Monday, July 25, 2005

Butterbeer : The Gateway Drug

I was out with friends on a recent evening, the same night the new Harry Potter book was released. In the wee hours of the morning conversation turned to the many youngsters who were undoubtedly still awake at that very moment, sleepily marching through their brand new copies. We then discussed the numerous adults who were certainly doing the same thing. Finally, of course, we began to speculate on how many of those adults worldwide were using artificial substances, specifically cocaine, to fuel their all night Harry Potter binges:

The debate grew heated. Most granted that there was probably at least one, but argued that the total number must be less than 50. I argued that the total number must certainly be more than 50, perhaps much more. Eventually there was some shift in my favor, but, alas, we arrived at no conclusive answer.*

How many do you think there are?
a) 0
b) 1
c) 2 - 50
d) 51 - 1000
e) More than 1000
Place your vote.

* Strange, don't you think, that an idle conversation carried on in a bar by a bunch of pooly informed slobs in the middle of the night wouldn't arrive at a sound conclusion.


  1. We need to estimate the number of people likely to be using cocaine on any given day. From a little bit of Googling it looks like 500,000 in the U.S. would be a reasonable WAG for this. Out of a U.S. population of approximately 300 million, that's 1 in every 600 people.

    Strictly going by proportion (there are probably good arguments on both sides of the question whether Harry Potter readers are more or less likely to be cocaine users), of the 9 million Harry Potter books that were sold the first day, 15,000 of these were sold to daily cocaine users.

    So, even if we reduce the estimates dramatically, I'm going to have to go with e). There has got to have been a lot of coke-snortin', page-flippin', Rowling-readin' going on.

  2. Beautiful! Now that's science, baby!

  3. Holy cow. I'm dually impressed.

    With logic like that (and me not having to do the actual homework side of it), I think I'll also say e.

  4. Anonymous12:59 AM

    wow, i'm obviously running with a different crowd 'cause i was going to say 'b' ... since it's hard for me to wrap my mind around ANYONE on the left and right sides meeting in the middle, i will reluctantly go out on a limb with 'c'.

  5. It has been a while since cocaine was in my particular neighborhood, but I really don't recall anybody, ever, reading while under the influence. Reading anything. Looking at porn, maybe. But reading? And reading about good vs evil? Perhaps cocaine is different now.

  6. I shared this with my wife -- my mathematical analysis, she says, is flawed in that I have not considered the fact that the only thing someone high on cocaine is capable of concentrating upon is his/her need to acquire additional cocaine.

    Maybe if we consider just those who are rich enough to keep their cocaine pipeline well supplied throughout the time required to read the book...

  7. Anonymous11:59 AM

    I wanted to guess 50.5, but alas there is no choice to cover this rapscallion of an integer.

    So I'm going with halfway between c and d which can be tricky to navigate because it is the doorway to an alternate universe where creamed corn people rule the night.