Previous Entry Share Next Entry
(no subject)
Richard Feynman once commented that astronomy talks about billions of stars, and billions of light years, while economics talks about trillions of dollars, so perhaps really large numbers should be called "economical" instead of "astronomical".

In a Salon article about the breaking Research 2000 polling scandal (R2K, an independent polling firm, is being sued by one of it's former clients for fraud because of evidence that R2K either made up or heavily tweaked its results without telling the client), it was mentioned that one of the statistical irregularities in the polling results was had results similar to flipping a coin 778 times and getting 776 heads. This probability was "astronomically low".

When trying to roughly compute how low this probability was, I found myself thinking "for simplicity, let's round to the nearest hundred orders of magnitude...". "Astronomically low" doesn't begin to cut it, "economically low" is no where near close...

(for the record, the chances of getting 776 heads out of 778 flips of a fair coin are (778*777)/2^779. The numerator is 604506, the denominator has around 235 digits. I wanted to mentally round 2^779 to only 10^200, not 10^235.)

  • 1
"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

One of my favorite quotes. Although I have trouble pronouncing "10^11".

I'd pronounce it "ten to the eleventh" or a hundred billion.

  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account