Free-form entry eg: '125000km', '1.5 million inches', '$67bn', '45000000 AUD', 100years', '123456789', '1 trillion', '1.5e6', '25 million kg'
The Empire State Building brings to mind that iconic image of King Kong atop the skyscraper, swatting away biplanes as he clutches Fay Wray in his massive hand. But how massive? How big would the 1933 movie version of Kong have been, and how much would he have weighed … ?
Is That a Big Number is now a book, published by Oxford University Press. (Google ISBN 0198821220 to find many online booksellers). Although there is serious purpose behind the book - to explore how we think about numbers and how we can understand big numbers - it’s written in a light and engaging style.
Entertaining, full of practical examples, and memorable concepts, Is That A Big Number? renews our relationship with numeracy. If numbers are the musical notes with which the symphony of the universe is written, and you’re struggling to hear the tune, then this is the book to get you humming again.
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.
Want more? The IsThatABigNumber book is a celebration of numbers and numeracy. Oxford University Press: July 2018.