Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fun with commas

Last week during dinner, a friend asked everyone to guess the ratio between baby boys and girls in China during the peak years of the one child policy. We all guessed in the low 1.x's. After a hint that the number is higher, a few increased their guesses to three or four. My friend told us that the answer is 1,200 according to a study done by Columbia Univeristy. Yes, 1,200 boys for every girl! I couldn't believe it. For the ratio to be that high, 1,199 of the 1,200 women having a girl needed to somehow terminate it. It sounds so crazy. I could imagine a small village in a random place being like this, but I cannot believe it for a country as large as China. The law of large numbers will catch up to you. Since 1/6th of the world's population is Chinese, this unbalanced ratio would have huge global implications. I had to find the article and see for myself.

Luckily, another friend beat me to it. Read the numbers above carefully. In America, a comma is used between every three digits to make it easier to read and a period is used as the "decimal point". Well, in some other countries, it's the other way around. So the ratio is really "one and two tenth" (as most of us guessed correctly).

2 Comments:

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9:08 PM  
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3:49 PM  

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