Saturday, October 8, 2011

More percentages - this time, orca sounds and certainty

I'll be posting more in the next few days about the reported percentages of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers, but there was another percentage reported that caught my eye recently and made me wonder. While I made an argument about the use of percentage in the previous articles, in this case I simply have a question.

The news last week from the Orca Coalition contained a happy announcement that Morgan's family had likely been located. If so, this is significant, since her prospects for returning to the ocean are much improved if she can rejoin them. The announcement read "Family of Morgan found with 77% certainty." The text reads:
Independent scientists have now found that there is a match of at least 77% between the sounds that orca Morgan makes and specific orca families residing in the North Atlantic Ocean including around Norway.
So my percentage-related question is: Does finding a minimum 77% sound match translate into 77% certainty of having found her family? (I'm not necessarily saying there's less certainty - in fact, there could be more - but this direct translation of percentages sounds odd to me. Could be correct, though...) Also, how is the sound match determined? It's all very interesting, and brings into even greater relief the rich social life these whales are deprived of in captivity. Listen!:

Strangely beautiful. (Unfortunately, I can find little to no information about the people listed as having taken the pictures or recorded the sounds, which is odd.)

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