One of the joys of working for OS is that you get asked to give authoritative answers to all sorts of geographic questions. ‘Classic’ questions such as how long is the coastline of Great Britain? often crop up. Which, if you read our recent blog on which English county has the longest coastline, you’ll know isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. Often, seemingly simple questions have no definitive solution. For me that doesn’t matter. The joy comes from thinking through the problem to come up with the best answer possible.
The coastline question reminded me of a problem I tried to tackle myself last year. Listening to a news story on the radio, it described “27 million households across the country”. Over the next 48 hours the story was repeated across a broad selection of media outlets and every time the same statistic came up. After mulling on this for a while I decided I didn’t like this number. It’s too imprecise. So, I decided to delve a little further and try and work out a more accurate number for myself.