Number factoids

Above here ^ ^ ^ ^ : Things beyond my control, which pay for my use of the wikidot service!
Below here: My stuff!!! v v v v (Mostly… there may be a few more ad panels mixed in.)

Facebook If you like this page, please tell others by clicking the icon! (Or via the social media platform you like… see top edge of page)

See the introduction to my "blogs" if you want to know more, or subscribe to notification of new posts.

New entries at top… "sources" abbreviations at bottom

= = = =

Decuttering. Breed-like-rabbits computer data

Who says I'm a hoarder? I just Threw Out (shudder) 12,000 files off of my computer (freeing 20 gigabytes of storage space!)

(Admittedly, they were old "backup" "snapshots" of things I have (several) more recent snapshots available (on the PCs hard-drive, and ohn secondary storage)… but I DID "throw out" those 20,000 MB of files. The King James Bible runs to less than 5 MB.)

= = = =

Population ratios

USA: 327,000,000 (2017 World Fact Book)
UK: 64,800,000…


So, say 100 Covid deaths in the UK is like 509 in US

= = = =

We're Related

Speaking just biologically here. And if you don't like my numbers, re-do them with your own…

I have four grandparents. I think we can agree that "4" is one of the numbers?!

Humans (Homo sapiens) have been "human" for about 50,000 years, although H. sapiens has been around about four times that.

In a century, humans breed about five generations.

With those givens…

In 50,000 years, 500 centuries, about 2,500 generations.

Parents- 1st gen- 2
Gparents- 2nd gen- 4
Great GGPs- 3rd gen- 8
Great GREAT GGPs- 3rd gen- 16

Individuals in gen x= 2 to the power x

2 to the power 500….

Well… 2 to the power 500 is 3 with 150 zeros after it. (2 to the power 2,500 "breaks" Google's calculator)
So, if that's right (which seems high, even though I was expecting a big number!)… take that, call it BN for "big number", and do…

BN x BN x BN x BN x BN…

About 1 with 750 zeros after it.

And that's just the number of your ancestors AT THAT generation. "Only" half that many at the next generation. Etc.

Here's 1 with just 50 (not 750, not the REAL answer) zeros after it….

100000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000

Here's all the people alive in the world today, give or take…

6 500 000 000

That's the mathematics. "Impossible", right? Not really. But you have to think about things a bit. Factor in the "biology". What, in biological terms, is a grandparent? Even without invoking the Mosaic explanation of the genetic history of mankind, there is an explanation for how you CAN have so many great- great- great- great- great- great- … grandparents. And, as I said… it means we are almost certainly related. Even if we aren't first cousins.

= = = =

Kid: Born 2012

Parent: Born 30,000 BC

What? Well, maybe not parent and child, but some 32,000 year-old seeds sprouted when moved from Siberian permafrost to a more congenial environment. Sort of the same thing? Reported Aug. 13 Scientific American, "Advances" sidebar.

= = = =

Muscle numbers

Human body: About 650 muscles
Elephant… in trunk alone: 40,000

Hummingbird heatbeat, day: c. 1000 beats per minute
……………………night (in torpor): c. 50 beats per minute

(Gordon Buchanan, "Super Cute Animals" TV programme for BBC.

= = = =

Saturn's Rings

Galileo saw them. Hooke saw the shadow they cast. Maxwell showed that they couldn't be solid.

Made of simple ice. Constantly breaking into smaller bits and aggregating into larger pieces. (Hence brightness- reflecting light.

The dense main rings extend from 7,000 km to 80,000 km above Saturn's equator.

And yet only 3 meters thick.

Thank you, Professor Cox, for a program about Saturn's rings with elements of an Attenborough nature documentary.

= = = =

Scary? Good?

The Wikipedia entry for "Six Degrees of Separation" makes interesting reading.

Some researchers have come up with numbers below 6 for our connectedness. None of this is "hard science", and some of the research projects (the famous one regarding people who have starred in films, for instance) have artificial constraints which would tend to yield a striking result. (I don't mean to decry the actors study… it was a good idea for a manageable study, and none of the authors suggested that their results would be applicable to the world population.)

But let's take the idea, present in the Wikipedia, that in Facebook, 2011, 721 million users with 69 billion friendship links may have had an average distance of 4.74…

"The answer" to this question isn't nearly as interesting as thinking about how you would frame and chase it!

= = = =

Human Devastation of Earth

The BBC broadcast an interesting (to me!) compilation of factoids recently….

"Around the World in Sixty Minutes"

Produced and directed by Nick Watts.

A few of the factoids: In 90 minutes…

We harvest 49,657 cattle
We sell 2 million burgers
China burns 600,000 tons of coal

= = = =

Yes, the USA is bankrupt nation spending… (i.e. "Dead man walking")

For a neat little YouTube clip (about 3 minutes) which explains why the USA's economy cannot survive, visit…

It is not a dreary economics lecture… it is a well filmed, well acted short which would be very funny… if the facts in it weren't true. And it is the most understandable explanation I have seen of those facts.

= = = =

What are the chances….

Take an ordinary pack of playing cards. Shuffle well. Lay the cards out in four rows of 13.

The pattern of where the cards lie has probably never arisen again. Leave them where they are. Take a second pack of cards. Repeat. The chances that the two sets of 52 "fell out" in the same pattern?

One in…


Now do you see why I say that the first pattern probably never arose before?

Put it another way. To be SURE that at least one pattern has occured twice, you would need to do the following. (Of course, a pattern would probably repeat at least once before you had done all the deals necessary to be SURE that a pattern had repeated, but I think you'll get the idea…

Suppose that every star in our galaxcy had a trillion planets.
And that a trillion people lived on each
And that each person had a trillion packs of cards
And, somehow, each person re-shuffled each of hir decks
a mere 1,000 times per second.
THEN!… if they started all this at the time of the big bang, they
would, finally, just now be beginning to repeat previously
encountered patterns.
_ _ _ _
And you are going to RECORD what patterns have been seen how?

You need a 5-bit binary number to have a code for each card…..

(The above claim first seen by me in the BBC TV programme "QI", hosted by Stephen Fry.)

= = = =

The rich pay no taxes??

Hmmm. Depends how you define "rich". Those who don't manage to hide their income pay as follows: Those in the top 5% by AGI pay 59% of the tax collected. How is that fair? If 20 people went out to dinner, at $50 a head, would you expect ONE of them to pay $590, and the others to chip in $21 each? And HALF of the nation's taxpayers, by AGI contribute, ALL TOGETHER less than 3% of the taxes collected. (Figures for 2009, said to come from the IRS. Quoted at

Putting that another way, and looking at some related issues, a longer analogy follows. Note that according to the source just given that if you reduce the analogy to just ten people, the most heavily taxed person should be paying 70%, and the least taxed half of taxpayers would pay less than 3% of the bill.

A Simple Beer Story Explains US Taxes

Suppose that ten men go out for beer every evening, and each time, the bill for all
ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes,
it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day
and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner
threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers, he said, ‘I’m
going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now
cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so
the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could
they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted
that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would
each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that
it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and
he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four
continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men
began to compare their savings.

‘I only got a dollar out of the $20,’ declared the sixth man. He
pointed to the tenth man. ’But he got $10!’

‘Yeah, that’s right,’ exclaimed the fifth man. ‘I only saved a dollar,
too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I did!’ ‘That’s true!!’
shouted the seventh man. ‘Why should he get $10 back when I got only two?
The wealthy get all the breaks!’

‘Wait a minute,’ yelled the first four men in unison. ‘We did not get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!’

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine
sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the
bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough
money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how
our tax system works. Tax them too much, attack them for
being wealthy, and they may react. In fact, they might
start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics, University of Georgia
(with some edits to phrasing)

I'm told that for those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do
not understand, no explanation is possible…. but I am going to try anyway for those readers in the "do not understand" camp:

The rich man's tax went down 16%. The other taxpayers had reductions of more than 20%.

- - - -

One more factoid for you…

  1. of U.S. citizens renouncing citizenship:

1,700 U.S. Expatriates in 2011
1,534 U.S. Expatriates in 2010
743 U.S. Expatriates in 2009
235 U.S. Expatriates in 2008

The majority are wealthy.

And so, to other matters…

= = = =

Halloween, 2011… we might make it!

Remember Malthus? He pointed out "the simple" answer. (To every question there is a simple answer… and it is wrong. (That's not what Malthus said. I'm coming to that.)

Malthus was worried… as indeed we should be… that human populations were increasing exponentially, but the resources to (primarily) feed them were growing linearly. Not good.

Today, 31 Oct, 2011, the world population is thought to have hit 7 billion. It was only 12 years ago that it passed 6 billion. It was more than 12 years before that when it passed 5 billion.

This is not good… but it may not be as bad as we fear!

I have an interesting letter by market researcher Ian Bremmer to thank for this cheerful thought.

His "answer"… I think… goes like this:

Yes- we have seen huge expansion of the population. But it only expands as new frontiers open up. In the past, it was physical frontiers, like the interior of North America, "opened" by the railways. In more recent time, it has been technological frontiers… roads for trucks to move food, higher yielding grains. Cities. Etc, etc.

Some parts of the world, notably Africa, still have a bunch of developing to do, and thus still have considerable "room" for expansion. In other places, not only are the (current) frontiers pretty well "filled", but also, and in direct response, populations have reduced (enormously, in some cases) their rate of expansion.

So yes… there has been exponential population growth, pretty well since H. sapiens got going… but that doesn't mean that it MUST end in tears, and that fairly soon. It just means that our species is still in its "expansion" stage. When the ecosystem we are able to exist in becomes "saturated" with humans, the population will level off. Will that happen "nicely"? Not if History is any guide… but it need not be the apocalypse that the Malthusians suggest.

And, come the day that we figure out space colonization, with the new frontier will come new expansion… again. Just like until we started wearing furs we were confined to the tropics.

Yes, the world's total population is exploding… but the net new people are not evenly distributed around the surface of the globe.

The population "explosion" just might "slow down", naturally, before it does us in! Something to hope for, anyway.

= = = =

Doe, A deer… or "Doh"!???

If you hear, "Doe, a deer, a female deer…", I would be amazed (and sorry!) if your brain didn't kick in with "Ray, a drop of golden sun…"

Not as many of you will "know" that all music is made from nothing more than A, B, C, D, E, F and G… because St. Einway got measles in kindergarten just before H… but that's another story… (devised by Richard Stilgoe)

But most people "know" that "the scale" consists of 8 notes.

But it isn't that simple! (What, by the way, is the connection between the 1963 movie "Lord of the Flies", and Julie Andrews' wonderful film version of "Sound of Music"? (Answer later!)

If you can get to a piano, try this… play the lowest of the black notes in one of the groups of three. Then the next black note up, and the next, and the next, til you've played 5 notes. At this point, if you carry on, you will just hear "the same" notes again, an octave higher.

Do this a couple of times.

Ring any bells??

In a neat ironic twist, it turns out that many "Negro Spirituals", that powerful music of the BLACK people can be played using just the BLACK notes!!

It is the "pentatonic scale" (pentatonic: five tones), if you want a fancy word for it.

Don't believe me? Go visit the following to hear Wintley Phipps (singer) give examples, ending with a rendition of Amazing Grace. (If you don't know the story of that, go read the Wikipecia page.)

Lord of Music? One of the boys in Lord of the Flies went on to a role in Sound of Music. (Robert/ Friedrich)

= = = =

If you took all of the salt in the sea, removed the water, and piled it on the land… it would form a (dry) world wide layer 40 feet high. (pp UK "Channel 5" tv programme "How do they do that")

= = = =

Number of water molecules in a teaspoon: Roughly the same as the number of teaspoons of water in all of the world's oceans and seas. (pp BBC Radio programme)

So… how would you determine the volume of the oceans? (Determining the number of molecules of water in a teaspoon's worth is relatively easy.) Surface area times average depth, probably. And how would you determine those? It's been less than 50 years that anyone outside the military had good depth figures for large areas.

= = = =

Airbus 380, pp CS feb 2011, pg 119: 100,000 individual wires, 40,300 connectors, 530km of wire… more than London/ Paris, New York/ Pittsburg. Much more than New York/ Washington.

= = = =

A litttle scary… on just one of my web accounts, at 1/2011 I have 1,356 files, constituting 353 megabyes of data. Thank heavens for my peace of mind, this is the account where I post photo albums, so the images account for much of both numbers.

= = = =

Passengers, Indian Railways, each year: Five billion. (pp BBC TV programme, Dec 2010)

= = = =

Gas/ Petrol: In early August, I worked out the price in US dollars that I was paying in the UK at the time for fuel for my car (the cheap flavo(u)r, not premium): $7.00 per US gallon. Math(s) teachers looking to torture their pupils: Petrol sold by the litre. British gallon a different size from US gallon, anyway. 3.8 litres = 1 US gallon. I used USD 1.55 = GBP 1.00

= = = =

2008: Pregnancies in England of under 18 year olds: 38,750. 49% had abortion. That's slightly more than one pregnancy every 15 minutes. (Source: TV documentary.)

= = = =

Particle Physics/ Cosmology: I'm told that if you took everyone in world, and squeezed them down, they would fit in a sugar cube. Assuming you didn't trigger nuclear fusion along the way, of course. I assume that this factoid assumes you can "squeeze out" the "empty space" occupied by the electrons in their orbits around the atomic nuclei. Perhaps some Gentle Reader would like to check the arithmetic?

= = = =

Nuclear Power: A 1,000 MW nuclear reactor annually needs two $1,000,000 flasks to receive spent fuel for storage. About $300 million per year is being taken from US taxpayers pay for flasks and infrastructure… and we haven't yet had many "clean up" bills to pay. The $300 million is for the "good" years. //SciAm May 2008 Rethinking.

= = = =

Serious accidents to motorbike/ cycle drivers, every day in the UK….

… have a guess… answer below…





Sixteen… every DAY. (pp TV programme)

Abbreviations for sources cited:
CS: Computer Shopper magazine, UK version. (

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License