Thursday, February 24, 2011

Numeracy Please!

To the editors of Metro,

In Thursday's paper you write that Bloomberg will devote $708 billion to replacing dangerous light fixtures in 772 city schools. Do you have any idea what $708 billion is? The U.S. Department of Defense's 2011 budget is $721.3 billion. If there are 1,000 rooms in every one of the 772 schools, and each room has 100 light fixtures, $708 billion will leave nearly eight million dollars per light fixture. I'm not surprised that Metro's typists made a mistake. I'm surprised that the rest of Metro's staff was so innumerate as to not notice it.

Still a devoted reader,

e
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More on numeracy and large numbers:

If you're ready for something gut-wrenching and also funny on numeracy and small numbers, go here and listen to the audio.

7 comments:

  1. The horrific story about the eight-million dollar light fixtures? Yes.
    My response? Not yet. I just submitted it a few hours ago.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For the uninitiated, "billion" has as much meaning as "zillion."February 24, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    A professor of mine was holding forth how if we weren't in Iraq and Afghanistan, we wouldn't have such a horrible budget crisis at home, because the government would save "half a billion dollars," which could be used to fund education.

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  3. I always like trying to put these large unfathomable ideas into ways that perhaps could give me some sort of perspective.

    So for millions, billions and trillions its as follows:
    1,000,000 seconds=11.8~ days
    1,000,000,000=32~ years
    1,000,000,000,000=32,000~years

    so far the cost of the wars in the middle east have cost the US over 1 trillion dollars, more than the cost of WWI and WWII (apparantl) combined.

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  4. Did you listen to the audio clip? It's horrible and delightful at the same time.

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  5. Let us know if Metro responds, I don't read their paper.
    I'm listening to the audio, it is pretty funny in that painful way.

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  6. In today's paper they wrote, "A brief in Thursday's Metro should have read $708 million is being spent by the city to replace light fixtures in city schools that contain PCBs."

    ReplyDelete

Forth shall ye all hold.