Free-form entry eg: '125000km', '1.5 million inches', '$67bn', '45000000 AUD', 100years', '123456789', '1 trillion', '1.5e6', '25 million kg'
Two students’ lives were put at risk when they were accidentally given a dose of caffeine that was 100 times greater than it should have been. “… the calculation had been done on a mobile phone, the decimal point being put in the wrong place. ” Getting the numbers right can be a matter of life and death.
Take a set of numbers collected from “the wild”. You might take company profits, city population statistics, street numbers or odometer readings. How many of the numbers in your set start with “1″? how many with “2″? with “3″?, “4″? …
Amazing as it sounds, these leading digits are NOT evenly distributed but follow a pattern (30% “1″s, down to less than 5% “9″s). This pattern is so reliable, it’s been used in fraud detection, to trap companies cooking their books: the invented numbers did not follow Benford’s Law.
Follow the link for a fascinating explanation of why this is so.
IsThatABigNumber.com is about extending our number sense. We make comparisons that are (mostly) down-to-earth: populations of people and animals, national budgets, river lengths and so on.
But when we leave behind everyday experience and look at the kind of numbers you find in astronomy and in combinatorics, we come across vastly bigger numbers.
One strategy to grasp these numbers is to break them down into a series of levels, to see them as stupidly big aggregations of things that are themselves stupidly big aggregations of … Here are some good clips illustrating this:
From Atlas Obscura, a sampling of infographics from the 19th century. All with the aim in mind of putting information into a format where it can easily be understood and compared.
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