A blog by James Ward

While Steph McGovern may be happy to use inappropriate units of measurement when talking about cheese, it is a relief to see the people at Yes Peas! are a little more cafeful with their numbers. Yes Peas! is a pea-information website run by the British Growers Association which in turn is a trade association which “represents & promotes UK growers of horticultural crops, in particular Vegetables & Salads”.

The Yes Peas! website offers recipes (which they have admirably avoided calling “recipeas”), as well as facts and information about peas. There’s also a newsroom, but it would seem that nothing much has since January.

Despite this apparent lack of activity, Yes Peas! send out a monthly newsletter, and in the September issue, there is a little section on “peas and maths”:

There are 35,000 hectares of peas grown in the UK each year, equivalent to about 50,000 football pitches.

They go on to show their workings:

A Premier league football pitch is 7036 square meters or 0.7036 of a hectare. Therefore, if you divide 35,000 hectares of peas by 0.7036 you get 49,733.

They then add the following:

35,000 hectares of peas produces 160,000 tonnes of frozen peas – that’s 2 billion x 80-gram portions!

Finally, here are a couple more pea facts from this month’s newsletter:

If you threaded every frozen pea produced each year in the UK onto a piece of string, you would need 3,900,000 kms of string, which would stretch from the earth to the moon and back, more than five times.

On average everyone in Britain eats nearly 9,000 peas per year.

It would take 390,096,154 of average diameter peas, to outline the British coast.

Steph McGovern, take note.

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Ah, if only this were as accurate as it appears, but as any schoolchild knows, the coastline of Great Britain, like all coastlines, is fractal, and so its length depends on the granularity of measurement one wishes to use, as proved in Benoit Mandelbrot’s seminal 1967 paper How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension ( http://www.sciencemag.org/content/156/3775/636 ).

The average diameter of a pea is about 5mm. Mandelbrot shows that the length L of the British coastline can be approximated as L=M(G^(-0.75)) where G is the granularity. At a granularity of 50km, the length of the coastline is 3400. Plugging this into the equation, 3400=M(50^(-.75)) so M=63930.252545745 using the kilometer as the base unit.

Using a granularity of 5mm, or 0.000005km, gives L=604614999.06592253 — at a granularity of 5mm, the coastline of Britain is about 60,000,000km, then. This means that it would actually take 1.209×10^14 peas — roughly 31,000 times as many peas as they say — to outline the coast at that granularity.

Frankly, this calls their trustworthiness on other subjects into question, as far as I am concerned.

The runner bean would be more appropriate, surely?