Wisdom Of The Crowd

Feb 16, 2018
Originally published on July 20, 2018 7:36 am

What percentage of our waking hours do we spend sleeping? How many words per minute are there in the Hamilton soundtrack? We polled audiences at The Bell House on a variety of questions and averaged their responses. That collective wisdom goes up against one-man house band Jonathan Coulton. Whose estimate is closer?

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

While Ciera and Shaylyn get ready for the final round, it's time for us to play a game. This is Wisdom Of The Crowd. We asked a previous live audience at The Bell House questions with numerical answers. For example, how old was the world's oldest cat? We averaged their responses, and now we'll find out who's better at guesstimating - the crowd or house musician Jonathan Coulton. Here we go. How many pubs did the Guinness record-holder for most pubs visited by one individual visit?

JONATHAN COULTON: All right, I don't know how much time - over how much time we're talking about, but I assume it was a sort of long-term project. It wasn't just a week.

EISENBERG: Yeah, it wasn't one night.

COULTON: Yeah, OK. Let's say it was in London. How many pubs are there in London? Probably thousands of pubs in London. You get around London pretty easy. You could probably get to, depending on how much you drink and how long you stay - you'd get around to a couple per night if you really wanted to.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. Come on now.

COULTON: I mean, if you really wanted to, you could do a few hundred a year.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: So I'm going to say it's on the order of thousands. I'm going to say it's 7,500 pubs.

EISENBERG: Seventy-five hundred pubs.

COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Our audience guessed 31,697.

COULTON: That's quite a bit bigger than mine.

EISENBERG: Yeah. So the correct answer is 46,495.

COULTON: Holy moly. Over how much time?

EISENBERG: So this guy's name is Bruce Masters, and you made an assumption that was correct. He is from the U.K. And he did this between 1960 and 2014.

COULTON: Oh, OK, so he did it for a long time. He did 40,000...

EISENBERG: This guy was committed.

COULTON: So he did, like, a thousand a year, a thousand pubs a year. Oh, that's too many pubs.

EISENBERG: Is it? Or...

COULTON: Oh, maybe not enough. I don't know.

EISENBERG: OK, how about this? According to Smithsonian Magazine, what percentage of our waking hours do we spend blinking?

COULTON: So the (laughter) - let's say, in a minute, you probably blink more than once a second on average. Maybe you get - what? - 10, 15, say 20 blinks a minute.

EISENBERG: Right. Let's also decide that no one's just throwing stuff at your face.

COULTON: No, no, I mean, the - in a normal - over the normal course of a day.

EISENBERG: Right, exactly.

COULTON: Nobody's spraying Mace at you or anything like...

EISENBERG: No, exactly.

COULTON: And a blink is pretty short. You know, I'm going to say it's 20 blinks make up a second.

EISENBERG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So what percentage of your day?

COULTON: I'm just going for it. So one divided by 60...

EISENBERG: Of waking hours.

COULTON: Yeah, of waking hours, yeah. I'm working on it. I'm doing the math.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And I know for you, waking hours is, like, the two hours we're onstage, but...

COULTON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm going to say 2 percent.

EISENBERG: OK. Our audience guessed 23 percent.

COULTON: Twenty-three percent?

EISENBERG: Maybe people throw stuff at them. You don't know. The correct answer is 10 percent. So yeah.

COULTON: I was closer.

EISENBERG: You got that one. You were right, yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Even 10 percent feels like a lot. What a waste of time.

EISENBERG: I know. Think of all the things that you could be looking at.

COULTON: I - (laughter).

EISENBERG: According to Guinness World Records, what is the highest number of miles ever driven on one vehicle?

COULTON: OK.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Because you say driven, I'm going to rule out spacecraft.

EISENBERG: Yes. This - right. I...

COULTON: On the Earth, we're talking about.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And I feel like it's fair to say vehicle means car.

COULTON: OK. So it's not a train or a...

EISENBERG: No, no, no.

COULTON: OK, so cars - let's see. My 1984 Honda Civic went for 180,000 miles.

EISENBERG: I don't like you bragging on our show.

COULTON: I'm saying it was a good car. It was a good car. I drove that sucker into the ground. But - and that's just a consumer car driven by a very careful teenage driver.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: So I would imagine, if you had a more robust vehicle, and you took good care of it and you - so it's probably many hundreds of thousands. Is it a million miles? I'm going to say - just because it's a nice, round number, I'm going to say a million miles.

EISENBERG: All right. Our audience guessed 64,762,491.

COULTON: That's a very specific guess.

EISENBERG: By the way, this guy's name is Irvin Gordon. He's from Alaska. And the car is a red 1966 Volvo 1800S, and he drove 3,039,122 miles.

COULTON: Wow.

EISENBERG: ...Meaning that you were closer.

COULTON: I'm guess I'm still technically closer.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah, you won.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: He probably had to replace the fan belts and such along the way.

EISENBERG: He replaced some of the stuff, but it still has its original engine.

COULTON: That's insane.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah, he has a 125-mile daily commute...

COULTON: Oh, that would do it.

EISENBERG: ...So that would do it. OK. Here's your last one. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, what is the average number of words said per minute in "Hamilton" as performed on the Broadway cast album?

COULTON: For crying out loud.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: I've listened to the album many, many times. There's different speeds. There's some stretches of just music in there. There's probably - let's say average - I'm going to say 200 words per minute on average.

EISENBERG: OK. Our audience guessed...

COULTON: Eight hundred fifty thousand.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...Ninety. The correct answer is 144, so I - the audience won by two, I think.

COULTON: Ah, man.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: That was close.

EISENBERG: To compare, by the way, "Phantom Of The Opera" is 68 words per minute - Hamilton, 144.

COULTON: Boo.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. Well, that was the wisdom of the crowd. Well done, Jonathan Coulton. Well done, audience.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.