counting on it

Occasionally a phrase in a news story or online article brings me up short and demands to be noted and preserved in some way.

The phrase that caught my attention this week comes from an article on the current all-time high of double births, which has been so widely reported under headlines that use the phrase “Twins peak” that I can only assume that is an exact quotation from a press release.
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stars and stats

The poetry course that I’m taking started with a discussion of sand and stars. More precisely, with the statement that there are ten times as many stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth. (If you’re interested, here’s the maths that backs up the estimate.) I don’t think we mentioned, though, that there are more atoms in a single grain of sand than there are stars in the universe.

Either way, macrocosmos or microcosmos, a number that big is hard to comprehend, and the human brain tends to look for simplifications and ideas closer to home.

I’ve just been out in the garden and, unlikely as it seems, I suppose I’ll just have to assume there are more stars in the universe than there are blossoms on the plum tree.

plum blossom

millions and billions

Rabbit reading by Lance Tooks
drawing courtesy Lance Tooks

I was intrigued by the BBC website Magazine story entitled Do the dead outnumber the living?

My attention was caught in particular by the table at the end showing a total for the number of people who have ever lived as 107,602,707,791.
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of maths and chocolates

This labelling on a box of ‘chocolates and toffees’ makes me want to reach for a pen and paper and start drawing Venn diagrams:

chocolate package label

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noble winners

After yesterday’s “race day“, it seems only fair to spend a few moments thinking about winners. Specifically about Nobel prize winners. And, more specifically, about mathematicians who have won Nobel prizes. (Note that there is no Nobel prize for mathematics.)

Sundays newspaper (El Público) ran a story on Echegaray, who they rightly said sounds more like a street name than anything else. He was a mathematician, but he won the Nobel prize for literature.

echegaray clipping
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