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Archive for November 18th, 2013

How many cell phones?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

We are bombarded with numbers all the time. They are used to inform us and to try to sell us things. But how successful can you be if you endeavor to communicate using lots of zeros?

I have a lot of trouble visualizing or conceptualizing big numbers. For example, I can easily imagine a crowd of 100 or 1000 people. But when I read that the UK population has reached 61 million, I just cannot picture all those faces. The world population is heading for 7 billion, which I find totally impossible to imagine. The same problem occurs with money. I can just about visualize a pile of banknotes representing the value of my house, but the national debt is just lots of digits in a row.

I am not alone in my difficulty. I think most people suffer “number blindness” to some extent. I guess the extreme case is a rumored tribe in South America who have no real concept of numbers. Counting for them is “one”, “two”, “lots”.


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