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Growth Spurts Alerts

In the July, 2001, issue of Scientific American, we find Alison McCook' article "Napoleon's Revenge." Her claim is that peoples' height in the U.S. has hit its "genetic ceiling," despite people such as Robert Wadlow (in picture) or the growing presence of "giant basketball players.

Consider these two statements:

  • Though typically about two inches taller now than 140 years ago, today's people...apparently reached their limit in the early 1960s. And they "aren't likely to get any taller."
  • But as diet and health improved, children and adolescents have, on average, increased in height by about an inch and a half every twenty years...Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average height--5'9" for men, 5'4" for women--hasn't really changed since 1960.
Task: Examine these two data-driven statements carefully. Are they contradictory? Are they compatible? And finally, does the suggested data fit your school environment?

Qustion: Would the situation be different--its interpretation and its rectification--if the "average" height referred to was a median rather than a mean?