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Crunching numbers

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Papua New Guinea has more than 600 distinct languages because the tribal groups evolved in geographical isolation from each other and the world. 
Similarly, their systems of counting were traditionally many and varied, and rarely decimally based.

Foreigners seeking numerical answers from village elders to questions in "Tok Pisin", the lingua franca of PNG, sometimes elicit the response "sori mi sot long namba".  ("sorry, I have run out of numbers")

This brings me to thinking that a whole lot of numbers might be surplus to my own requirements too.
Only rarely does my numerical vocabulary have practical use for numbers greater than one thousand.

For good things in life like good friends, sunsets and moon-rises, happy days and memories, my counting system goes something like this;
98,  99,  100,  Sufficient.  Be thankful.

For bad things like broken electoral promises, aggressive people, flat tyres, and bodily ailments, I count;
98,  99,  100,  Too many.  Automatic cutoff.  Stop counting.

I certainly have no earthly use for the number One Million.

Once, together with some friends in Form 4 at school I tried to grasp the true magnitude of the number 1,000,000.

The corridor of our new school was 6 feet wide, and the ceiling was clad with perforated fibro sheeting.  The holes were spaced 2 inches apart, so that every foot of corridor length had approximately 200 little holes in the ceiling.

It was quite sobering to understand that the corridor would have needed to be almost a mile long before we could have counted 1 million holes.

(There is also a remote possibility that my arithmetic is faulty given that I achieved 19% in my mathematics examination that year.  I think  I might have been too busy counting holes in the ceiling to be concerned with the real curriculum)

These days, whenever I read that someone has paid $1 million for a house, or has a mortgage of $500,000 I know that it represents an awful lot of $5 notes.
I understand five dollar notes best, because it is the hourly rate of pay I earned during my years of milking cows and doing other farm work.

And a BILLION of anything? 

Well frankly it is just way too many.

You can have them.  The whole lot. 

The entire one thousand miles of corridor.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

20 responses »

  1. Could I impose and ask you to calculate the corridor length of the US Medicare/Medicaid bill? It's 73.3 Trillion. I'm not sure if that's a number or not.

    Reply
  2. I think I might have been too busy counting holes in the ceiling to be concerned with the real curriculum
    Conversely it could be seen that you were too busy with practical applications of math to be bothered with their bullshit.
    I understand Aussie five buck notes best because they're such a gorgeous shade of purple. And twenties…. ohhhh, I like orange so much.

    Reply
  3. A very interesting piece, GOF. Presumably the fact that Japan is testing 30terabit fibre optic cabling goes farther beyond your logic! That's 30,000,000,000,000 bits of data per second. In perspective, that's the equivalent of 720 dvds being copied from one end to the other every 2 hours.
    Or 28,409,091 miles of corridor, approximately. 7,573,909 miles shorter than the average distance from mercury to the sun, apparently.
    That's one hell of a corridor.

    Reply
  4. "Could I impose and ask you to calculate the corridor length of the US Medicare/Medicaid bill?"No.That's a really scary number Snowy. PeteGraham has just exhibited mathematical ability far beyond my 19% competence. He has now been appointed my official numbers guru.

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  5. I understand Aussie five buck notes best because they're such a gorgeous shade of purpleI like the functionality of all our notes. Mrs GOF just got hold of a handful of US notes in preparation for her December pilgrimage to Minnesota, and there just seems to be so little physical difference between each denomination. I think I would find them very confusing.Whilst I share your appreciation of the purple $5 notes, I would like to see a lot more of of those pretty and heartwarming large green notes interspersed between them in my wallet.:-)

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  6. Thank you Pete. That is 2 paragraphs of mind boggling information.I'm happy to leave those sorts of numbers to your generation……I'm still counting the holes in my first mile, and you are already past 28 million. Thanks for doing the calculations.

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  7. How did a married man discover the green ones?Are you a punter?

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  8. How did a married man discover the green ones?I've got a little printing factory hidden down in the back paddock Peter.:-)

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  9. Nice. I thought perhaps earnings from the centrifugal force baby delivery machine but then I remembered that Russian girl wouldn't have had time to grow another crash test dummy.

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  10. Jeez Peter you have a good memory for trivia :-)I've got another similar money earning project coming up in the next week so I thank you for your concern for Petchinkina……and also for choosing to read this rubbish.

    Reply
  11. Peterm and GOF, I'm seriously worried about you both.

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  12. I've run out of numbersI really like that.

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  13. Don't worry about us Inga…..we are both at that end of life where everything naturally starts to deteriorate.

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  14. What a wonderful post. Really I never want more ills than I can count on the fingers of one hand! I once counted all the mortar "strips" (horizontal & vertical) on a wall. I'm not sure there was any practical application to doing this – it just kept me occupied while I waited for something to happen.

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  15. I only remember the stuff worth burning brain cells on and new tech is always interesting.

    Besides. I freed up some brain cells when I pinned my name on my jacket so I can follow more of GOF's magical inventions.

    Reply
  16. Thank you, and I hope that you never have more ills to count than 5.I wonder what everyone else thought. You counting mortar strips, and me counting holes in the ceiling. What the heck…..we turned out all right. Well you did…..I've still got doubts about me.

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  17. follow more of GOF's magical inventions.Following more of GOF's anything is a poorly advised occupation 🙂

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  18. This is right on time for me. Simply put-I am learning a tool for graphing, The pupose is to express to credentialed scientists a math curve. I wish to put forth that type of interpretation for my philosophical studies and thesis. For me–every way that numbers and progressions of same have social consequence are more interesting at this point. As you can see I have my work cut out for me. Thank you for this posting. Informative. Peace Tony.

    Reply
  19. It is interesting to do the length of for no particular purpose. It does point up, for me, the ludicrous nature of Disneyland, Simpson monorails, South Park's 'Stairway to Kenny' and the intelligence communities report to the comic 'president', I found the reporter's question-'Are you incredibly stupid? or just high?' pertinent when comic president said-after a 'look of confusion' -'I am not high'. I define computers as 'the impersonal pronoun of life' the measurement as I let my 'Freud' show–is 'A polopograph on the penis of life'. After Nixon it became clear–we were all screwed by someone who 'was not a crook'. Under law it is impossible to slander the deceased. Thank God this is not slander. Peace Tony

    Reply
  20. Thank you Tony for visiting and I am happy you found something of interest here.

    Reply

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