July 11, 2012

How big is 7 billion?

For a great example of how to make your stats more relatable to your audience, check out this National Geographic video about the number 7 billion (unfortunately, I am unable to embed it, so please click the link to go to the page).

In the March 2011 issue, there was a simple graphic with text examples, but the video is infinitely more fun.

When you're giving mind-number figures to your audiences, do you think of ways to make them more clear and concrete?

This CNN article attempts to give us something to grasp. Associate professor of mathematics Klaus Volper says, "The number is just outside of our usual everyday scale of thinking," said Klaus Volpert, an associate professor of mathematics at Villanova University. "We count to 10 on our fingers and that's our scale, you know? Even counting to a million is already kind of outside of the everyday experience. And then once you go past a million, it becomes a blur."

Here are some examples from CNN:

"-- Seven billion seconds ago, the year was 1789. That was the year George Washington was inaugurated as the first U.S. president and Congress met for the very first time.

-- If you took 7 billion steps along the Earth's equator -- at 2 feet per step -- you could walk around the world at least 106 times.

-- Suppose an average thimble holds 2 milliliters of water. Seven billion of those thimbles would fill at least five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

-- Let's say the average human is about 5 feet tall, accounting for children. If you stack those 7 billion people end to end, they would reach about 1/14th of the way to the sun -- or 27 times the distance to the moon, Volpert said.

-- Seven billion ants, at an average size of 3 milligrams each, would weigh at least 23 tons (46,297 pounds)."

There's a bit too much "supposing" in those examples, but I think they work okay.

Now go watch the National Geographic video:

Click here to view the video.

How can you make your statistics and numbers more engaging and concrete for your audience?

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