Lies, Lions, and Statistics

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Recently, I saw this picture online:

An adult male lion, sitting in a wheelbarrow

Now, that’s not really the point of this post, but it is a funny picture. Take a minute to enjoy it.

In the Reddit comments for this image, someone noted their two directly conflicting desires, to push around the wheelbarrow and to stay as far away from that same wheelbarrow as physically possible. In a reply, another user stated “I don’t think it would be possible to push it even if he let you”.

This led me to wonder just how much a lion weighs. After all, a wheelbarrow is really just an advanced form of lever, one which makes it possible to transport heavier loads than one could otherwise carry. Because I had only recently woken up, I foolishly tried to get help from Siri, asking it “How much does a male lion weigh?”.

A siri reply saying “278 pounds”.

“Huh,” I thought, “OK.”

After a few seconds, I realized that it was absolutely preposterous that I had received such a precise number in response to my question. Was Siri providing me the weight of a specific specimen, perhaps a famous male lion? Does Siri have a pet lion, and know its weight? Do all male lions weigh in at exactly 278 pounds?

To examine this further, I asked again, and received the same answer.1 Reviewing the response, I noted that this answer was supposedly derived from Wikipedia:

I tapped in, and got a longer summary about lions:

That paragraph of text mentions a range of body lengths for lions, but it does not include any details about weight. In the brief table below that, it bizarrely lists an entry for mass as “3.64 lbs”. This too is a ridiculously precise value, with two decimal places, and one that’s surely incorrect.

Finally, I tapped “See More on Wikipedia”, and got to the page for “Lion”. I searched for both “278” and “3.64”, and found nothing.2 Eventually, I got to this section of the page:

Here, I finally found what I was looking for, a range of statistics for lions. It seems the correct answer to the question “How much does a male lion weigh?” is something like “between 350 and 500 pounds”, or about 25-80% more than Siri’s answer (and 100 times as much as that inexplicable “3.64 lb” value). I still have no idea how this idiot decided to respond “278 pounds”.

Anyhow, it’s 2021 and Siri is still trash. The end.


Update (February 20, 2021): The lion in the original image is “Obi”, and he lives at Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Canada. He weighs ~400 pounds.


Footnotes:

  1. Not a given by any means ↩︎

  2. Well, almost nothing. Searching for “278” returned one irrelevant result in the “References” section, for library reference number “JSTOR 27858577”. ↩︎


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