.

Freakonometrics: A Million Random Digits: review of reviews


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