Posts tagged ‘numbers’

February 22, 2011

Prisons

Shameful numbers, source: IMF

I just read a horrifying number and cannot not write about it although it certainly opens the door to political partisanship.

So here is the number – and some context:

The US has 743 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants which is more than twice as much as the next country, France, at 365 per 100,000.  If we ignore the French for a bit (I know I shouldn’t say that as a German but let’s just do it anyway) the US has more prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants than the next three countries  on that list put together (not all countries are on the list).  The “list” was put together by the  International Monetary Fund, an institution not know to be a bastion of radical leftish thinking.  The entire table with other interesting data is included here.

According to a blog I read (it is a subscription type of affair that’s why it doesn’t make sense to put the link here) the US is spending $15 billion every year to keep these people in jail.  Which is a hell of a lot of money at a time where the Republicans want to cut funding for national Public Broadcasting which will save a whopping $445M.

The Land of the Free sure seems to love its prisons.

November 20, 2010

Number Confusion

As if big numbers weren’t confusing enough in and by themselves there is some language confusion to compound the complexity of all. Up to 1 million everything is fine but after that the problems start.

Let me explain:  there are two scales, the short and the long, when it comes to naming big numbers.  The short scale introduces a new name for every number that is 1,000 times larger than the previous one, so if we start with 1 million (a 1 with 6 zeros) and multiply by 1,000 we get 1 billion (1 with 9 zeros) and if we multiply again by 1,000 we get a trillion (1 with 12 zeros). then comes the quadrillion (15 zeros), the quintillion (18 zeros) and the sextillion (21 zeros).  I am sure there is more but unless you are a astronomer you wont have to concern yourself with those.

The long scale introduces a new name for every number that is 1 million times larger than the previous one. Again starting with 1 million and multiplying by 1 million we get a billion – same name as above for 1 with 9 zeros but this one has 12 zeros.  The 1 with 9 zeros is called milliard.  After the billion comes the billiard (15 zeros), then the trillion (18 zeros) and the trilliard (21 zeros).  Then … who cares?

A scary big number: the national deficit in the US. Pic: http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

Now, most English-language countries use the short scale.  Therefore the usual suspects: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as a few others like Brazil, Indonesia, and Israel use the short scale.  Long scale is used a lot in Europe, and Latin America. For a complete listing see here.

So, if you read that the national deficit of the US is $14 trillions it is bad, real bad, but not as bad as you might believe if you think in long scale terms.