Friday, December 18, 2009

The Deception of Big Numbers, or, In Praise of Second Derivatives

I was taking a cab today and the cabbie had the radio tuned to CFRA (a rather right-wing radio staiton in Ottawa).  My cabbie started laughing at Lowell Green (one of the talking heads on CFRA) and then started telling me about the Tar Sands in Alberta.

(I didn't really care.  I tend to agree with Lowell Green on a number of issues, but I still think him a buffoon, and I disagreed with what he was saying today.  Nonetheless, I find the infantile outlook that everyone you ever meet obviously agrees with your politics quite irritating.  It's generally a sign of narcissism coupled with a week mind.)

All that aside, the cabbie then went on to talk about a book he'd just read, Hot, Flat and Crowded, written by the mass murder apologist, Thomas L. Friedman.  Anyway, the cabbie decided to apply the idea of overpopulation to his native country, Ethiopia.

Apparently (according to Mr. Cab Driver), Ethiopia had a population of 27 million in 1988.  In 19998, the population grew to 58 million, and in 2009, the population was 77 million.  His analysis:  77 million!  The growth is out of control!

So, from 1988 to 1998, the population increased by 31 million, or 115%.

And, from 1998 to 2009, the population increased by 19 million, or 33%.

So, the growth between 1998 and 2009 dropped by 12 million, or 82 percentile points compared to the growth between 1988 and 1998.  In fact, the percentage growth dropped by 71%.

But apparently, the growth is out of control!

This is why math is important.

Speaking of math...

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