gone parabolic (UNCLASSIFIED)

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 2 20:13:04 UTC 2010

I have no idea about the other two claims--we are just speculating
here--but as far as the nature of the graph is concerned, if you follow
my link and simply click "1y" under the chart, you will see a very
linear looking graph. Of course, it is not entirely that--the initial
price (48) doubled by late May (100), then kept rising a while longer,
but skipped back down to 100 by August, then doubled again in the
remaining 4 months. If it were not for the period from May to August, it
would indeed look exponential--doubling every 4 months or so. As it it,
however, there is nothing this obvious. And, of course, there has been
some profit-taking in the last couple of days, so cresting 200 was
indeed the high point so far.


On 12/2/2010 10:49 AM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
> ----------------------
>> -
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Victor Steinbok<aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      gone parabolic
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ------
>> -
>> An odd line in a WSJ blog post on the Netflix stock success:
>> http://goo.gl/lDRff
>>> The chart on Netflix has truly /gone parabolic/ since late January 2010.
>> Take a look at NFLX stock charts and see for yourself if there is
>> anything "parabolic" about them.
> The writer, Matt Phillips, probably vaguely remembered the phrase "gone
> ballistic" (which would be more appropriate, though still not accurate)
> and wrote "gone parabolic" by mistake.
>> http://goo.gl/yRpTz
>> Although the stock price has been rising fairly steadily over the past
>> 11 months (starting from a 1-year low on Jan. 2), the rise has been
>> fairly close to linear (with some daily and weekly fluctuations, of
> The rise is only "fairly close to linear" if you are looking at in on a
> chart the vertical axis of which is logarithmic:
> http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=NFLX&t=2y&l=on&z=l&q=l&c=
> If you look at the history on a chart with a linear vertical axis:
> http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=NFLX&t=2y&l=off&z=l&q=l&c=
> the rise is not linear, but exponential.
>> course, e.g., a small drop today). But looking at 3-yr and 5-yr charts
>> shows that the price had been fairly flat for a long time through
>> October of 2008, then crept up slowly to the end of 2009 (from high
>> 10s-low 20s to about $50), and rose much more rapidly in 2010 ($50 to
>> $209, having hit $100 in May and August, August being the last "dip").
>> There is little doubt that one could fit a parabola to the data, but
>> that does not necessarily make the chart "parabolic" (of course, one
>> could "fit" a parabola to /any/ chart, with different degrees of
>> accuracy). Besides, the claim is not that the chart is parabolic over
>> the last 3-5 years, but over the last 11 months, when the growth can
>> best be described as linear!
>> The question I have is whether this may represent simply an attempt to
>> communicate a pattern of sharper increases over shorter periods of time (which, I suspect, most investors would not understand--and is not true for the specifically mentioned period) or if the term "parabolic" has
>> simply gone hyperbolic, like the much belabored "exponential" (with the difference being a question of degree--and I don't mean that to be the
>> degree of a polynomial). What throws me off is the use of "truly" in the quoted sentence, but, of course, this may not truly mean "truly" (see,
>> for example, all the past threads on "literally" in ADS-L archives). I
>> am generally fascinated by odd usage of fairly well-defined mathematical terms, so this one grabbed me right away.
> I think you are giving the writer credit for more precision and
> sophistication in his language than he deserves.  The simplest
> explanation is that Phillips doesn't know how to use mathematical terms
> properly (which is not at all unusual for a journalist).
> Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: NONE
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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