The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 15, 2011

Statistical Poetry

Charles Babbage, mathematician, inventor and all round gadfly read the following lines in a poem - The Vision of Sin - written by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
"Fill the cup, and fill the can:
Have a rouse before the morn:
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.
So outraged was he by the lack of statistical accuracy in the poem that he dashed off a letter to Tennyson:
"Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born;" I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world's population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows: "Every moment dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born." I may add that the exact figures are 1.067, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.


Post a Comment