Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler


Things that aren't true

1. Heavy objects and light objects fall at the same rate

This is oft-repeated. It's a particularly ironic one – I've seen it used a number of times as an example of where common sense fails to properly explain the world.

Thing is – of course – that it's not true. Heavy objects do fall faster.

The speed at which something falls comes from a combination of a number of factors – including shape and wind resistance – and, yes, weight.

Try dropping a few plastic coke bottles from a tall building (or better yet, a tall stairwell to get rid of cross-winds). One filled with something heavy like mercury will hit the ground before one filled with water, which hits before an empty one.

It’s common sense (and true) that a hammer will hit the ground faster than a feather, and when shape is controlled for, weight still plays a factor – the force of wind resistance acts in a particular way against the shape of a falling object and when two similarly sized objects (like two coke bottles filled with different substances) fall the denser one counteracts the wind resistance better - and falls faster!

Galileo was right, but he must have been talking about the moon.

2. Labour won the last election because of a fantastic get-out-the-vote drive in South Auckland

Politics gives us a number of myths – that a re-vote on MMP was always promised is among our most enduring, but I've debunked that (as have many others) before. This one is more interesting. The mantra that Labour won the last election because of a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in south Auckland has been endlessly repeated.

Beyond the too obvious rejoinder that Labour won the last election by getting more votes and stitching up parliamentary support, it's not really true in any sense.

Labour got a lot of votes in south Auckland, and without them would have been toast.

And turnouts rose in south Auckland last election (south Auckland being defined for my analysis as the electorates of Mangere, Manukau East, and Manurewa – electorates chosen entirely for their alphabetic proximity in voting statistics), but the 2005 election was close – so turnout was up everywhere.

Across New Zealand, it was up 3.94 points. Across the general electorates only, it was up 3.51 points. In Mangere, turnout was up 2 points, in Manukau East, it was 2.24 and in Manurewa it was 2.64. Oh.

And it wasn't a large increase in enrolled voters, either. The population of New Zealand having increased, numbers of enrolled voters were just up. Admittedly, south Auckland electorates were up by more than the average, but Auckland is growing faster than the average (Auckland picked up an extra electorate in the recent post-census re-districting). And the south Auckland electorates weren't growing at a vastly different rate from, say, Auckland Central.

The three south Auckland electorates I've analysed had the lowest turnout across all general electorates in both 2002 and 2005, with very low growth in turnout as well – the south Auckland turnout meme seems entirely baseless.

3. No two democracies have ever warred with each other

This is a favourite, and came up in conversation the other day, so is coming up here too. If Athens vs Syracuse (415 BC – 413 BC) doesn't do it for you, then the Boer War (1899 – 1901) should, and if not that then the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon seems to trump all. In any event, this little factoid (hey – I used it right!) has been pretty well debunked by this guy.

Now if only people would stop repeating it.

If only people would stop repeating them

(one old, one new, one borrowed ... if someone can up up a blue one, I'll be a happy man)

Feel encouraged to add your own...

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